Unless you have lived with the chaos and seen the abject terror in the eyes of your autism spectrum child it is nearly impossible to imagine what family life is like. I had a seven year old child at the dinner table begging me to kill him because he couldn’t cope. Kerry spent all of six months in an institution because I didn’t know how to keep him safe. I had to quit jobs in order to be home in the summer and during breaks. I finally ended up working graveyard shifts so I could be at the school at a moments notice in the event of a meltdown or other disaster. The electrical outlets in his bedroom were covered with steel plates and I had to put Styrofoam over his bedroom window for safety. This is what a lot of our families are up against every day.
Three things that I became aware of over the years with Kerry were that animals had a calming effect on my son. No matter how severe the meltdown he never took it out on an animal. Also, he exhibited an extraordinary amount of compassion and concern about the animal’s well being.
I am a professional dog trainer and with the use of more reward based behavior modification tools in dog training (For more information regarding my dog training philosophies go to www.cspringstprdogtraining.com. ) I realized that I was using the same tools on the dogs that I had been practicing with my son for years. I was convinced that there was a way to combine these tools with the positive affect that animals had on our children to help them and their families. And the Sirius Kids’ Connection was born.
One of my most amazing discoveries while developing my program was Patty Dobbs Gross of the North Star Foundation www.northstardogs.com. She also has a son on the autism spectrum and saw the connection between her son and animals. Her approach was very different from mine. While I was using the family dog to teach social skills and behavior modification tools she was breeding dogs with a special temperament to handle the unpredictable nature of our kids. Her dogs have an uncanny knack for knowing what kind of unique intervention each of our special kids needs.
What Patty and I discovered in ensuing phone conversations and e-mails was that our two programs dovetailed perfectly and our working partnership was begun. North Star Dogs and Sirius Kids’ graduates provide a social link to the outside world. Children on the spectrum who are verbal, practice answering common questions at home with their parents. In public people are encouraged to ask the child about his dog. According to some parents their children are exhibiting more confidence in public, sleeping better and making more efforts to communicate clearly when working with and spending time with their dogs.
Laurie Yakish Sirius Kids’ Connection 719-205-7241 email@example.com