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South Carolina Dogs Trained to Assist Children with Autism

Aren't dogs amazing? Every day we're finding new ways that they can help humans! Here's a sweet story from MyrtleBeachOnline.com. Dogs trained to assist local...

Joy  |  Dec 4th 2006


Aren’t dogs amazing? Every day we’re finding new ways that they can help humans!

Here’s a sweet story from MyrtleBeachOnline.com.

Dogs trained to assist local kids with autism
By Janelle Frost
The Sun News

CONWAY – Monique Clement said she wasn’t going to cry while viewing a video of her children interacting with a dog trained to help autistic children, but she couldn’t hold back the tears.

She held her son Thomas in her lap and rocked while they and her other son, Daniel, watched a video of the children meeting and playing with an assistance-trained dog named Sam.

The video, called “Autism Awareness,” was shown Friday during a conference hosted by journalism students at Coastal Carolina University.

The students organized the event to help bring attention to autism.

SOS Health Care Inc. has partnered with North Star Foundation to start a program in Horry County that involves pairing dogs with young autistic children.

Thomas, 3, was diagnosed in 2005 with autism and Daniel, 5, was diagnosed earlier this year with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that affects his development, Clement said.

She said the family looks forward to getting an assistant dog of their own.

“It’s another sense of security and another step in helping both of my children cope with autism,” Clement said. “Daniel needs it for the emotional benefit. Thomas needs it for his whole being. That’s why I want a dog.”

The Clement family and seven others in Horry County are waiting for dogs to assist with their autistic children, according to Bill Davis, director of SOS Health Care.

“This is the No. 1 birth defect in the U.S.,” Davis said. “We are trying to help these kids emotionally, socially and educationally.”

In the video viewed Friday, Daniel wouldn’t leave his chair at first, but later interacted with the labrador retriever Sam, who was seen running and playing with Daniel and Thomas in the video.

Davis and his wife, Elaine, trained Sam in their home. Sam now has been placed in a home in North Carolina.

The Davises hope to train hundreds of such dogs for children with autism in the Carolinas.

All of the dogs are coming from Patty Gross of the the North Star Foundation, Davis said.

Gross has written a book on assistant dogs for autism.

Davis said he expects to get the Clements’ dog in January and will train it up to a year before it can be placed in the Clements’ home.

“It’s just the beginning,” Monique Clement said.

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