We need your support to provide an Autism Assistance Dog to a child just like Charlie.
For the last three years Elisha has been a prisoner in her own home, afraid to leave the house with her son Charlie who was diagnosed with autism at the age of four. Charlie cannot speak and often puts his life at risk, unaware of danger.
“Charlie lived a life of isolation.” Elisha recalls, “Life was very challenging for us, Charlie has no fear or safety awareness. If Charlie managed to leave the house, he would run straight out onto the road, throwing himself in front of cars.” Deprived of sleep, Elisha vividly recalls being ready to make life-or-death decisions at any moment.
“I experienced overwhelming anxiety every time I left the house,” Elisha explains, “people would stare at us. I felt judged. One lady threatened to call the police after calling me an unfit mother when Charlie was having a meltdown and banging his head against a fridge. I was mortified!”
Elisha hasn't had a full night's sleep in over four years.
Charlie would not sleep in his own bed, often sleeping on top of Elisha and pulling her hair all night. One night Elisha recalled putting Charlie back into his bed 147 times! “I would have to sit on the floor for hours next to the bed and wait for him to go to sleep.”
Take a moment and put yourself in Elisha's shoes.
Imagine you are drifting in and out of sleep after spending the night putting your child to bed over 140 times. The day ahead is just as busy as the last and you are desperately trying to be the best parent you can possibly be. It has been like this for years and you can’t remember what it is like to have a full night’s sleep. As you finally relax and drift off to sleep, your alarm clock sounds.
This is Elisha’s life every day.
Every month 87 children in South Australia are diagnosed with autism just like Charlie.
Guide Dogs’ Autism Assistance Dog program focuses on improving the quality of life for families of children living with autism. Our highly skilled Autism Assistance Dogs offer families a number of benefits, the most important being safety. This is achieved by providing a fully trained dog along with training and support for parents and their child.
It costs more than $35,000 to train an Autism Assistance Dog, so you can understand how reliant Guide Dogs are on the continued generosity of supporters like you.
6 months ago Elisha and Charlie were matched with Versace, an Autism Assistance Dog.
In an emotional interview at the Guide Dogs Puppy Graduation, Elisha broke down, “before welcoming Versace into our home, we didn’t have a life.”
Now Charlie can confidently walk with Versace to the local park and play, just like all other little boys his age, with no desire to run off. “We even went to a local café and Charlie lined up with Versace and handed over the money after I ordered.”
Life with Versace has brought a number of first-time emotional experiences for Elisha and Charlie. “As a Mum, it was heartbreaking to see my son isolated and excluded by other families. With Versace by our side, Charlie hosted his very first birthday party, and he was even invited to attend two other children’s parties!”
Charlie has a very special bond with Versace, they’re always there for each other.
“Versace has given me my life back!” Elisha said at our recent Puppy Graduation Ceremony. Charlie loves to go to bed with Versace by his side, and Elisha can say goodnight, switch out the lights, and enjoy a better night’s sleep. “It’s amazing the differences I now see in Charlie! He is even starting to babble a little now as well! We can pop into the shop for some milk without fear of a meltdown.”
“Versace gives me the confidence to leave my home.” Elisha explains, “He wears a special coat that connects to a belt that Charlie wears around his waist, and I take the lead. Charlie walks alongside Versace, holding a handle on his coat, and if he tries to run away, Versace is trained to anchor Charlie by sitting or lying down.”
Your generosity will change lives.
Guide Dog services rely on the generosity of the public. Without your help Guide Dogs could not support children and families living with autism or sensory loss. Every dollar raised helps a child in need.
Thank you for continuing to support Guide Dogs.