The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Autism The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Autism
Showing posts with label Autism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Autism. Show all posts

Friday, February 1, 2019

How Animals Help Brain Chemistry

Our relationship to animals has a profound effect on the biochemistry of our brains; here’s how:

An oxytocin boost
There are documented physiological changes in people who spend as little as 15 minutes with a dog or cat or participate in equine therapy—Their oxytocin levels increase. Dubbed the “love” or “hug” hormone, oxytocin creates a profound sense of peace and comfort. It also slows the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure in addition to reducing stress hormones.

Normalizing brain chemistry
A study by University of Missouri scientists documented that petting a dog can cause a spike in one’s serotonin level, the neurotransmitter that most antidepressants attempt to increase. Pets can profoundly change the biochemistry of our brains, so it’s no wonder that pet-assisted therapies help people with autism and those suffering from PTSD and drug addiction.

To read more on this story, click here: How Animals Help Brain Chemistry


Friday, September 21, 2018

Chance The Service Dog Kept Boy With Autism Safe, Until Dog Suspiciously Disappeared.

Chance is more than just a beloved family pet. He’s a specially trained service dog for nine-year-old Ashton, who has autism. Ashton has a tendency to run away from a situation when he’s feeling overwhelmed, which puts him at risk of getting lost. But 100-pound Chance has been trained to stop Ashton from running and keep him safe.

But Chance can’t do his job if he’s the one who’s gone missing.

Chance went missing on September 11, and Ashton’s mother, Debi Zamora, is desperate for anyone with any information to come forward—no questions asked. The family was in the process of moving to new neighborhood in Clarksville, Tennessee, and someone left the fence open at their new home.

To read more on this story, click here: Chance The Service Dog Kept Boy With Autism Safe, Until Dog Suspiciously Disappeared.


Monday, September 17, 2018

World's Gentlest Dog Befriends A Little Boy With Down Syndrome [Video]

A little boy named Hernán and a female yellow lab called Himalaya have been melting hearts around the web with a viral video of the moment the two became friends.

Hernán, of Buenos Aires, has Down Syndrome, which causes him to shy away from physical contact, according to his mother Ana.

In a comment on YouTube she wrote, "He does not like be touched, but Himalaya insisted so patiently, and she was so soft that's why it is so moving, she is left to do anything."

In the video, which now has over 10 million views, Hernán sits on a patio, with a persistent Himalaya inching closer to him. Himalaya makes several attempts to touch Hernán with her paw, but he keeps pushing her away. She rolls onto her back in a playful fashion, while little Hernán presses closer to the wall behind him.

Finally Hernán begins to play with Himalaya's feet and nose, and by the end of the video, what began as an attempt to move away from the dog has turned into something of a game.

Dogs are often used by those with special needs, like Hernán. On its website, Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence (ADAI) writes:

"There are times when the simple presence and loving nature of a dog can help persons with special needs to open up to the world around them. Special needs therapy dogs have been particularly beneficial for persons with Autism, developmental disabilities, Down's Syndrome and those who have suffered a stroke. With the presence of these dogs, persons can work on therapies that help improve speech, coordination, and social skills."
According to Assistance Dogs International, Golden Retrievers and Labs in particular have good characteristics for service to special needs individuals, including confidence and sociability. They are also easy to care for, and not overly protective.

Watch the video of Hernán and Himalaya below, then jump into the comments and share your favorite stories of loving and amazing pets.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Meet, Iris Grace Halmshaw, a Five-Year-Old Little Girl and Her Best Friend, Thula

Five-year-old Iris Grace Halmshaw of Market Harborough, Leicestershire was diagnosed with autism in December 2011. Since that time, her parents, Arabella Carter-Johnson and Peter-Jon Halmshaw, have been navigating the process of helping their daughter flourish and live her life to the fullest. One of the more remarkable discoveries in this journey has been the blossoming friendship between Iris and her cat, Thula.

Arabella tells The Dodo that she and her husband had been considering a therapy animal for Iris after reading several articles about animals having positive effects on children with autism. After an unsuccessful look at Equine Therapy (Iris had little interest in horses), the family thought about a therapy dog. However, Iris and the prospective therapy dog didn't really click, as Iris didn't enjoy being licked and found the dog's hyperactivity to be upsetting. The family even spoke to various cat rehoming centers and tried out a therapy cat instead, but Iris didn't have much interest in any of the cats.

Arabella says that "By this point I was getting sick of the idea, I couldn't carry on with trying out different animals, it wasn't fair on anyone and not helping Iris at all."

