How one service dog is changing the lives of an autistic boy and his family….
6 year old Lex Hitchins is an incredibly bright boy who loves science, math, facts, and figures. He is obsessed with Neil de Grasse, Tyson’s Cosmos, letters, numbers, and patterns. In fact, Lex is so intelligent that his mother Tianna, describes Lex as her ” little introverted professor”.
When Lex was just 22 months old, he was diagnosed with autism. According to the Autism Speaks Organization Website, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. Symptoms and severity may also widely differ from one person to another.
In addition to ASD, Lex has a co-diagnosis of hyperlexia/hypernumeracy (which is an above normal ability to read and understand numbers coupled with a low ability to understand spoken language). He also has a tendency to elope which means to run away or leave areas without permission.
Lex’s tendency to elope increasingly began to hamper the Hitchins family day to day activities. They were restricted from going to public places for fear that Lex would run away. Lex was also having a hard time with transitions. It was difficult to get him to comply with moving from one activity or one place to another without great resistance. Additionally, being in public would cause Lex to become overstimulated which would result in autistic breakdowns.
Cricket to the rescue..
That’s when the family decided to find help. In October of 2015, they contacted 4 Paws For Ability, an organization that provides service dogs for those with special needs. The 4 Paws Organization found an assistance dog for Lex named Cricket.
Cricket (as a pirate)
Cricket is specifically trained to help kids with autism. She is tethered to Lex at all times in public places to prevent him from eloping and can even track Lex if he runs away. Additionally, Cricket is trained to detect when Lex is on the verge of an autistic breakdown. She can notify Lex’s parents before the episode occurs by pressing her body weight into their legs. Cricket can even move Lex into a lower sensory input area to help calm Lex’s anxiety.
Lex and Cricket
Cricket is well loved by the Hitchins family and by everyone she meets. Like many other families who have service dogs, Cricket has changed her family’s life for the better. Now the Hitchins can enjoy time together in public places without fear of Lex eloping or having an autistic episode. Cricket is truly an exceptional service dog who has faithfully served and protected Lex.
Pediatric Therapy Center offers exceptional, patient-centered occupational, physical, and speech/language therapy for children with autism. If you feel your child is exhibiting any signs of autism, or is struggling developmentally in any way, call PTC at 713.772.1400 for a consultation with one of our experienced therapists today.
If you would like more information regarding service dogs please check out these websites:
If you would like more information about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):