After Thomas Film: A Golden & his Autistic best friend

Three years ago I blogged about this special film. Unfortunately it was only available on BBC and DVD copies were only configured to work in Europe. But now, some enterprising person on youtube has separated the 93 minute movie into 9 parts (given 10-min max per video).

A boy’s best friend
By Dephne Lockyer, Telegraph Media Group

Dale Gardner’s parents despaired when he was born with severe autism – until a golden retriever unlocked his secret world. … Another family might have opted to institutionalise Dale, but that was never an option for the Gardners. Instead, they dared to hope they might help their son and, during a visit to relatives at a Perthshire farm, they noticed how he seemed to connect with some puppies there. They decided to get him a pet of his own. Enter Henry.

“We weren’t hoping for any miracles, we just wanted Dale to have some company. I used to despair about his loneliness,” says Nuala. “But Henry turned out to be this wonderful, five-star educational resource. We could never have predicted how he would change our lives.”

Dale himself describes the dog as “friendly, with lovely, kind eyes”. “He was my dog and I loved him,” Dale says. “He died in April this year and even though I love our new dog (also called Henry) it was terrible for me. The first Henry was special.”

At times, Nuala and Jamie would find them snuggled together in the dog basket. That Henry introduced Dale to the concept of love and empathy – one that autism sufferers struggle with – is miraculous in itself but there was more. During one of the “proud” explosions, Jamie struck on the idea of trying to communicate with Dale through the dog. “I said, ‘Dale, this is Henry talking. I wish you’d stop that. It’s upsetting me.’ Instantly, Dale stopped raging and took Henry outside to play. Slowly, Dale’s behaviour improved. He no longer fought over bedtime rituals like getting into his pyjamas and he was finally toilet trained. Then, most extraordinarily of all, he began to express love for his parents.

“The most basic need of a mother is to love their child and to get some love back. Not to have it is the cruellest thing in the world,” Nuala says. “Every mother watching the drama will understand the elation when the son is finally able to say the words, even though he uses his dog as a conduit.”


AFTER THOMAS: The film based on the Gardner Family’s True Story
Six-year-old Kyle Graham is scared. Not of monsters under the bed, but of just about everything. And even worse, he can’t communicate his fears. His mother Nicola knows that Kyle wants to be left alone, safe and secure in his autistic world. But she also fears for his future if he continues to reject all emotional interaction. Her fierce determination to break into Kyle’s world has placed an intolerable strain on her marriage. Her husband Rob, although equally devoted to his son, is frustrated by Nicola’s relentless drive to improve Kyle’s condition and her resistance to putting Kyle into a highly reputable boarding school for autistic children.

Thomas, a golden retriever puppy, is a last desperate attempt. Although Nicola had heard that some autistic children improved with pets, nothing could prepare Nicola and Rob for how Thomas unlocks the door to a personality they never knew their son had. What follows is a fascinating and moving tale of two parents who, at breaking point, find hope they never dared to dream. Gritty and real, funny and heart-warming, After Thomas is an uplifting and moving true story.

The real family behind the story: Nuala and James Gardner – on whom Nicola and Rob Graham are based – live in a seaside town in Scotland with son Dale (Kyle), who is now 18, and their six-year-old daughter Amy. Both Dale and Amy were diagnosed with autism as toddlers, with Dale’s diagnosis being a long, arduous task at a time when autism was not widely understood. After Thomas is the story of Dale’s remarkable development through his bond with their pet dog Henry, named after his favorite engine in Thomas The Tank Engine but renamed Thomas in the film. He is unrecognizable from the boy he was during the period the film depicts – the confident, mature and friendly teenager who plays guitar in a band and works voluntarily with young Scouts is testament to the incredible impact Henry (Thomas) had on his life.

