April is the Awareness Month for autism, but one mother is campaigning to raise awareness for both autism and for the prevention of cruelty to animals after a rescue dog turned her autistic son’s life around.
A neglected and abused pit bull puppy was brought into a rescue centre in Dekalb County, Georgia, USA and was presumed to be beyond help, she was so neglected. Weighing just 4lbs and being unable to walk, the pit bull miraculously managed to react to food and water, and built her strength back up.
Her impressive fight to recovery earned her the name Xena and she was eventually adopted by the Hickey family and their young autistic son, Johnny.
Johnny’s mother, Linda, said, “There was immediate laughter in my home. There was singing, he was talking. He was telling her she had a boo boo on her nose.”
The presence of Xena in his life changed Johnny from a “painfully awkward, isolated” boy into an “outgoing chatterbox.” Many studies, including a recent one carried out in Missouri, have proved that autistic children respond especially well to animals and family pets, as they provide stress relief and companionship. This is exactly what Xena has done for Johnny.
Linda is now spreading their story to raise awareness of both autism and of animal cruelty.
Since the family adopted Xena last March, she was honoured by the American Prevention of Cruelty at their annual awards ceremony and was called their ‘Dog of the Year’.