Tupper Dunlop, an autistic child, no longer suffers from nightmares and no sleep after his parents got him a service dog. The transition for the boy has been downright amazing since this dog came into his life.
Tupper was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 2. His parents said that he wouldn’t even sleep for an hour at a time. Not only was his sleep disrupted with what was thought to be episodes of nightmares, but he would not make eye contact with anyone, nor would he respond to his name. Slight sounds would cause Tupper to have dramatic breakdowns, but loud noises would not affect him at all.
Nancy Dunlop told CBS News that Tupper would not sleep more than 45 minutes, and when he was laying in bed, he would just toss, turn, and cry.
“As parents, having a child who didn’t sleep or slept very minimally, it was physically and emotionally draining. Having a child cry, scream or appear to be in some form of discomfort, pain or stress, who can’t tell you what is wrong is very difficult. You feel very helpless, not knowing what to do to help your child.”
The couple finally decided to give a service dog a try. They found a 2-year-old yellow Labrador dog named Lego. Nancy could not believe the impact that Lego had on their family and on Tupper.
“The idea of a service dog for Tupper came from his love of animals We had a friend come over with her dog and Tupper engaged with him, playing fetch and chase, and was very happy and excited, laughing and squealing. This reinforced the fact that an animal might be a good support for Tupper and might encourage him to engage with others.”
After Lego came into their lives, Tupper has been more verbal and calm. The family has been able to take Tupper to the grocery store and other places without having to strap him into a stroller, and they often enjoy walks together.
According to Nancy, the sleep issues are no longer an issue, either. When Tupper did not have Lego, it took them over an hour just to get him to lay down. Now, it only takes a half-hour tops to get Tupper to lay down. What used to be less than an hour of sleep at a time turned into at least eight hours per night. Lego snuggles up with Tupper and takes the nightmares away.
“Lego has a great calming effect on Tupper and provides a companionship for when he needs to regulate himself. He’s being trained to help corral Tupper when he bolts. And he will engage Tupper by bumping into him or bringing him a toy to initiate play when Tupper is upset or overwhelmed.”
Studies show that dogs significantly improve confidence, independence, assertiveness, and social skills. Dogs also have been shown to help with a person’s health, including less stress and lower blood pressure.
Autism Speaks shares some important information about the benefits that dogs can provide to autistic children. Studies show that most autistic children who have had a dog since a young age had better social skills. Parents of autistic children who did not have a dog claimed that their children enjoyed interacting with dogs.
Gretchen Carlisle, an author and research fellow at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, made a statement that further encourages parents with autistic children to consider getting a service dog.
“Children with autism may especially benefit from interacting with dogs, which can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship.”
Further, Carlisle mentioned that bringing a service dog into a family’s life is a big decision and should be taken very seriously. She explained that some children can be sensitive to loud barks, for example. She emphasized that sometimes other pets are better suited for particular autistic children.
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