TWO charities have said that public attitudes to invisible disabilities need to change after a three-year-old was denied entry to a shop with his assistance dog.

As previously reported in the Advertiser, Leon Bulner, who lives with moderate to severe autism, was with his dad Karsten when he wasn’t allowed into the Londis store at the Texaco garage in Weyhill.

Staff said that dogs were only allowed in the store with people who are deaf or blind, which prompted the store’s area manager to issue an apology.

However, Sophie Ainsworth, founder and CEO of RAiISE, a charity that aims to raise awareness of invisible illnesses and disabilities, says that people need to be less judgemental.

“The biggest thing that we always advise for is not judging someone before they know what is going on,” Sophie said.

“It is always first reaction to judge people.

“I thought it was awful what this poor young boy had gone through, it is so old fashioned now to think that they just use an assistance dog if they are blind or deaf.

“We should all be supportive of that and places need to know that it is important and makes his life better.”

Sophie also said that the language used is important – such as people understanding the difference between guide and assistance dogs, as well as signs that say that support animals are ‘allowed’.

“It makes it seem like a privilege when it should be normality,” she told the Advertiser.

“Something like changing the sign makes a big difference to that, it makes everything a lot more open to everyone.”

Meanwhile, another charity have said that over a quarter of people have been asked to leave public places for autism-related reasons.

The National Autistic Society's research says that the fact 64% of autistic people avoid the shops is "unacceptable".

George Stanbury, Campaigns Officer at the charity, says: “Autistic children and adults represent a huge part of our society – around 1 in 100 people in the UK.

They and their families want to have the opportunity to go to the shops, just like everyone else. This is why it’s so important that shops and businesses are aware of autism and think about how they can make sure they’re welcoming to autistic people and their families.

"It’s often the smallest change that makes the biggest difference.

"We're really disappointed to hear about the reaction to Leon's assistance dog. It must have been very upsetting for Karsten and Leon.

"Just leaving the house can be really hard for many autistic children and adults. Some families tell us that dogs can really help manage anxiety."