Joey suffers from a form of high-functioning autism, known as Asperger syndrome. He can solve math problems in a snap, recite a book after reading it just once and loves to learn. But interactions with people are a different story.
“He has a hard time reading social cues or facial expressions, and there’s awkwardness around making friends,” Joey’s mom, Amanda Granados, told TODAY.
That was until he met Roxy. The floppy-eared pit bull captured his heart at an adoption event and for a $10 adoption fee, she changed his life forever. Besides getting Joey to open up, she also caused him to do the unimaginable: kiss his mother, something the boy hadn’t ever felt comfortable doing.
“I get emotional thinking about it,” Granados told TODAY. “For all those years, he wouldn’t hold my hand, he wouldn’t hug me — it was all part of the autism — but this dog has taught him how to give and show affection. He holds my hand now! He hugs me! The first time I got a kiss on the cheek was when Roxy came home.”
And Joey has a special spell over Roxy, too.
“As soon as Roxy met Joey, she totally ignored me and his mother,” adoptions specialist Denise Landaverde recalls to TODAY. “Amanda was happily surprised to see Roxy go straight to Joey and watch them play together. It just sealed the deal for her.”
This isn’t the first time a child with autism has a change of behavior, nor will it be the last. The outlet reports that a 2013 study found children with autism “were more likely to talk, laugh, make eye contact and show other positive social behaviors in the presence of guinea pigs than in the presence of toys.” Another recent study found that a pet dog can help a child with autism learn about responsibilities and provide companionship.
For Joey, he is just happy she is around. “It’s amazing to have a friend like this,” he told the outlet.
H/T TODAY, images via TODAY.