Autism dog gives parents back their confidence.
Assistance Dog Leon joined our family in September 2019 to help our son Bryn who has Autism and Sensory Integration/Processing. Leon now has become an integral and valued member of our family; he is such a good boy and has been no trouble at all.
Bryn is still working on developing his relationship with Leon. Bryn is now aware of Leon and his needs, he will help at feeding times and has attempted to blow the whistle. He will ask Leon to join us on excursions such as bush walks and bike rides, and will verbalise " Leon Come" to make sure he is joining us.
Leon has helped Bryn to become desensitized to other dogs, which has made venturing out into the community much easier. We can now visit friends who have dogs and go to the park and beaches. Bryn has thrown balls and sticks to Leon, and Leon has behaved brilliantly, waiting and listening to instructions. On chilly mornings, you can find Bryn and Leon sharing the heater together, reading books and listening to music on his ipad. Bryn has also had some untethered opportunities, and it has amazed me how Leon has taught him to walk nicely. He will wait on each corner of the street and only cross over when I say "forward." Leon has also taught him to slow down and listen. This makes outings much more enjoyable. The tethering, although initially stressful, has been vital to the process!
I am not so afraid of taking Bryn out alone anymore. Leon has given back my confidence. I no longer get other people judging me and commenting on Bryn's unusual behaviour, as Leon makes it clear that he requires extra support (he has been a welcome distraction on that front). Some people will ask about "the dog" and Bryn has very clearly said " Name Leon". These are all opportunities for social interactions that Bryn wouldn't have had before Leon.
Leon has also had a profound effect on the other family members. Our other son Eli walks him everyday, helping him get out of the house and socialise. He has caught up with friends and walked their dogs too. Matt (Bryn's dad) has been enjoying morning walks everyday, which sets him up for the day at work. It also means that Matt has to interact with other dog owners and "Talk"....which is something he always used to try and avoid.
I just adore Leon. We spend the most time together, especially during the week. He lifts me up when I'm feeling down and is always there for a cuddle when I need one. In fact, Leon has never turned down a hug. He gets me out into the world, rain or shine, and I always feel better for it. I have met some amazing people too and am now a member of the Petone Dogs, an informal group of people that meet up occasionally to share ideas and let the dogs run around and play.