Archer is four years old and lives with severe autism
Archer was born a perfect, healthy baby. His mother Hayley was smitten. At three months of age, Archer started having seizures. This terrified Hayley, he was so young.
Archer was diagnosed with epilepsy and spent the next few years on heavy medication.
Then at the age of two, Archer was diagnosed with severe autism.
Hayley was devastated. All she wanted was for Archer to have a regular childhood. She was worried for his future.
"When I found out Archer had autism I had mixed emotions. Initially I had feelings of sadness and grief, but also some relief to understand why he wasn't speaking," Hayley recalls.
Archer is non-verbal, and struggles daily to communicate what he wants, leaving him constantly feeling frustrated and confused.
Archer has no sense of danger. If a door is left open, Archer will bolt, running across the road in front of cars and toward a nearby creek. As you can imagine, this terrifies Hayley.
Even a simple trip to the shops is impossible for Hayley
Even a simple trip to the shops is a nightmare for Hayley
If Archer becomes overwhelmed in the shopping centre, he will run away. To keep him safe Hayley has to pick him up and hold him. But as Archer gets bigger this is becoming extremely difficult for Hayley. Hayley also has Archer's 8 year old brother Harrison to watch out for.
"I'm physically exhausted. Shopping with Archer is really hard. I constantly have to hold him otherwise he will run away. I often have to ask strangers to help me," Hayley explains.
Archer has a tactile fascination with food. He loves playing with it and throwing it around.
"My hands are so full that I have to wait until Harrison and Archer are in bed before I can clean up the mess of the day. I'm often up cleaning after 11pm, then I'm woken up multiple times through the night by Archer. The next day I start all over again. It's exhausting."
Archer will also eat anything he can get his hands on; spiders, spider webs, sand, and even balloons. Hayley has to watch him like a hawk.
While mostly a happy boy at home, Archer is terrified of other children. He gets extremely overwhelmed and upset in social situations. This breaks Hayley's heart. All she wants is for him to have friends to play with.
Archer is in desperate need of an Autism Assistance Dog
Early intervention through an Autism Assistance Dog is essential for the development of children like Archer. It is also imperative for their safety.
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, Lisa, has been working with Hayley and Archer to find them a suitable match with one of our Autism Assistance Dogs-in-training.
Lisa has 'Alvin' as a potential match in mind for Archer.
Earlier this year, Alvin graduated from basic training, and was hand-picked by Lisa for the Autism Assistance Dog program.
"The standards of our Autism Assistance Dog program are very high, as these dogs will have the safety of a young child in mind. Alvin is already showing the right signs of being a successful Autism Assistance Dog. I am hopeful he will continue showing great responses during his training," Lisa explains.
Alvin is at the start of his advanced training to become an Autism Assistance Dog, but the training process is complex and expensive.
A dog like Alvin would be a life-changing Christmas gift for Archer
Hayley is becoming anxious, she needs the support of an Autism Assistance Dog, "I can't do this by myself any longer. I'm exhausted. An Autism Assistance Dog would change our lives and open up Archer's whole world."
"An Autism Assistance Dog like Alvin would make such a difference to Archer. With Alvin, Archer would be safer. Using a belt around his waist, Archer would be attached to Alvin's coat so he can't run into danger. It would create peace of mind for Hayley when they're out as a family," Lisa explains.
Your gift today can fast-track Alvin's training to make Hayley's Christmas wish of their very own Autism Assistance Dog come true.
"Everything with Archer is physical. Having an Autism Assistance Dog to support us while we're out would be amazing. I'd feel more secure and much more relaxed," Hayley explains.
Can you imagine the joy they will feel after being told they're getting their very own Autism Assistance Dog for Christmas?
With your support, Guide Dogs can make this Christmas one Hayley, Archer, and Harrison will never forget.