Coon Rapids family welcomes Can Do Canine for autistic son - KMSP-TV

Coon Rapids family welcomes Can Do Canine for autistic son

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After several years of waiting, one Coon Rapids is finally bringing home a specially trained dog to help to help a young boy with autism -- and they say the four-legged friend is already making a difference.

The Prenevosts say that when 7-year-old Jonathan met his new canine companion, it was like a light-bulb went on.

When it comes to building LEGO spaceships and monsters, it's clear Jonathan Prenevost has a knack for structure.

"He can do LEGO kits that 14-year-olds are supposed to be doing by himself," Pia Prenevost.

Yet, when the boy tries to speak, he struggles. It's a conflict many who live with autism spectrum disorders have to work with and through.

"We can see his intelligence," Pia Prenevost told Fox 9 News. "It's high, but we know that he's got some real significant challenges."

Autism can be characterized in varying degrees -- by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. Jonathan Prenevost wasn't diagnosed until he was 3-and-a-half years old, and his parents say since then, some days have been harder than others.

Although he has made progress with medication and therapy, his parents now say it's amazing what a difference a dog can make.

"Duncan isn't going to judge," Dan Prenevost said. "Duncan is just going to look him in the face, and be excited to see him and not have super high expectations."

Duncan is a 2-year-old Labrador mix and was trained to help people with autism. He entered the Prenevost household two months ago thanks to an organization called Can Do Canines which provides service dogs to people with special needs.

Already, Jonathan is flourishing -- even taking on new responsibilities now that Duncan is lending a sense of security and bringing a sense of calm. Although his journey with autism isn't over, his new best friend will make sure he doesn't have to make it alone.

Can Do Canines provides the dogs for free, but it does take quite a lot of resources and training to prepare the pooches, which is why there is a waiting list. Now that they have their dog, the Prenevost family plans to hold a fundraiser for autism awareness and donate all proceeds to the group.

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