To Whom It May Concern:
My son (S) is 4 and a half years old. He experiences Autism as well as a sensory processing disorder, and a mood disorder. He is a wonderful child who is smart and a joy to have in our lives. Before the training dogs came into his life he struggled every day transitioning to school. It was difficult not only on him but our entire family as well. Because school was such a painful transition for him, he refuses to talk about his school day once he came home, he was withdrawn, and often stressed out from the long school day, and he would be irritable, and not willing to participate in our evening family activities. We have four children, and a big part of our day is looking forward to dinner, when we all sit together at the dinner table and eat and share our day with each other. (S) was unable to participate in this activity with our family for a very long time. Once he started training the dogs in Ms. (J)’s class, (S)’s life began changing. He gradually started looking forward to school, especially when reminded on Mondays (the toughest day to transition from the weekend) that the dogs would be visiting him that day. He began getting on the bus willingly, and after a whole year, the crying and worrying before school has almost completely stopped. It is my opinion that a lot of that is thanks to the dog training. (S) looks forward to the dogs helping relax. In addition to that, when (S) gets home, he is more cheerful (especially on dog days) and it has really helped him embrace school, and enjoy it, instead of looking at the experience with fear and anxiety. The biggest change of all, and most important to our family, is that (S) started talking about his school days on Mondays. He talks about the dogs at home, and briefly discusses the training experience; he recalls which dogs were there, and what kind of training was done. This means that on Mondays, (S) started participating in our evening meal. He finally had a chance to take part! Now our whole family, our older children especially, are so excited to get to the table and they all are eager to let him go first. It started as just an acknowledgement that he had in fact seen the dogs on Mondays, and has graduated to full stories, with names and excitement. It is a rare treat to find an activity that (S) actually looks forward too, and enjoys so thoroughly.
In December, (S) brought home a soft stuffed dog that was given to him by the trainers. Because of (S)’s Autism, he has never really had any toys he was attached too; especially stuffed animals, as they were to, personal for him to enjoy. He had never once in his life taken a stuffed animal to bed, or even paid any attention to them. But when (S) brought home this puppy from the dog trainers, he lovingly named it (on his OWN!) after one of the training dogs, Leo. Leo puppy was the first and only stuffed toy that (S) has ever been able to enjoy. We were proud to say that (S) has even taken Leo Puppy t bed with him to sleep on several occasions. It may seem like something small, but to our family, it was a proud day. These training dogs have been the gateway to a different life for (S). He has something he enjoys to work towards. In order to be around them, he fights hard to control his energy and calm himself so that he may work the dogs, two things that do not come easily to (S).
These skills will him forward for the rest of his life. They are going to be the building blocks for (S) to be (S), and not (S) who has Autism. He uses these skills every single day and in every single thing he does the dogs have helped him be motivated to work harder, and to do his best. A New World is opening up for (S) with excitement, joy and motivation.
This gift is not only felt by (S), and his classmates, but (S)’s three big sisters, and my husband and I. Our whole lives have been affected in an incredible way by this experience for (S), and as a result, every person who comes in contact with (S) as well. My husband and I would like to say with full hearts, thank you so much for this program. It has given us things we only dreamed of, and given us all a place to connect.
Thank you so much,
To Whom it May Concern:
I have a brother who has autism and has a hard time going to school. Well, he used to, but ever since the dogs (service dogs) came he’s been loving to go to school. It also gives us something to talk about. Now he talks about school more than he used to. Sometimes he has a hard time finding things that make him happy and the dogs do.
Thank you for all your hard work and bringing the dogs in.
P.S. I got to see the dogs last year. I never knew Service Dogs could be so cool.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~I have been able to see a huge change in the behavior and social skills of my student when he is in the room (with the dogs). He transforms from a quiet, untrusting kindergartener, into a verbal leader. E opens up, actively participates, and even feels confident in making suggestions of things he thinks we should try.
I have even noticed changes in the other students in the (preK) classroom (during the working time with the dogs). Some have entered the classroom (prek- this day we combine 2 preschool classrooms into 1) shy and afraid to talk, to end up fully participating and using strong voice commands. It’s amazing how these dogs are able to turn introvert children into extroverts. They allow the children to participate without fear of judgment.
I am a second grade teacher in Anchorage, AK and am writing this letter to formally recognize the hard work and dedication of Carole Shay of the Alaska Assistance Dogs. Carole volunteers weekly at my school working with Special Education students. During the last school year, Carole workded with one of my students, a little boy. He came to me at the beginning of second semester and worked with Carole and her team during his time in the Special Education Resource Room. In my class, he did not do any academic work at all, never participated, and spent most of his time just staring blankly.
I literally never saw one emotion from him. His mother reported to me, that those behaviors mirrored what she saw in their home.
On one of the last days of school, the Special Education Teacher, DLJ invited the primary grades to an assembly where the special education students would be demonstrating their dog training skills. Well, you could have knocked me over with a stick – there was MY student leading a dog through a series of commands and he was smiling; not a little smile, but a full toothy grin! At the end of the assembly, he even lead the dog around to small groups of children and answered questions, that’s right, he answered questions. I had never seen him interact with other children before – but the dog allowed him to be successful and gave him confidence.
This year, Carole has been working with a very troubled little girl in my class. Until she began working with the dogs, she was uncomfortable with human emotions and bristled at any physical contact. She was anti-social, and violent and unpredictable outbursts, and her non-conformity made school a difficult place for her to be. When Carole was approached (about) using her Assistance Dogs as a reward for her, she enthusiastically agreed and has gone above and beyond to include Julia ever since.
To say that this has made a huge difference for her would be an understatement; monumental would be a better worked. The privilege of working with the dogs has translated into improved human interactions for her with her teachers and her peers.
I am sure that every child that has the benefits of working with Carole and her Alaska Assistance Dogs have similar Life changing experiences.