Providing Learning Support for Students with Mobility Impairments Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

Matt P.

Matt first came to IDI back in 1989, when he was 10. Born with TAR Syndrome, Matt had no arms or knee joints. If he fell, he couldn't get back up on his feet without assistance; once while he was playing alone, he waited 30 minutes for someone to come and help him. Matt needed a dog to give him the independence and confidence he needed to go through a normal day without assistance. Because Matt was not expected to grow, we selected a collie-mix to be his partner. Ginger was trained to stand and brace while Matt pressed his back against her shoulder and worked his way back up into a standing position. She also learned to help Matt up kerbs and stairs, turn lights on and off, push elevator buttons, and carry Matt's school books and supplies home in her saddle bags. At last, Matt could go to school like everyone else and not have to depend on anyone for help. In Matt's words, Ginger had become his arms.

To everyone's surprise, Matt defied his doctor's prognosis and did grow over the next three years - enough to outgrow Ginger! So Matt came back to IDI for a bittersweet pairing with another, larger dog. Rocky, a pure-bred Golden Retriever, was selected for his size, temperament, and ability to better accommodate Matt's taller and heavier stature. In 1991 Matt graduated again, this time at the age of 13.

Today Matt is 20. About two years ago, his mother sent us a copy of his high school graduation picture, and told us in her letter that Matt and Rocky had just gone to the senior prom with Matt's date. Matt is a Junior at nearby University of Delaware. He plans to become an attorney - and we all know who will happily carry his law books.

Adapted from web page of Independence Dogs (US)

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock