Poodle combats autism in local elementary school

WEST LAKE HILLS, Texas (KXAN) — If you’re a parent or friend of a child with autism you know the challenges it can bring. For a local second grader, life is drastically changing. The morning routine is changing a bit at Barton Creek Elementary.

As soon as Conor Corrigan arrives the 8-year-old and his new best friend are literally joined at the hip.

“He just seems to be content and seems to be comfortable at school with Peyton by his side,” Life Skills teacher Caroline Kelner says as she introduces KXAN to Conor and poodle Peyton.

“We had time set aside to strictly talk about autism, talk about Conor, talk about service dogs, talk about why Peyton was coming to school to help Conor.”

Conor was diagnosed with the learning disability when he was 16 months old. The last seven years have not been easy.

“His initial reaction to any change is to scream, fling himself on the floor. And then it was picking him up trying to console him,” explains his mom Shelly.

That’s where Conor’s partner comes in.

Meet Peyton, the Poodle especially trained to help children with Autism. (KXAN  Photo)
Meet Peyton, the Poodle especially trained to help children with Autism. (KXAN Photo)

“Even if he does do that Peyton will lie on top of him, give him that deep pressure, and that episode will last seconds rather than 15 minutes,” she adds.

Conor and Peyton been together about a month and Conor’s good friend next door already sees a difference.

“He has been a lot more brave and has been more.,. trying to talk to people,” Nina said.

Nina hopes others see what she’s seen all along.

“When you get to know him a lot you’ll learn that he’s really nice and sweet. He’s not trying to be mean or ignore you. He just… he can’t community that well with us.

But even that is improving with the partnership with Peyton.

“We went from not being able to speak at all to now he told me it was a really nice day on Saturday. Spontaneously,” Shelly said.

The goal is for Conor to gain more confidence and independence which should come as the two grow closer.

Peyton is the first four-legged student to ever walk the halls in Eanes ISD. The family is just $2700 shy of raising the $15,000 for the specially trained dog.

Conor’s mom plans to set up a non-profit to help other families with autistic children afford a service dog.

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