Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jim and Nuala Gardner

Autism Lights #58 are Jim and Nuala Gardner.

Jim and Nuala Garder are from Scotland. They are parents of a son and daughter with autism. Both Jim and Nuala are praised for their hardwork and dedication that went into facilitating a healing relationship between a Golden Retriever named Henry and their autistic son Dale. Jim and Nuala Gardner are Autism Lights because their story of being engaged parents has had an impact on other families around the world who may be considering getting a dog for a child with autism.

Jim and Nuala Gardner had a lot of problems with their son Dale's self-destructive behavior. As they struggled with what they should do, they acquired a dog for Dale, and the dog changed everything. They were able to create a voice for the dog to facilitate their communication with Dale and other positive effects poured in over time.

Nuala Gardner wrote the book, A Friend Like Henry (2008) to document the dramatic change in her son Dale (now in his early 20's) as he developed a relationship with their Golden Retriever named Henry. The book is evidence of the positive effect that a dog can have on some children with autism. In Dale's case his dog Henry helped improve his behavior, communication, and self-concept. The following is the YouTube video made to give a brief glimpse at the story of Henry and Dale.

After Thomas was a movie based on the Golden Retriever Henry and Dale's relationship.  Henry is called Thomas in the movie because of Dale's love for the Thomas the Engine character.

Nuala Gardner is an encouragement to all parents. Nuala Gardner said the following to help parents, "Be your child's mother but be their carer, their speech therapist, their lawyer and their champion, too. And never, ever give up hope (A Boy's Best Friend, The Telegraph)."

The dog in this story called Henry died in 2006, but his legacy of having changed Dale's life lives on. Dale said, "He was my dog and I loved him. He died in April this year (2006) and even though I love our new dog (also called Henry) it was terrible for me. The first Henry was special (A Boy's Best Friend, The Telegraph)."

Dale Gardner's parents are very proud of what he is accomplishing as a well adjusted young adult. After Henry arrived into their life, Jim and Nuala Gardner had a daughter Amy who also developed autism. More information on their family can be found in an article written by Daphne Lockyer.

Special thanks to Jim and Nuala Garder for being Autism Lights and being engaged parents who showed the world the tremendous value a dog can have on a child with autism. If you liked this post you may like to read about other Autism Lights with the label "Animal"

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

This post went into syndication on Autisable.


  1. I read your book. You all can be proud of the hard work you have accomplished. I hope all is still going well for all of you. Much love goes your way. Take care and God bless!

  2. Amazing book, you have been through so much and come out the other side. Wow!
    I have learnt a lot about autism thanks!

  3. i am halfway through your book... i can't put it down. i admire you and your husband, and of course Dale and Henry, so much. i have cried and laughed during the pages i have read. my daughter has adhd and while it is nothing compared to autism, i can relate to many of the things you went through. she behaves so well in front of others that they cannot find anything "wrong' with her. i am recommending this book to so many people now - professionals included thank you

  4. Hallo I,m Martji From Indonesia i read your book, i realy proud of you Naula and your hussband because many people in indonesia they have autisme child but they didint care to make the child normal your book is great way for Familie who have autisme child.

    So thank you so much for your book.

    Bless you

  5. Hi Naula, your book was recommended to me and I could not put it down. You have totally opened up my eyes to the world of autisim. I live in Australia and have three children. I thought i knew what autism was about, how wrong I was. You explained everything so clearly that i felt I could understand Dale. I admire your courage, persistance and love. What an amazing achiement and what a lucky little boy Dale was to have you two as parents. All the best to you all.

  6. You are a very brave mum,....Nuala.....I have seen the film in my would be nice if either the film or the book were translated into spanish so that it would be useful for many parents whose children have this kind of disability....I have never seen this book in my country...This kind of dogs are very loyal and good....I know this because my sister has got one