Family needs help to keep autistic daughter safe


A Peacehaven family is hoping to raise enough money to buy a trained assistance dog to keep their autistic daughter safe.

Isabelle King, six, has no idea about danger. Her mum Michelle says when she gets stressed she often runs off.

Parents Michelle and Luke have two other daughters, Poppy (two) and Ruby (eight). They say it is very difficult to take them all out at the same time. The couple were childhood sweethearts and they are now appealing to friends, neighbours and residents of both Peacehaven and Crawley (where they used to live) to help raise £7,000 to acquire a trained assistance dog which would look after Isabelle.

The idea of a trained dog came to Michelle after she was watching This Morning on ITV and saw an autistic boy with a support dog. She explained: “What drove me to do it was when I tried to take the three children to the park. Isabelle decided to run off. She had had enough and shot off out of the park.”

Michelle said she was desperately worried. She had to leave her two-year-old, throw down her handbag and run after her. She was running and sobbing after the speedy six year old and thinking ‘this is just too much.’

And she decided that an assistance dog would be sensitive enough to understand when Isabelle was going to have a meltdown and be alert to the danger of her running off. The problem could then be solved before it happened, proving a huge relief to the whole family.

If Isabelle did run off the dog is trained to catch up with and run around her in circles to distract her and prevent her from dashing headlong into a road. Michelle is Isabelle’s full-time carer and her husband works six days a week. She went on: “Having the dog would make such a difference because she does have very challenging behavour, biting and kicking my two other daughters in the car if she is distressed.”

Dogs for the Disabled is a charity which provides assistance dogs free of charge but it is so popular that Isabelle would not even be able to join a waiting list. So instead the family have turned to an organisation called Service Dogs Europe.

The group trains dogs to support people with special needs but it costs £7,000 which must be raised before the dog can start training. Dogs are trained according to the person’s specific needs and publicity has shown how helpful they can be supporting people with a history of seizures, dementia, mobility or limb problems, diabetes, hearing loss or even Tourettes. A recent BBC programme about puppies showed how assistance dogs also learn by working alongside the person they will help.

The family has set up a Facebook page and fundraising page. To donate to the cause search for: ‘Isabelle’s autism assistance dog’ on Facebook where there is a link to the fundraising page.

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