Autistic boy learns to communicate with the help of his puppy
Leon Kirby-Bulner has autism and struggles to communicate – but thanks to Fern, a three-year-old cocker spaniel, his parents say he has started chattering non-stop.
The four-year-old has become ‘very best friends’ with Fern and mum Hayley Kirby-Bulner, who calls him ‘Mancub’ after Mowgli in The Jungle Book, credits the pup with helping improve his confidence.
Hayley, 44, said: ‘He was sadly locked in his own little world but, on meeting Fern, it was love at first sight. The pair quickly became inseparable, the very best of friends.
‘Mancub’s first interactions weren’t with humans but with Fern. He had a sparkle in his eye we hadn’t seen before.
‘He is a true animal lover and prefers animals to people. He is now an excellent communicator with non-stop chattering.’
Fern was homed as a puppy in 2017 when Leon was a baby and they’ve grown up together.
They love playing hide and seek and wearing matching outfits.
Hayley, who runs a falconry business in Andover, Hants., added: ‘The help Fern gives us every day can’t be underestimated.
‘Amongst other things, she helps Mancub calm down when he has a meltdown often providing deep pressure stimulation, she guards the stairs to stop him hurting himself, she gets between him and the floor when he is trying to bang his head, and generally gives him comfort when needed.
‘She has numerous routines and tasks that make our family life so much easier and she loves helping out. We couldn’t imagine not having her assistance now.
‘Mancub and Fern is a partnership that will keep getting stronger and stronger, in all honesty she is at her happiest when she’s with her boy. She just loves to help.
‘Fern has completely transformed Mancub’s life.’
Hayley and husband Karsten want to help other autistic children and are fundraising for to provide assistance dog for other families.
A Facebook page they’ve created in tribute to Fern has more than 4,000 followers.
Hayley added: ‘Knowing what a huge difference Fern has made to our lives and especially Mancub’s, my dream was to help another family with an autistic child, who cannot afford to do this themselves, in the way that Fern has helped us.
‘Therefore since the start of lockdown Mancub and I have been making embroidered items to fundraise for the first T.A.P. Assistance Dog – a fully trained working cocker spaniel.
‘We are now very close to getting another autistic child their very own ‘Fern’ and my dream is coming true.’
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