January 13, 2011
Exploring the Animal/Autism Connection
by Sandra J. Gerencher
Children with disabilities are my inspiration. It’s real life. It’s what goes on every day. The people in my life inspire me such as my adopted son with autism and my special education students at school. I was once told my son, Terry, would never speak in full sentences. Yet he speaks to our dog, Chance, as if he can understand him.
We don’t know what’s going on inside an autistic child’s brain, but there’s something different in my son’s thought processes when he’s talking to the dog. When I stand outside his room, I hear him asking the dog, “Are you hungry? Do you want to play?” It helps him cope with some of the issues he’s dealing with.
I think animals can sense the good in people. He is more animated with the dog. They play together constantly. When Terry misbehaves I tell him, ‘”Chance is sad.” Then I ask, ‘What would Chance want you to do?” He always wants to make Chance happy. When I put it in terms of the dog, he responds right away.
My goal is to make children aware that there are kids with special needs. Kids nowadays aren’t exposed to people with disabilities. Being naturally inquisitive, they need to be taught why others are different. As an educator and mother, if I’ve accomplished that goal with one child, then that more than satisfies me.
Sandra J. Gerencher is the author of the children’s book, Second Chance: How Adoption Saved a Boy with Autism & His Shelter Dog. She is a special education teacher in Pennsylvania’s Bangor Area public school system. For over 20 years, she has worked with children and adults with special needs in such areas as counseling, behavioral research, crisis intervention and abuse therapy. Visit Chance’s web site at chancetheshelterdog.com. To purchase the book: visit amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
January 13, 2011
Book Review Second Chance
by Elaine P. Cantrell
Ryan is a young boy with autism who spent his life shunted from foster home to foster home. People don’t understand why he won’t look them in the eye. They don’t understand why he makes odd flapping motions with his arms and chews on his sleeve.
Chance is a shelter dog, a mixed breed whom nobody wants because he’s part Rottweiler and part German Sheppard. The people at the shelter say he’s ‘mouthy.’
The future doesn’t look especially bright for either of them until ‘Mom’ comes along and adopts both of them, giving them a chance for a happy, secure life.
I wanted to review this book because of my own grandson who has autism and because my heart bleeds for neglected, homeless animals. All of our animals are throwaways. (Three cats and a dog which is part German Sheppard like Chance.) I thought the book was well done as it shows how even those in need of a second chance can thrive in an atmosphere of love and permanency. It also shows the symbiotic relationship between a boy and his dog. The book won a PBS Recommended Title award.
Author Sandra Gerencher is well qualified to write the story because she’s telling the story of her own family. Sandra adopted both Ryan (whose real name is Terry) and Chance. The photos in the book are those of Sandra’s real life family. I especially liked the dedication of the book which reads:
I dedicate this book to my son Terry
The light of my life and my second chance.
And to anyone who has ever adopted a child or a shelter dog
and the ones who made my dream come true.
God bless you all.