A Girl and Her Dog

Service dogs are fast becoming an accepted and recognized support for children and adults with autism.  In addition to helping with safety concerns such as wandering, service dogs also provide social-emotional and sensory support that can help children cope with a sometimes chaotic world, give them opportunities to interact and play, and even help them sleep well.  Here is one family’s story.


It was September of 2011 when my husband and I were told that our 3 year old daughter who happens to be a twin was autistic…..

After the shock wore off we began the process of accessing supports and therapies. She was having many struggles at that time with communication, sensory overload and socialization. We began several different therapies including Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy and Floortime. We were so happy when we saw that she began to flourish and was able to communicate her needs and wants. We had a new relationship with our daughter but yet there was still some things that she was struggling with. She still had difficulties with crowds and loud noises and was not socializing with her peers. She also began to wander off at school and in the community. This caused a great deal of concern for both her dad and I as well as the school regarding her safety.

We had friends who had acquired a service dog through MSAR (Manitoba Search and Rescue) and we began speaking to them and doing some research. When our daughter was six I contacted George Leonard to discuss the option of a dog. We were quickly brought in to meet several of his top notch K9’s who were all absolutely amazing!! Unfortunately my allergies were a huge problem but lo and behold, as fate would have it, he happened to have a big black Labradoodle (Scottie) who was with Janet (one of his trainers).

Dog2We met him and that was the beginning of our new life. My daughter was terrified of dogs but within a few visits with Janet and Scottie she was touching him and showing him affection. She has her own leash and has never let it go when she is with him. He was brought to us for the first weekend visit at the beginning of July 2015 and has never left. He has been her companion and protector. She finally has a friend who accepts her fully and completely for who she is. Through her ups and downs he is there for her unconditionally and we couldn’t be more grateful for the relationship they are building with each other! This coming school year Scottie will be attending school with her once he is fully certified. He has helped us keep her close and safe and has opened up her ability to connect and accept responsibility. She has begun using him as a way to regulate herself when she is feeling overwhelmed by her surroundings and will seek him out when she feels upset.

This is exactly what our baby needed and I am so happy to see them together…it often brings happy tears to my eyes.


 

For more information, visit MSAR’s website.  Lions Foundation of Canada also offers a program to provide children with autism service dogs.

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