Mum of York boy with autism say support dog has been 'life-changing'

Credit: Support Dogs
Rebecca Wilson said Eli is 'really proud of Elvis'. Credit: Support Dogs

The family of a boy with autism says his support dog saved his life when he stopped him from being hit by a car.

Seven-year old Eli Wilson, who was diagnosed with autism aged three, was walking home from school with his dog Elvis when he became "spooked" and ran towards a road.Elvis, who was strapped to Eli, is trained to brace in such incidents and was able to stop him from stepping into the road, giving the driver time to brake. The incident happened in Osbaldwick, York, where the family lives.

Eli’s mum Rebecca Wilson, 32, who was with Eli and her two other children, Reuben, 10, and five-year-old Arlen, at the time, said: “Had we not had Elvis, it would have been a very different outcome. There were certainly a few tears.

"That’s the thing with Eli – he can be okay one minute and then he’s not. There was something he didn’t like on the way home from school and his instinct was to run away.”

Rebecca took Eli to a GP when he was two because of concerns about his development.

"He didn’t look or smile at me and didn’t look interested in anything," she said.

"He never slept either, and as he got older he never spoke. He made screeching noises and everything used to upset him."

He was put on a waiting list to see various clinicians, including speech and language therapists, before being diagnosed, but became increasingly violent and would regularly lash out.

Since a young age, Eli has been calmer around animals. Credit: Support Dogs

In early 2020, Rebecca became aware of Support Dogs, which trains and provides assistance dogs to help autistic children or adults with epilepsy or disability to live more independently.

After visiting its headquarters in Sheffield, Eli was matched with Elvis, a three-year old black Labrador.

Rebecca said his introduction to the family "has honestly changed our lives so much".

"I loved him straight away and thought he would fit in perfectly," she said."I didn't realise how much of a difference Elvis would make. He has helped massively."

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