MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
It's Tuesday morning at the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center in Montgomery and Frances McGowin and 'Lilly' have joined hand in paw to help children who are facing challenges so early in life.
We'll scratch beneath the surface and begin with 5-year old DeAndrew Coleman.
"He's ADDH and has 4 or 5 seizures," said Coleman's mom Charlie Mae Holcombe.
DeAndrew comes to the Easter Seals twice a week for speech therapy, trips he often didn't like to make but now he can't wait to come here, all because of 'Lilly,' a white Lab.
"He's a completely different child," said Holcombe.
Different in the sense that DeAndrew wasn't making much progress, according to Holcombe, but today, a phenomenal change. Letters are coming out a bit more clearly and:
"Lilly calms him down," said Holcombe.
Carolyn Ecker is seeing the same kind of results with her son Chatman who Ecker describes as having a 'mild range of Autism.' Chatman's articulation is getting better, especially with the letter 'L,' as in Lilly.
"Look, Lilly," Chatman said as he tossed up a cracker for Lilly to gobble up.
Using therapy dogs is nothing new, an old practice that's been around since World War 2 and they come in all sizes, trained to provide affection, comfort and respond to command.
Frances McGowin says there's no doubt who's in charge and who the star is.. and it's not her.
"Nobody knows my name. Lilly's the star of the show," McGowin said with a chuckle.
So what is it about Lilly's presence that helps children like DeAndrew and Chatman improve. After all Lilly just sits during the children's speech therapy sessions, minding her own business and catching a few crackers every now and then, but the way McGowin describes it, something happens.
"It's hard to say but it's very magical. She gives positive reinforcements and they get to pet her. She has a calm presence about her," said McGowin.
Chief speech therapist Kathy Welch will tbe the first to admit she had reservations about a dog helping her do her job. Not anymore.
"We had one young man with major behavioral problems. When the dog comes in the room, we have no behavioral problems," said Welch.
DeAndrew Coleman, Chatman Ecker and 'Lilly,' no question the 70-pounder is helping the boys turn the corner in their struggles.
Lilly makes a difference by simply being near and dear.