Nuala Gardner details how this story first came to writer Lindsey Hill’s attention when the family entered their Golden Retriever into a competition:

I entered what I thought was just a small competition through Winalot dog food. You had to write about why your dog was a ‘real life champ’ and so I wrote about the impact Henry had made on Dale. We won the competition and, subsequently, were approached by Pet Power with Anthea Turner. Pet Power was an amalgamation of heart-warming stories about the impact animals had had on people’s lives. We were a small aspect of that, with a 15 minute piece which briefly covered our story. Lindsey was one of the many thousands who watched it, and she could see that there was more to the story and got in touch with us. Initially, there was a double edged sword of excitement and reservation. However, from that very initial conversation, a nine-year relationship with Lindsey was formed.

After Thomas is the first one-off drama script from former insolvency lawyer Lindsey Hill. She explains how she came across this moving true story:

One evening early in 1997, I caught an episode of Pet Power and saw the Gardner family’s story. I sat there with tears rolling down my face; I too had a golden retriever puppy – who was lying at my feet – so I knew just how special they could be and what incredible bonds you can develop with them. About an hour later I had a ‘light bulb moment’. If the story could move me like that, what effect might it have on other people? ‘When I finally got to talk to the family, they were unbelievably open and candid. They had thought about it long and hard and decided that if it could possibly help other families, they would love to work with me on bringing their story to a wider audience. At this point Dale was a little boy, and they invited me to visit them at their home in Scotland. They had two conditions: that I stay at their house rather than in a hotel and that I take my dog too. In the end I went up twice, staying for ten days in total.

ENJOY!!

A Friend like Golden Retriever Henry — Updated

This article was originally posted in Sept 2007 but I’ve just discovered a nice video clip to go with it. I only wish the film could be seen in the US.

In the article, The dog who spoke to Dale, you can learn about Nuala Gardner’s autistic son, who was violent and withdrawn. Then Golden Henry the retriever arrived, so saving the family.

Nuala also just published the book, A Friend Like Henry. This is the inspiring account of a family’s struggle to break into their son’s autistic world, and how a dog made the real difference.

A Friend Like HenryDale was still a baby when his parents realized that something wasn’t right. Worried, his mother Nuala took him to see several doctors, before finally hearing the word ‘autism’ for the first time in a specialist’s office. Scared but determined that Dale should live a fulfilling life, Nuala describes her despair at her son’s condition, her struggle to prevent Dale being excluded from a ‘normal’ education and her sense of hopeless isolation. Dale’s autism was severe and violent and family life was a daily battleground.

But the Gardner’s lives were transformed when they welcomed a gorgeous Golden Retriever into the family. The special bond between Dale and his dog Henry helped them to produce the breakthrough in Dale they had long sought. From taking a bath to saying ‘I love you’, Henry helped introduce Dale to all the normal activities most parents take for granted, and set him on the road to being the charming and well-adjusted young man he is today.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Golden Thunder … a much needed best friend

371-6m5passagesembeddedprod_affiliate4.jpg While animals do not always bridge the gap for autistic children, it is a very special thing when they can truly make that all important difference. In this photo by Hector Amezoua, it seems like just a typical family scene. But, it is anything but.

Evan Moulton climbed onto Thunder’s back and giggled. He lay down, put his head on Thunder’s belly, and giggled. He let Thunder wrestle with him and dance with him and shake his hand, and every time, he giggled.

There’s a reason the Moulton family calls their golden retriever “Thunder, the Wonder Dog.” Nine-year-old Evan never used to smile. In fact, for a number of years, he only screamed – a bloodcurdling shriek that lasted for hours.

Golden Retriever Halo, Autism Assistance Dog


Photo by Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News

Meet Golden Halo, an autism assistance dog from Ohio’s 4 Paws for Ability, with her buddy Leo. This organization is one of many that we have listed at our foundation site’s worldwide assistance dog listing.

 

It is simply an amazing story of how this family from Alaska went stateside to Ohio to get Halo for their son. Click here to learn more about the impact this Golden girl has made. 

After Thomas – A film about a Golden Retriever and his Autistic best friend

afterthomas_clevel.jpg

A boy’s best friend
By Dephne Lockyer, Telegraph Media Group

Dale Gardner’s parents despaired when he was born with severe autism – until a golden retriever unlocked his secret world. … Another family might have opted to institutionalise Dale, but that was never an option for the Gardners. Instead, they dared to hope they might help their son and, during a visit to relatives at a Perthshire farm, they noticed how he seemed to connect with some puppies there. They decided to get him a pet of his own. Enter Henry.

