My name is Rebecca Ballantyne, I am 20 years old and have autism. I also suffer from major depression and anxiety. Due to this I refuse to go out into public alone and struggle with social interaction.
Around a year ago, I learnt that support dogs can help in many ways including PTSD, epilepsy, with wheelchairs, autism and other things. Since then, I have started the task of gaining one; however this process is lengthy and expensive.
It begins with a year of weekly meetings with an educator and their dog, teaching me about the skills that the dog will be taught before meeting me and training me to be able to handle the dog and understand the abilities that the dog has. I am currently around the 4th month of this.
Once my future dog had been trained, which will take between 12-18 months, we meet. The meetings will increase to twice a day during handover, before decreasing back to once a week to ensure the dog's training is still strong and that the dog and I are bonding properly. The weekly meetings will continue for another year until both the dog and I are properly trained and able to go out into the world independently.
The hope after all of this is that I will be able to go out into public with only my dog beside me, gaining the confidence and independence to take on the challenges that life throws at me in a more productive way.