By Jos Weale
This heart-warming footage shows the magical moment two pooches helped their autistic boy – who would have a ‘meltdown’ at the SIGHT of a book – read aloud for the very first time.
In the video, Dalmatians Charlie and Dotty are captured listening attentively to Keaton Cook, eight, as he calmly reads through a pre-school book – something he had never been able to do before.
Mum Gemma Cook, 34, said her son would previously scream and cry at the mere suggestion or sight of a book, meaning getting him to read had been a battle at school and home for years.
The mum-of-three, from Torrington, North Devon, is amazed the strong bond between Keaton and the family pets has helped him to finally overcome his fears.
Gemma said: “We had never been able to get Keaton to read aloud or finish a book. At home and school, whenever we tried to get him to read he would just have a complete meltdown.
“So when this happened it was just a really emotional moment. My husband and I were sat on the sofa and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
“The dogs started off walking around the room, but then they say down and started to listen to Keaton of completely their own accord.
“By the end they were cuddled up to him, looking in the book too and really listening to him read.
“It might not seem like a lot to some people, it was just a pre-school book, but it was such a huge achievement for Keaton.
“He even managed to nearly read through to the end of the story, which has never happened before.”
In the video, filmed last month, pooches Charlie, three, and Dotty, six, who were adopted by the Cook family as puppies, appear fully absorbed in Keaton’s story – a sign of what Gemma said is an incredibly close relationship.
The stay-at-home mum said her autistic boy has had difficulties with his emotions and with reading and writing for years, meaning he will always turn to the people-loving pets for comfort.
The magical reading moment came about after Gemma investigated animal therapy for children on the autistic spectrum and she said she was blown away by how caring the dogs were.
And since the milestone two weeks ago, Gemma says Keaton has since settled to read to Dotty and Charlie on several more occasions.
Gemma, who is also mum to Ashton, 10, and Keira, 12, said: “I’d heard about animal therapy, but there was a bit of a wait to get something organised, so I thought, ‘We have dogs, we could try something.’
“I think there’s a really loving bond with Dalmatians. I’ve had different dogs in the past but they hadn’t acted as they do with people.
“It’s like the dogs have a sixth sense, they can sense when Keaton’s not okay or if he’s having a bad day, and they’ll try to help him. It’s lovely to have that.
“He has a very close bond with the dogs. He struggles with making friends, and if you asked him he’ll always say that the dogs are his best friends.
“He talks to them a lot, and he tells everyone he understands them. They’ll climb all over him and cuddle up to him.
“Every time we’ve tried the dogs have listened in the same way and Keaton’s managed to read.
“I’d definitely encourage other parents who have children on the autistic spectrum and have pets to try it.
“It’s like animals have another sense and can have a special bond with them.”