Baylyn Parker-Howard was afraid of Christmas presents because he hated the noise of ripping wrapping paper. But yesterday Baylyn fully enjoyed the festive fun for the first time. And it was all thanks to his four-legged friend, who gave him ‘paws’ for thought. Baylyn, aged eight, has autism and could not stand the sound paper ripping.
Christmas outings were difficult too, because any changes to routine were likely to cause a meltdown and he had a tendency to bolt and get lost, leaving his mother Donna frantically trying to find him.
But then along came Zander, a golden labrador with a heart of gold.
Searching for ways to help her son, Donna found Dogs for Good, a charity offering assistance dogs to families with children on the autism spectrum.
And since moving in with the family, Zander has made a huge difference to Baylyn’s life.
So much so he could hardly wait to open his presents this year, especially the ones for his pet.
The two pals ripped into their presents together, banishing the fears of the past.
“Zander has helped us a tremendous amount,” says Donna, 35, from Rednal, Birmingham.
“Baylyn didn’t like the noise of opening presents and he didn’t like to rip the paper. He cringed when he was taking the paper off.
Most children are like bulls in a china shop but Baylyn would be tentative throughout the whole process.
It’s a difficult time of year for a child who doesn’t socialise very much.
“Last year he gave Zander some presents and Zander got excited about what was in the box, so Baylyn helped him to open it.
And today Baylyn enjoyed opening his own presents and didn’t worry at all.
We’ve managed to conquer that one!”
But dogs are not just for Christmas. Zander has changed Baylyn’s life in many other ways, too.
“Baylyn holds his harness and Zander will stop if Baylyn attempts to pull away,” says Donna. “It’s so reassuring to know he’s safe and to be able to cope with going out is amazing.
There’s no fear now of him running off and us not being able to find him because he’s attached to Zander.”