Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 16, 2014

DELUCA: Pup can help Jack

Niagara Gazette — This is a story about a boy and a dog.  

Jack Schroeder was only 8 months old when his mom, Nicole, began to get the feeling that something was terribly wrong. Although his hearing seemed fine, he wouldn’t look when she called his name.  

After a round of doctors visits, the diagnosis came back. Jack, a beautiful little baby with big, dark eyes, had autism. It was such a simple diagnosis with such earth-shattering consequences. 

Over the past 10 years Jack’s parents’ lives have been devoted to caring for Jack in their tidy two-story Ransomville home. They don’t get out much because Jack’s behavior is unusual. He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t respond to social expectations. And sometimes kids at the playground say hurtful things that Jack may not understand, but his mother does. It hurts Nicole when she hears parents tell their children “Just stay away from him.” 

At home, he is always within her sight, or with his dad, Michael, a teacher at Oracle Charter School in Buffalo. Mom, a part-time nurse, is the researcher and advocate. Dad is the buddy.

Their household schedule so rigorous and Jack’s challenges so encompassing, that the Michael and Nicole debated long and hard about bringing another child into the world who might have autism. Blessed optimism ruled and their second child was born 10 months ago, perfectly healthy and not showing — thus far — any signs of the illness. Jack’s new brother is named Bobby, a tribute to father Michael’s love of history and the story of two other brothers.  

I drove out to their house the other day to meet Jack and his mom. He had just gotten off the school bus, and was enjoying the swing that hangs from a beam between the kitchen and the small living room.

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