June 10, 2021

For five families in Western Australia, a long-awaited dream came true last month. After a three year wait, they finally received their Autism Assistance Dogs.

These five Assistance Dogs – Oprah, Pixie, Robbo, Remi and Luna; along with two trainers, Jane and Mikaela, flew from Sydney to Perth for a ten-day workshop. Usually, a family member flies to Sydney for the workshop, but with uncertainty around COVID-19 border closures, Assistance Dogs Australia travelled to Western Australia instead.

Hyundai Help for Kids is proud partner of Assistance Dogs Australia, so we were excited to see Hyundai Australia Western Region extend this support by provided a safe and inclusive workspace for this class. This was the backdrop for the life-changing moment that the newly minted Assistance Dogs and their humans finally became a team.

One of the happy recipients was Jo, who received black Labrador Remi. Jo is mum to eight-year-old Lilah, who is living with autism. Jo said of that first meeting: “The feeling when we met Remi was quite overwhelming, a mixture of sheer excitement at finally getting to meet this boy we have thought so much about and eagerness to get started and to get to know him. We also felt overwhelming gratitude to those trainers and carers and all who helped Remi get to this point in his journey.”

It was a wonderful experience and a perfect area for developing the parents’ skills in handling their brand-new Assistance Dog. Trainer Jane said: “We have felt so welcome and received such hospitality from all the staff at Hyundai. This has provided not only the option to learn the skills for the future but a fantastic opportunity for the parents to meet other parents, share thoughts, provide support, build a community and also an ongoing friendship.”

The workshop prepared the parents for life with an Assistance Dog; from theory about dog body language, to practical lessons about how to handle their Assistance Dog in the home and in public, and field trips for real-world practice. One of the classes also explained to parents how to use their Assistance Dog to help their child develop motor skills, communication, independence, responsibilities, daily living skills, friendships, and more. It’s only early days, but five children’s lives will change forever.

Lilah’s mum Jo, said of their new furry family member: “Lilah believes Remi is like a giant worry doll, who can ‘eat her worries and never get full because all Labradors are always hungry’. She says Remi can protect her heart. Our hope is Remi can be a constant for her, a calm presence in her life who understands when she is stressed and helps to calm her, and a friend when she feels socially isolated as she navigates school and life growing up as an autistic girl. We hope he will help her to become more confident and more independent … and we hope he will eat her worries!”

Now five more children and their families can dream even bigger for the future. Our amazing community made all of this possible, and it’s hard to put into words just how grateful we are to our big-hearted family of supporters. Jo, Lilah’s mum said: “Thank you all for helping to make the world a better, more inclusive place for our daughter to grow up in. You have certainly made a remarkable impact on our lives and our family and we will be forever grateful.”

Hyundai Help for Kids is a proud long-standing partner of Assistance Dogs Australia. Over the past five years, we have supported their Animal Assisted Therapy program and sponsored the training of two Assistance Dogs (Turbo and Nexo). We have also provided vehicles for road movements of VIPS (Very Important Pups & People).