Ten-year-old Matthias has a rare genetic disorder called Williams Syndrome that leads to disabilities due to deletion of genetic information. His mother Leah first heard about Canine Companions from a family friend and was amazed by what she heard. “When she said the dog was free, I was stunned. Everything costs more when you have a kid with a disability. You’re always fighting for someone to help pay for something that your kid needs, like therapies, camps or medications.”
Matthias goes to an average of three appointments each month with his doctors — a cardiologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, endocrinologist, pediatrician and an allergist, among others. In addition, he goes to up to eight therapy appointments per month to help manage the effects of his disability. These effects include developmental delays and difficulty focusing, regulating emotions or processing sensory information. It’s often hard for Matthias to make friends his own age.
But Leah wants you to know that there are good things about Williams Syndrome as well. Matthias has a deep affinity for music and an amazing memory for people, songs and events. Time and again, he deeply affects and reaches people he hardly knows by simply noticing them and interacting.
Leah and Michael wanted Matthias to have a companion that would offer constant, unconditional love. They also hoped that taking care of his assistance dog would increase his self-esteem and provide a motivator for him to become more independent.
Matthias received Skilled Companion Aubrey in August 2015. Aubrey is already helping Matthias and, by extension, the rest of the family. On a recent trip to the grocery store, Aubrey helped turn two small moments from potential crises into triumphs. When Leah saw the long lines at checkout, she prepared herself to leave their full cart in the store, because it’s usually too hard for Matthias to wait in a line. But Leah was able to use Aubrey’s patience to inspire Matthias to be patient as well. And when Matthias saw merchandise from his favorite sports team on his way out of the store, he cheerfully left the team gear behind when Leah asked him to show Aubrey the door.