HELP NEEDED: William Nichols, 12, hopes for a Smart Pup.
HELP NEEDED: William Nichols, 12, hopes for a Smart Pup. Contributed

Auto club revs up for William

IT WAS the death of their dog that gave the Nichols family the push they needed to start seriously looking for another pup as a companion for their autistic son William.

Twelve-year-old William has a severe autistic condition and is only just developing speech skills. Other symptoms include extreme hyperactivity, a tendency to wander off and seizures.

His mother Michelle discovered a Sunshine Coast-based not-for-profit organisation called Smart Pups that trains labrador or golden retriever puppies to help children and their families with special needs, particularly cerebral palsy, epilepsy or autism.

William's puppy will be trained to track him, allowing his family to find him more easily when he wanders. The pup will also be trained to alert an adult guardian if William is about to have a seizure, which is predicted to become more regular as he goes through puberty. The dogs have been known to detect the possibility of a seizure up to 20 minutes before its onset.

The puppy will also be there to keep William calm and to comfort him after a seizure, to distract him if he starts doing a repetitive action by either licking or nudging him, or barking to alert an adult guardian.

Most importantly though William's Smart Pup will be a constant companion for him, giving him more confidence in public and keeping him calmer, which will have a flow-on effect to the rest of the family.

It costs about $25,000 to train a Smart Pup, with no direct government funding, so families are asked to pay about $15,000.

To help the Nichols family reach their fundraising target, the Northern Rivers Ford Owners' Club has made William the beneficiary of the fourth annual Northern Rivers Auto Spectacular, to be held in Casino on October 19.

As well as cars, bikes, utes, trucks and machinery of all types, models and ages, there will be a range of other activities including laser tag, a jumping castle and market stalls.

Smart Pups representatives will also be there with some pups and Ms Nichols encouraged anyone with a special needs child to meet them.

When & Where

THE Northern Rivers Auto Spectacular will be held at Albert Park (Casino Rugby Union Grounds) on Sunday, October 19 from 8am. Entry is $5, or free for children aged under 12.

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