The Avondhu Express

Service Dogs Europe help 11-year-old with Autism


Bobby, a black Labrador trained by Service Dogs Europe, has become the first autism service dog in Singapore. The three year old was trained to be a service dog for eleven year old Miles McMillan who has autism.

Miles mum, Jane, turned to Service Dogs Europe after discovering there was a several year waiting list for service dogs. The mid Louth based organisation was founded by dog trainer, Henry Fitzsimons, who as the father of two sons on the autism spectrum, realised the important role which dogs can play in the lives of people with disabilities.

Jane found out about Service Dogs Europe through an internet search and after communicating with Henry decided on Bobby, a three year old black Labrador which was found to be suitable for training after being saved from a pound where he was due to be put to sleep.


“Bobby was in training with us for six months” said Henry. Then Jane and Miles came over and spent 5 days with us and Bobby, task training him and public access training him – which involves taking him on buses and into shopping centres and restaurants – in preparation to taking him back home to Singapore.

The mother and son were allowed to take Bobby on their flight where he slept at their feet the whole journey.

“We’ve trained a lot of service dogs for both adults and children with disabilities, including autism as well as hearing, seizure, diabetes and mobility dogs for people” said Henry. While they had previously provided dogs for Ireland, the UK and Europe, this was the first time they had sent a dog to Singapore. And while there are service dogs for the blind in Singapore, Henry said that Bobby is the country’s first autism service dog.


He can’t bark in court so Bertie the diabetic Hull barrister’s dog uses a polite paw to warn that she is in danger

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: October 08, 2014


Bertie the goldendoodle, right, helps warn diabetic Hull barrister Joanna Golding, pictured left with Bertie outside court, if her blood sugar is too low or high

MEET Bertie, the fluffy goldendoodle, who is believed to be the first emergency dog working full-time in British courts.

At leisure, he is like any other five-month-old puppy, playing with other dogs, sniffing everything, and is quite fond of digging up plants.

But when diabetic barrister Joanna Golding slips his blue emergency coat onto his back, Bertie knows he is working and holds a great responsibility.

Bertie can smell when her blood sugar levels become dangerously high or low, and has been trained to alert her.

He faithfully accompanies her everywhere – in the car, to cinemas and restaurants, and even stands patiently outside the shower.

But because much of Mrs Golding’s working life is spent in a courtroom, his alerts must be silent. He taps her foot three times with his paw – the right paw for if her blood sugar is too low, the left if it is too high.

Speaking outside Hull Crown Court, Mrs Golding said: “He hasn’t been turned away anywhere and he’s really well-behaved for a young puppy.

“He just patted me now and I know my blood’s quite low.

“He’s better than a machine because he will do it half an hour before the machine.

“It gives me the time to get something to eat and he doesn’t run out of batteries.”

Bertie is literally a life-saver and an answer to a condition Mrs Golding has lived with since she was eight.

Although he still has more training to do, Bertie has already performed the service several times, saving his owner from imminent collapse.

And just so he knows his work is appreciated, Mrs Golding has had a special pocket sewn into her robe to carry the treats she rewards him with when he signals.

It is the perfect incentive for the food-orientated Bertie, who was selected and trained by Service Dogs Europe in Ireland and cost 6,000 euros.

“They only train four a year, they are very careful,” said Mrs Golding.

“It takes a long time to find the right dog.”

The barrister was given permission by Hull’s most senior judge, Jeremy Richardson QC, to bring Bertie into court. The judge is understood to have two goldendoodles as pets.

It is a relatively new breed, a mixture of retriever and poodle, noted for their faithfulness and intelligence, which makes them ideal alert dogs.

Perhaps the greatest difference Bertie has made is sparing Mrs Golding the need to have nightly blood sugar tests.

“He gives me a night’s sleep,” she said.

“Touch wood he has been very good in court so far. He had just one blip.

“There was a man being arraigned for rape and when the charge was put to him, he replied ‘Not guilty’.

“Bertie let out this big sigh. The timing was horrific. But he is not a machine.”


Cork Independent Newspaper.

Family appeal for a dog for Autistic daughter

A Cork family is trying to raise funds to purchase an autism assistance dog for Amy O’Mahony, who suffers from autism

A family from Grange is trying to raise funds in order to secure an autism assistance dog for their daughter, Amy O’Mahony. Six year old Amy, who suffers from autism, has been on the waiting list for an autism assistance dog with Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland for two years and it may be as much as four more years before she gets a dog. Her parents, Stuart and Deirdre, went in search of an alternative method of getting an assistance dog for Amy when they came across Service Dogs Europe.

