Luke’s eyes were closed and he was so peaceful and relaxed. For ten minutes Luke stayed like that. Bones never moved or seemed to get annoyed or tired of Luke; Bones just sat there as if he knew this was exactly what was needed. 

When Luke finally got up, he patted Bones on the head and walked away a happy, smiling, and very peaceful little boy. Normally we would have experienced escalated behavior from Luke, followed by a fallout period that would last from thirty minutes to several hours. That was the first time I realized how strongly Bones could affect Luke’s behavior, i.e., shorten the lengthy meltdowns and periods of fallout. We had just watched the first of many miracles take place, and the realization of how this dog was going to change Luke’s life had me in tears for hours.

That happened a year ago. Since then, Luke and Bones have been constant companions. Here are the top three enormous blessings we have observed since Bones joined our family:

1. Because of the service dog, Luke is now off all of his psychotropic medications; Bones has proven to be more effective in keeping Luke calm than any medication ever did. At times, this totally blows my mind because of the simplicity of it.

2. Luke tends to wander away and get lost, and when he is upset he runs away and hides. He also has no “stranger awareness” and would follow anyone anywhere. Bones is able to track Luke immediately, in any situation and any environment, and Bones can find Luke within two to three minutes. When at Boy Scout camp this past summer, Luke got lost twice because he wandered away. Each time, Bones found Luke within five minutes, keeping Luke safe and sparing the camp from being alerted and having to search for Luke. 

3. At 8 years of age, Luke had never slept in his own bed. Now he sleeps in his own bed every night with Bones snuggled next to him. 

The greatest blessing Bones has brought to Luke is the way that Bones “humanizes” Luke, drawing people to Luke for social interaction. The general public has a tendency to be overly harsh, critical, and unfriendly toward autistic individuals. This response limits Luke’s ability to interact with others, especially children his own age who tease or torment him. However, with a service dog at his side, Luke becomes a social magnet and people tend to accept his autism and disability—because the dog has accepted him. People ask Luke if they can pet his dog, ask questions about the dog, and in other ways draw Luke out into normal social situations with a positive twist to it.

Bones has been an incredible blessing for our family. If we had not observed the benefits firsthand, I would have not thought this possible. If you would like additional information, grab a tissue box and visit 4pawsforability.org. You can also email me with any questions you might have.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com  or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Rebekah Wilson continues to homeschool her eight children, one having earned a bachelor of science degree by age 18. All her children have moderate to severe learning disabilities; four are autistic. Rebekah is the former owner of Hope Chest Legacy, which closed in 2009. Rebekah is nearly finished with a dual degree in elementary and special education and is already working on fantastic products for homeschoolers with learning disabled and special needs children. She knows it, because she’s lived it! Contact Rebekah at staff@cahomeschoolisp.com

Publication date: November 19, 2012