Toys & Training

‘It was magic:’ Cork’s canine companions opening doorways for neuro-divergent kids


After noticing her younger son Ruben was having points with speech, language and social engagement, Kildare-based Sara Prodoni, a neuro-affirmative guardian and an advocate for the neurodivergent group, helped Ruben via the method of evaluation and prognosis for autism in 2020 — proper because the Covid-19 disaster struck.

Placing new routines in place was difficult for us all, however when elements like sensory points and flight threat are in consideration, certainty and stability are all of the extra necessary — particularly when it results in an in depth name like Ruben skilled final 12 months.

“Once I was determining his profile, when it comes to sensory difficulties, I noticed that he doesn’t prefer to be messy, soiled or moist. He’s extraordinarily energetic, and loves spending time exterior, so we established a bit of routine the place we went exterior for a stroll, one-on-one.

“Ruben is a excessive flight threat, and would run away for various causes, often frustration brought on by sensory dysregulation. One sunny day, we had been enjoying a bit of hide-and-seek as we walked, and Ruben touched a bit of bush, and his arm acquired moist. He ran away, straight via the footpath to the roundabout by our property.

“A giant truck was coming from the left, the motive force couldn’t have seen Ruben as a result of he’s small, and Ruben didn’t see the truck and crossed the street. I froze — I assumed I’d misplaced my youngster. Fortunately, he was okay — I held his hand, we went dwelling, and as quickly as we went dwelling, I simply stated, ‘I need assistance’.”

Sara reached out to Autism Help Canines Eire, (AADI) a Cork-based charity that raises and trains service canine for autistic younger individuals between the ages of 5 and 12, to assist with anxiousness and stress, and help them of their studying, communication and confidence.

She rapidly discovered, nevertheless, that the charity had been experiencing funding and useful resource strains of its personal and that its ready listing for canine was solely reopening after a seven-year hiatus, together with the 2 years it took to coach the present class of canine companions.

Ruben and Indi, celebrating at Christmas

“Final 12 months, they advised me that in the summertime they might reopen the ready listing, however solely 20 households can be matched with a canine, as a result of they solely had 20 canine to match with households.

“There was a obligatory workshop, by way of Zoom, that folks would have wanted to take care of even apply for the ready listing, the place they clarify extensively what an help canine is, what standards you could meet so as to get a canine — you could be autistic, you could be a flight threat, you could be between six and twelve. There are different dwelling assessments — you want to have the ability to take care of the canine.”

Sara accomplished the coaching, and her household had been a type of that had been fortunate sufficient to be matched with a doggie earlier this 12 months.

Bringing Indi dwelling in November of final 12 months was a weeks-long course of that concerned Ruben at each step of the way in which to create familiarity, and 4 days of coaching for Sara herself — not that Indi wanted a lot encouragement to take a shine to her new cost.

“As quickly as I opened the door, Ruben could not consider it, he loves huge canine, and straight away, he simply kneeled down and gave India an enormous hug, and it was wonderful simply to have a look at that. And what I couldn’t consider was, all of the three children had been excited to see Indi, and she or he went straight for Ruben. It is like she knew she was Ruben’s canine. The 2 of them sat down in Indi’s mattress and he simply pet and lay down beside her. The bond simply occurred — it was magic.

“After a number of days, the coach got here down and we did the non-public attachment stroll, and it was simply magic. Rubin for the primary time, was allowed to decide on the place to go. He was protected, and he was in cost, which is what he loves. He was allowed to try this in a protected approach.”

Woodie’s DIY is elevating funds this 12 months for AADI as a part of their Woodie’s Heroes programme in shops and on-line. Final 12 months, the programme raised sufficient funds for the charity to reopen their ready listing, and this August, 25 extra households can be matched with a canine companion of their very own – a life-changing expertise for younger individuals like Ruben.

Ruben and his Autism Assistance Dog Indi, stopping for a bite to eat on a walk.Ruben and his Autism Help Canine Indi, stopping for a chew to eat on a stroll.

“We had been coming from a spot the place Ruben was not dropped at any store, any eating places, we weren’t occurring any walks until they had been both in an enclosed place, or the place there can be no threat in any respect for Ruben to run away. All that has modified. [Someone might stop them at the shop] then he’ll flip round, which he by no means had executed earlier than, and say ‘she’s my canine, her title is Indi’.

“If Ruben is distressed, all he must do is cease, and provides Indi a hug, and she or he’s there for him. She has that bond, and he regulates himself when he is out and about, as a result of she offers that enter to him. Ruben can exit to the cinema, he can go to the swimming pool. Ruben’s residing a traditional life, like each youngster ought to, in a protected and optimistic surroundings. It’s large.”

  • Woodie’s DIY is operating its Woodie’s Heroes marketing campaign once more this summer season, with all buyer donations at tills and on-line going to Autism Help Canines Eire, Down Syndrome Eire, ISPCC Childline and Make a Want. 
  • For extra info, head for woodies.ie/woodies-heroes, or textual content AADI to 50300 to donate €4 instantly.



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