“We weren’t hoping for any miracles, we just wanted Dale to have some company. I used to despair about his loneliness,” says Nuala. “But Henry turned out to be this wonderful, five-star educational resource. We could never have predicted how he would change our lives.”

Dale himself describes the dog as “friendly, with lovely, kind eyes”. “He was my dog and I loved him,” Dale says. “He died in April this year and even though I love our new dog (also called Henry) it was terrible for me. The first Henry was special.”

At times, Nuala and Jamie would find them snuggled together in the dog basket. That Henry introduced Dale to the concept of love and empathy – one that autism sufferers struggle with – is miraculous in itself but there was more. During one of the “proud” explosions, Jamie struck on the idea of trying to communicate with Dale through the dog. “I said, ‘Dale, this is Henry talking. I wish you’d stop that. It’s upsetting me.’ Instantly, Dale stopped raging and took Henry outside to play. Slowly, Dale’s behaviour improved. He no longer fought over bedtime rituals like getting into his pyjamas and he was finally toilet trained. Then, most extraordinarily of all, he began to express love for his parents.

“The most basic need of a mother is to love their child and to get some love back. Not to have it is the cruellest thing in the world,” Nuala says. “Every mother watching the drama will understand the elation when the son is finally able to say the words, even though he uses his dog as a conduit.”


AFTER THOMAS: The film based on the Gardner Family’s True Story
Six-year-old Kyle Graham is scared. Not of monsters under the bed, but of just about everything. And even worse, he can’t communicate his fears. His mother Nicola knows that Kyle wants to be left alone, safe and secure in his autistic world. But she also fears for his future if he continues to reject all emotional interaction. Her fierce determination to break into Kyle’s world has placed an intolerable strain on her marriage. Her husband Rob, although equally devoted to his son, is frustrated by Nicola’s relentless drive to improve Kyle’s condition and her resistance to putting Kyle into a highly reputable boarding school for autistic children.Thomas, a golden retriever puppy, is a last desperate attempt. Although Nicola had heard that some autistic children improved with pets, nothing could prepare Nicola and Rob for how Thomas unlocks the door to a personality they never knew their son had. What follows is a fascinating and moving tale of two parents who, at breaking point, find hope they never dared to dream. Gritty and real, funny and heart-warming, After Thomas is an uplifting and moving true story.The real family behind the story: Nuala and James Gardner – on whom Nicola and Rob Graham are based – live in a seaside town in Scotland with son Dale (Kyle), who is now 18, and their six-year-old daughter Amy. Both Dale and Amy were diagnosed with autism as toddlers, with Dale’s diagnosis being a long, arduous task at a time when autism was not widely understood. After Thomas is the story of Dale’s remarkable development through his bond with their pet dog Henry, named after his favorite engine in Thomas The Tank Engine but renamed Thomas in the film. He is unrecognizable from the boy he was during the period the film depicts – the confident, mature and friendly teenager who plays guitar in a band and works voluntarily with young Scouts is testament to the incredible impact Henry (Thomas) had on his life.

Nuala Gardner details how this story first came to writer Lindsey Hill’s attention when the family entered their Golden Retriever into a competition:

I entered what I thought was just a small competition through Winalot dog food. You had to write about why your dog was a ‘real life champ’ and so I wrote about the impact Henry had made on Dale. We won the competition and, subsequently, were approached by Pet Power with Anthea Turner. Pet Power was an amalgamation of heart-warming stories about the impact animals had had on people’s lives. We were a small aspect of that, with a 15 minute piece which briefly covered our story. Lindsey was one of the many thousands who watched it, and she could see that there was more to the story and got in touch with us. Initially, there was a double edged sword of excitement and reservation. However, from that very initial conversation, a nine-year relationship with Lindsey was formed.

