Puppy helps autistic boy to speak|
GREENOCK, Renfrewshire, Scotland; The story of an autistic boy freed from his world of silence by a puppy is to be told in a TV drama.
Dale Gardner, 18, learned how to speak and form relationships thanks to Henry, a golden retriever.
Together, they defied medical opinion to allow Dale to attend a mainstream school, obtain seven Standard Grades, go to college and lead a "normal" teenage life.
Now the amazing tale has been turned into heartwarming ITV1 drama After Thomas - to be shown on Boxing Day - and his mum is writing a book, Talking To Henry, to give hope to other families.
Dale, of Greenock, Renfrewshire, said: "Henry was sent to help me and now life is good and I'm in college. He was the key that unlocked my mind."
Dale was born prematurely and his parents - Nuala, a community nurse, and Jamie - immediately knew something was wrong.
He was a passive child and refused to cry. But while others marvelled at the "model baby," the Gardners knew that Dale was not developing normally.
They worked around the clock to encourage him to say his first words but he refused to connect and remained aloof.
It was only when he had a screaming tantrum at a nurse's party when he was two that the Gardners discovered he had autism.
Nuala said: "Someone suggested autism and I rushed straight to the library because I knew nothing about it. As I turned the pages, it was chilling. He had every symptom."
The couple dealt with the condition as best they could - but their lives were transformed six months later, during a visit to relatives in Auchterarder, Perthshire. As soon as Dale saw the family's dog, he was entranced and spent the entire visit playing fetch with the pet.
The next day, his parents brought home Henry, the golden retriever.
The couple were in bed when they heard a noise drifting up the stairs and they were stunned to discover that Dale was talking for the first time - to the puppy.
Nuala said: "It was a revelation. We couldn't believe it. We had never heard him speak before - not even mama or dada and here he was chattering."
Dale added: "I started out by telling him that he was a good boy and playing fetch. Then I built up a really close bond with him, shared my feelings and my problems."
Sadly, Henry recently died, but Dale was careful to get a new pup - Henry 2 - to continue his incredible journey.
Bill Welsh, chairman of the Autism Treatment Trust, said: "It is a wonderful tale and I am delighted for him and his family. Unfortunately, not all children can be helped in this way."
(Source: Daily Record, December 16, 2006)