I think it's fair to assume that most A Club parents worry about the prospect of their children living a friend-less life. Many of us enjoyed the bliss of toddler-hood reveling in the false security of arranged play dates and "manufactured inclusive fun" for our kids. But as our kids age, their differences tend to naturally segregate them from their typical peers, cutting them out of social opportunities that, for typical kids, seem to be basic rites of passage.
So, what does any of this have to do with Charlie?
Back when we first contacted North Star, it was our understanding that the primary purpose of an autism service dog would be to provide a bridge between Tim and typical peers. Charlie is essentially a lure to typical kids, thereby creating opportunities for Tim to have social encounters and practice his language skills. In a way, having Charlie at his side makes Tim the "Cool Kid" - (surely everyone remembers the allure of that one kid in school who always had the cool stuff. ) While we've definitely witnessed the impact of Charlie on other kids, watching the evolution of Tim and Charlie's relationship has been far more compelling.
This all struck me this afternoon while Tim played in the yard with Charlie. He'd been disappointed earlier in the day when I explained that he wouldn't be able to see "the boys" (his little pack of blonde brit brothers) and then moped outside. It took less than a minute for Charlie to engage Tim and snap him out of his funk. The two of them frolicked and played for nearly an hour before coming in for dinner.
I derive a great deal of comfort from watching Tim engage with Charlie. But I was most moved when later that night I asked Tim who his best friend was. Without hesitation he replied, "Charlie."