After Thomas is the first one-off drama script from former insolvency lawyer Lindsey Hill. She explains how she came across this moving true story:

One evening early in 1997, I caught an episode of Pet Power and saw the Gardner family’s story. I sat there with tears rolling down my face; I too had a golden retriever puppy – who was lying at my feet – so I knew just how special they could be and what incredible bonds you can develop with them. About an hour later I had a ‘light bulb moment’. If the story could move me like that, what effect might it have on other people? ‘When I finally got to talk to the family, they were unbelievably open and candid. They had thought about it long and hard and decided that if it could possibly help other families, they would love to work with me on bringing their story to a wider audience. At this point Dale was a little boy, and they invited me to visit them at their home in Scotland. They had two conditions: that I stay at their house rather than in a hotel and that I take my dog too. In the end I went up twice, staying for ten days in total.

After Thomas can be seen below in the following clips:

Therapy Golden Retriever Bailey big hit

Pets’ monthly visits bring out kids’ best
5-year-old Bailey a big hit at Hannah More
By JULIA WILSON, Owings Mills Times

She was hairy and drooling, and she had big sharp teeth, but the students at Hannah More School didn’t care. They loved her anyway.

Nine children gathered around Bailey like she was their special gift on Christmas morning. It was their favorite day of the month: pet therapy day. “What’s her name?” “Do you brush her teeth?” “Where does she sleep?” “Does she bark?”

The questions came fast and furious as Bailey, a 5-year-old golden retriever, wagged her tail and enjoyed the attention. Claire Hoffman, Bailey’s owner, sat smiling as her furry pet basked in the attention, fielding questions as they flew her way. The students, most with some level of autism, were free with their admiration of Bailey.

There’s more . . .

Golden Retriever pups aid autistic kids

Puppies give aid to autistic children
By Nate Hansen, Larson Newspapers

The gate to Fran Elliott’s Sedona acreage opens and an incoming vehicle is greeted by a half-dozen blurs of yellow incited by wagging tails and shaking hindquarters — excited and panting golden retrievers approach the car from all sides.

Elliott, a 20-year resident of Sedona, is the director of the Hairy Angel Foundation. The purpose for her organization is to provide service dogs for autistic children.

Elliott appears on the circular driveway. With a kind command followed by praise, she calls the dogs to return and heel. “Welcome,” Elliott says, smiling.

Peabody, a female puppy, leans into a stranger’s leg, yearning for attention. Pet her, Elliott encourages. These service dogs thrive on love, she says.

Elliott’s foundation incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Sedona 12 years ago. It began after she discovered the comforting benefits an autistic child received from one of her furry friends.

She says she can’t explain the connection, but for some reason the golden retrievers and children find a common bond. “They provide unconditional love, exercise, a sense of responsibility, protection and are used by the children’s therapists in animal assistive therapy,” Elliott adds.

There’s more . . .

Golden Retriever Lily helping Autistic Kids

Dog therapy helps autistic kids in Verplanck
By Robert Marchant, The Journal News

It was no ordinary field trip for middle-school students from the Ardsley School District when they paid a visit to a dog-boarding facility in Verplanck yesterday. It was part of an ongoing educational and therapy session for students with autism, and the therapy came in the form of wagging tails, sloppy licks and furry hugs.

The 10 kids spent an hour making friends with pets at Canine Kindergarten, which takes in dogs for short visits and extended stays.

Matthew Dietz, 15, of Rye was soon covered in dog hair after petting and playing with the dogs, and smiling ear to ear. He wrapped his arm around a fuzzy Labradoodle named Pippin and fed him a treat as a look of delight etched his features. Using the sign language he has been learning through the Ardsley program, Matthew announced, “I want a dog.”

Michael Kulsha, 11, of Dobbs Ferry whistled and waved at a friendly golden retriever named Lily, then got down on the floor for some play time with the dog, getting a few licks for his troubles. Stephanie Garrido, 13, of Valhalla held a furry little Shih Tzu named Mundo in her lap and slowly brushed her hair, the two making a portrait of serene contentment.

