It was time...Nolan was going into 4th grade and lacked that emotional connection to that one special friend. I needed a solution to the problem. Then it dawned on me...GET A DOG! I thought to myself, "Am I crazy?" "Do I really need MORE responsibility?"
So I tinkered back and forth with the thought of it, and trust me, I tinkered more toward the "no" side for a LONG time, but then I saw it...the way he reacted and responded when my sisters brought over their labs (they both have yellow ones). NOLAN WAS IN HEAVEN!!
According to the "Journal of Pediatric Nursing", a study questioned parents of children who had Autism about how their children interaction with dogs.
94% of those families who have dogs said their ASD child had bonded strongly with the animal
7 of 10 of the families who did NOT have a dog said their child enjoyed interacting with dogs
After seeing the connection Nolan had to the pooches in our family, I thought to myself, A DOG IT IS!! I was ready and willing to do it...a service dog for Nolan was in the cards for us. I just knew it!
AND THEN REALITY KICKED IN...
I researched the estimated cost and amount of training required for a service dog. Yeah, acquiring a trained service companion wasn't in the cards for our family after all. I couldn't bear the related expenses or financial requirements needed to obtain and train a service dog on my teacher's salary. NO WAY!! I accepted the reality and I knew it was time for me to look elsewhere for a canine buddy for Nolan.
I immediately went into detective mode. I spent hours researching websites about ASD kids and dogs. I was looking for a breed that has a reputation of being well-tempered as well as dogs known for helping boys like Nolan reduce his anxiety levels and improve his ability to develop a special connection to a friend. I was also searching for a playful pup that could get along with the king of the house, Wrigley, our cat. Wrigley is in charge around here and he is Nolan's #1 protector :)
That buddy happened to be a 4-legged, furry friend (a Labrador Retriever) named Lexi!
No, Lexi isn't a service dog, nor is she a therapy dog, but having Lexi for a little over a year now, the connection Lexi and Nolan have is undeniable! Watching them run and play in the front yard and watching his eyes light up while they do it...well, it is AMAZING! The first thing he says after school... "Mommy, Lexi house." He wants to go home and just feel Lexi's presence. He is aware of her presence at all times (our kitty too). I believe just knowing she is there gives him a sense of calm.
Yes, sometimes the "puppy" in Lexi can be a bit much for Nolan...AND ME! Sometimes I wish I could press the mute button to stop that barking! ;) Yes, there are times when Lexi may not understand that Nolan needs to be alone, but she is learning what works and what doesn't work. So are Nolan and I! Lexi can also be a pain in my buttocks from time to time...she is still a puppy, but Nolan and I wouldn't trade her in for the world! We are working through this journey together. All I know is that she is a great addition to our already family of 3.