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How Rigby the autism assistance dog supports Jake

On discovering that a dog could help support their autistic son, The Gill family reached out to The Royal British Legion for help.

Simon Gill and his wife Jo both served in the Royal Military Police from the late 1980s, mainly in Northern Ireland. They got married in 1994 and left the Forces three years later. The couple now have two sons, Ben, 15, and Jake, 13.

In 2012 when Jake was seven, he was diagnosed with autism and now attends a specialist school. Jake suffers with anxiety and struggles to cope in crowded places so Simon and Jo researched strategies that might improve his condition.

They discovered Autism Assistance Dogs, who are trained to provide safety and companionship, helping to bring independence and a more socially inclusive life to autistic children and their families. Unfortunately, they were unable to cover the £5,000 costs required to train a dog for their son so they turned to The Royal British Legion for help.

The Legion covered the majority of costs to pay for and train a puppy and the family now have Rigby – named after a character in one of Jake’s favourite cartoons – who came to live with them in October 2016.

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