You may be aware that through your support of Guide Dogs WA, the majority of Western Australian’s whose lives you touch are living with low or no vision. But in the case of six-year-old Wesley, his parents say that your support has literally helped to save their son’s life. Multiple times.
Wesley was diagnosed with Autism when he was 15 months old. This darling boy also has Hyperlexia: an above-average ability with reading and writing, but it also blends into the maths, as Paige, his mother, explains: “He could read and write when he was about two or three and also has just crazy maths skills.” Despite these skills, Wesley finds it difficult to communicate with the world around him.
Like many children living with Autism, Wesley also tends to ‘bolt’ when he is triggered by stress or unfamiliar environments. Paige and her husband Beau say they were constantly on eggshells on the rare occasions they took Wesley out in public. There was the constant fear that he would run into traffic or into other danger.
“He would get out of your hands or you will be holding him, he would wiggle out, get out somehow and bolt,” Paige remembers. She recalls a particularly distressing incident when Wesley was a toddler.
“I ended up lying on my back on the middle of the road and holding him to protect his head from hitting the bitumen. It’s too upsetting to think about that one…”
So distressing were family outings that generally, either mum or dad would accompany Wesley’s two older sisters, and Wesley would stay home with the other parent. “We rarely did anything as a whole family. You could never relax, your heart was in your throat all the time.” says Beau.
That all changed in early 2020 when Wesley was paired with Autism Assistance Dog Max. And that was thanks to the kindness of people like you.
Wesley had been on the wait list for an Autism Assistance Dog for 15 months.
Max was the fourth dog our instructor Victoria took to visit with Wesley to assess if they were a good match to his temperament and his walking stride.
“They walked really well together the first time they met,” Paige says. “His personality kind of matches Wesley. Max is really clever but he is playful and I remember the first time they met, Wesley ran out the back door and down to the trampoline and Max just followed him.”
The two have become inseparable since they formally matched. Since then, life has transformed for this family of five.
“We had never had a dog before, so we were a little nervous, but Max assimilated with the family from the moment he moved in,” Paige says. She attributes that to the two weeks of intensive training she and Max undertook under the watchful eye of our Assistance Dog Instructor, Victoria.
From night one, Max began sleeping in Wesley’s room, on a specially converted trundle bed next to the little boy. “He loves him sleeping right there,” his dad says.
“Previously, one of us had to sit with him to get him to fall asleep, but now Max is just part of his nightly routine and Wesley settles by himself.”
There have been many other positives for the whole family. With Max by Wesley’s side, mum and dad are more confident about taking him out in community: to the shops, a café even the local park.
“Before Max,” says Paige “we were so shut off from community access. Now we know that if we get invited to something, we can probably go. All of us, together. Max has given us so much confidence!”
What Wesley’s mum and dad are most grateful for is that Max keeps their little boy safe while they are out and about. According to his mum: “Max has definitely saved Wesley’s life more times than I can count on my hands!”
Max is a constant by Wesley’s side: whether it’s out in the community or walking with mum to school. And Wesley knows that his new four-legged companion is something of a ‘star’ within the school grounds and his local community.
We need continued support from the Western Australian community to ensure our dogs grow into the best Guide Dog or Assistance Dog they can be. It will also help equip our expert trainers and mobility instructors with what they need to support families like Wesley’s once they are matched with just the right dog.
Your donation today will directly impact the life of someone living with low vision, disability or illness.