Central Point, Ore. — A Central Point non-profit that specializes in training service dogs for people with hearing impairment is now taking their business a step further by training autism service dogs.
Dogs for the Deaf Chief Executive Officer Blake Matray said they saw a demand and decided to act on it.
“We recognize there is a tremendous need in this country right now with potentially as many as one out of every 68 children being affected with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” he said. “We’re very excited about being able to offer help to those children and their families.”
They presented their first trained autism canine to 10-year-old Parker Sampson Tuesday. The Medford fifth-grader loves animals and his new dog Ian is more than just a pet. Ian is a part of the family and a big help for the boy who has autism.
“You don’t ever know until they’re in your home if this is going to be a beautiful match and seriously I can’t think of a better dog to help support my son,” his mom Emilie Wylde said.
Emilie said her son benefits from his four legged friend as he faces unique challenges.
“Ian soothes Parker and is able to when Parker is escalated bring him down a little bit,” she said.
She also said Ian helps Parker relate to others, builds his confidence in social situations, and teaches him responsibility.
The golden lab spent six months with trainer Jenny Nickelson before she handed the leash over to Parker. This won’t be Nickelson’s last autism service dog she trains. She’s already working with another, and Matray said once they receive approval from the county they plan to build a new facility off Wheeler Road in Central Point where they can train more dogs for autistic children.
Dogs for the Deaf is not taking applications for these dogs yet, as they’re still refining their training. Matray said in three years they hope to be producing 40-50 dogs a year that can be placed in homes all over the nation.