The value of assistance dogs for families with autistic children has never been more apparent than during Covid-19 and many of our autism partnerships say how they don’t know how they’d cope without their dogs.

Joel was diagnosed with autism when he was seven and also has ADHD, speech, language and sensory impairment and a sleep disorder.

Caddie, a yellow Labrador x golden retriever, is an expertly-trained autism assistance dog and, in Joel’s own words, has been his ‘guardian angel’ since they were matched when Joel was nine.

Joel with his autism assistance dog, Caddie. Photo taken by Mum, Janet during lockdown.

Joel’s school was closed during lockdown and he was extremely anxious about the situation as his normal routine was disrupted and he found everything very hard to understand.

Caddie’s soothing presence helped to keep Joel focused and calm as he sat his mock GCSE exams at home and he and Caddie posed for some very special ‘school leaver’ photos which were taken by mum, Janet.

“It’s a big day in any child’s life,” said Janet.  “And also for me!  I couldn’t be prouder of Joel for all that he’s achieved and Caddie has been a huge part of making all that possible.  He gives Joel so much confidence– his smile in that photo says it all.

Joel with his autism assistance dog, Caddie. Photo taken by Mum, Janet during lockdown.

During lockdown, Joel was very worried about going outside as he was anxious that people were going to get too close to him.  But Janet managed to persuade Joel to walk Caddie locally with her.  “Caddie is his comfort and reassurance when everything is worrying him.”

She says: “Joel’s had to cope with an awful lot of changes and he’s been pacing up and down far more than usual, but he’d be doing this even more without Caddie. 

“He’d also be very bored without Caddie as he’s been doing lots of activities with him which benefit them both.  They play ball in the garden and other games, which stimulate Caddie but also provide a great positive distraction to Joel, keeping him calm and providing a focus and routine each day … as well as just making him smile.

“Caddie’s presence is keeping us all calmer and reducing our stress levels and in turn, that’s really helping me to give the best support I can to Joel. 

“Sometimes, it’s the cheeky things that Caddie does that make you smile and bring you together as a family – Caddie’s getting older but he’s still a character. 

“He’s always pinching our socks and wanders around the house with them.  He definitely relieves any tension in the house!”

We receive over 5000 enquiries a year for our services and we rely on donations to continue to make life-changing partnerships like Joel and Caddie’s.  If you’re able to help us, we’d be so grateful. 

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