April 2, 2010

Puppy watches over children with autism

Posted: 08:00 PM ET

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(CNN) - It was the dog trainer's honesty that won Lisa McMillan over.

When McMillan asked the trainer whether she was able to train a dog to assist with her autistic twin boys, the dog trainer said, "I don't know anything about autism."

The mother did. And Kelli Collins knew how to train dogs. Together, they would train and raise a puppy to be a companion to the then-3-year-olds, Eric and James. Collins would work with the puppy, Caleb, on learning the boys' scent so he could find them when they bolted. He soon would learn to comfort them, almost instinctively, when they needed a friend.

Autism, a developmental disorder, affects one of every 110 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with autism often have social, communication and behavioral challenges, but to varying degrees.

Collins is a trainer for the Georgia K9 National Training Center in Canton, Georgia. Collins, with her partner, Jeff Schettler, started as a trainer for law enforcement and search and rescue dogs. She also teaches obedience to family dogs. She's been training dogs for 15 years.

The pair trained Caleb at the center's indoor and outdoor facilities, the family's home and out in social settings. They fused their search and training techniques for finding missing people with handling a child who can bolt in an instant. They taught Jennifer Fair, who lives with the McMillans, how to give directions and encourage positive behavior with the puppy in the home and on outings.


Filed under: Autism

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Eddie   April 2nd, 2010 8:09 pm ET

This is fantastic!! I just saw a true story where a couple got the child a puppy that helped in his development. He began talking and expressing himself where as before he wouldn't. This is beautiful......

Judie   April 2nd, 2010 8:58 pm ET

Autism is growing at a fast pace we need more studies on how to treat these children as there are more questions then answers.
Please don't let these doctors give your baby all the shots at one time as they believe this has something to do with it.You are in charge of your baby take your time and stretch these shots out.

John H   April 3rd, 2010 12:12 am ET

Three Cheers for The Puppies of this world. And three more for all the adult dogs. You couldn't possibly find a more honest and living companion anywhere and they deserve all the love we can possibly give them back.

Horsegirl   April 3rd, 2010 3:49 am ET

I have a form of autism known as Asperger's Syndrome. This is a very cool story! We should have more service dogs like this for people on the autism spectrum and not for just people who have physical disabilities such as blindness or being wheelchair bound.

Theresa   April 3rd, 2010 5:29 am ET

What a wonderful story...thank goodness autism finally got the spotlight....hopefully getting funds for research.. Kudos to all the parents who have children struggling with this disorder!!!!!!

Ted   April 3rd, 2010 1:16 pm ET

I love animals and the dogs have a special place in my heart.
With a dog you have a friend and companion for their lifetime and they will never turn against you, as human being do so many times.
This story proves their worth to us.

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