Service dog helps child with Autism make the grade - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Service dog helps child with Autism make the grade

Matthew Devers and his dog, Zed, are best friends. (Photo source: WLOX) Matthew Devers and his dog, Zed, are best friends. (Photo source: WLOX)
GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) -

For the first time in the Pascagoula-Gautier School Districts history, a service dog was allowed to walk the halls and sit in the classroom to help a student with Autism learn at a higher level.

Matthew Devers and his dog, Zed, are best friends. The 1-year-old Golden Doodle never leaves the third grader's side at Martin Bluff Elementary in Gautier.

“My brain thinks very, very differently than anybody else in this whole school, and Zed he kind of helps me with that,” said Matthew.

His mom, Brandi Devers said her son has disorder.

“Matthew has Autism, and that is why we sought a service dog for him. We really didn't know they existed and did some research on the internet and found that they exist. We went through the organization 4 Paws for Ability, and we had to raise $13,000 to be put in a class and have a dog being trained for Matthew,” said his mother, Brandi Devers.

Matthew's teacher, Jennifer Shuster, said having a four legged student in the classroom did take some getting used to for the other students.

“I was surprised when he came in,” Matthew's classmate said about the service dog.

“They ask a lot of questions about Zed, and Zed loves them,” Shuster said.

She admits since the service dog has been in Matthew's life, his behavior and willingness to learn have improved.

“When Matthew is scared, Zed is there to calm him down, and he will go down. Matthew holds onto Zed. I hold onto Zed. Matthew can't wander off, because Zed is right there,” Shuster said.

Devers agrees and is proud of her son.

“Matthew's focus has improved tremendously. He is able to finish a worksheet knowing that when I finish, I can get on the floor and love on Zed for a minute and get that comfort. The anxiety that went with I can't do this and I don't want to do that, the anxiety has decreased tremendously,” said Devers.

The hope is that the dog will continue to make a positive difference as the third grader strives to make the grade and live a happy, normal life.

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