It wasn’t always this way.

There’s more . . . .

Golden Scooby is Dougie’s Best Friend

A boy’s best friend – National Service Dog ‘a blessing’ to autistic little boy
By Jessica Patterson, Special to The Daily News

Scooby and Dougie go almost everywhere together. Dougie Hutchinson, 12, has autism. Scooby, 3, is his service dog.

Scooby came to the Hutchinson family of Halifax a little over a year and half ago from National Service Dogs in Ontario, with help from the President’s Choice Children’s Charity. “In the beginning we didn’t know what to expect,” said Dougie’s mother Paula.

At first, Scooby was a negative part of Dougie’s life. The English golden retriever is very large and he takes up a lot of space. “His nose is wet and Dougie is very sensitive to wet. He doesn’t like wet,” said Dougie’s dad, Scott. It took a while for Dougie to get used to and accept Scooby as part of the family.

The rest of the Hutchinson family accepted Scooby right away. The pooch became their beloved family dog, as well as Dougie’s service dog. And now, they do lots of things together.

Dougie skates, rock-climbs, scooters, rollerblades and rides a two-wheel bike. When Dougie goes for a ride, Paula or Scott and Scooby jog next to him. “We’re going to try downhill skiing this year,” says Scott.

But it wasn’t always like this. “There weren’t any signs that anything was wrong (with Dougie), until about age three,” said Paula, an autism researcher at the IWK.

There’s more . . . .

Retrieved from a World of Silence

Retrieved from a World of Silence: Loving pup Henry gave autistic Dale new life
By Kizzy Taylor, The Daily Record

THE story of an autistic boy freed from his world of silence by a puppy is to be told in a TV drama. Dale Gardner, 18, learned how to speak and form relationships thanks to Henry the golden retriever. Together, they defied medical opinion to allow Dale to attend a mainstream school, obtain seven Standard Grades, go to college and lead a “normal” teenage life.

Now the amazing tale has been turned into heartwarming ITV1 drama After Thomas – to be shown on Boxing Day – and his mum is writing a book, Talking To Henry, to give hope to other families.

Dale, of Greenock, Renfrewshire, said: “Henry was sent to help me and now life is good and I’m in college. He was the key that unlocked my mind.”

Dale was born prematurely and parents Nuala, a community nurse, and Jamie immediately knew something was wrong. He was a passive child and refused to cry. But while others marvelled at the “model baby”, the Gardners knew that Dale was not developing normally.

They worked around the clock to encourage him to say his first words but he refused to connect and remained aloof. It was only when he had a screaming tantrum at a nurse’s party when he was two that the Gardners discovered he had autism. Nuala said: “Someone suggested autism and I rushed straight to the library because I knew nothing about it. As I turned the pages, it was chilling. He had every symptom.”

The couple dealt with the condition as best they could – but their lives were transformed six months later, during a visit to relatives in Auchterarder, Perthshire. As soon as Dale saw the family’s dog, he was entranced and spent the entire visit playing fetch with the pet. The next day, his parents brought home Henry, the golden retriever.

 There’s more…….

Golden Kolbe on the Job

Dunn family gets new working dog
New dog replaces Monte who suffered a stroke earlier this year
The Chronicle

Set back by a sad turn of events, the Dunn family is moving ahead one paw at a time. Jacob Dunn, a Grade 2 student at Aldborough Public School with autism has been working with his new dog Kolby. Kolby replaces Monte, a chocolate lab that suffered a stroke this summer.National Service Dogs Canada moved Jacob to the top of the list for recipients of a new dog which he received in August. One of Monte’s key functions will be to keep Jacob from bolting away, giving father, Scott and mother Linda help supervising their son. “I get emotional every time I talk about National Service Dogs,” said Linda. “They have done so much for us.”

Kolby, a 17-month-old golden retriever, is tethered to Jacob to keep him from bolting. “He’s settled in wonderfully with the family,” said Linda.

“It was so traumatic when Monte left,” she said. Kolby was allowed to come home earlier in training to fill the void for Jacob, who still calls Kolby, Monte. “He’s settled in wonderfully with the family,” said Linda. “It was so traumatic when Monte left,” she said.

