Boy with autism to receive service dog; needs your support

Autism affects as many as 1 in 68 children in the United States.

However, CDC officials say that number is as high as 1 in 34 for boys.

And while there are many therapies to help, man's best friend is one that seems to be doing some of the best work.

But these aren't just any dogs. They are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

They do a variety of things from nudging, pawing or licking a person to get a point across.

And for children with autism these actions can help with the sensory and social deficits they may suffer from.

For one Berrien County family it could be the solution they've been searching for.

Billy Arney has never owned a dog; however, the 12-year-old from Saint Joseph's Michigan won't be dealing with typical puppy problems because he is getting a fully trained yellow Labrador.

Billy suffers from Asperger's, a high functioning form of autism, which can give him difficulty interacting socially, but with the help of a service dog, those problems could vanish.

"It's not something that can be cured and we don't want it to be cured," said Michael Arney. "We want to help him as much as possible to fit in with his peers. We're hoping this changes his life."

While getting a dog can be a tough decision to make for any family, the benefits of a service dog make it an easy agreement for the Arney family, especially after Billy's first time meeting their dog, Riley.

"He was such a happy kid, he just relaxed," Jennifer Arney said. "He sat up and interacted with the trainer, asking questions and staying involved in the conversations. He ran up and down with Riley, he was just a different kid."

"I was pretty excited," Billy said. "And when we had to leave to go back home I was kind of upset because for once I felt really happy in a long time."

A service dog can help children with Asperger's in a variety of ways, including lying across a person's lap to provide deep pressure which has been described as therapeutic during situations of overstimulation, but one of the largest benefits Billy will see is socially.

"Mainly it will help me be more social," Billy said. "Sometimes at lunch I'll have a hard time talking to my friends but now there will be something to break the ice and start a conversation."

Owning a service dog quite literally comes with a price. Riley will cost the Arney's $12,000. While the benefits outweigh the cost, they are in need of some help.

You can donate money to their cause by clickinghere or you can send checks made out to Michael or Jennifer Arney to P.O. box 921, Saint Joseph, MI. 49085.

They will also be hosting a give back dinner on Wednesday, June 25th at Bistro on the Boulevard in Saint Joseph. Billy will receive 20 percent of the food revenues during the evening.

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