girl walking golden
PAWS for Love Assistance Dogs, a program that trains dogs to help individuals with developmental disabilities recently placed Falcon, a specially trained Golden Retriever, with a Naples boy.
What makes this placement unique is that while Nate Lowers has autism, he is only three years old – years younger than the typical placement age for a child receiving a therapy dog. In light of recent research confirming that early intervention with toddler and preschool aged children with autism offers tremendous benefits, PAWS for Love Assistance Dogs is using this innovative approach to change the lives of young children.
At first glance, Nate Lowers looks like a usual three year old boy– he loves to swing and eat ice cream. But call his name and he does not turn around, toss him a ball mand he does not try to catch it, and ask him a question and he does not answer.
Nate was diagnosed several months ago as severely autistic. “I’ve read the research showing that many hours of one-on-one therapy can make a huge difference for these kids, so I knew we had to act quickly for our son” said Kathy Lowers, Nate’s mother. “One of the interventions we wanted to add was canine therapy. Studies show that dogs have a positive effect on the emotional and physical health of patients of all ages so it makes sense they would be helpful to autistic children.”
However, when the Lowers looked into obtaining a therapy dog, the cost was prohibitive. As therapy dogs come from a special genetic line and are given months of training, they cost thousands of dollars. “With no extra money at the end of the month after paying bills, it looked hopeless that we could ever get a therapy dog for Nate. We are so grateful to PAWS for Love and their donors for making this happen for our son.”
“We carefully screen the dogs and match the temperament with the child’s personality,” says Jeannie Bates, founder and trainer for PAWS for Love Assistance Dogs. Bates has witnessed how dogs can improve the lives of those living with disabilities and she sees great potential for dogs serving the autism community.
When Nate has a melt down as many autistic children do, Falcon is being trained to nuzzle and comfort him. Also, an occupational therapy professor and her students from FGCU are creating therapy games for Nate to use with his new canine friend.
“Having a therapy dog adds a whole new dimension to my son’s therapy,” says Kathy Lowers, “Having Falcon as his best friend will definitely change Nate’s life for the better.”
There has been a dramatic rise in children being diagnosed on the autism spectrum, with approximately 1 in 110 having the developmental disorder, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jeannie Bates wants to make an impact on those children’s lives. “PAWS for Love hopes to increase our dog placements as we get donors who have a heart for helping children with autism.”
PAWS for Love Assistance Dogs is sponsored by The Humane Society of Naples and supported by private donations. PAWS for Love partners assistance dogs with qualified clients at no charge. Please contact Jeannie Bates at (239) 775-1660 or email@example.com for additional information.