A DETERMINED mother has started a mammoth fund-raising campaign in a bid to raise enough cash for a specially trained dog for her autistic son to help protect him and give his family piece of mind.
Little Luke Bennett, of Demontfort Way, Uttoxeter, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) last February but for his parents it did not come as much of a shock as they had known from his behaviour for a long time that something was not right.
The four-year-old, who has a twin brother Kirk, started showing signs of unusual behaviour at a young age which led his parents straight to the doctor.
His mother Andrea, 38, told The Advertiser: “If we hadn’t had Kirk we would not have picked it up as quickly as we did. Luke kept doing strange things that we have never seen before like repeating a word over and over again and rocking with his head in his hands. Our main concern with Luke is that he is a bolter.
“The biggest fear we have is Luke getting out as we have lost him a couple of times when he has wiggled free and bolted. One time he went straight for a busy road as he has no danger or stranger awareness.
“He was diagnosed by Midlands Psychology and they have been brilliant but it took us a long time to get the diagnosis.”
Now the family is trying to raise 4,858 euros in a bid to bring specially trained dog Tilly over from Ireland, to allow Luke and his family to have more freedom.
Mrs Bennett said: “Tilly is currently in Ireland being trained but will have finished by the beginning of March.
“Tilly will mean so many things to this family. Luke does not sleep well at night and we will often find him up and about so she will be able to calm him down.
“In public he will be harnessed to Tilly as he can bolt off at any time and wiggle out of our hands. If this happens she will anchor him by lying down.
“We cannot go out as much as we would like with the way he is at the moment as when he gets over stimulated he starts screaming. When this happens Tilly will go to him and put her head on his lap to calm him down.
“It would be so nice to have more freedom. We have found these dogs have had a lot of success for children with autism or any other disabilities as animals have a calming effect on them.
“We have heard so many good reviews and we really hope Tilly will help bring him on in the future. She will at least help protect him and give us a bit more piece of mind.
“She will also alert people that Luke is not just throwing a tantrum when we are out and that there is something wrong with him.”
The family has so far raised 286 euros and are brainstorming ideas in a bid to raise the cash needed. Luke’s sister Alexis is to hold a hot chocolate and big muffin sale at Thomas Alleyne’s High School at break times next week to raise funds.
Anyone wanting to help the family is asked to visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LukeandTilly or www.mycharity.ie/event/lukes_fundraiser/