Halifax family’s hope over autism support dog for 10-year-old Max

Emma Smith, trying to raise money by selling wax products, to buy a dog for her son Max, 10-years-old, who has autismEmma Smith, trying to raise money by selling wax products, to buy a dog for her son Max, 10-years-old, who has autism
Emma Smith, trying to raise money by selling wax products, to buy a dog for her son Max, 10-years-old, who has autism
A Halifax family is hoping to raise enough money to afford an autism support dog for their son Max.

Emma Smith says the specially-trained dog would make a world of difference to her son’s life.

Max, 10, lives in Holmfield with mum Emma, dad Simon and older brothers Luke, 12, and Ethan, 14, and attends St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School.

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Emma said an autism support dog would help to manage Max’s condition, and encourage him to spend more time outside.

Emma said: “We’ve been through Calderdale CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services) for a number of years, and then lockdown hit and we received the diagnosis for Max last summer.

“He was nine when we finally got his diagnosis, Covid hit, and he slowly became isolated, masks were terrifying, the outside was bad so he just stopped going anywhere.

“We discussed what we could do to encourage him socially, because it was difficult, and we looked into autism assistance dogs, because Max is obsessed with animals anyway.

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“He has two gerbils in his bedroom to make sure he sleeps well.

“We applied to the major support organisations, did lots of research, and just before Christmas we were told Max was deemed too old for their help, at nine-years-old.

“I’m medically retired, I was a staff nurse with the NHS but I’m disabled with severe epilepsy, my husband is my carer and is also a carer for Max. So we were like ‘what are we going to do?’

“We found a community interest company called Autism Dogs who have been absolutely fantastic, but it’s been a long process.

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“We found out we’d been selected in April, there were 500 families that applied and they were only able to accommodate two, so we felt really privileged we got through.

“It costs just over £9,500, we used our savings to pay the deposit of £2,000.

“They’re supported by the Bradley Lowry Foundation, who offered to host a Just Giving page for Max free of charge.

“I’m obsessed with candles, so we set-up a little website making Wax Melts, to try and raise our own funds, because I don’t feel comfortable just being cap-in-hand.

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“My kids pick the scents and stick the stickers on, they wanted them to be weird, Doctor Pepper, Iron Bru and Monkey Farts!

“It’s done really well, and everything we make goes towards it.

“Some lovely businesses, the Post Office at Skircoat Green, Hirds Family Fisheries, The Fabbadashery and Robinson & Fields, have collection tubs for Max, they’ve been fantastic.”

The family have raised nearly £2,000 on Max’s Just Giving page towards the dog, which Emma thinks will be a Labrador.

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“There are two further payments to be made for the dog, one is after basic training,” she said.

“We’re hoping Max will be matched with his dog by the end of September, after which there’s eight weeks of training, we then go to the farm for a few days to see it, then the dog goes in for further training for eight to ten weeks, specifically tailored to Max.

“When Max goes into meltdown, he self-harms by banging his feet and his hands, and he’s getting bigger so he’s physically hurting himself now with cuts and bruises.

“So we’re hoping this will help him socially and help bring that down too by offering a bit of calm.”

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Emma added: “Max is a mad Doctor Who fan, our gerbils are called Doc and Dalek, so names have flown round, from Sonic, for the sonic screwdriver, to Gallifrey.

“The excitement is great, he calls it ‘doggo’, ‘when’s doggo coming?’.

“It’s passing on that confidence, because Covid has affected people so much mental health-wise, and I think it’s overlooked how much it’s affected children with additional needs.

“Max has regressed, which is heart-breaking to see. Max listened when Boris Johnson said ‘stay at home, don’t go out’ and he’s taken that to heart.

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“We say it’s OK to go out if you have your mask and your hand gel, but it’s become more embedded that outside’s not the greatest place to be, which is sad.

“I think he will have that encouragement if we can say, ‘come on, let’s take doggo out’.

“It’s already worked by us saying ‘let’s look for dog toys’ when we go to the shops, which has been lovely.

“He’s so excited, there’s not a day when it’s not ‘when is doggo coming?’.”

If you would like to help, you can visit https://www.weirdwax.uk/ or https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/SupportDogForMax.

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