Children with autism often make a connection with animals – especially dogs. A camp near Rochester, N.Y., lets children with autism and other developmental disabilities, as well as neurotypical children, learn about brand new puppies. The camp is run by a married couple who breed Labrador retrievers, and the wife in that couple is an autism specialist at a local school district.
SPENCERPORT — Lauren Erlichman and Martin Yesowitch might not have spent their wedding anniversary how they expected this year, but the date was memorable nonetheless.
The Canal Road couple, who tied the knot on July 7, 2007, breeds Labrador retrievers. Their canine companions made sure their anniversary was extra special — and numerically aligned.
“We had our litter this week — seven puppies on 7/7,” Yesowitch says. That was just days after helping their 4-year-old dog, Macie, deliver her pups. “We got married on 7/7/07, and we had seven puppies on the 7th with our first puppy.”
That’s pretty amazing. Then again, so is the work that Erlichman and Yesowitch do.
For the second year, the couple is running the Labs of Love Puppy Camp for children ages 7 to 15. Kids learn about training and feeding dogs, as well as health issues, caring for the animals and running a kennel.
Some children learn even more valuable lessons.
Many kids in the week-long sessions have developmental disabilities such as autism, and Erlichman, an autism specialist with the Spencerport Central School District, said the puppies help those children socialize and become more confident.
“Animals speak a non-verbal language with people,” Erlichman says, paraphrasing Temple Grandin, a noted author and speaker who has autism and whose life story was detailed in an HBO movie named for her.
“There’s no talking back. They’re more in control,” she said.