The dumb child, Asperger’s syndrome and his snuff dog

This is the story of an encounter. Not of any one but of a special one: of the life-saving ones. The protagonists are respectively two-legged and eleven years old, and four-legged and eight years old. Two difficult lives, two respective pasts of misunderstanding and loneliness and the desire to redeem themselves from pain.

Giulio, the “strange” child
Giulio (invented name) is eleven years old. He is a different child, so they say. He has two large and deep eyes with lashes so thick and long that they give his gaze a magnetic depth. He has a small, potato-like nose that gives him a disarming sweetness, which seems to clash with his being so austere. His cheeks are ruddy and have two lateral and symmetrical dimples that manifest themselves in all their sympathy those rare times that his face wrinkles in a grimace that vaguely resembles a smile.

He is usually a sad child.

Giulio, by all, is considered a strange child. He is silent, he does not like company, on the contrary he takes refuge. The teachers, in concert, tell the mother to have him visit a specialist because Giulio is a student who does not socialize and has stereotyped and repetitive behaviors that do not bode well. Giulio started speaking very late and is not always able to express what he feels.

From an early age, the world of words seemed to him a mysterious place that he could not access.

Every now and then he becomes enraptured by who knows what, an attitude that infuriates his mother and teachers and that drives his classmates away.

His interests are not many, but those few are his everything for him. He loves ships, cars and Snuff, his dog.

Keeping it in class has always been very complicated. He has no patience. Do not listen. He does not follow the lesson or even the rules.

At school the dumb child is called, the child who does not look, the bully, the child who speaks only of dogs: the strange one.

Giulio’s life moves on two parallel tracks: the school which is a real disaster and the house where he alternates his mother’s reproaches with moments of blissful solitude, always closed in the dark room where he can finally play with his ships and his toy cars. Always in vigilant surveillance of his four-legged friend.

Smell and love
Another silent and lonely inhabitant of the family has four legs and is called Scent. Traces of several Molossers happily coexist in his DNA, probably a Rottweiler, perhaps there is also a trace of a Labrador or some other large dog.

Its size is powerful, its musculature powerful and reminiscent of the cuirass of medieval armor. Strength and endurance are central to his temperament and her behavior around the house.

Scent has a strong character, perhaps too much, often touches stubbornness and infuriates Giulio’s mother. He is big and powerful, he doesn’t know what fatigue is and not even pain. He immediately showed an almost morbid attachment to his family, but above all to his little master.

After all, knowing him better, his stubbornness and stubbornness have never been a threat to the family, but they certainly frighten strangers. His character, after all, is an oxymoron of intemperance and sweetness.

He tends to be more reserved with foreigners and runs the risk of appearing aggressive, but in the end he has never been unless he perceives elements of danger for his human cub: Giulio.

In that case he grinds his teeth, gets dark in the face and stands horizontally in front of the child as if he wanted to become his living wall on all fours.

Family and abandonment
Giulio’s parents could not cope with the stress of Asperger’s syndrome and his father, on the run, left the house and after all his son too. This event destabilized Giulio who closed himself more and more in his reassuring, obsessive and defensive rituals. Even Fiuto was affected by this change in the house, and he too, like him, began to protest.

Fiuto did not imagine having to play such an important role that, in his imagination, it was that of leader of the pack: guardian of abandonment and of the family.

The diagnosis
At the age of six, after various pilgrimages and the endless anxieties of his parents, little Giulio was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

A complex and multifaceted syndrome that gives a name and a surname to its oddities; which explains his annoyance with light and noises, and noisy companions, his difficulty in communicating emotions and decoding those of others, his unbridled passion for toy cars and ships and his sulking and silences. All of a sudden the darkness becomes light to become dark once again. After the diagnosis, the road is difficult and knowing what Giulio has does not help his mother to heal him.

He always remains an oppositional child, who does not like the occupational therapy that is prescribed to him, psychomotor skills and not even speech therapy and speech therapist. He refuses and becomes the usual dumb child with downcast and sad eyes.

After all, Giulio and Fiuto have many things in common. They don’t like confusion, they are loners. They do not like noises, sudden news and are very habitual. They love rituals, their games, mum, snacks, their room, and most of all they love each other. Deeply.

They love each other with that love that does not need words, proofs, demonstrations, explanations.

Fiuto has always been an atypical Molosser, in reality, especially at home, he looks like a hound: his main activity is to follow Giulio.

Giulio is an atypical child: he can’t stand other children, also because they don’t understand him, and he deeply loves his dog, which basically resembles him a lot.

Giulio’s therapy has always been very tiring: he found it difficult to do speech therapy, he became nervous and hardly ever collaborated. His face was darkened especially when he was near the speech therapist’s office. From the penultimate corner he began to fidget to close himself in his usual silence. The mother no longer had tools or even energy, she was a woman very tried by her life and by her Giulio.

Things changed when, once, by pure chance – because after Giulio’s therapy they would have had to go to the vet for the annual booster of their dog’s vaccine – Fiuto had to accompany Giulio to the speech therapist. Giulio’s mother immediately realized that the child was different: more serene, less worried, brighter, and the usual penultimate curve had gone unnoticed.

So, timidly, he asked the speech therapist if by chance he was allowed to let the dog into the therapy room. The girl immediately agreed to try to work with Giulio.

And it was magic right away. The child was clearly more serene, less oppositional and dark, and Scent, proud of his new role as co-therapist and good squire, sat quiet and good sitting next to his great little love.

From that time on, Fiuto was awarded a new role: speech therapist assistant and psychomotor assistant.

Sniff too was showing signs of change. This new role of his has softened his character and smoothed out his rough edges. The sessions were good for the child and for the sweet and shady four-legged.

The therapy for Giulio is called Scent, he has four legs and a big and powerful heart. And he continues all the moments of his, their life together.

I thank Giulio’s mother, my patient, for authorizing me to tell this marvelous love story.

* Valeria Randone is a psychologist, specialist in clinical sexology, in Catania and Milan ( and author of book “The repairer of hearts – Words that repair”. Her great passion for dogs led her to write for LaZampa too

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The dumb child, Asperger’s syndrome and his snuff dog