10-year-old Lewis Miller has Aspberger’s syndrome, and he faces various daily challenges as a result. And finally, after four years on a waiting list for Assistance Dogs Northern Ireland (ADNI), it was Lewis’s heartfelt letter that helped to make his dream become a reality.
The Miller family had Jade, a Black Lab, join their family just before the holidays.
As ADNI’s Geraldine McGaughey said to BBC News, “It was the most emotional assessment I’ve ever done. It was a tearjerker.”
Danielle Cooper, his mother, encouraged Lewis to write a letter to help the assessors understand how much of an assistant a dog would make to his life and change it for the better.
Since Lewis experiences trouble regulating his emotions as well as reading other peoples’ reactions, he can sometimes be mistaken as “rough” to other kids.
“He loves movement, swings, running, jumping, anything that is aggressive exercise. He would play football for hours,” Danielle stated.
She added that at home, Lewis often has trouble sleeping, saying that, “He has very high anxiety. He hears noises at night that aren’t there.”
ADNI Autism dogs are trained to not just keep children safe outside the home, but to also provide emotional support. When Lewis is out in public, he wears a backpack with a tether that connects to Jade’s harness.
If he should ever get frightened or become overwhelmed, Jade sits down in order to prevent Lewis from running away or getting lost.
At home, Jade is a calming presence that helps to reduce Lewis’ anxiety, thus improving his interactions with his four siblings. But the most important thing is that Jade is now Lewis’s best friend – something that he is in real need of, following the recent death of a close friend at school.
In fact, here is an excerpt from his letter:
“I would feed it and care for it because I would love it more than anything. If it was with me it would be like Superdog to me. I probably wouldn’t even be scared to go to the forest. I love dogs more than anything.”
Lewis also added that if he had an assistance dog he wouldn’t be scared to go upstairs at bedtime or to come downstairs to get his cereal, or to watch TV.
While Jade hasn’t been with them long, Danielle said, “it’s been going really well. It’s been like an early Christmas present. To get lying on the sofa with your son beside you and the dog in the middle is amazing.”
According to research conducted by the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, having a dog helps improve social skills in children with Autism.
We’re so happy that Lewis now has Jade to help him get through life.