Grace and Blue –Then and Now

Grace was matched with Blue, a NEADS Service Dog for Autism, in 2017. We recently caught up with Grace and her parents, Corwin and Renee, and were so inspired by the impact Blue has had on their lives since they left NEADS almost four years ago that we wanted to share their story.

Talking with Grace’s parents on a Zoom call as they discussed their lives today, with Grace and Blue calmly sitting with them, it’s hard to imagine how it must have been before Blue joined the family. They described how difficult it was for Grace to make friends. How anxious she was in crowded situations and how too much noise would stress her out, making social engagements hard for Grace and her parents. At family gatherings, Grace and her mom would have to spend most of the time in a separate room in order to avoid the sensory overload any gathering could naturally trigger for someone with autism. Eating out as a family was a rare occurrence.

Changes happened quickly. Within just two to three months of Blue’s arrival, the family saw a difference. Grace loves being with Blue and she’s with her whenever possible. Blue sees her off as she goes to school each morning and is waiting at the bus stop when she returns. With Blue by her side, Grace is able to take part in their family gatherings. Visits to restaurants are possible. Blue is also a natural ice breaker, helping Grace meet and interact with others. Grace was even able to be on stage for a school graduation, knowing her parents had Blue with them in the audience. (The family noted that during the Covid pandemic, much of this activity has stopped, but they are looking forward to resuming their activities once it is safe to do so.)

All these changes have, in turn, reduced the anxiety Grace’s parents used to feel as well. “Blue has made a big difference in my life,” says Renee. “I’m much more relaxed and less anxious about how Grace may respond in different situations.” Adds Corwin, “Blue is so gentle and easy going that we all have gained confidence in social situations.”

The family didn’t take the decision to apply for a Service Dog for Autism lightly. But when Grace met a friend’s pet dog and responded positively, they started looking into how a Service Dog might be able to help. Grace’s parents understood the important role the parents have in helping their child and the NEADS dog create and maintain their bond and did everything they needed to integrate a Service Dog into their lives. And since neither of them had grown up with dogs, they committed to learn all they could about living with and taking care of a dog as well.

We’d like to thank Grace, Renee, and Corwin for sharing their story and hope they continue to benefit from having Blue in their lives.