17-year-old Jon has autism and has struggled with severe anxieties. Everything was a challenge for Jon… he did not talk to anyone and preferred to stay in his room, as well as suffering anxiety attacks and night terrors. Now, thanks to Sandown-based Ability Dogs 4 Young People, Jon is overcoming his anxieties, making new friends and really starting to enjoy his life.
Ability Dogs 4 Young People have trained an assistance dog for Jon, a chocolate Labrador called Sheriff. Jon started at the Isle of Wight College in September 2015 which was a very difficult step for him, however, with Sheriff by his side, Jon was able to overcome the anxieties and is now doing very well there.
In January, Jon – with Sheriff by his side – went on a bus for the first time in his life without an accompanying adult. It was a huge step and has taken months of planning and training. This has given him and his family a new lease of freedom because he can now head home from college without his parents having to collect him. He has even started meeting with his friends and walking into town with them. This was unheard of just a few months ago and everyone is astounded by his progress – all down to Sheriff he says, but it has taken a huge amount of courage on his part to achieve all this in such a short time.
Autism makes Jon very anxious and he worries obsessively about his health. He recently had to have a minor operation which terrified him. Amazingly, special arrangements were made for Sheriff to go into the operation room with Jon. Jon would not have coped without him and he helped through the recovery and aftercare as well. When faced with a new situation when he feels anxious, Jon strokes Sheriff’s ears to help him relax. Sheriff loves it.
Jon is having independence training with support workers and of course with Sheriff’s help too. Going on holiday takes Jon out of his comfort zone and has previously been really difficult. He would have had anxiety attacks and broken down in tears. However, being able to take Sheriff with him on holiday has really made a difference.
Ability Dogs 4 Young People is a unique Isle of Wight charity, training assistance dogs to help transform the lives of young disabled people living on the Island. It is unique as it helps disabled young people with any disability, whether mental or physical. Ability Dogs 4 Young People are looking for volunteers to help support fundraising activities and to consider becoming Puppy Parents. If you’re interested then contact the charity on 01983 216246 or email [email protected]