April 2, 2010
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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