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Yorktown's Guiding Eyes For The Blind Helps Autistic Children

Six-year-old Nicky Mitrione snuggles with his Heeling Autism dog, Kelso. The Mitrione family received Kelso one year ago from Yorktown's Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Photo Credit: Contributed
Eight-year-old Jasper Cole-Short of Port Chester will receive Heeling Autism dog Madison from Guiding Eyes for the Blind in April. Photo Credit: Contributed

YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- Yorktown's Guiding Eyes for the Blind is assisting children with autism.

With April marking National Autism Awareness Month, the nonprofit will welcome six families to its Yorktown Heights headquarters to meet the children’s new autism service dogs for the first time.

"Heeling Autism dogs ensure safety for children with autism and help them to develop lasting emotional and social bonds. As a result, families are able to lead more normal, less stressful lives. Parents often report other life-changing benefits as well, including increased independence, confidence and social acceptance," representatives said in a press release.

“Our April graduating class includes six very special dogs – Pekoe, Madison, Leila, Juanita, Loyal and Maple,” said Caroline Sandler, director of the Heeling Autism Program. “Each one has undergone extensive training to prepare for the road ahead.”

Having a Heeling Autism dog can be a matter of life or death as drowning is the leading cause of death among children with autism who wander away from a safe environment, according to the release.

“Kelso is the best thing that has happened to us,” said Lynda Mitrione, mother of six year-old Nicky, who received Heeling Autism dog Kelso last April. “Before Kelso, going out anywhere with Nicky was extremely stressful. He would constantly run away from us and we would spent more than half our time chasing him.”

Port Chester's Peter Short is thankful his family is receiving a Heeling Autism dog.

“We hope the presence of a Heeling Autism service dog in our home will finally allow us to travel as a family again,” said Short. “We used to travel regularly before Jasper's autism made it too daunting and hope that, with Madison, we can expand our family's horizons.”

The Cole-Short family will receive Heeling Autism Madison, one of the six dogs in April’s graduating class. “I know Madison will become Jasper's companion and friend. He will be able to navigate the world safely and more comfortably with her beside him,” said Short.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is at 611 Granite Springs Road in Yorktown Heights.

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