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Canine companions comfort children on autism spectrum

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Posted at 9:33 PM, Dec 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-13 23:33:56-05

SALT LAKE -- Children with autism spectrum disorders often struggle to connect with people, but for some reason many of them connect with animals, which is why a group called Canine Companions trains dogs to comfort children with special needs.

12-year-old Kruz Williams has high functioning autism, which in many ways makes him smart and creative. But he also struggles to build social skills, though much of that changed when he got a therapy dog.

“He makes me feel like I actually belong on this planet,” he said about his dog Sprugal.

The nonprofit matches the dogs' personalities with the kids.

And for 14-year-old Nathan Kerr, it's a friend he'll need as things begin to change.

“Nathan loves his family and his siblings, and that's why we were really concerned as they would grow up and move that he would really have a hard time with that adjustment process, so with the dog we are hoping that will ease some of that,” said Jessica Kerr, who is Nathan's mother.

In a short time, both boys have grown in confidence and have far fewer tantrums.

Canine Companions for Independence trains the dogs for an extended period of time before they give them to children, adults, and veterans who need assistance. The families completed a two-week training course to learn how to work with their service dogs.

To learn more about the program, visit their website.