Our son Tadhg was diagnosed with both a physical and learning disability when he was just 10 months old. Tadhg is unable to walk unaided and is non-verbal. At 16 months old Tadhg travelled to Toronto, where he followed a rehabilitation programme which included functional physical exercise, massage therapy and speech and language therapy. The clinic followed a holistic approach to help Tadhg’s muscles to learn from repetition by doing daily functions.
By the end of our visit, Tadhg was holding his head up firmly and sat up for the first time unaided. We were over the moon with the progress he made and after our second visit to Canada, we came across a school in Birmingham called the Institute of Conductive Education and again their approach was a very holistic method where physio, O/T and speech therapy were all combined and taught during the day in their school.
From 2011, Tadhg started attending this school for a couple of weeks every year until he turned 10. Tadhg made great progress both physically and intellectually and developed some of his own signs to help communicate certain needs with us for example, if he was thirsty or hungry. This was a huge advancement in Tadhg’s communication skills and helped give him some independence by making his own choices. We were able to fulfil his needs when he wanted them met and this was a huge help to us as Tadhg was showing us signs that we were able to interpret. We could now ask Tadhg yes or no questions and by giving him choices he could have more involvement in the decision making. We noticed a change in his behaviour as his communication advanced, he was less frustrated and happier in himself. Tadhg did a huge amount of work over these years and he can now walk holding my hands or his dad’s hands around the house, he can guide us to which room he wants to sit in and if he’s hungry he will make his way to the kitchen table and pat his mouth.
Tadhg is a very happy, sociable and fun-loving boy. He really enjoys watching Emily and Dylan play, and gets very excited listening to them chatting and messing about. He enjoys being around his peers and loves new places and doing new things. When we got the call from the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, the timing couldn’t have been better for a Companion Dog to come into Tadhg’s life. He was at a stage where he was constantly learning and discovering new ways to communicate. When we went to Cork to meet Jaco for the first time, Jaco was so gentle and we all fell in love with him instantly. We knew Jaco was going to bring so much happiness into our home and be a positive influence on Tadhg.
Jaco is an amazing companion to Tadhg. Jaco is always there for him, and it’s his presence that Tadhg enjoys most, knowing he is close by. Jaco will pop into Tadhg’s bedroom some mornings to see if he’s awake, if he’s still asleep he walks back out. Jaco sits beside him as he eats his breakfast (in the hope that Tadhg may share the odd bit of food with him!) and sits in the room with him keeping him company. Tadhg cannot move from room to room without the aid of myself or my husband so it’s nice to know he has Jaco for company and never alone. Jaco knows when Tadhg is a little bit frustrated and will sit near him but at the same time will give Tadhg the space he needs. We always see Jaco observing Tadhg and it amazes us how well Jaco can read him! Jaco treats Tadhg differently to our other children, for example, he also goes into my other son’s bedroom every morning, but he will make sure he wakes him up! Dylan loves being woken by Jaco and they have a lovely bond. Emily and Jaco have a great bond too and have great fun together, playing out the back garden and Emily ensures Jaco gets his daily walk.
Since Jaco has become part of our family, Tadhg has progressed in so many ways, he is very much aware of Jaco and will put his hand out for Jaco to lick it which makes him laugh. The interaction is amazing to watch between both of them and it’s great to see Tadhg building up more confidence in his abilities. Jaco is a massive part of our family and has brought so much love and happiness to our home. I love that Tadhg can go through his teenage years having Jaco by his side and equally for the rest of us too. We feel so blessed to have him in our family and a day does not go by where we don’t feel so thankful and lucky to have such a wonderful dog like Jaco.
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