Autism Assistance Dog Makes World Of Difference For Tulsan

Tuesday, February 18th 2014, 6:39 pm
By: News On 6

We know about assistance dogs for the blind and therapy dogs for people with mobility issues. We know about therapy dogs for those with diabetes or epilepsy.

You may be interested to learn there's also a program in Tulsa which provides assistance dogs to children and young adults with autism and other disabilities.

Bryan Harker and his dog Freddie, a big ol' chocolate lab, have been together since last year.

"One of my favorite things is all the fun we can have," Bryan said.

Bryan has autism, and Freddie is his assistance dog, his partner. So in addition to the fun, Freddie is specifically trained to help Bryan manage his autism.

Bryan's mom Paula says the relationship - in a word - is "fantastic."

Freddie sleeps with Bryan, and because he does Bryan sleeps through the night. He used to be up pacing several times and rarely got a full night's sleep. But Freddie helps Bryan stay grounded, according to trainer Mary Green.

"A person with autism might need the dog to provide some grounding techniques," said Mary Green, K9 Manners and More in Broken Arrow. They're the folks who do the training. It can last a year or two.

I saw for myself how Freddie positioned himself between Bryan and something that might cause him stress: the camera and me.

When Bryan gets particularly agitated or upset, Freddie will climb up in his lap and lie on him, forcing him to re-focus. It's the most amazing thing.

Something else that's amazing. High Aim, the non-profit that provides these dogs, does it for free.

"We take care of all expenses," said Lisa Bycroft of High Aim. She means everything. She says families have enough to worry about.

Bryan is a student at TCC. Freddie goes to class and everywhere else with him. Bryan's mom says the relationship is incredible.

"Having Freddie has made all the difference," Paula said.

And he'll keep doing that for years to come. 

Bryan is taking history, philosophy, and physics at TCC this semester. He eventually hopes to be a video game designer.

Learn More About High Aim Assistance Dogs