Tonight I saw pride in my little boy’s eyes. A sight I don’t get to see often enough. I sight that made my heart overflow with joy.
Tonight, my son attended Vacation Bible School with his service dog, Lugnut. While he was there, a group of about 10 children, all his age, swarmed around him, getting as close as they could. That alone would have caused turmoil a year ago, but not tonight.
The group of kids all wanted to be around my son, and they all wanted to talk to him…. Why? Because of a dog.
“Can I pet your dog?”
“Your dog is so pretty!”
“I LOVE your dog!”
“What is your dog’s name?”
Your dog is so cool!”
“What is your name?”
He had trouble answering the questions. His verbal skills are still limited, especially in the midst of so many distractions, but that didn’t matter. I prompted him to answer what he could and I answered the questions for him that he couldn’t. All the while, he just stood there, looking at each and every child, his hand gently stroking his dog’s head, smiling, beaming with pride.
Why is it such a big deal? Because my son has autism. Just a year ago, as we were awaiting the arrival of his service dog, he attended VBS, tethered to me to keep him safe. He was made fun of for that. Kids teased him for not being able to talk and for walking around on a leash like a dog. He didn’t cry, but I did. I just wanted those kids to look at him with different eyes, to give him a chance… but, all that is in the past now. Tonight, my son is still tethered to a leash, but that leash is tethered to a great big, beautiful, furry dog. Somehow, that breaks down a barrier and is allowing my son to simply be seen as a kid… a kid with a really cool dog. For that, I am grateful, and so is he.