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Fighting autism one dog at a time

Parents call son's canine companion a 'blessing'

March 12, 2013

It may be difficult to understand how Evan Danielski of Waukesha and his standard poodle Garlic are different from any other 6-year old boy and his dog during play time. But when the red vest comes out, Garlic gets to work.

One in 88 American children have some form of autism. A syndrome more commonly diagnosed in young boys, 1 in 54 boys fall on the autism spectrum. Evan just happens to be one of those boys.

Evan, 6, was diagnosed on the autism spectrum when he was only three. Every day he is affected by impulse control, social interaction, and verbal communication problems.

The son of Mark and Joy Danielski, Evan was the third of four children. His diagnosis and general behavior changed the way the Danielskis were able to manage their family.

"Because of Evan's autism, at times it does make it difficult to all be together in public places. Evan's attention span and impulse control is not that of a typical 6 year old," Mark and Joy wrote "We have really tried not limit what we do as a family, however, at times it can be challenging."

After spending time with other parents and children who were dealing with autism, the Danielskis heard about a nonprofit volunteer organization called Custom Canines. The group, based in Madison, pairs special needs individuals with dogs trained for visual assistance, mobility assistance, or in Evan's cause autism service dogs.

After an application process and a home visit, Evan was paired with Garlic who was trained to assist those withautism at no cost to the family.

"Marlene Morga, Custom Canines Autism Program Director, would be the first to tell you that Evan was no dog lover. But now, Evan willingly interacts with Garlic on his own, giving him hugs and tries to play with him," the Danielskis said. "The bond between Evan and Garlic continues to develop every day."

After spending many months with volunteer trainers, Garlic went home with the Danielskis in July of 2012, right before his first birthday.

"Custom Canines really took the time to get to know Evan, and us as a family to find theperfect dog to fit our family's needs," the Danielskis said. "The fact that Custom Canines was able to provide Garlic to us at no cost was a dream come true!"

Mark and Joy said that Garlic is a "blessing" and helps them live a more normal life as a family. Using a leash and tether, Garlic walks around with Evan and in turn, keeps Evan from wandering off to something that grabs his attention. Autism service dogs also help their owners socialize, calm themselves, and can provide stability through constant companionship.

During the day, Evan attends Meadowbook School in Waukesha. He attends special speech therapy, specially designed physical education and play-based autism therapy. To assist further in his speech, Evan does Rapid Prompting Method training, a method that helps children with nonverbal autism develop alternate communication and social skills.

All of these methods have helped Evan to lead a more normal life like his threesiblings. Ages 10, 8, and 3 Mark and Joy say that Evan's brothers and sister understand that he is different. However, they love him just the same.

"They all love each other very much and look after Evan. Garlic has bonded with the entire family. The kids think it is pretty cool that Garlic is able to go many places with us that other dogs would not be allowed," the Danielskis said. "They understand that when Garlic is wearing his service vest, and working with Evan they need to let Garlic work. But at home, when the vest comes off, its playtime for everyone."

Autism Event

Who: Autism Solution Pieces and Custom Canines Service Dog Academy

What: Rockin' for Kids and K'9s featuring Liverpoop '64

When: 6 p.m. Friday, March 15

Where: Oak Creek Community Center, 8580 S. Howell Ave., Oak Creek

Cost: $10 in advance, $15 at the door; children 10 and under $5, children 3 and younger are free

Contact: Cindy at (262) 639-3041

What's More: Rock the night away to great Beatles hits, learn more about autism, and come meet the autism service dogs; also silent auction, kids & 50/50 raffle, Beatles memorabilia and autism merchandise for sale

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