Parents with son on the autism spectrum turn to service dog to stop their son from leaving

PALM CITY, Fla - A major concern for parents of children with autism is they can quickly run away without knowing where they are going. 

Vanessa LeBlanc remembers the day her six-year-old son, Dacen, bolted from their house.

"I said who lets their kid run down the street, and I realized it was my son.  I jumped out of the car and I was screaming because we live off a main road," she said.

"My husband came running out of the house, and Dacen crossed the street. We're grateful that he didn't get hit. It was a very scary time for us."

That's when they decided to add Bastogne to their family. He is a service dog trained by Canines for Hope in Palm City.

"Our goal with Dacen and his dog Bastogne is to be able to have a dog that is capable of laying beside him indefinitely anywhere that he's going to be," said Jason DeVito, a dog trainer and owner of Canines for Hope.

When we caught up to them, Dacen and the two-year-old Labrador were in the bond-building stage of their training.

"Dacen sees a school bus driving down the street. He's interested so he takes off.  So Bastogne will help keep Dacen where he needs to be," said LeBlanc.

The key to Bastogne's training  is not letting Dacen run away

"The dog's going to be tethered to Dacen, where he'll have a waist leash that goes from his waist to the dog and the dog's trained not to run when he darts out," said DeVito.

If Dacen somehow slips out, they'll look to Bastogne to lead the search.

"Bastogne is in ongoing training to search him out and find him, recover him a lot faster than calling 9-1-1 and putting out a bulletin to search for our son," said LeBlanc.

When the training is over, Bastogne ideally will be  a service dog as well as a companion for Dacen.

"Dacen has really attached himself to Bastogne and I think Bastogne really likes him a lot. I think it's going to be good," said LeBlanc.

For more information about Canines 4 Hope, you can contact them at 772-631-4931, or