Autistic four-year-old is turned into a confident chatterbox thanks to a cocker spaniel named Fern 

The four-year-old has now turned into a confident chatterbox thanks to the help of a special friend: a cocker spaniel called Fern

The four-year-old has now turned into a confident chatterbox thanks to the help of a special friend: a cocker spaniel called Fern

The four-year-old has now turned into a confident chatterbox thanks to the help of a special friend: a cocker spaniel called Fern

Like countless autism sufferers, Leon Kirby-Bulner was locked in his own private, silent world. 

But the four-year-old has now turned into a confident chatterbox thanks to the help of a special friend: a cocker spaniel called Fern.

Leon’s mother Hayley has no doubt that the family pet is behind her son’s transformation, and is so entranced by the pair’s unique bond that she has dubbed her son Mancub after the nickname of Jungle Book character Mowgli.

‘Leon was sadly locked in his own little world but, on meeting Fern, it was love at first sight,’ says Hayley, 44. 

‘The pair quickly became inseparable. Mancub’s first interactions weren’t with humans but with Fern. He had a sparkle in his eye we hadn’t seen before. He is a true animal-lover and prefers animals to people. He is now an excellent communicator, chattering non-stop.’

Fern became part of the family as a puppy in 2017 when Leon was a baby. Now the pair do everything together, from playtime to bedtime – sometimes in matching outfits too.

‘The help Fern gives us every day cannot be underestimated,’ says Hayley, who runs a falconry business in Andover, Hampshire. 

Now the pair do everything together, from playtime to bedtime – sometimes in matching outfits too

Now the pair do everything together, from playtime to bedtime – sometimes in matching outfits too

Fern became part of the family as a puppy in 2017 when Leon was a baby

Fern became part of the family as a puppy in 2017 when Leon was a baby

Fern became part of the family as a puppy in 2017 when Leon was a baby. Now the pair do everything together, from playtime to bedtime – sometimes in matching outfits too

‘She helps Mancub calm down when he has a meltdown, she guards the stairs to stop him hurting himself, she gets between him and the floor when he is trying to bang his head. She generally gives him comfort when needed.’

Hayley and her husband Karsten now want to help other families with autistic children by raising funds on their Facebook page for assistance dogs.

‘Knowing what a huge difference Fern has made to our lives, and especially Mancub’s, my dream is to help another family with an autistic child, who cannot afford to do this themselves,’ she says.

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