During Christmas of 2013, however, everything changed. A family member's Siberian cat was in need of temporary boarding while her owners were abroad, and Arabella and Peter-Jon opened their home to the furry guest. Arabella noticed that Iris and the cat immediately connected with one another. "It was then I realized that I just hadn't found the right animal yet."

Arabella was right. The search for the right cat continued in January 2014, and the family found their feline match soon after: a Maine Coon kitten they named Thula. The kitten was just the right temperament and personality for sensitive Iris. When the two met, it was love at first sight. "Thula just settled right in and it was as if she was always here at home with us."

Thula has since become Iris' close companion, serving as a wonderful partner for snuggling and naps. The fluffy feline is also Iris' "faithful assistant" when it comes to painting, one of the five-year-old's favorite pastimes. Iris' parents initially encouraged her to paint as a way of assisting with her "speech therapy, joint attention and turn taking." However, Arabella and Peter-Jon soon discovered that Iris had an amazing natural ability for painting, as well as an "incredible" two-hour concentration span when she worked.

Since Thula came into Iris' life, Arabella says that Iris' paintings have indeed altered a bit. "We do see cat faces, imagery of cats in her paintings now, it is subtle but noticeable."

Below is one of many dreamy, impressionistic pieces painted by Iris.

When the two aren't painting, Thula and Iris enjoy spending time together playing on the family iPad ...

... relaxing during car rides ...

... and even taking the occasional bubble bath!

But Thula is more than just a playmate. The cat is a source of stability and comfort for Iris during some of her darker moods. An excerpt from Arabella's blog describes one touching instance where Iris, a bit gloomy about practicing her speech, found comfort in Thula's presence:

Thula brings a square piece of bubble wrap in her mouth and jumps up onto the sofa beside Iris and drops it in her lap. Iris who was withdrawn and looking exhausted smiles and says "Hi Cat." She picks the bubble wrap up and starts playing and then offers it to Thula. Unusually Thula doesn't want it throwing or dangling, she nudges it back to Iris and lies down and purrs loudly. I watch her from the doorway, amazed at what I am seeing, I was just hunting for something to take Iris's mind off running through her words, a distraction from her current goal. How is Thula doing this? I understand she must be reading Iris's body language but to have the intelligence to find a sensory toy that isn't for her, but for Iris to play with to pull her out of this darker space, is incredible.

It is clear that the relationship between Thula and Iris is based on mutual respect and empathy. Says Arabella, "Unlike most children of Iris's age, she doesn't maul, stroke or pick up the kitten constantly. Their relationship is based upon companionship. If Iris wakes during the night, Thula is there to settle her. It's as though she instinctively knows what to do."

Though Thula and Iris have received considerable internet notoriety, Arabella is adamant that she doesn't want Iris' life to be affected by the newfound popularity. "For Iris nothing has changed, we are working very hard to keep it that way," she says. "There have been so many requests from news networks, film and chat shows to come and report on Iris, her paintings, and now Thula ... but I know how much it would upset Iris, and she is making such progress at the moment with her speech, so we just want to keep things as they are."

It's pretty clear that, regardless of what new skills Iris may acquire (she has recently taken interest in the violin), Thula will be there as a comforting presence, offering the silent understanding that Iris needs.

Here's to the dynamic duo's future adventures - there will surely be many.

You can read more about Iris' life on her website and Facebook page, and can view and purchase prints of her unique artwork HERE .

See the latest photos of Thula and Iris on Instagram


Monday, July 30, 2018

How to Choose the Right Pet for a Family with Special Needs

Did you know that the presence of guinea pigs in a room can increase social behaviors in children with autism?

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia recently published a study demonstrating a significant measurable increase in talking, smiling, laughing, looking at faces, making tactile contact and social approaches when children with autism and their peers played with 2 guinea pigs in a classroom.

Sooner or later, most families of children with special needs begin to think about adopting a pet for therapeutic reasons.  Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to every type of pet.  Sometimes a pet is not logistically possible, but any pet has the potential to enrich family life.

Here are ten of the most popular pets for beginners, along with the pros and cons for each one.  If your family wants to adopt any type of pet, large or small, consider a rescue organization such as those listed on

To read more on this story, click here: How to Choose the Right Pet for a Family with Special Needs


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

9-Year-Old Boy with Autism Relies on His Service Dog to Keep Him Safe and Calm While in the Hospital

Where James Isaac goes, Mahe follows – even into the boy's hospital bed.

