Alex, Autism, and Alfalfa

Posted by & filed under Autism, Service Dog Stories.

The Difference a Service Dog can make, by Tom Niermann. June 2011.

I have triplets. Two boys and a girl: 10 years old. Alex has Autism, moderate and is largely non-verbal. Nikki and Ryan are typical, but as any parent with an Autistic child will know, their lives are anything but. I have been a single dad since they were four years old, until my remarriage 12 months ago.

Over the years, I have worked hard with the kids to ensure their lives are as happy and as normal as possible. I have worked extensively with Alex in a range of therapies encompassing ABA, RDI, Speech, OT, music therapy: a plethora of approaches aimed at reaching him and helping him to engage with the world around him.

Nikki and Ryan love their brother; there is a sweetness and playfulness about Alex that makes him impossible not to love. There is no denying however, that being raised in a family with an Autistic child creates a very different family dynamic. Whether it is explaining to your friends why there are locks with pass codes on all the external doors, why the windows are nailed shut, or that you have a pass-coded lock on your bedroom door to stop your brother from messing with your things. Perhaps it is being at school and being known as the kid with the Autistic sibling who doesn’t talk and has meltdowns for no apparent reason. Or maybe it is the regular disapproving stares in shopping centers and restaurants, when your brother, who looks normal, suddenly starts yelling or throwing plates across the table. My two neuro-typical children have never complained; they love their brother, but there is no denying Autism impacts their lives as well.

We are early on in the journey with our Service Dog. The vibrant and active support network of 4 Paws Service Dog families we are now a part of, gives me great hope for the future. The stories of the impact these dogs have made is amazing. The life changing experiences we have had to date on our Service Dog adventure has already made it worth all the effort. I can only imagine what the future holds, but I know that Alfalfa, Alex’s new best friend, will continue to play a significant role in it . . .

Read the entire article, which was published in Autism Resource Center of South Florida’s website.