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Autistic boy from Hythe fundraising £5,000 for the training of his support dog

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An autistic boy from Hythe is working to raise £5,000 for a support dog with the help of a Kent charity.

Tristan Tuohy, eight, was diagnosed with autism, ADHD and sensory processing disorder four years ago, which makes it difficult to for him to communicate emotions and he gets easily overwhelmed.

Tristan Tuohy, eight, is raising £5,000 for a support dog

However, the young boy has found a great deal of comfort in a Labrador named Duffy, who is currently being trained by charity Supporting Paws as a support dog.

His mum Olivia, 46, who runs an illustration and graphic design company with her husband Andy, 56, said: "Duffy has already been to stay with us a few times and the difference in Tristan when he is here is incredible.

"It’s much easier for us to take him out to the shops or to the park – while before Tristan would be very anxious about going anywhere, now he wants to show Duffy the town. He can also act as an ice-breaker with other children and they can mess about together at home.

"He’s also helped in other surprising ways – for example, making Tristan take more responsibility. Duffy is still a puppy so he has to tidy up his Lego so he won’t try to chew it, for example, and he even helps with the bedtime routine.

"Basically, Tristan is calmer and everything is easier when Duffy is around. My husband has also recently been diagnosed with autism, so Duffy really will help the entire family."

Tristan and Duffy
Tristan and Duffy

The family have already raised £3,000 for the dog to come home to them in December, but they need to raise another £5,000 in training costs.

They will be doing this through the Marvel superhero series 'Find your Power' challenge, a countrywide disability sports event which encourages people to set their own challenges – from 100 metres to 1,000 km or more – and complete them however they want, when they want, between May 29 and June 5.

Tristan will be walking, swimming and trampolining a total of 5,000km dressed as iron man with his family.

Charlotte Chaney, director at Supporting Paws, said: "Every person on the autistic spectrum has very different need levels so we take a very personal approach. We work with families all the way through the assessments to the dog being placed with them and beyond.

"Everyone with autism finds it very difficult to socially interact. One of the biggest problems is verbal communication and dogs don't expect that. Also they're very loyal, very calming and offer a sensory input as well.

Tristan and Duffy
Tristan and Duffy

"For many children it's the first time they have had a genuine friend, which makes a huge difference to them. The dog is also trained to go to places they want to go to, so to have the dog to go with them really helps them."

Due to Covid-19, the Marvel fundraising event is once again being held at home, but the family are being supported but the Tonbridge based children's charity, Tree of Hope.

The charity will be helping them raise money for Tristan's healthcare needs and providing re-assurance.

Tree of Hope CEO Gill Gibb said: "We are delighted to be supporting Tristan and his family in their fundraising and wish them all the best in their continued fundraising.

To donate to Tristan, click here.

To read more about Kent’s furry, flying and finned friends, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Hythe

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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