A Figtree family will celebrate Christmas with a special new four-legged family member this year.
The Stranges family will become the Illawarra's first with an autism assistance dog since a community event raised more than $28,000 for them.
The dog will allow Michael, 8, and Gabriel, 7, to go into loud situations with lots of people, such as to restaurants, the movies or family functions - things they would struggle with now.
The two brothers both have degrees of autism, resulting in anxiety and difficulties interracting with people.
Michael also has an intellectual disability and ADHD, while Gabriel needs routine in his life to cope.
The specially-trained dog will be a familiar friend wherever the boys go and reduce their anxiety levels.
The family's first experience with an autism assistance dog was last year, when one was brought to their West Wollongong home as a test.
The boy's dad, Enzo Stranges, said he was surprised to see how Michael in particular connected to the dog in a way he rarely does with people.
"It was one of the first times Michael has interacted with anybody. It brought us to tears," he said.