New programs transforms special needs adults

POSTED: 10:46 AM PDT May 09, 2013    UPDATED: 10:00 PM PDT May 09, 2013 
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -

There is a new free program in the Valley that is giving special needs adults a new lease on life.  It's an educational program that teaches life skills, but it doesn't involve books or calculators, rather a water bowl, and a leash.

Noel Gamel, a special education teacher for Palm Springs Unified School District, says, "The kids just connect with the dogs and magic happens."     

Lana and Amos are service dogs.  They are also teachers.

Michael Neu started K-9 Friendly Visitors after having a heart attack.

"I decided that I wanted a program that was completely different from other programs," said Neu.

Neu and his two boarder collies visit the adult transition program for Palm Springs Unified School District once a
week.

"Really the focus was about academic excellence, improving self-esteem and getting the kids to really reach their potential," said Neu.

They not only learn about the dogs, but they also take care of them, learning how to groom and walk them.

"The kids really understand the concept of team work and they really work together and there is no my disability your disability whatever," said Neu.

As they progress, the students are rewarded.  The week we caught up with them, the students chose seeing classic cars as their reward.

"I've been waiting for this day for my whole entire life," said student Kyle Deleon.

"It's very heart wrenching, but to be able to be here and be a part of this today it's probably one of the better Friday's of my life," said volunteer Todd Jackman.

In just four months the change has been dramatic.
 
"We have seen nothing less than miraculous results," said Gamel.

"The kids test scores are up, their self-esteem is up," said Neu.

"We are seeing increases in their attention and their retention in the information that they are being taught, their motivation," said Gamel.

Christian Posadas is 21 years old, and before meeting Lana and Amos he had never spoken a word  

"he was completely withdrawn and completely to himself," said Neu.

But one day that all changed.

"Christian just spontaneously just burst out and said, 'Lana,'" said Neu.

"He is just transformed," said Gamel.  "It is heart warming.  There is many times I wipe a tear away and clutch my heart because it is very heart warming.  I feel it to the depth of my being and I know that it means a lot to the students."

Right now Neu helps about 75 students in the Coachella Valley, but he hopes to help even more and eventually train dogs to live with each student.

"I'm not doing it for me, I'm doing it for these kids to have a better life," said Neu.

K-9 Friendly Visitors is a non-profit organization and is run entirely by volunteers and donations.  More for more information click here.