My name is Kim Burke and my husband’s name is Billy. We have two boys – Shane who is the eldest and Aaron who has autism.
Aaron was a good baby who did not sleep great but everything seemed fine. He walked at 13 months but the signs really started to show at 15 months when there was no babbling or words. Being the second child, you would imagine he would have copied a lot of things his brother would have been doing.
When I said it to the doctor he said “he’s a boy” and he was fine but being a mom, I knew something was wrong. He would scream and cry a lot. Didn’t like to be touched or comforted when he was crying. As time went on there was no words coming so the doctor sent him for grommets as he suffered from a lot of ear infections. He had the grommets done but still nothing, so he was sent for a hearing test which was fine. Eventually things got a lot worse and I couldn’t take him anywhere without him having a meltdown. He was comfortable in his own surroundings but as soon as we were leaving to go anywhere else, he would scream and cry to the point of being nearly being sick. I didn’t know what to do so kept mentioning it to the doctors.
Eventually Aaron was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 years and 9 months. The wait was endless. We had nowhere to turn. We knew no one with autism. It was a very lonely time for the whole family. Nobody knew what was to come. The fight for everything started that day. The day he was diagnosed life had already changed. It was very hard not to know how to help your child.
One day I rang Irish Guide Dogs. I heard they were training dogs for kids like Aaron. I put his name on the list and thought no more. 2 years later I got a call to say they had a dog to match Aaron. We were over the moon and Gus came into our lives and changed everything for the better. He was such an amazing dog and was Aaron’s best friend. Aaron loved to be outside so the joy of being able to attach Aaron to Gus and walk to the shop knowing he was safe and could not run away was a huge relief for us. Going to shops and different places became more enjoyable for Aaron and less stressful for him and us. he would rub Gus’ head when he would go into the shopping centre and calm him down, he was able to cope. He knew he had his best friend by his side. They played together and even went into the trampoline together. He made the whole family feel calm and had a wonderful presence around the house.
But after 5 years our hero passed away. Aaron was lost without Gus. I didn’t know how to cope. We were all so upset and sad. We had forgotten how hard life was before Gus came into our lives. Aaron was still young and being nonverbal it was hard for him to understand Gus wasn’t coming back. Aaron always suffered with anxiety but it escalated to a much higher level.
All the staff at Irish Guide Dogs were amazing. They knew Aaron was still eligible to get matched with another dog and the next chapter in Aaron’s life began when they found a match. We went to the Centre and met Wilson who was now Aaron’s new superhero. I went to the Centre and did a full week’s training with Wilson. The day I brought Wilson home Aaron was in school and when he got home, he just looked into Wilson’s eyes and instantly clicked with him. He began to rub him. I think Aaron was so glad to have his new buddy. Wilson was so calm when Aaron would get stressed, he would rub him and they would both sit on the floor together.
Wilson also has a calming effect on everyone in the house. He is a wonderful dog and we all as a family know how lucky we are to have the chance to have had two amazing superheroes in our lives.
Aaron goes to his brother’s matches and loves to be out and about with Wilson. I only hope those two amazing dogs know how much they have done for us. We absolutely adore Wilson, just like we did Gus.
I would just like to thank everyone from Irish Guide Dogs for all the support and help they have given us through the years. It is an amazing charity full of amazing people that I hope will train many more superheroes for all the amazing children that need one.