I wanted to start doing Fragile X Friday’s again. I had thought there was a graphic that another mom created but now I can’t find it. Can anyone help me? If I’m just imagining it then I’ll create one eventually.
I’m going to borrow another article from the Coutilish/Langan clan. This column is about therapy dogs. About 5 years ago I had looked into getting a therapy/social dog for Matthew. We lived in an apartment and he really needed a “friend.” The only way we could get a dog was if it was licensed. But I met my amazing husband, Kevin, who had a pit bull cross that adored Matthew. Matthew was able to waller all over Sissi and she loved it. So I passed on getting the social dog for someone who really really needed it. I think they are an awesome thing for those who need it. It is amazing what an animal can bring out in any child.
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Ted & the mom Nancy wrote this one. Addy & the dog Jake come to Andrew’s soccer games. They’re a great team! ~Mary Beth
COLUMN NAME: X-tra Special Advice
BY: Mary Beth Langan and Theodore G. Coutilish
HEADLINE: Therapy dog inspires son out of silent world
COPY: Bill and Nancy Doetsch of Grosse Pointe Woods got the idea for a therapy dog for their son, Addy, then 5, after talking with a relative who saw one sitting on an airplane seat in 2001.
“Addy had limited language and was not talking much,” said Bill Doetsch, 42. “We had great results with everything we had tried — dietary therapy, vitamin therapy, auditory therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy — except for language. The next step was a therapy dog for Addy.”
The family applied to Assistance Dogs of America Inc., which helps children and adults with special needs achieve greater independence by training and placing service and therapy dogs with families. The cost was not cheap at $10,000. The cost today is $15,000.
Within three months, they were approved for a 2 1/2 year old Golden Retriever therapy dog named Jake. “We fell in love with him immediately,” Bill Doetsch said.
Nancy Doetsch, 40, and Addy went through the required special training process. Addy learned how to work with Jake, go on walks, feed and provide him with water. The two quickly bonded.
“There is nothing like watching Addy and his boy Jake play or the unconditional love and bond they share,” Nancy Doetsch said. “His speech really took off after we got Jake.”
Within months, Addy began talking to Jake more than to his parents or his brothers, Alex, now 17, and a junior at Grosse Pointe North High School and Andrew, 18, a GPN senior.
“Jake would listen and love him back,” Bill Doetsch said. “Addy became more social. People would come right up to him to talk about the dog and he would answer their questions. Before he knew it, his social and language skills were developing unexpectedly.”
As time passed, Addy and Jake became inseparable. Addy grew out of his shell and started interacting more with his peers.
These days, Addy, 13, plays Neighborhood Club basketball and Red Barons football, and has age-appropriate friends while finishing up the sixth grade at Brownell Middle School, Grosse Pointe Farms. Plans are to continue attending Brownell next fall as a seventh-grader.
Addy Doetsch has been diagnosed with Aspergers syndome (AS), an autism spectrum disorder. According to Wikipedia, people with AS show significant difficulties in social interaction and restricted, stereotyped patterns of behavior and interests.
None of this matters to Jake, of course, and his BFF.
“He’s a really nice dog and he’s good to me,” Addy said. “He always plays with me and I love him.”
Sometimes, hanging around the doghouse can be a good thing.
For more information about Assistance Dogs of America Inc., visit adai.org.
Grosse Pointe residents Theodore G. Coutilish and Mary Beth Langan created this column to share experiences from their journey as parents of a child with Fragile X Syndrome [fragilex.org]. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.