The 9-year-old Wellington boy is autistic and relies on the black Labrador to keep him safe and calm.

James cannot speak, and recoils from touch and eye contact with his family.

But he will curl up happily with Mahe.

“And for Mahe, James is his best mate, he is all about James," mum Michelle Isaac said.

So important is the bond that Mahe was allowed to join James at the Wellington Children's Hospital as he underwent an MRI scan to diagnose the cause of his seizures.

As he went under general anesthetic, Mahe watched with concern, nuzzling his master's face.

"He was just looking at James, and looking really worried."

As Michelle waited in the hospital cafe for the scan to end, Mahe sat beside her, calming the mother as he had calmed the son.

"I was really shaken, it was pretty stressful watching James struggle."

Life for the Isaac family has improve immensely since Mahe came into their lives, 2½ years ago.

Michelle said going out into public with James used to be nightmare. He was likely to run off and lose the plot in any unfamiliar or over-stimulating involvement.

"We couldn't even go to a cafe as a family. James would get very anxious and want to leave immediately. But when we got Mahe, James would just sit there waiting for us to finish our coffee."

Mahe's presence not only calms James, but keeps him safe. Out and about, he is attached to Mahe on a tether. If he strays too far, or starts running towards a busy road, Mahe sits down and won't budge.

The Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust trained Mahe for six months from a puppy to help children with autism.

The trust trains puppies to help people with a range of disabilities, from autism to diabetes to cerebral palsy.

The dogs can be taught to distract their owners, warn other family members of an impending medical event, or track down missing people and objects.

Wendy Isaacs, the trust's funding development manager, said Mahe had been picked for autism training because of his calm demeanor.

"There is such a magic that happens between a child with autism and the dogs, they just calm the kids down. The kids will maintain eye contact with the dog, but often not with their own parents and siblings."

If James' seizures persisted, Mahe could also be trained to pick up on early warning sign and whine or bark to alert his parents, she said.

To learn more about assistance dogs, visit the trust's website. 


Monday, February 15, 2016

Family of Autistic Boy Launched a Fundraising Campaign to Get $12,500 Needed for a Therapy Dog: Taylor Swift Donates $10,000

Two schoolgirls who created their own version of one of Taylor Swift's most famous songs to raise money for their autistic relative have received a huge donation from the popstar herself.

Jordan Fox and Makaylee Duhon, who are both 12, joined together to rewrite the lyrics to Swift's hit 'Blank Space' as a way of helping Jacob Hill, who suffers from autism.

Jacob, who is five, suffers from the condition, which makes it harder for him socialize and he is prone to wandering off from his parents.

His mother Allison was keen for Jacob to be given a service dog, which would stop him from putting himself in constant danger.

His family then launched a fund-raising campaign to gather together the $12,500 needed to train a dog and his sister Jordan and cousin Makaylee decided to rework one of Swift's songs where they plead for donations.

The video of their song, their own take on Blank Space, was posted to YouTube and spotted by the hitmaker who wanted to help out the cause.

She then went on the appeal's Gofundme page and donated $10,000, meaning the family now have enough for a therapy dog.

Writing on the page, Swift and her mother Andrea Swift, wrote: “Jacob, we hope you love your new dog! Please tell your cousins that they did a great job on the song! Love, Taylor and Andrea Swift.”

And when the two girls were told that Ms. Swift had made the donation, they were shocked.

Makaylee told KPRC: “She was like, 2Taylor Swift just donated $10,000.
And we were all like, 'Oh my gosh!”

While Jordan added: “I couldn't just look at this situation and ignore it, because he's my brother.

I love him a lot. He's really special to me.”

A service dog will now be chosen for Jacob and will take two and a half years to train before going to live with the family.

Schoolgirls Jordan Fox and Makaylee Duhon, who created their own version of one of Taylor Swift's most famous songs to raise money for their autistic relative Jacob Hill, pictured.

The two girls reworked the words to the song Blank Space and performed a music video to go with it, which they posted online.

After posting the video online for Jacob, left, it was spotted by Taylor Swift, right, who donated $10,000 to help him afford a service dog.

The hitmaker spotted the girls' song on YouTube and wanted to help Jacob afford to get his service dog.

When the two girls were told by Jacob's mother, Allison that Swift had made the donation, they were shocked.

Thanks to the popstar's donation, the family now have enough money to afford to train the dog.

