Specially trained dog changes family’s life

Emily and Farley
Emily and Farley

A specially trained autism assistance dog has helped a 10-year-old girl cope with her Asperger’s Syndrome.

Lisa Benton, 43, from Irthlingborough, has Aspgerger’s Syndrome, while her eldest daughter Izabel, 12, is thought to have borderline to mild Asperger’s.

Her 10-year-old daughter Emily is also on the spectrum and exhibits many more of the traits typical of the syndrome. She has severe separation anxiety, which means that if she wants to go upstairs for a toy her mum has to stand halfway up talking to her all the time. She also finds it difficult to cope with simple everyday tasks; she will grab her mother’s hand and prevent her from putting shopping from a shelf into her basket.

But the introduction of Farley, a two-and-a-half-year old black Labrador specially trained as an autism assistance dog by the Sheffield–based charity Support Dogs, has made a big difference to Emily.

He accompanies her to school and she is attached to Farley by a light lead that goes round her wrist and she has a little handle to squeeze when she starts to feel anxious. Farley responds by interacting with her and distracting her.

They are one of eight partnerships from all over the country this year to successfully complete training by the Support Dogs charity, which has taken place over several months both at their home and at the Support Dogs centre. And Ms Benton and Emily will receive a certificate, and Farley a rosette, at a graduation day ceremony later this month.

Ms Benton said: “Emily struggles to get to sleep because of these irrational fears which can send her into meltdown. Farley sleeps in the room with Emily and she thinks that if anybody tries to break in he will see them and protect her or warn her.”

Ms Benton is looking forward to thanking Support Dogs at the graduation for providing Farley, who has “changed their lives for the better”.

Autism assistance dogs cost about £12,000 to train and there can be up to a two-year wait before one is available.