Leah and Lauchie’s story
After attending a PAWS (Parents Autism Workshop and Support) class with Assistance Dogs Australia, mum Angela immediately applied for an Assistance Dog for her daughter Leah. Angela could see the benefits that having a specially trained Assistance dog could have on Leah, and her whole family.
Leah is 16 years old and diagnosed with a rare genetic defect called Phelan-McDermid Syndrome (PMS), of which very little is known. There is a wide range of severity of symptoms observed in people with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome and they often have autism or autism spectrum disorders and PMS is associated with intellectual disabilities, sleep disorders and seizures
During the day, Lauchie encourages Leah to move around more, and engage in activities with him, such as feeding, grooming, playing and taking him for walks.
“We take him everywhere so he can be a calming influence on Leah – now and in future. Gym, dentist, piano recital, swimming carnival, shopping, eating out, beautician, family outings.’ said Angela.
When outside the house, Leah would normally hold her mum’s hand. Now she holds Lauchie’s lead, with his specialized harness which allows Angela to also attach a secondary lead.
This simple task has had a big impact on Leah, increasing self-confidence and independencewhen in public. This is also an important safety mechanismfor her parents, to encourage Leah to stay close and not wander off.
“The little milestones we reach with Lauchie and Leah are always incredibly moving and elating – they might be not obvious to everyone but those subtle changes mean the world to us”.
“I have learned so much at the PAWS classes and with the ongoing support from Assistance Dogs Australia during placement. I now feel well equipped to teach Lauchie new skills and adapt to Leah’s changing needs.”
Lauchie is Leah’s best friend, and is there for her day and night. Angela has recently embarked on training Lauchie to improve Leah’s sleeping patterns by staying in her bedroom and putting his weight on her for comfort.
While Lauchie’s training is specifically tailored to meeting Leah’s needs, the benefits of his support is felt by all the family, including Leah’s younger sister and brother. Lauchie has really helped provide a positive focus to bond the family together. All the family now fondly refer to him as their “Lucky Lauchie!”
Mum Angela, says, “We now have a new family member. Lauchie has brought a lot of joy and laughter to the family and is a positive addition to our daily life.”