Jethro has been diagnosed with high functioning autism and ADHD. The few months leading up to Christmas 2018 were really hard. we had seen about autism assistance dogs in the press and we were very interested in trying anything to try and support Jethro’s anxiety and behaviour and we were running out of ideas.
I came across the Pawsitive Squad Facebook page while searching for information about dogs to support children with autism and I thought the idea of the child doing lots of the hands-on training for their dog was absolutely brilliant. At this point we didn’t have a dog but we really loved the idea of getting a dog to support Jethro so after some looking around, we brought Jethro a golden retriever puppy called Jesse.
When Jesse was only about 14 weeks old and had just finished his vaccinations and been given the all clear to be around other dogs, we went along to the Paws in Tents camp in April 2019. The things we really loved about the camp was the community feel, getting to meet other parents and children in a similar situation to us and that was an amazing support to us. The camp was really safe, Jethro was able to go off and play and interact as much or as little as he wanted with the training. The training itself was really practical and gave me lots of insight into how to train a puppy. We learnt how to do deep pressure therapy and how to teach Jesse to interrupt Jethro when he is self-harming by hitting himself and we started to teach Jesse to push buttons to open doors and turn on/off lights. I also think the camp really helped Jethro bond with Jesse because they hadn’t really bonded at this point and it was taking Jethro a lot longer to bond with Jesse than the rest of our family. Jethro now sees Jesse as his dog and his best friend and his support.
Since we have got home Jesse has been lots of help. He’s come to lots of difficult places with us including the doctors and opticians. He helped reassure Jethro when he was needing a blood test. Jesse also helps walk Jethro to school which has helped with his school anxiety and transitioning into school. He’s also come to a big party where there are lots of people so having Jesse’s support has helped Jethro there. Not only is Jesse’s presence a comfort to Jethro, he also helps to support Jethro when he is anxious or having a meltdown by providing deep pressure therapy. Jesse seems very in tune with Jethro’s emotions and feeling. He will come and put his paw on him or lick Jethro. Jesse has also been a great help to my mental health as well and has encouraged me to speak to people around our village that we wouldn’t normally meet. Jesse and Jethro love to play hide and seek together which means that I now know that when Jethro runs off Jesse can help me find him.
Looking forward to the future we look forward to Jethro being able to go out on his own to the shop or a friend’s house knowing that Jesse will help him stay safe for example by sitting and waiting at each road crossing. Hopefully Jesse will also help encourage Jethro to become more independent and be something consistent in his life to help him cope with all the transitions over the next few years through different school years and friendship groups. I also hope Jesse will provide a good routine for Jethro which will help him cope.