The message that Swift and her mother Andrea left on Gofundme after making their donation.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Twin Special Needs Girls Wanted a Disabled Dog Who Would Love Them and Understand Them: They Got Her

It’s not easy being different. Tianna and Gianna know that better than most people. The twin 10-year-old girls are legally blind, and Gianna suffers from autism. It’s hard for them to find someone who truly understands what they go through. Maybe that’s why this year they only had one Christmas wish. They wanted a disabled dog who would love them and understand them.

Well sometimes Christmas wishes come true. Carmela is a beautiful Pit Bull whose legs and spine are deformed, likely the result of being kept in a small cage her whole life until a grooming salon owner named Sandy Roberto rescued her. When the girls’ mother told Roberto about their wish, she knew that Carmela had to go to the girls.

Carmela showed up in a red Santa suit and surprised the little girls, who immediately loved her. Tianna says Carmela is their new best friend forever, and Gianna, who didn’t speak much, can’t stop talking about her new dog. The girls hope that everyone considers adopting differently abled dogs this holiday season. They have just as much love to give as any other dog.

Click on picture to start video


Thursday, November 26, 2015

An Autistic Boy Finds The Meaning of Love…Through a Pit Bull

Humans often face a lot of difficulties. Whether it’s financial, emotional, or physical, life is rarely easy. Joey, a boy with autism, had a hard time adjusting to many things. He especially had a hard time expressing love and affection, but that all changed once he met Roxy. Watch their amazing story unfold right here.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Service Dogs Help Children with Epilepsy, Autism and Other Disabilities

When Alyssa Howes was 4-years-old, she lost her sight and started having seizures. Her grandmother stayed in the girl's room at night, monitoring her for attacks. That ended three years ago when Alyssa got a service dog named Flint.

When the golden retriever moved in, life changed for Alyssa's Los Angeles-area family. He gives the 11-year-old a more normal life by alerting her family to seizures, guiding her so she doesn't fall and allowing her to have a bit more freedom.

"It gives her a companion to enjoy the moments when she is doing things she likes to do," said her mother, Juliette Palomaki. "And if she is having a bad day, she will call him and they will just be together."

But not enough dogs are being trained for children with epilepsy, autism and other disabilities, said Karen Shirk, founder of 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit that breeds and trains service dogs. Other agencies train dogs specifically to help people with seizures, but Ohio-based 4 Paws is one of just a few that does not exclude young children.

Most require a minor to be 16 so they can handle the dog alone in public. Because a younger child cannot do that, 4 Paws trains at least two adult caregivers, such as parents, teachers and baby-sitters.

Service dogs allow children to feel comfortable at the park, school and restaurants. In Alyssa's case, it means no one has to stand guard at night in case of seizures.

"Once we got Flint, she said she wanted to start sleeping on her own with him," Palomaki said.

Animal behaviorist Brandon McMillan, the star of "Lucky Dog" on CBS, says it's very easy for a child with disabilities to become a recluse.

"Life shouldn't be so complicated at 5," said McMillan, a spokesman for Magnolia Paws for Compassion, which raises awareness that kids can get service dogs. 

"Take a child who has a condition. Give them a dog. The dog opens up a world for this child. It's important for a child's life."

Seizure dogs are costly — taking 4 Paws $22,000 to breed and train, with each family asked to raise $15,000 — but they can alert their companions to seizures before they strike.

Scientists say pooches smell a chemical change when a person is about to seize — they just don't agree how dogs do it, Shirk said. At her training center, dogs learn to bark to signal a seizure so an adult can give the child medicine.

For Shirk, who has a service dog, Piper, to help her with her muscular dystrophy, getting that warning allows her to take medicine that keeps her breathing.

"Messages don't get through from the brain to the muscles," Shirk said of a seizure. "Without Piper, I barely have time to call 911 before everything shuts down."

In Alyssa's case, if Flint detects a seizure, he will lick her, become very attentive, lie on her and bark, the girl's mother said.

"When we hear him bark, we know something is up because he doesn't bark for any other reason," Palomaki said.

Alyssa also has leukemia that's in remission and lacks full use of her right hand. Doctors won't give a prognosis because they "don't want to put expectations or limitations on her," Palomaki said.

"She walks, talks and can read the whole Braille alphabet with one good hand. She's a true joy, and they are a dynamic duo," Palomaki said.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

12-Year-Old Trevor Has Autism, and is Reunited With His Cat, Oreo, After Being Separated for 9 Months

Oreo, an 11-year-old fluffy, black and white cat has been in the Bradfield family all his life. They live in West Rome, near Coosa High School. It’s a big, loving family. Gussie Bradfield and her husband Robert have two biological children, have adopted two and are fostering two. One of those kids is 12-year-old Trevor. He’s autistic. Sometimes he’s withdrawn and prefers to be by himself.

