Simon S., 7, has a form of autism described as nonverbal, meaning he doesn’t use language easily. When he was a preschooler, his parents noticed that dogs caused Simon to light up.
“We thought it would be very therapeutic to have service animal to bring Simon out of his shell socially and maybe encourage him to talk more,” says Janel S., Simon’s mom.
The family heard about DBL at an annual walk to support autism in Portland, Oregon where they live. They applied for a service dog and waited hopefully. After the pandemic began, the isolation and disruption in routine affected Simon deeply. He would sometimes scream for hours.
Then Oolong joined the family in November 2020.
“She brings Simon joy,” Janel says. “Having Oolong around has improved Simon’s mental health, because he’s more regulated than before she came into his life. For example, car rides are stressful for Simon. But now that Oolong is lying in the seat next to him, it has eliminated the screaming on rides, and I can even hear him giggling sometimes.”
There has been a lot of adjustment for everyone in the family, including Oolong. She has had to adjust her training to work with Simon, Janel describes.
“Simon is constantly moving, so sometimes Oolong will watch until he holds still for a moment, and then she will ‘squish’ him, one of her skills for calming,” Janel says. “Simon enjoys having her near him. Oolong knows if Simon is upset or when he needs extra support. Simon
fell in the backyard and was crying the other day. Oolong got to him before I did to check that he was OK. When he gets home from school, Oolong is the first to greet him and follows him around the house.”
Autism Assistance Dog Applications are Open
Autism Assistance Dogs are trained to enhance the safety of children with autism by acting as an anchor and preventing the child from bolting. (Currently serving children in Oregon, California and Washington who are between the ages of 4 – 8.) Applications are currently open for one of these life-changing dogs. Learn more and apply here.