My daughter Miya was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Autism is a neurological disability that typically involves delays and impairment in social communication and social interactions. When I received this diagnosis, I felt the end of the world that day, to say the least. It was a long way to go and we had a lot to learn.
For the last 2 years, our family has been very fortunate to work with many wonderful professionals. We’ve joined many support groups and attended many training courses, workshops and conferences to learn and expand our knowledge of autism. Most of the time it’s a hit but sometimes it’s a miss.
A year ago I heard about a new line of service dogs for children with autism. I read books, watched videos, searched online, and began to read about the successes families with a child on the autism spectrum were having with a canine companion. A service dog would help with Miya’s therapeutic goals of increased socialization. The Service Dog Training School instructors suggested we train a service dog with Miya. That way the two can bond and Miya might learn some social skills and task adherence during the process. This way, the self-training process has more merits than getting a trained service dog from a professional.
Miya has a love for animals like no other. When we brought Coco home, I felt this was an opportunity we should consider.
In January 2017 we started our training. Jim (our tutor), Miya, Coco and I needed to go through intensive training at SDTDI. At first I trained for two days for each session, then Miya joined me for another four days.
We learned so much and were so fortunate to work with the brilliant instructors at SDTDI. Jim and I made the perfect team to teach Miya all she needed to know about her new dog. We worked hard and our hard work had paid off. Three months later, Miya, Coco and I passed our certification. A few days later, Coco received her trained service dog certificate and ID.
In public, with Coco by her side, Miya will be able to work on her social skills by connecting with Coco. She loves to play fetch with her, feed her, brush her, and walk her. I love hearing his giggles when Coco licks her hands when she gets home from school.
Through Coco, Miya is learning to take care of her and that she needs Coco as much as Coco needs her. She is also learning that people are very interested in her dog and is prepared to give them answers to their questions.
Updates: Miya graduated from Primary School, with Coco proudly at her side. They begin Junior High School in the fall and are ready for the new adventures they will have together.