Speaking about the situation, Amy’s Dad Stuart commented:
“There is a huge waiting list with AADI, Amy could be 10 by the time she actually gets a dog, so we looked to see if we could get a dog sooner elsewhere. That’s when we came across Service Dogs Europe in Dundalk. They are constantly training dogs for this purpose.

“An assistance dog would make a huge difference to Amy. We can’t really take her anywhere at the moment. She is very strong-willed and determined and if she doesn’t get her way she can throw massive tantrums. Being in the situation that she is, she also wouldn’t have a lot of friends and if she were to get an assistance dog, it would make a massive difference for her. Even when it comes to something like going for a walk, Amy doesn’t understand danger or anything like that, she can often have meltdowns when we go for walks or she tries to run off. She would be tethered to the dog and we’d have the dog on the lead then and he would be able to sense it if she was going to run away or anything and would be able to stop her immediately. The sooner we get this dog, the better for Amy. ”

In order to try and raise funds for an assistant dog the O’Mahony family are holding a fundraiser in Douglas GAA club on 28 February.

“I’m a biker myself and I’m involved in a group called Freewheelers who are based in Waterford. I put the fundraiser on the Facebook page and comedy hypnotist Seafra O’Cathain saw it and got in contact to perform at the fundraiser which was just fantastic. When it comes to fundraising, it’s great to et support like that, we really appreciate it. There will also be a raffle on the night so we’re hopeful that people will come along for what will be a very enjoyable evening.

“I’ve seen Amy with my friend’s dog and there’s just an understanding there, she loves animals, I really think an assitance dog would beneifit her hugely, we’re doing everything to get one for Amy as soon as possible.”


Kent Online

Amy Baker, 11, from Sutton Road, Maidstone, will start at New Line Learning, alongside Service Dog Buddy

A young girl who suffers from debilitating Tourette’s syndrome and anxiety issues has returned to school brimming with confidence thanks to a new canine companion.

In June the Kent Messenger reported on an appeal which had been launched to buy 11-year-old Amy Baker Psychiatric Service Dog in time for her move to secondary school.

Three months later Amy, who also has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression and problems sleeping, has returned from Service Dogs Europe’s base in Ireland with a 14-month-old golden retriever called Buddy in tow.

The dog is needed to provide Amy, of Sutton Road, Maidstone, with support, giving her confidence as she can often suffer from a tic in public which can lead to her freezing while crossing the road. The animal also helps bring a sense of calm through their presence.

Amy’s mother Emma, 38, said that the pair have really hit it off and that Buddy is already making a difference.

On Tuesday Amy started at New Line Learning, in Boughton Lane, Loose. The dog will accompany her to lessons.

She said: “Buddy has responded really well to Amy, it has been amazing. He has sensed Amy’s tics before they’ve happened and been able to warn her so she can get down and hold on to him for support until it passes. He’s a really lovely, naturally friendly dog.”

Mrs Baker and Amy spent four days in Ireland training with Buddy and getting to know him, returning on Sunday evening.

Mrs Baker added: “It was good to get away just before Amy was due to start school and it helped us both get over some of the anxiety around such a big occasion.”


The Huddersfield Daily Examiner

Living with Autism – parents tell their stories of caring for a child with the condition.

One of the trustees of PCAN, Tracey Smith-McQuillan, agrees that early recognition of autism is extremely important and says the fight to get a diagnosis for her 11-year-old daughter Mya was difficult, protracted and damaging.

In fact, it is only two weeks since the Slaithwaite family received confirmation of what they have suspected for several years – Mya is on the autistic spectrum.

Tracey is keen to raise public awareness of autism, in particular the fact it can be so difficult to diagnose in girls and in children who do not display the classic symptoms.

She says that like Susan Boyle, pictured, lots of girls are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all,” she said.

“It shouldn’t be about getting a label for your children it should be about addressing a child’s individual needs. But at the moment you can’t get help without a label.”

Tracey, a former course tutor at Kirklees College, where she taught life skills to special needs adults, believes that it is only because of her professional experience and sheer determination that Mya has finally been diagnosed.

