Milford High School class gets Autism Assistance Facility Dog

Milford High School class gets Autism Assistance Facility Dog (WKRC)

MILFORD, Ohio (WKRC) - It's taken nearly two years, but a local teacher who launched a campaign to get a new addition to her classroom got her wish this week.

Milford High School has really welcomed a real “teacher's pet” in the form of an Autism Assistance Facility Dog that is trained to help a whole class.

After years of working as an intervention specialist with students with Autism, one day Trena Panko said a conversation with a student, which made her ask some questions to herself.

“Why do any of these kids want to come to school? What does school do for them?” Mrs. Panko asks.

School helps them learn and communicate, but Mrs. Panko also thought that: “They say 80 percent of your communication is nonverbal, so what better way to reach them, that through a dog?”

And so, the journey for “Buffy” began.

Mrs. Panko’s research showed individual students often use service dogs, but there was no dog for a whole classroom.

So, with the help of Four Paws for Ability, she raised nearly $20,000 to train “Buffy” for her whole class.

Buffy is now trained at everything from tethering, which keeps a student from wandering off, to communication and calming.

“The reason for getting her is that these kids need that tool, they need any tool they can get to sort of even the playing field,” said Mrs. Panko, whose goal is to get her students ready for a great big world.

“Only 15 percent of kids with autism are employed, so I needed a dog that could go on a job site,” said Mrs. Panko.

While she admits they are all still learning Buffy's benefit together, she hopes for the best.

“I don't know if it's going to work… I think it will work,” said Mrs. Panko.

Based on Buffy's response to the class, it seems like a safe bet.

Buffy is a 3-year-old golden lab, which is a mix of a golden retriever and a black lab. She does live with Mrs. Panko.

If you'd like more information on Four Paws for Ability, you can find a link here.

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