About The North Star Foundation

At North Star, our clients are children whose challenges range from autism to serious medical conditions to grief over the loss of a parent. All these children have family members who are similarly affected and whose needs are factored into our services.

Traditionally, Assistance Dog were highly trained to mitigate a specific disability (i.e., seeing eye or wheel-chair work) for predominantly adult clients, with very little preliminary or follow up contact. At North Star, we're focused on children.

We're known for setting the gold standard for creating Assistance Dog placements for children, and are leaders in bringing new research and ideas to this area. Our books, tapes, and on-air network presentations are helping spread awareness of how to successfully integrate a trained dog into what otherwise might be a difficult environment. 

To date, approximately half of our placements have been to children with autism. Early intervention is crucial for children with autism to have them reach their optimal development, and recent research highlights the importance of incidental teaching and relationship based treatment plans. Incorporating the parents, siblings and larger community into treatment modalities have a positive impact on the child with autism's ability to become mainstreamed into both school as well as neighborhoods.

Historically these critical needs were neglected, impacting both the long term prognosis as well as the quality of life within a child with autism's home. At North Star, we take a holistic, relationship-based approach to working with families of a child with autism, as well as children who face different challenges. We invite siblings, relatives, neighbors and professionals to participate in the development of an appropriate treatment plan. The role a North Star dog will play within its family will be ongoing and dynamic, and we remain available through the life of the placement.

Autism can be seen most clearly in the context of social relationships; as such, part of the value of a North Star dog relates to the surrounding community, including that of the child’s neighborhood and school. Our services include educational programs that can be presented to the child’s classmates to enlighten them about the specific challenge that he or she must face. Our dogs are part of these presentations, dressed in a North Star Service Dog cape and ready to be a well trained ambassador for their child. We believe there is no better way to teach tolerance than through the eyes of a puppy being trained to help a child find their way to a happy and healthy tomorrow.

Keeping everyone's needs in balance, we focus on mitigating the effects of the child's challenge through the use of a North Star dog as a tool to achieve this result. Together, we work towards defining the role and training of every dog we place. Much of the actual fine tuning of the training occurs upon placement after foundational behaviors have been firmly established, as the role of the animal is in great part created by the developing bond. The ongoing support, guidance, training and affiliation helps make our placements stable over their entire lifespan. It is with great pride we follow our North Star dogs' progress as they settle into well established routines that best assist their child in maximizing his or her potential.

We also provide educational materials (books and videos), public speaking, and consulting for anyone interested in learning more about the role a well bred and well trained dog can provide for children who face challenges.

Founded in 2000, the North Star Foundation has placed over one hundred dogs in support positions. The Foundation is 100% supported by donations through this Website and by its patrons.


Patty Dobbs Gross
Executive Director
North Star Foundation
20 Deerfield Lane
Storrs, CT 06268

"We help children find their way..."

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