From 2 Words to 200: How A Dog Transformed the Life of a Boy With Autism
As told by Tupper’s mom, Nancy
“Since Tupper was born, he had problems falling asleep and staying asleep, and I was a zombie for the first two years of his life. Tupper was unable to sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time, and he would wake up screaming at the slightest sound in the house.
Tupper was diagnosed with autism when he was just over 2 years old. As an infant and toddler, he made little eye contact and would self harm, banging his head on the floor or the wall. He had no language at the time, so he couldn’t tell us what was wrong. We were running out of ideas with no end in sight.
That is, until a family friend happened to visit with her Jack Russell terrier. Tupper immediately ran up to the dog and started interacting with him. Our friend continued to bring the dog over, and everyone noticed how happy and engaged Tupper was when the dog was around. When Tupper said “hi” to our friend, we knew that the dog was more than just a playmate to Tupper, and we were hopeful that Tupper would benefit from a service dog of his own.
Tupper spoke fewer than 10 words when we got Lego; within six weeks, he had full command of over 200 words!
When Lego arrived, he was trained in basic etiquette and was able to respond to Tupper’s cries and calls for attention. As their bond grew, Lego became more receptive. Over time he has learned which positions are most effective to hold Tupper in, when he needs to be compressed, and when he just needs Lego to bring him a dog toy to distract him.
I used to have to sleep on a mattress beside Tupper’s bed to comfort him from the constant nightmares. Now, I only need to check on him once or twice a month.
With Lego by his side, Tupper can now leave the house and go on regular family outings, and we can all just enjoy being together.
As Tupper says, “He takes care of me. And he also protects me from bad guys!”