“Because of his autism he likes to exclude himself sometimes,” Gussie said. “He was in and out of foster care and that may have contributed to his isolation. Sometimes he doesn’t even want to talk to anyone.”

But that’s not the case with the family’s cat, Oreo. It seems that Trevor relates to the cat, his mom said, more so than people.

“Trevor has anxiety, but Oreo has a very soothing effect on him,” she said. “I can’t really explain it. When Trevor withdraws from others, he’ll talk to Oreo. He seems to be comforted by his presence. Oreo is not intimidating in any way, I suppose. Trevor really relaxes around him and opens up more.”

But last June Oreo was scared by a dog coming into the house and he ran away, worrying Trevor and the entire family. They put up fliers and scoured the neighborhood. But Oreo was gone.

“I missed him,” Trevor said. “I asked people for help. I drew pictures.”

Gussie said Trevor withdrew once more. His friend was missing.

Nine months later, Kristy LaRue enters the picture. She is the co-founder of People for Floyd County Pets, a local group that’s licensed to facilitate the placement of animals that need foster or permanent homes. They rescue many animals from local shelters and provide veterinary care for many of the animals before placing them.

On March 31, Kristy was looking through photos of animals at the Floyd County Animal Control and noticed a dirty, scruffy black and white cat, its hair all matted. The cat had been at animal control since March 18 and was soon to be euthanized. It was sick. The facility is required to keep animals for 72 hours and often, when space is available, they’re kept until they’re adopted or rescued. But in many cases they simply run out of time.

But Kristy couldn’t let that happen, so she called the facility and told them to hold the cat for her. She was going to pick him up.

“When I got there he was dirty and I could tell he was sick,” she said. “He looked pretty bad.”

Immediately, a friend of Kristy’s saw a photo of the cat and said it looked like one the Bradfields had been looking for. But Oreo was a male and this cat was listed as a female. 

Kristy called Gussie who came to see the cat anyway and sure enough it was Oreo. His gender had been listed incorrectly at animal control.

“They were more than excited to have him back,” Kristy said. “It was a wonderful little reunion.”

No one was happier to see Oreo than Trevor was. Finally, the two friends were back together.

It turns out that Oreo had been picked up on March 18 in West Rome — several miles from the Bradfields’ home — by Floyd County Animal Control as a stray. He had been wearing a collar and tag when he ran away but it may have fallen off or been taken off at some point.

No one knows what he had been doing or where he had been between June 2014 and March 2015. Gussie Bradfield is just glad he’s back at home and that Kristy LaRue had been looking out for local animals in need.

“He’s part of our family,” she said as Trevor sat on the couch, cuddled up with Oreo. “This family has been through a lot and he’s been through it all right along with us. He’s not replaceable.”

Kristy advised Rome residents that if their pet goes missing, don’t just call local shelters or rescue groups.

“Go and see for yourself,” she said. “These people are doing the best they can, but they may not have the time or resources to take a whole lot of pictures of every animal that comes in. Visit the shelter and see for yourself. It could make the difference between getting your pet back or not.”


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

14-Year-Old Boy with Asperger Syndrome Gets a Shelter Dog…and Hugs His Mom for the First Time

 A Los Angeles mother watched her young son Joey struggle in uncommon ways. In kindergarten, he got suspended from school six times for behavior he couldn't control. Sitting still was torture for him, and sometimes he couldn't resist hitting himself.

His diagnosis at age 7 with Asperger syndrome, a disorder on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, rocked Granados' world. Even more challenging was Joey's loathing of physical contact. Granados wanted to hug, kiss and cuddle her son, but she never could. Years went by, and it seemed she never would.

Then, a few months ago, a new friend entered Joey's life. This friend, named Roxy, had fur, four legs, a tail and a goofy disposition, and she made Joey so happy that he did something unthinkable: He gave his mom a big, spontaneous kiss on the cheek.

"I get emotional thinking about it," Granados told "For all those years, he wouldn't hold my hand, he wouldn't hug me — it was all part of the autism — but this dog has taught him how to give and show affection. He holds my hand now! He hugs me! The first time I got a kiss on the cheek was when Roxy came home."

Joey, now 14, said his new dog has made everything easier for him.

