THE mother of an autistic boy is appealing for help raising money to train a special dog to take care of her son.
Catherine Simmonds of First Avenue, Lancing, needs £5,000 to train Labrador Hetty as an autism-assistance dog for nine-year-old Harvey.
“We got a dog initially because we wanted something positive we could love, to help Harvey,” said Catherine.
“But the affinity between the two of them was amazing.
“He speaks to her in a whole different tone of voice. She’s an amazing dog.”
Hetty is being trained to help reduce Harvey’s anxiety, stop him trying to run away, comfort him, and help stop repetitive movements and other behaviour that makes other children pick on him.
Harvey’s autism can make him violent and has already led to him being excluded from school this term.
“Harvey is a very clever boy and I want to keep him out of residential care,” said Catherine.
“He attends mainstream school but as he gets older, he is drifting away from his peer group which is impacting upon his self-esteem.”
She said the training would be life-changing for her son, but with specialist charities struggling to cope with demand, the family is having to find the money and Catherine is appealing for help.
Having raised the first £1,400 herself, she is now asking for donations from businesses and individuals, anything that can help raise the money her family needs.
Raising three other children with special needs has not been easy for Catherine.
“It’s totally exhausting and absorbing but that’s my job as his mum,” she said.
“I just need the public to give me some help.”
She also highlighted the ‘massive gap in the education system’ for people with autism, adding that she needed to get Harvey into a more nurturing environment.
“If you invest in autism at an early age, you will prevent long-term problems for society,” she said.
“A lot end up in care or in prison because they are so misunderstood.”
Anyone wishing to donate can visit the fundraising page at www.mycharity.ie/event/hettyharveyshelper