Nuala Gardner

My name is Nuala Gardner, I am the mother of Dale now age 22yrs who in 1991 had severe classical autism, my daughter Amy now age 10, also has autism, diagnosed in 2003. Thankfully, for Dale, despite no recognised autism provision and poor understanding of the condition, 20 years ago, despite this, Dale was privileged to have received the right educational intervention. As his parents we became Dale's "specialised" teachers, intensively working with him at home. With this intervention from us and Dale having condition specific education at school, allowed him to slowly for the first five years of his life, begin to emerge from his autistic world, albeit at a snails pace.

However, when Dale was five, there was one teacher in particular who threw us a lifeline, called Henry, that entered our lives. Henry was a very "special" teacher that excelled in every way to helping Dale progress there after at an impressive rate. Henry alone was instrumental in transforming not only Dale's life but ours as a family as well. This amazing teacher was completely different in every way than we could have ever imagined. Henry had unique qualities, that no human could posses, to enable him to reach Dale, when all our efforts failed. Henry was different in that, as Dale's teacher and educational facilitator, he had four legs and a tail, and our first family puppy, but he was no ordinary golden retriever companion dog for Dale. Dale connected and came to love his dog so much, that he was "honored" to name him after his favourite train from the Thomas the Tank Engine series, that was, 'Henry" the green engine number three. Because of Dale's remarkable progress was due in no small part to Henry, Dale thrived and grew up to be able to this day "lead" a normal quality of life.......... in spite of having autism.

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Dale and I can clearly see all the wonderful possibilities for the ASD child via DATA to learn in a holistic way, because the whole ethos of DATA is based on how any child with or without a disability learns that is......... they learn through play. This is why myself and Dale embrace the chance to support and help in any way we can Blair Cochrane's DATA program, because the possibilities to reach the child with autism on many levels big or small via DATA are endless. I know for sure with Blairs program and quality of transitional resources included for the ASD child or adult, there will definitely be no harm done by trying this unique and ground breaking therapy.

I know DATA could be a powerful intervention tool because, I was able to tell how a similar approach and intervention using Dale's first dog Henry is told in the international best selling book....... A Friend Like Henry. Dale and Henrys story was also the basis for the award winning ITV drama After Thomas. From my experience as a mother first, I knew that Dale and Henrys remarkable relationship and story was not a "one off," and using good natured and well trained dogs could and does to this day help other autistic children and adults. Dale's story to date and the countless untold similar stories I have come across, are proof that interventions like DATA could help reach other children, given the child the opportunity and chance to do so, the child and family will certainly have nothing to loose for trying. That was my thoughts when I was looking for a puppy for Dale and that story and Dale's future has turned out well.

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