Published: 06:00, 27 August 2020
A mother who set up an assistance dog training charity to support her teenage son is now appealing for help to adapt their family home to cope with his needs.
Charlotte Fisher, from Borden, near Sittingbourne , founded Supporting Paws in 2018 to train dogs to work with individuals with autism and other neuro-developmental disabilities.
The mother-of-one started the charity to help her son, Benedict, who was born weighing less than 700 grams.
Now 15, and having defied medical odds, he loves animals and model railways but lives with autism, epilepsy, intellectual disability, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and psychosis.
Unable to attend school, Benedict is schooled and cared for at home by his parents, Charlotte and Anselm, both 43, along with part-time carers and tutors.
As he became a teenager, Charlotte started to think more about his future.
She said: “We want him to be able to have a career. He’s always loved animals and, in many ways, found them easier to get on with than people, and it is because of this the idea for Supporting Paws was born.”
Benedict has his own assistance dog, called Daisy, who can sense when he is about to have a meltdown and lies on him to calm him down, and alert his parents to when he is about to have a seizure.
“I wanted more children like Benedict to have access to support dogs, as well as offering them the chance as adults to take part in their training,” Charlotte said.
Supporting Paws has supplied trained assistance dogs to six families across the country, has seven dogs in training and a one-year plus waiting list.
But the Fishers are struggling to raise £50,000 to reconfigure their house to cope with Benedict’s increasing needs.
Charlotte said: “He is 6ft tall, doubly incontinent and, on average, has one or two psychotic episodes each week. It’s becoming dangerous for me to try to cope with him during an episode.
“We love him and want him to stay with us rather than go into residential care – we need to make these changes urgently to allow this to happen.”
“His psychiatrist has said he needs a downstairs ‘safe’ room where he can go until he calms down without being a danger to us or to himself,” she added. "We only have one bathroom and desperately need a wet room – as it is, when we have carers I have to clean it every time after Benedict has used it before anyone else can.
“He is part of our family, we love him and we want him to stay with us rather than go into residential care. But we need to make these changes urgently to allow this to happen.”
National charity Tree of Hope is supporting the family’s fundraising campaign.
Its CEO Gill Gibb said: “We regularly work with families raising funds for Supporting Paws dogs and know what a great cause it is.
"We’re delighted to be helping the Fishers raise their own funds now for the work they so desperately need to carry out at home.”
Planned fundraising events include a sponsored horse ride in the autumn.