Autism can be a nonstop source of anxiety for a child with autism and their families. The child is often uncomfortable, stressed, and uneasy. Parents are on constant alert, worried about what the next situation may hold. Such was the case for eight-year-old Ryan from and his mother, Beth.
“Our concerns were that he was just too good of a kid,” Beth says. “He was quiet. He never cried.” Ryan’s overall development was delayed, causing considerable concern for his family. “He had low muscle tone,” Beth remembers. “He didn’t sit until eight months, didn’t walk until 22 months. Speech never came. He’s nonverbal.”
“Sleep has always been a big challenge,” Beth says. “Not just for us, but also the girls. Because when he’s awake, he is also sometimes being noisy—kicking his feet or kicking the wall. So just trying to keep him calm during that time is a challenge.”
When they are out in public, there is always the risk that Ryan might wander off. “At Home Depot once, [he wandered off]. You can’t yell for him because he won’t answer or come back. And he sees you get mad, then it turns into a game.” Beth explains.
Beth reached out to Can Do Canines for help and Ryan was teamed with Turbo, a two-and-a-half-year-old Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever mix.
“I thought he was going to be a good match for our family,” she says. “When you go out and he’s vested, he is perfect. You know he’s there, but I can keep my focus on Ryan and don’t have to think about Turbo. He just does what he is supposed to do when he’s supposed to do it.”
Ryan’s sleep behavior has noticeably improved. When he wakes up early, he stays in bed longer and quieter because Turbo is there as a calming presence. “Ryan likes to pet his ears and it helps him relax,” Beth says.
Turbo brings a sense of safety to Ryan, Beth, and the rest of the family. “I feel safer,” she says. “We went on an outing this weekend, and having Turbo with us in line, Ryan just stood there, rather than me having to get out of line and chase him.”
A Boy and His Dog
“The two had to be separated to get over a puddle, and I could see Ryan’s anxiety,” Beth says. “When he got Turbo back, he was just fine. When he’s vested, Ryan cuddles with him more. He’ll lean down and give him hugs and kisses.”
Beth recognizes all of the hard work done by the volunteers and staff. “Sorry to take him away from you,” she laughs before taking a serious tone. “Thank you for the amazing work you did with him. He is the best dog in the world. We are so lucky to have him. He’s been amazing to Ryan.”
“You don’t have to do anything but you feel like you should do something,” Beth says of receiving Turbo free of charge. “I’m excited to raise money now because I can see it’s needed. You can see now, by having him, how needed it is and what a difference it makes.”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Great Start Home: Greg Brown
Puppy Raiser: FCI Sandstone
Special Thanks: Britta Maddox, University of Minnesota FETCH Program
Name-A-Puppy Donor: Marina Bryant
Whelping Home: Mary Alexander
You: Thank you for your donations!