Years of meetings and assessments with health professionals, teachers and educational psychologists left her exhausted and frustrated. “Autism is a hidden disability,” she said. “And Mya is very good at playacting, so the signs weren’t picked up.

“Because of my background I have taught her a lot of social skills, but for her it’s an intellectual ability rather than something that comes naturally. She can seem very able but she has anxiety issues that control her life. She is naive and vulnerable.

“But the professionals aren’t listening to the parents, even those with my background. I have been extremely persistent because I know my child and I trusted my instincts.”

Mya, who has a non-identical twin sister Cameron, had a normal infancy but began to display challenging behaviour as a toddler. At first Tracey and her husband Gus, put this down to the ‘terrible twos’ or the fact she was a twin and had to compete for attention.
Then it became apparent her development was delayed. “By the time she got to reception class we were having severe behavioural problems just getting her out to school, “ said Tracey. “But she was very quiet at school and they said they didn’t have any concerns. I started to think that I was the only person who could see what was going on and I began to feel quite isolated. Our parenting skills were called into question but we had no problems with our other children.” As well as Cameron, Mya has an older sister Shauna, 23, and a younger sister Lily Rose, 8.

Tracey is critical of the lack of support the family received at Mya’s first primary school and says the attitude of staff forced them to move their children to the village school at Wilberlee.

“She was refusing to go to school and self-harming. She was extremely unhappy. But at Wilberlee they were super with her,” she says. “They believed us and supported her.”

Tracey is also grateful to the family’s GP, Dr Gemma Simcox, who secured a referral for Mya in November last year to the Elizabeth Newson Centre in Nottingham, which has a specialist diagnostic service.

They have recently learned that while on the autistic spectrum Mya is also showing signs of Asperger’s and Pathological Demand Avoidance. PDA arises because people with autism need a structured routine and to be in control of their environment and so appear to avoid conforming with demands. In addition, Mya has sensory problems and finds it difficult to process stimuli such as touch and noise.

Mya is now a pupil at Honley High School, where she is in a nurture group and doing well educationally. Tracey no longer works as a tutor because of the demands of family and her own health problems but devotes energy and time to PCAN. “I find it tremendously rewarding helping other people,” she said.

Caring for Mya has taken its toll on everyone, including Cameron, who is now supported by a mentor from the Child and Family Trust charity at Northorpe Hall. “Obviously we haven’t had as much time for the other children because Mya’s needs were so great,” said Tracey. “And while I was elated to finally get a diagnosis, it is almost like a bereavement. It has been a long journey.”

But there is a happy footnote to their story. The family recently acquired a golden retriever called Buddy from the charity Service Dogs Europe, who will be a companion for Mya. “He will help her with independence, offer her safety and comfort,” said Tracey. “Hopefully he will be able to go to school with her and will be trained to calm her down. She is calmer already.”

To pay for the cost of ongoing training and his upkeep, Tracey and Gus have created a fund-raising page at www. They will also be holding car boot sales.

The 2009 Autism Act was England’s first specific piece of legislation for disabled people. It was created to promote an understanding of autism and make it easier for adults to get a diagnosis of autism. It also helps adults with autism to choose how and where they live and get the support they need to do this.

Autism affects more than 700,000 people in the UK (that’s more than 1 in 100) but the National Autistic Society says that there are many misconceptions about the lifelong condition. An estimated 460,000 adults with autism are still waiting for support. The society has launched a Push for Action campaign to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by those with autism. Go to

The news that singer Susan Boyle had to wait until adulthood for an autism diagnosis has highlighted the problems faced by those who live with the condition but struggle to get help. Two Huddersfield families caring for children with autism say it’s crucial to get the right support as soon as possible


New Post Leader

Charity will help to get special dog

A borough based charity is embarking on a quest to raise funds to help buy a youngster a specially trained dog.

The Angels of the North, based in Whitley Bay, is raising the funds under the banned of Harry’s Shadow, for three-year-old Harry Box, from Seaton Sluice, who suffers from Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Disorder.

The charity’s honorary chief executive officer, Barbara Connors-Fowler, said: “I have been greatly impressed by the efforts that the whole family are making to improve the quality of Harry’s life, which is why we have chosen ‘Harry’s Shadow’ as the 110th cause it is supporting.”

Service Dogs Europe offers children like Harry specialist trained dogs to help with daily battles.

A fully-trained dog will remain with Harry during his developing years and beyond.