Why I Became Involved with PAALS by Sheri Levi
Years after my husband and I spent long weekends with our best friends and our dogs on Edisto Island, I turned my memories into a young adult novel. The fun began with creating unique relationships that transported the reader. I used my knowledge of teaching special needs children, which included children with autism, and my experience with training dogs. But what I really needed was a service dog organization. I found PAALS close to my home, and they have helped me write about the use of service dogs. They have supported my novels, and I support them with my book proceeds.
Facts you need to know about autism:
- Autism affects one in sixty-eight children.
- Autism is not a disease. The brain happens to
- Autism is an ability, not a handicap.
My favorite quote from Dr. Temple Grandin, born with severe autism and a professor at the University of Denver. “Autism is part of who I am. It has given me special skills.”
Dr. Temple Grandin helps families understand why children with autism flap their hands, spin in circles, make no eye contact, lack social interaction, use repetitive behaviors and can be verbal or non-verbal. She believes her life changed because of the people who believed in her and pushed her to interact in social environments. If you are interested in understanding more about autism, please watch or read, Seeing in Pictures, about Temple Grandin’s life.
I wanted to share about a very special person with autism.
Jorey Fleming received his service dog, Daisy, from PAALS four years ago. When he attended the University of South Carolina, college students approached him with questions about his dog. This forced him to speak to strangers and develop social skills. He began volunteering with extracurricular activities and started making friends. He has been in all the newspapers and news shows on television since December, 2106, for being the first person with autism to win the American Rhodes Scholar Award for 2017. He will be studying for his Master degree at Oxford this coming summer.
Thirteen-year-old, Trina has chosen to raise service dogs and have puppy after puppy. But during her seven-day beach vacation, Trina struggles with having to return Sydney at the end of the week and worries about her best friend changing into a stranger. To complicate the week, Sydney, meets a young boy with autism and the girls meet his two older brothers. Tension is raised over the guys, and Trina fears she’ll lose more than her service dog. Will Trina’s lose her best friend, also?
Uh, oh. The wind lifted the Frisbee into the air. It looked as if the disc had sprouted wings, and disappeared up and over the jetty. Sydney halted, staring at me. He was used to chasing his toy. His eyes asked for permission as his body quivered pent-up energy. Letting him struggle for a minute, I giggled and said, “Okay, Syd. Find Frisbee.”
I did a slow jog towards the rocks and seconds later, Sarah called, “Wait for me.” I did a slow jog towards the rocks and seconds later, Sarah called, “Wait for me.”
I turned around and stopped. “Wow, you’re joining me! Come on. I’ve got to
find Syd’s Frisbee. It’s on the other side.”
We climbed over the jetty. The dogs used their four-legged drive and moved much faster than Sarah or me. When we reached the top of the mound, Sydney stood a distance away with his Frisbee at his feet, leaning close to a small boy. The boy continued to pat the sand in his bucket and turn it upside down, making a row of mounds.
My heart did a triple beat in quarter time. I started running. Sydney’s stub wiggled and jiggled as soon as the boy’s sandy hands rubbed his back.
“I’m sorry,” I said running ahead. I bent, face to face with the boy. “I hope he didn’t scare you.”
The boy never looked at me, only at Sydney and back to the sand. He said in a monotone voice, “Doggy, doggy.”
Sarah meandered up to us. I panted in fast spurts. Worried about the boy and Sydney, I never noticed the rest of the group. A little way from the small boy, two guys around our age worked on a fort or it could have been a sand castle. The one who seemed to be the oldest, stood. He had long legs and was much taller than I expected. Using his hand, he shoved his longish brown bangs out of his eyes.
Oh, Sarah had definitely noticed. She smiled, pushed loose hair back into her braid and pulled her bathing suit in place.
I rolled my eyes. Okay. Here she goes.