AUTISM CAMPAIGN: Deirdre and Shane Horgan from Killarney with their boys Fionn and Brian, and dogs Fifi and Bosco. Photo: Michelle Crean

By Michelle Crean

After fundraising for a specialist dog for her son who suffers from Autism – and seeing the enormous benefits – a Killarney mother is now hoping to roll out a national plan to bring service dogs to schools.
Deirdre and Shane Horgan, from Laccabane Village, got their dogs Bosco and Fifi through My Canine Companion Autism Service Dogs, for their son Fionn, following a huge fundraising drive. However, after Deirdre, who teaches in Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine, Kenmare, started bringing the dogs to school to help socialise them, she says she has also seen the enormous benefits for the students.
And it’s been such a huge success that now she’s planning to meet with the dog service over the Easter holidays to see if a programme could be rolled out to schools nationally.
She says seven year-old Fionn faces challenges with his condition, but since getting Bosco last year they have seen an improvement in his social skills as the dog has had such a calming influence.
With the support of Principal Dermot Healy, the students have not only become more aware of Autism and special needs, but are helping to fundraise for the charity also, she explained to the Killarney Advertiser this week.
“Bosco spends his days in the ASD unit where the students are benefiting greatly from his presence, along with the whole school community,” she said.
“Bosco joined the school as a 12 week old puppy and a year later he loves going to school.”
Six Transition Year students are involved in his training and they work on social interaction, distraction and basic training of the service puppy, she explained.
“Leadership and guidance has also been given to SNAs, teachers and students who interact with Bosco on a daily basis. SNAs and teachers involved have noticed a significant positive effect on students. Bosco has helped lessen the anxiety of one student, just being able to rub Bosco calms the situation. I’m hoping to meet with My Canine Companion over Easter as we’re looking at coming up with a programme for schools nationally.”

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