Irish Guide Dogs: Who we’ll be helping
When Aaron Maher turned 3, he didn’t celebrate it like other children his age. Sorcha, Aaron’s mother, had to stay in a separate room with Aaron while his birthday celebrations were going on as groups of people and noise upset him. Days later Aaron’s parents were told he had autism.
“We were really upset by the diagnosis and worried that he would never have friends, never talk. We were concerned about the quality of life he would have in the future”, Sorcha says. In hindsight the signs were always there but no one was piecing together the puzzle. Aaron did not speak or play like other children, but always wanted to be hugged by his parents.
When the Mahers got the diagnosis, they worked quickly to ensure Aaron got a place in a nearby school with a specialist autism unit. They also spent a year in the US where Aaron received further expert therapy. Sorcha and Barry are very grateful for the excellent care Aaron received over the years. “He has gone from never speaking to never stopping talking!”
However, no amount of treatment was helping Aaron with his social anxiety. He couldn’t bear to be in noisy public places. He’s unable to filter out the background noise and it becomes overwhelming, triggering a meltdown. Putting him in a buggy was the only way to ensure his safety but, in practice, the Mahers would avoid going out as much as possible.
To help with this, the Mahers applied for an assistance dog for Aaron. In 2013, they welcomed Mundy in to their home and he has transformed their lives. “Before we got Mundy our lives were full of stress. We avoided going out as much as possible”, Sorcha says. “Mundy calms Aaron and in doing so he restores the peace in our daily lives. Now we can go anywhere in public and when Aaron gets overwhelmed, Mundy calms his anxiety.”
Mundy is part of the family now and he benefits the whole household. “Before Mundy we had to plan everything. With Mundy we have greater freedom and flexibility. We don’t think twice about going on a family outing now.”