SWDR a 501 (c) (3) organization in Madison, Virginia that provides service dogs to individuals with invisible disabilities, recently delivered a special Autism Service Dog to an 11-year-old boy to assist him with daily living. SDWR breeds and trains golden and Labrador retrievers to help people living with autism, diabetes, PTSD and seizure disorders.
Dominic, who lives in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. It’s been reported that his mom, Abigail, stated, “Dominic has frequent nightmares, self harm tendencies, elopement issues and self esteem issues. It pains us to see him struggle so much when he has such big dreams. He also has issues with heat and cannot tell when he is overheating. He has been hospitalized in patient five times and twice this year. Our family is a bit broken and we miss him always when he has to leave us.”
Dominic received a golden retriever autism service dog named Floyd, who was trained at the facility in Madison by SDWR’s volunteers. Floyd and his trainers must complete foundation training and skill set training before graduation. After graduation, his education continues in the home where he is placed.
Floyd is a honored graduate of a program that remembers fallen American police who gave their lives for their country. He is named in honor of Lieutenant Steven Romell Floyd, Sr.. Floyd, Sr. worked at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware. In 2017, he was killed during a hostage situation at the center. Floyd will carry on Floyd, Sr.’s legacy by working with Dominic. Floyd can go anywhere Dominic does, because he is a service dog wearing his service dog vest and covered under the ADA. Dominic can take Floyd to restaurants, to the store, to therapy and to school.
SWDR will continue to work with Floyd and Dominic over the next 18 months as the two adjust to each other. Every three to four months, trainers will have sessions with Dominic and his family to customize Floyd to help Dominic. Dominic will also get training to help him team up with Floyd. This is what makes SWDR’s program unique. Not only do the dogs get thousands of hours of training before placement, the training doesn’t stop after placement.
Autism dogs are trained to assist in many different ways, from calming down their handler who is having a meltdown, retrieving medication and providing redirection from repetitive behaviors. SDWR tailors its program for each client’s specific needs. Autism service dogs reduce family stress, make therapy more effective and can improve family dynamics.
Currently SDWR serves approximately 1,000 families around the globe. Over the past 7 years, they’ve had a 93 percent success rate with their model. The service dog is placed with the family once the training is completed, rather than having the family come to the center.
SWDR relies on donations to support their work. If you’re interested in learning more about their mission, please visit their website. Service dogs improve the quality of life and perform life-saving duties for individuals who struggle with invisible disabilities.