Triangle man trains special breed of service dog for children with autism

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Man trains dogs for children with autism
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Mark Mathis says Briards are highly intelligent and can be a good match for kids with autism.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- People can get service and therapy dogs for a number of reasons and conditions. You've probably seen them for people who can't see or for those with PTSD. Some dogs can even sniff out someone about to have a seizure. Right here in the Triangle, a man trains a special breed of dog just for children with autism.

Mark Mathis started training Briards when his son was diagnosed with autism nearly a decade ago. Since then, he's placed 66 dogs with families and it's changed their life.

"With my own son, seeing him come out of his shell, seeing him talk more, interact more, literally being in a better mood -- it was an overnight quality of life change," Mathis told ABC11.

He says he picked Briards because they are a herding dog. That herding tendency can help curb autistic children who like to roam or run -- sometimes the children can even put themselves in a dangerous situations such as running into the street.

Watch what Mathis' Briards can do in this training video:

Mathis said he also chose Briards because they are fiercely loyal and can really feel and show emotion -- things a child with autism can have a hard time understanding.

Autism can affect a person's ability to communicate and interact. But when children with autism interact with their Briard, the dog loves and plays with them and there's no communication problem.

Mathis runs a non profit, Ry-Con Service Dogs. He works with the families so any child with autism who is a fit to have a service dog can get one.

For more information, check out Mathis' website or his Facebook page.

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