From the first parent to receive an ASA dog . . .
I don't know what first made me think of trying a service dog, but one memory
stands out as a defining moment. Not long after my daughter was born, still
walking from a public pool to my car. Suddenly my son, Jack, started to run
toward the parking lot. I was calling his name and trying to run after him, but
he refused to stop and began running faster.
I thought my heart would just completely stop as I saw him running straight for
the traffic ahead. Screaming, I placed my newborn baby on the ground to run
after my charging toddler. The grace of God stopped my son while he was still
on the curb. I was able to grab him and return to my baby who was still lying in
I was shocked and numb. I couldn't even cry. All I could do is feel hopeless
and helpless and wonder what I was doing wrong. Wonder why my beautiful,
smart, happy child was turning into a boy who wouldn't even respond to his
On that terrible day, I had no idea what was ahead from this overwhelming
thing called autism. It doesn't just "change your life." It moves you to another
planet and blots out the sun until you learn to cope. I also had no way to know
how much our family's future would be colored by a bossy German Shepherd
named Larissa, who has now spent the last six years keeping our family in
line. In the beginning, I didn't know who would train one for us, but I knew
dogs well enough to know it had to be possible.
--Kelly Capers (first parent to receive a DFA service dog for a child with
autism in 2002
From a parent who'd had an ASA dog for about 6 weeks.
When Imme joined our household, it was somewhat demanding for Bryant. She continually, throughout the day, nudges, bumps, or leans against Bryant. She interrupts
stimming patterns: Bryant will try to run in never-ending circles. Imme voluntarily intercepts him with a figure-8 pattern. Her persistent interruption hinders Bryant from fading
into his own world.
This additional mental demand initially caused a normal language regression in Bryant (such as answering yes/no questions). However, when talking to or about Imme,
Bryant speaks in individually framed, complete sentences. This is major progress.
We have some some other major developmental changes over the last few weeks:
Bryant has started nagging the way a toddler will, asking for the same thing repeatedly, even when told "No."--annoying, yes, but a new, independent developmental stage
for him. Now melt-downs are involved, just a determined child voicing his own agenda.
Bryant has starting arguing and "talking-back." Previously we have had (1) no response, (2) mindless obedience, or (3) some form of meltdown.
Bryant has started independently dressing himself, brushing his teeth, and independent toileting. We have worked on these things for years. However, I do believe that
Imme's presence in our home has contributed to Bryant's over-all alertness and ability to follow through on tasks.
This gently-forced interaction with Imme seems to have the same effect on Bryant as a Speech and Occupational Therapy co-treatment. The Speech/OT co-treat has been
successfully used with Bryant both in school and in therapy. The physical activity of the OT increase his language capabilities. Bryant's receptive and expressive language
skill improve during the activity of the co-treat (such as sliding down a slide or crawling through a tunnel with a language card in hand to match with another card at the end).
Imme has independently intervened with Bryant's behavioral stimming, and behavior problems (trying to escape out the door or moving the rug too close to the heater). She
has had an effect on his language and over-all developmental progress. I am not a doctor or a teacher or a therapist. I am a mother who deals with autism 24 hours a day.
We are blessed to have Imme as a member of our family. Thank you!
--Cindy Council (written six weeks after Imme joined their family in 2007)
Enriching Lives, Increasing Independence . . .for 20 years