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Dogs charity that helped change little Rebecca Barker's life shares in £3.4m windfall

By Simon Watters

Published 31/07/2015

Rebecca Barker (8) with Honey
Rebecca Barker (8) with Honey
Rebecca and Honey with mum Michelle

The Big Lottery Fund has announced funding of £3.4m for five charities here.

One is Assistance Dogs NI, which trains, places and supports 75 assistance dogs across the country.

Rebecca Barker (8) was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when she started school, a form of autism where sufferers find it hard to interact socially.

Eighteen months ago the family received assistance dog Honey from Assistance Dogs NI and Rebecca's mother Michelle can't believe the impact on their daughter.

"Honey has a sixth sense for Rebecca, she's the first thing that has made a real difference to Rebecca's life," she said.

"Rebecca calls Honey her fluffy sister, and I couldn't tell you how much she's changed our lives.

"Before Honey came, we would ring up our local GP for help, but I can't describe the support we've had from ADNI. The things that people take for granted are difficult for Rebecca because her hearing is four times more sensitive than normal, but Honey is a massive help.

"She helps Rebecca make friends; people come over to see Honey and it lets Rebecca talk about her and connect."

The assistance dogs are given to families with children aged 11 or under with autism or physical disabilities.

Assistance Dogs NI works with Disability Action, Autism NI and the Autism Advisory and Intervention Service to support families in Northern Ireland.

Patricia Whyte, vice-chair at ADNI, said: "These dogs benefit families in so many ways. They are allowing them to be part of their community. They are a therapy for the whole family and are transforming people's lives."

The other charities given lottery funding are the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Men's Action Network, Forthspring Intercommunity Group and the Now Group.

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