Read more…..

Golden to be More than just Pal

Dog to be more than just boy’s pal
By Katie Harp, Princeton Daily Clarion Staff Writer

A Princeton resident is hoping a dog will become more than her son’s best friend. Cody Morrison is working to raise $5,000 for a service dog for her 2 1/2-year-old son Rylan, who suffers from autism and epilepsy. She had donation table set up Friday outside Buehler’s Buy-Low, in Princeton, to promote a candle fundraiser that will help pay for training for the dog.Morrison said Rylan has had Global Developmental Delays since birth and has received assistance from Indiana First Step program since he was 9-months-old. First Step is a state program that provides assistance to families with babies or toddlers who have disabilities.

Global developmental delay occurs when a child has the delayed achievement of one or more milestone. This may affect a child’s speech and language, motor skills, or personal and social skills. Rylan’s development is somewhere between 18-24 months. “He’s had it rough from the get go,” Morrison said. “He has behavioral and sensory issues. His vocabulary is very limited.”

As autism is a relatively new disease, Morrison said many insurance companies do not cover people diagnosed with it. The family has taken out three insurance policies to help cover all Rylan’s therapy, which includes four different therapists that come to the family’s Princeton residence to help Rylan.

When Rylan was diagnosed with autism, Morrison began to research the disease on the Internet and discovered the benefits a service dog could bring to her son. That’s when she found Rachel Miller with Northern Indiana Service Dogs, who agreed to train a dog for Rylan.

Read more…..

One Family’s Experience

Animal Assisted Therapy: One Family’s Experience
By Ann Killion, Autism/Asperger’s Digest Magazine

Our 7-1/2 year-old son’s voice rings through the house, followed by his muffled giggling. No sooner does his voice die down than I hear a burst of activity from another room accompanied by running and sniffing.”1 – 2 – 3…go get your boy,” I say quietly as I watch the scene unfold. “Go get `em Quincy!” Just as quickly as the words leave my lips, there is a leap onto the couch of golden fur and I hear shrieks of glee from our son, Matthew. There on the couch one very excited Golden Retriever named Quincy is lavishing wet doggie kisses on one equally happy boy. Both have butterscotch color hair, both are rolling and panting in glee. I thank God everyday for them both. One I gave birth to … and the other … well…. Let me tell you our whole family’s (Matthew, Mom Ann, Dad Bill, and Certified Assistance Dog Quincy) story.

Read more…..

Mom Thanks Service Dog

Mom Thanks Service Dog: Helps Calm Autistic Kids
By Joyanne Pursaga, Staff Reporter, The Winnipeg Sun

He’s a furry anchor in a world of distractions. Joan Leslie-Thomson said her twin sons, Quinn and Brody, are more safe, calm and attentive, thanks to one special four-legged friend. “No family could imagine it would be as good as this,” said Leslie-Thomson.The twins, who turned 10 on Friday, have autism and communication disorders. They are developmentally delayed, easily distracted, speak few words and have yet to master their own names. Daily activities are a challenge. They need help getting dressed, brushing their teeth and aren’t fully toilet trained.

Autism also heightens their sensitivity to sights and sounds, making walks and outings a safety challenge. “They act on impulse. They’ll just dart out into traffic and not understand the safety issues. We’re always concerned about their safety,” said Leslie-Thomson.

But a new member of the family arrived Aug. 25, teaching the boys patience by example. Keeno, a 15-month old golden retriever, had a nearly instant calming effect on the boys, said Leslie-Thomson.

Read more…..

A Friend and a Comfort

A Friend and a Comfort
By Jill Armentrout, The Saginaw News

As a boy and his dog, Connor A. Good and Bongo are best friends. As an autism service dog, Bongo also is helping 6-year-old Connor find his way in the world.The 16-month-old golden retriever joined the Good household in Saginaw Township in late June, but his training with the nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability agency in Xenia, Ohio, began when he was just 4 months old.

Read more ……