SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The use of service dogs to assist people with autism is a growing trend that's not only changing kids' lives, but their families. That is true for one Horry County boy with autism.
Drakes Powell understands certain dangers and has never acted out in public, but something else led his mother to believe her son needed special attention.
Now with ABA therapy and service dog training, Drake's mother said she can't emphasize enough how much this program has helped change their family's dynamic.
Drake wasn't interested in playing with other children, or toys, and he had trouble communicating.
His mother knew it was autism.
So as soon as they could, Drake was diagnosed and when he turned one, he immediately started therapy.
"It wasn't a huge shock for me, I think it was almost a relief to be able to finally people that it's autism and that it's okay. We've just got to move forward and get him the help that he needs," Drake's mother Jill Powell said.
They soon found help with therapists, and a one-year-old furry face lab named Koda.
The Powell family learned about a partnership with Canine Angels Dog Services and the SOS Healthcare that utilizes dogs meant to use their skills in a different way.
"Once he learned, 'Hey I'm learning something from this, I'm doing better and I'm more independent,' the progression just sky rocketed," Powell said.
Drake has been training with Koda for about four months, and so far the bond has been good for them both.
Koda's tail never stops wagging, and Drake is happier than ever.
"He's interactive, he communicative, he's joyful, he laughs all day, he exercises, he plays all day, he's sleeping better, on every level it's a gift to be able to do something so grateful for families," Canine Angeles Founder Rick Kaplan said.
Koda has made a life-changing difference for Drake.
"His way of learning is totally different than other children, it has to be broken down in smaller parts, he can learn the exact same things just in a totally different way," Powell said.
While Koda plays a huge role, for three years, therapists have taught Drake how to write, match shapes, count numbers and learn sign language.
He went from absolutely no communication to signing for juice in a week after he started," Powell said.
The Powell's hope others with the same situation will not hesitate to get help they too might be missing.
"It's been a huge blessing for me, of course I worry every day, but I know he's where he needs to be and he's getting the help that he needs," Powell said.
For more information on if you apply for a having a service dog visit http://canineangelsusa.org/ or contact Jan Igoe at 904-806-9751.
If you're need ABA therapy, the SOS -Building Futures for Autism Clinic in Surfiside Beach contact is 843-712-1225.