Prescription-Free Puppy Love
Samantha and Noel Mannion, of New Fairfield, Connecticut were desperate to find something that would help their autistic son, James. In addition to his tendency to bolt in public, the 6-year-old had become self-injurious. "The psychopharmaceutical meds made him worse, so we tried all sorts of alternative therapies-acupuncture, vitamin supplements, special diets," Samantha says. "Nothing was working."
Relief showed up in the form of a 70-pound pup named Ginger, from North Star Foundation. Ever since the golden retriever came to live with them, "The repetitive behaviors have pretty much stopped. His anxiety and meltdowns have been reduced," Samantha says. And Noel's therapist uses Ginger to enhance their sessions.
Science cannot yet explain why assistance dogs succeed where medications have failed. But the experiences shared by families like the Mannions, Vaccaros, and Lasker, have inspired researchers, including some at the National Institutes of Health, to look for the scientific basis behind all the anecdotal evidence. In the meantime, families aren't so concerned about the whys and hows of it all, but are just grateful for these special dogs that have come to their rescue.
These nonprofit organizations specially select and train dogs to help autistic children and their families: