Meet Colin and Phoenix

Having opened up her heart and her home to over 75 foster children, Kaye is no stranger to welcoming newcomers. The newest addition to her home is Phoenix, a four-legged family member from Assistance Dogs Australia.

Phoenix is an Autism Assistance Dog, who has recently joined the family in Derby, West Kimberley, to help 9 year old Colin.

Living with autism and anxiety, Colin would typically shy away from any social situation, become non-communicative and often would prefer to stay at home. Since the arrival of Phoenix, the change in Colin has been incredible.

Within four months, Phoenix has helped transform Colin from a quiet boy who would rarely speak, to a proud dog owner, willing to speak and show off his dog at school assemblies, expos and even on the radio.

Phoenix has helped increase Colin’s confidence, encouraging exercise and social interaction, says mum Kaye. “We do so many more things together outside of the family home these days as Phoenix has given our son the confidence to venture into unfamiliar places and out of our front gate.”

“We are confident that if our son shows signs of becoming anxious in a strange or new environment, Phoenix’s presence can make a huge difference. He has a calming effect and is accepting of his quirky nature and differences. Somehow, Phoenix senses when he needs to be present with our son and is never too far away.”

Phoenix has had a positive impact not just on Colin, but on the whole family too.

“Phoenix allows us the freedom to go out into the community as a family unit. We have more time to spend with our two daughters as our time is not always consumed by our son’s needs. He has reduced the stress on us as parents as we are more relaxed when out and about knowing that Phoenix is there and supporting him” said Kaye.

With 1 in 100 children on the autism spectrum in Australia, families are turning to four-legged friends for their children. In 2015, Assistance Dogs Australia placed 8 Autism Assistance Dogs with families across Australia, and 4 Assistance Dogs in special educational schools.

“He is our ‘hero’ every day. Often we sit back and wonder what life would be like if Phoenix was not in it and that is hard to imagine.”

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