Autism: Lucky brought Bernhard out of isolation
Parents are overjoyed / Dog makes the disabled child cuddle and talk
NUSSBACH / At six, he was afraid of other children, could only form two-syllable words, and turned away when his mom wanted to cuddle with him. Today, Bernhard (7) runs around the garden with neighboring children, speaks in sentences of genius, and shakes hands with visitors without being asked. “It’s a small miracle,” says mother Silvia Heissinger (30). The turnaround was brought by a four-legged family member, the 15-month-old golden retriever Lucky.
Breakdown news from the psychiatrist
“Your child has very strong autistic traits!” The diagnosis hit Silvia and Albert Heissinger not entirely unexpectedly. Bernhard had not started talking, sat apathetically in a corner with his toys, and was isolating himself more and more from the world around him. “Sixty percent disability,” the doctors determined.
Bernhard’s condition hardly improves, even in the remedial kindergarten. The parents don’t let up: they consult specialists and try all kinds of therapies with dubious success. At age four, Bernhard has an epileptic seizure, and the doctors diagnose a developmental delay of two years. When Bernhard entered the integration class of the elementary school in Schlierbach in September of the previous year, his developmental delay has not diminished: “He hardly talked, couldn’t count, didn’t know any colors,” says Silvia Heissinger. That’s when the parents make a decisive decision: a dog has to come into the house. At first, Bernhard and his two younger siblings, Marlene (5) and Norbert (3) did not welcome Lucky the golden retriever puppy at all: “All three of them were standing on the sofa and screaming,” says Heissinger.
While the two younger siblings soon romp around with Lucky, Bernhard consistently avoids the four-legged roommate. Lucky doesn’t accept this at all: “For half a year he ran after him and nipped him, we didn’t know what to do anymore. That’s when it hit him: ‘If I touch the dog, he won’t bite me.’ And within two weeks he was cuddling with the dog and a week later, with us. All of a sudden, the boy sat down with us on his own and gave us a hug. It’s an experience like that that brings tears to your eyes,” says Silvia Heissinger, her eyes welling up.
Now Bernhard has a best friend at school; he can count, calculate and read. “In one year, he has caught up on three years of development,” the mother can hardly believe it, “he certainly still needs encouragement, but he is actually a healthy child.”
Miracle healer on four paws
NUSSBACH / A four-legged playmate is at the top of many children’s wish lists. It was different for Bernhard Heissinger (in the center with his siblings Marlene and Norbert): The formerly autistic boy wanted nothing to do with Lucky and consistently avoided the new family member. But the golden retriever performed a small miracle. He brought Bernhard out of his isolation caused by his illness.
Note by Helmut Pilhar
A dog is a panacea for the constellated child. The previous problems fade away, and the whole world revolves around this dog. The child can thereby solve his constellation (conflicts become irrelevant) and, in the shortest time and in giant steps, make up for the previous maturation stop.