Wonder dog Artie helps Bedford boy with autism cope during pandemic
Family sees huge change in son after Dogs for Good matched him with an assistance dog
A mother whose son has autism has spoken about how his assistance dog has helped the whole family to cope during the pandemic - including her husband who works on the NHS frontline as a doctor.
Sarah Knowlden, 51, from Bedford, says the benefits of having their expertly-trained assistance dog Artie have extended much further than they’d have ever expected.
Dogs for Good matched Artie with 12-year-old Henry, who was diagnosed with autism two years ago, to help him to cope better with life.
The UK charity creates life-changing differences for people living with a wide range of disabilities and conditions including autism, physical disabilities, dementia and learning disabilities, through the help of expertly trained dogs. The charity’s assistance and community dogs enable people to live more independently.
Sarah said: “Artie makes Henry feel calmer which makes it much easier to go out and about. When Henry’s connected to Artie’s jacket and he knows he’s there it just seems to help him to cope with accessing the outside world.
"Artie’s not only completely changed Henry’s life but the whole family. He’s allowed us to be together again properly as a family and I feel much less isolated.”
Before the family had Artie it was very difficult for them to do activities together because Henry would get over stimulated.
He became overwhelmed when it was too hot, cold, busy or noisy outside so Sarah’s husband Pete took Henry's older sisters on day trips meaning Sarah would stay at home with Henry.
Since being matched with Artie, the family has been able to go out together again on day trips, to the shops and on holidays - and even visited a safari park for the first time as a family last October with Artie in the car with them.
Sarah added: “It’s incredible to see Henry calm enough now so that he can talk. Having Artie helps him to shut down the white noise of anxiety and frustration and allows him to access the right words."
Artie has also provided invaluable support to Henry’s dad Pete, aged 56, who is a consultant.
Sarah said: “Pete’s been at the frontline and it’s been incredibly stressful for him. When he comes home, Artie gives him a hero’s welcome every time whether it’s 8pm or 1am.
“Artie’s helped us through the pandemic, especially the lockdowns, which have been difficult for all of us in different ways. We definitely wouldn’t have coped as well as we have without him. He’s a real wonder dog and we are so grateful to have him and to Dogs for Good for the life changing work it carries out.”