Isn’t it amazing how much a service dog can enhance quality of life?
Sox, the Labrador-Golden Retriever mix service dog saves a suicidal autistic boy.
In the UK, a severely autistic boy, Toby Turner, was barred from school for the 3rd time for hitting and kicking his teachers.The 8-year-old was so upset with his own actions that he told his parents they would be better off without him.
Mom, Vikky, was so terrified she gave up her job as a nursery nurse to teach Toby at home while looking for a special school.
Eventually the only way Vikky and her husband, Neil, could get Toby out of the house was by letting him wear headphones, sunglasses and a cap to block out the world.
Just 16 months ago, the family was called by charity Dogs for the Disabled, who introduced Toby to a Labrador – Golden Retriever mix named Sox.
The 3-year-old dog was trained by the charity to assist children with autism. Within just two weeks, Toby’s life turned around completely.
“We knew Toby had an affinity for animals because we’d been to really busy places before and when he spotted a dog he was mesmerized – it was almost as if the world around him didn’t exist,” said Vikky. “Toby took to Sox immediately. He talked to Sox and wanted to look after him.”
“It was an instant friendship, an immediate bond. It was weird, Sox just broke the need for Toby’s ‘bubble’ and just like that he stopped wearing his headphones, sunglasses and cap,” Vicky added.
Vikky says the first time they took Sox on the school run, it took an hour to get home because Toby was stopping and chatting to people about his dog.
“We all hoped it would make a difference but we didn’t dare to imagine that would happen straight away. We thought any progress would take a long time,” the amazed mom said. “The psychologist has even discharged him because of Sox’s amazing impact.”
“Having this huge dog constantly at his side has given Toby the confidence he never had. His whole attitude to life has turned around. We’ve been left with a confident, happy little boy who loves school,” she added.
The dog now goes everywhere with Toby everywhere except school. Sox acts as a calming influence for Toby. During mornings, Toby will sit and stroke Sox before going to school and as soon as Toby gets home, Sox rushes to the door to see him.
“If Toby is sitting playing with his Lego, Sox will be there by his side. They have become a double act,” says Vikky. “Sox is working all of the time. He has a harness and through that he is attached to Toby, who wears a belt.”
“Sometimes children with autism get frightened and they will run because there’s no sense of danger. But now we know that if Toby goes to run, Sox will stand steady and won’t move, so he stops him running off, or running into a road,” she added.
Vikky mentions that when they are out and she sees Toby’s anxiety rising, Sox has a few little tricks to distract him.
“For example, he will spin round on command, so I can go to Toby, ‘Look, Toby, what’s the dog doing?’ said Vikky. ”We’ve also taught Sox to push a ‘talking button’. I put on a voice and record messages into a machine such as ‘I love you’. It’s as if he’s talking to Toby.”
When they are in a restaurant, Sox will sit and lay his head on Toby’s lap to reassure him. Then, Toby will sit with his thumb in his mouth while stroking Sox.
“Sox has saved Toby’s life and saved our family. Before, we were literally surviving on an hour-by-hour basis,” said Vikky. “We couldn’t go out as a family or have any friends to visit. We were so isolated.”
It is undeniable that things have improved so much that Toby and his parents have just returned from a weekend at a wedding. They even spent 2 nights in a hotel –something they could never do before Sox arrived.
Today, October 13, Toby will be celebrating his 10th birthday with friends — an unimaginable party in past years.<amend to Yesterday, Oct 13, Toby celebrated …. –if you publish tomorrow>
“Before Sox, Toby would find birthdays and Christmas really stressful because they were out of the routine,” explains Vikky. “Everyone else has the expectation that those days are going to be really special and different, but that would make Toby physically sick.”
The happy mother also mentions that in previous years, the family didn’t tell Toby it was his birthday. This year wastotally different – Tobywas so excited.
“He is going into school for a half day to have a mini party and taking Sox with him. It means he can have the childhood he was missing out on before,” she said.
Vikky has also nominated Sox as Caring Animal of the Year in the Daily Mirror and RSPCA’s Animal Hero Awards.
Her statement goes:
Before Sox arrived, we were really struggling. We didn’t know what to do. Being in a classroom situation was just too much for Toby and he used to run away and hide in an arts cupboard. When the teachers found him, he would struggle with them, hitting them and kicking out.
Toby would get so upset and angry at his own behavior, which he couldn’t understand or control. He’d self harm by biting himself or hitting himself with anything to hand.
He would say he didn’t deserve any love or care. He’d come home from school and be completely exhausted, emotionally drained. He would tell us he didn’t belong, that he needed to leave. ‘You’d be better off if I had never been born’, he’d say.
Then he even began talking about ending his life. He would threaten to jump out of his bedroom window and I was so scared he’d actually do it I had to make sure the windows were always locked.
It was horrendous. No matter how much we reassured him we loved him and couldn’t live without him, he wouldn’t believe us.
“I had the most epic day ever. I just feel better now Sox is here. Before, I felt like I wanted to die. I couldn’t even go to parties,” Toby says. “Then Sox came along. It feels like our hearts are connected – I love him so much.”
Image and article source: Daily Mirror