DJ Haye and Autism Assist Dog Lex
For the first time in his life, nine-year-old DJ from Oakdale, Minn., was able to sleep through the night in his own bed. Holding the paw of his assistance dog, Lex, DJ had the comfort and security he needed to stay in his bedroom. The two-year-old black Labrador retriever took his job seriously on their first night together, cuddling right up next to DJ and staying by his side until morning.
“After nine years, DJ is now sleeping in his own bed,” DJ’s mother Jody says. “And that is wonderful because now I’m sleeping through the night!”
DJ has autism, down syndrome, and an immunodeficiency disorder. His limited ability to communicate and weakened immune system haven’t allowed him many playdates with other children. Prior to Lex’s arrival, DJ was often lonely and longed for a companion. Now as Jody describes, Lex is DJ’s best friend.
“They do everything together, from going to parks and school activities, to playing ball in the yard, or just hanging out or watching TV.”
While Lex is still getting used to DJ’s speech when given commands, he quickly learned to read his young partner. He seems to know when DJ is on the verge of a meltdown and will sit on alert at the top of the stairs, ready to offer his calming presence at a moment’s notice. Jody can tell that Lex cares for her son, watching him leave for school and eagerly awaiting his return home.
Lacking an understanding of real dangers and being easily overwhelmed to the point of tantrums made outings like shopping or going out to a restaurant challenging for DJ’s family. However, since Lex joined the family, the number of breakdowns DJ has in public have been cut in half.
“When we’re out to dinner, we don’t have any problems anymore. DJ stays nice and calm,” Jody says. “Lex rubs on DJ’s legs every now and again so that DJ knows that he’s there and that helps soothe him.”
Life has become easier for the family in other ways too. Trips to the grocery store and doctor’s office aren’t nearly as stressful as they used to be. With Lex by his side, DJ no longer has to ride in the cart that he’s outgrown and he’s stopped grabbing things on the shelves because he sees that “Lex doesn’t do that.”
Having once caused damage to his doctor’s office during a meltdown, DJ is now able to stay in the waiting room and remain composed during appointments. DJ eagerly introduced Lex to his doctor, who commented on the huge improvement in his behavior and communication since their partnership together.
To the all the people who made the partnership possible Jody says …
“This is one of the most wonderful things you can do for somebody. Anyone who sees DJ can tell that Lex has helped him. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Thank you to all those who made this partnership possible:
Puppy Raiser: The Doyle Family
Short & Long-term Foster Homes: The Inmate Handlers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Faribault; Craig & Kathy Steinmetz; The Weinreb Family