Atlas Anderson is the youngest autistic person in Canada to receive the company of a specially trained service dog.
Harris, a Labrador cross is the newest member of the Anderson household, having been bred and then trained specifically and extensively to support an autistic individual with communication, comparative to a canine life jacket for the little boy.
Harris joined the family from Orangeville, Ontario in October, having been reared by National Service Dogs at a cost of around $30,000. Their jobs are to keep their wards safe and to stop them from running away, or wandering. The 70 lb dog is “tethered” to Atlas using a nylon belt which is wrapped around the boy’s waist to the dog’s harness.
Atlas was diagnosed with severe autism at age 2. He loves hugs, and has SPD, or sensory processing disorder, which explains his desire for hugs, and weighted blankets.
His mother Kat Anderson, 34, talking to the Toronto Star said:
“It’s that feeling of resistance. It’s almost like the universe isn’t providing enough physical input for him. “
Atlas can match 20 cards in a memory game on his iPad with ease and recite episodes of Blue’s Clues word for word. But yell “Danger, stop!” and he won’t.
Watch this video from Toronto Star, broadcast Jan. 4, 2014.
His parents don’t know how much of this positive new attitude is attributed to Harris the dog, but previous studies into the benefit of pets and support animals for children with autism, show they are a positive reinforcement and company in what can be a very insular world.