Jim and Nuala Garder are from Scotland. They are parents of a son and daughter with autism. Both Jim and Nuala are praised for their hardwork and dedication that went into facilitating a healing relationship between a Golden Retriever named Henry and their autistic son Dale. Nuala and Jim Gardner are Autism Lights because their story of being engaged parents has had an impact on other families around the world who may be considering getting a dog for a child with autism.
Jim and Nuala Gardner had a lot of problems with their son Dale’s self-destructive behavior. As they struggled with what they do, they acquired a dog for Dale, and the dog changed everything. They were able to create a voice for the dog to facilitate their communication with Dale and other positive effects poured in over time.
Nuala Gardner wrote the book, A Friend Like Henry (2008) to document the dramatic change in her son Dale (now in his early 20’s) as he developed a relationship with their Golden Retriever named Henry. The book is evidence of the positive effect that a dog can have on some children with autism. In Dale’s case his dog Henry helped improve his behavior, communication, and self-concept. The following is the YouTube video made to give a brief glimpse at the story of Henry and Dale.
After Thomas was a movie based on the Golden Retriever Henry and Dale’s relationship. Henry is called Thomas in the movie because of Dale’s love for the Thomas the Engine character.
Nuala Gardner is an encouragement to all parents. Nuala Gardner said the following to help parents, “Be your child’s mother but be their carer, their speech therapist, their lawyer and their champion, too. And never, ever give up hope (Source).”
The dog in this story called Henry died in 2006, but his legacy of having changed Dale’s life lives on. Dale said, “He was my dog and I loved him. He died in April this year (2006) and even though I love our new dog (also called Henry) it was terrible for me. The first Henry was special (Source).”
Dale Gardner’s parents are very proud of what he is accomplishing as a well adjusted young adult. After Henry arrived into their life, Jim and Nuala Gardner had a daughter Amy who also developed autism. More information on their family can be found in an article written by Daphne Lockyer.
Special thanks to Jim and Nuala Garder for being Autism Lights and being engaged parents who showed the world the tremendous value a dog can have on a child with autism.
Autism Light is a daily look at diverse heroes to the world of autism.