"I didn't have too many friends growing up, but then we got Roxy and I've been able to make friends ever since," Joey said. "At home, I've been able to hold my mom's hand, kiss her, hug her and do a lot of things that I hadn't been able to do growing up.

"She's opened up my heart."

A little more than a year ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released estimates showing that one in 68 U.S. children has an autism diagnosis. Autism is nearly five times more common among boys than girls; one in 42 boys has it.

"Over the past 10 years, we've seen a 100 percent increase of autism," said Lisa Goring, an executive vice president with the advocacy organization Autism Speaks. Goring said one reason for the spike is growing awareness of the developmental disorder, which is resulting in more people being diagnosed.

But that alone doesn't explain the startling rise. "We know there's a genetic component, but there's also an environmental trigger," Goring said. "We don't know what that environmental trigger is."

No two autism cases are quite the same. Joey, for example, is a math whiz who can solve complex puzzles in minutes and recite a book from memory after reading it once. His mother knows Joey will be able to drive a car, hold down a job and live on his own someday.

"Learning is the easiest thing for him — it's the social situations that are difficult," said Granados, 36, a single mother of three boys. "He has a hard time reading social cues or facial expressions, and there's awkwardness around making friends. Before Roxy, he wouldn't even play or get along with his two little brothers."

A photo on the Internet led Joey to his new best friend. Joey had been asking his mom for a dog, and she saw that the Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles was planning an event where a shelter dog could be adopted for $10.

"We were looking through pictures online, and Roxy's picture made us fall in love with her," Granados recalled.

Granados and Joey arrived at Best Friends at 7 a.m. on the big day. Within minutes, sparks flew.

"As soon as Roxy met Joey, she totally ignored me and his mother," said adoptions specialist Denise Landaverde. "Amanda was happily surprised to see Roxy go straight to Joey and watch them play together. It just sealed the deal for her."

Roxy is a soft gray pit bull with floppy ears and a playful personality. Granados confessed that she was nervous at first because she had heard bad things about pit bulls. But Roxy's immediate connection with Joey made her melt.

"She is literally his best friend," Granados said. "He can be in the foulest mood, and she comes along and it's like a light. She doesn't care about his differences — there's no judgment with her — she just loves him."

Joey agreed. "If I've been having a bad day, Roxy can hear a tone in my voice," he said. "She runs up to me to give me a giant hug and lick me to death and do almost anything she can to make me happy."

Encouraging study results

Research about the effects of companion animals on kids with autism is limited, but heartening. A 2014 study revealed that pet dogs can give children with autism much-needed companionship and help them learn responsibility. And a 2013 study showed children with autism were more likely to talk, laugh, make eye contact and show other positive social behaviors in the presence of guinea pigs than in the presence of toys.

Still, dogs are not a cure-all, cautioned Dr. Rolanda Maxim, director of developmental pediatrics at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Maxim started a dog therapy clinic to help children with autism, and she's seen it do wonders for kids — with some caveats.

"It won't work if the child is very aggressive to animals, does not like dogs or is afraid of or allergic to dogs," Maxim noted. "Special connections can happen, but the child needs the opportunity to meet and choose the dog, and the dog also has to like the child."

That's precisely what happened between Joey and Roxy — and Joey's mom has a theory about why.

"Kids with autism are looked at differently and misunderstood, and so are pit bulls," Granados said. "I think that's why they've bonded!"

Joey said he's just grateful to have Roxy in his life: "It's amazing to have a friend like this."


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Role for White Rat: Unexpected Star on Broadway

Picture of white rat
The Broadway cast was less than thrilled when it found out who one of their fellow performers would be. It made them squeamish — not because of who it was but because of what it was.

They would be sharing the stage, it turned out, with a live rat.

“The idea of a rat was not exactly familiar to me,” said Alex Sharp, an actor who plays the leading role. “It was just a thing you see in the subway that has diseases.”

To read more on this story, click here: Role for White Rat: Unexpected Star on Broadway FOLLOW US!

Friday, October 17, 2014

One Cat Brightens The Tough Days For This Little Girl With Autism

Five-year-old Iris Grace Halmshaw of Market Harborough, Leicestershire was diagnosed with autism in December 2011. Since that time, her parents, Arabella Carter-Johnson and Peter-Jon Halmshaw, have been navigating the process of helping their daughter flourish and live her life to the fullest. One of the more remarkable discoveries in this journey has been the blossoming friendship between Iris and her cat, Thula.

To read more on this story, click here: One Cat Brightens The Tough Days For This Little Girl With Autism

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