Autism assistance dog Denby a vital lifeline to Rushden schoolboy during coronavirus lockdown

The pair are inseparable

A Rushden schoolboy called Ty who uses his assistance dog Denby to help him keep calm and safe has had their relationship highlighted for National Autsim Awareness Week.

The UK wide charity Dogs for Good provides the highly-trained dogs to over 50 families who have children with autism and people with a disability or illness.

Peter Gorbing, chief executive of Dogs for Good, said: “As this is Autism Awareness Week it’s important to highlight that many parents of children with autism will be facing increased challenges just now.

Ty with his assistance dog Denby

“But as Ty and Denby's story illustrates, people who have a dog in their household can really benefit from maintaining some kind of routine that their dogs crave.

“For example, dogs tend to remind us pretty forcibly when it is time for them to eat, they have a rhythm to their day that can help us to keep some kind of structure in our daily lives and of course, they need to go out for walks.

“For many families we’re working with, dogs play a really crucial role in helping to reduce anxieties and give a positive focus to help give some structure and routine.”

Dogs for Good trains assistance dogs for people with a wide range of disabilities including autism, physical disabilities and dementia and is still working hard to support the people who need them despite the significant challenges over the past few weeks.

Ty and Denby

Ty lives in Rushden with his mum Selena, her partner Paul and his three brothers – nine-year-old twin Jude, Ethan,15 and 13-year-old Jacob who also has autism.

He was diagnosed with autism in 2017 when he was seven and by that time family life had become quite challenging.

Selena said: “It was causing a lot of distress when we were out and about because we never knew when he was going to go.

“He would just run off and I’d be in a panic but trying not to show it because I didn’t want to alarm the other children.”

Ty with brothers Jacob, Jude and Ethan and dog Denby

Selena heard about Dogs for Good assistance dogs when she carried out some research about how to help children with autism.

Because they had owned dogs before and Ty loves animals, she thought it could work well for them and put her name on a waiting list for a dog.

In July 2018, Ty was matched with a yellow Labrador called Denby and two years on life has improved for the whole family as Ty no longer runs away because he stays at Denby’s side when they are out.

He is also less frightened of things because he focuses on Denby instead of everything that scares him and he enjoys regular cuddles and head rests with the dog which keeps him calm.

Selena said: “There’s so much less stress on the whole family, now I’m not on edge all the time.

“Now when Ty starts to get upset, wherever they are, he sits down with Denby and has a cuddle and gets dog kisses, which he calls ‘getting a bit of dog moisture.'

“Without Denby I’d still be spending a lot of time panicking with a child who’s run off."

Peter added: “Inevitably, we have a number of assistance dog owners with a disability or illness who are in the high-risk category and may be feeling even more socially isolated than before.

“We’re doing all we can to support them by telephone, email and video calls right now and of course their dogs are providing a vital lifeline, not just for practical help but also on an emotional level through unconditional love and companionship.

“Demand for our services remains high and in the coming weeks and months we will continue to do all we can to support clients, their dogs, our staff and volunteers in any way we can.”

World Autism Week is from March 30 to April 5.

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