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Therapy Dogs Can Help Autistic Children

Therapy Dogs Can Help Autistic Children

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Tonya Papanikolas ReportingParents of autistic kids know it can be hard to calm their children down if something sets them off. But a Sandy family says they've found something that helps--a therapy dog!

Their daughter suffers from what's become known as a kind of "high-functioning" autism. Seven-year-old Molly Drury loves her golden retriever, Aspen. Many kids love dogs, but Molly and Aspen have a special bond. You see, Aspen was brought in to help with Molly's Asbergers Syndrome, a developmental disorder that shares some characteristics of autism.

Lisa Drury, Mother: “She has very severe anxiety attacks, her social skills are severely compromised."

Molly doesn't talk a lot and little things can set her into a tailspin.

Lisa Drury: “They can look just like a terrible temper tantrum, but she has no control over herself."

The family tried medication and therapy, but they didn't help much. And then Molly's mom saw a national report on service dogs. So they adopted Aspen and sent her off for training. The dog's been home two weeks now and Molly's parents have already seen a difference.

Lisa Drury: “Molly seems more connected with the world."

Russ Drury, Father: “Since we've got Aspen, we've been going to a different restaurant every night, without a big meltdown or freak-out on the way."

Lisa Drury: “Out in public it's just amazing because people will approach and say, 'Oh, your dog is beautiful.’ And Molly responds, 'thank you' or 'yeah, I like her, too,' which would never happen."

When Molly has a meltdown, her family is training the dog to comfort her with a command called "kiss the baby."

Russ Drury: “That's for the dog to go up and lick Molly's face."

Molly: “She kisses me.”

Aspen is also learning to search for her friend, since Molly can sometimes wander off. Molly's parents say it wasn't often they used to see her smile or laugh, but now it's a regular occurrence."

Molly has a little dance she does with Aspen, she also loves to just sit and pet her. For whatever reason, it helps; the family says they're grateful and optimistic for the future. It looks like this duo will be side by side for a long time to come.

A family friend donated the money for Aspen's training because it can be expensive, anywhere from 7 to 15-thousand dollars.

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