As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else. Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions. I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis. Here is the second one from Rebecca Heibein!
Puppy Paws for Colton
Colton was diagnosed last year with an autism Spectrum Disorder. He falls on the mild side of the spectrum, and his symptoms seem to be more specific to Asperger’s Syndrome, which falls under the Autism Spectrum.
Colton experiences some degree of all Asperger’s symptoms. In the owner’s quest to find new ways to support Colton, we looked into the use of an Autism Service Dog. We contacted a not for profit agency, Autism Dog Services, and arranged for a home visit. The director of this agency, Wade Beattie, came to our house with a 16 month old Golden Retriever, Aspen. He stayed for over an hour with us, and answered all of our questions, and Colton got to know Aspen and feed her treats! At the end of the visit, we decided that an Autism Service Dog would benefit Colton immensely! The parents submitted on application and we were approved. The value of one of these dogs is – $18,000 – a quick breakdown on the $18,000 cost of a dog is as follows:
- 28% ($5,040) is the basic cost of the dog, food, veterinary costs and fostering a puppy
- 44% ($7,920) is for advanced training of the dog
- 11% ($1,980) is for team training (training the child, the family and the dog to work together)
- 17% ($3,060) is continued support for the dog by Autism Dog Services. They support the family and the dog over its working lifetime.
A service dog will help a child with autism by:
- Improving safety and security at home, in public, and at school.
- Prevent a child from bolting into traffic or other dangerous situations.
- Provide independence, allowing a child to walk holding the dog rather than a parent’s hand.
- Lend support and a calming influence to a child as he copes in highly stressful situations and changes in routine.
- Allow greater freedom for our family to participate in outings and activities.
- Help improve socialization skills by bridging the gap between a child and society
- Acts as a constant companion, offering unconditional love and friendship.
- Help with transitioning and behavior when out in public.
We’ve already been on several outings with the dog, and have been able to see how life with a dog will be. We’ve been able to walk through the very busy Saturday morning market, which is a place we would avoid given the level of anxiety some children have had in places like this.
Cole was diagnosed with PDD-NOS around age 2- 3. He has an amazing family who embraced the challenge of learning this new path that life had offered them and navigated through the information, professional opinions and programs that were being recommended for their child.
We had the pleasure of meeting Cole and Chrissie in December of 2009. They had just moved from Texas and were looking for new, exciting treatments that could help Cole (now 9), find his way through the social nuances of “9 year old boy life”. Cole still could not ride a bike, during swim team his strokes were awkward and uncoordinated and he struggled to play board games with other kids, because he just hated losing and would tantrum; leaving his peers baffled and not quite sure how to handle the situation. Cole couldn’t always express his feelings appropriately either.
After the comprehensive occupational, physical and speech therapy evaluations that CTW performed, we developed an intense treatment protocol, using our technology and wonderful team of therapists and off we went – on the therapy journey!
Fast forward 6 months. We have seen tiny little steps and leaps and bounds. The outcomes are: One of the first Aha! Moment’s occurred on a Friday night at swim meet. Chrissie and her neighbor were sitting watching the kids swim when her neighbor turned to her and said something like “Chrissie, look at Cole, his stroke is even and smooth, wow what have you been doing?” This was 6 weeks after starting our programs. Each week we had mini revelations that we discussed. One week it was how much his handwriting had improved at school (we had not done any hand writing programs yet), the next time, Cole was more aware of his mom’s emotions. Then his tangential thought patterns were occurring less and less, he was staying on topic and everybody could follow his conversation without these random thoughts popping up. During the second week of his intensive program, Cole zipped his pants up for the first time in his life – he could now go and buy jeans at the store like other kids his age.
We had many tear jerking moments during this time. But the most poignant time was when Cole rode his bike independently – all his therapists cheered as if he had just won his first marathon – and he had, he could now do what other kids his age did!
We are very proud of our children and in this particular case, very proud of our parents too. With the love, support and effort that Coles’ parents have put into him, it was an honor to be able to teach Cole how to reach his milestones and then go beyond that.
Way to go Cole!
by Rebecca Heibein