Work experience for autistic teenager combines love of pets and baking in Chilliwack – Caledonia Courier
Ryder Newhouse loves to cook.
And what he loves to cook more than anything is the treats for Tommy, his unofficial therapy dog.
So when Connie MacDonald, co-owner of Fergie’s Doggie Delight Pet Bakery in Chilliwack, agreed to let Ryder spend part of the day in his shop baking dog biscuits as part of a school project, Ryder and his grown-ups parents were thrilled.
“I think she’s amazing,” said Lillian Newhouse, Ryder’s grandmother. “He’s going to accomplish what he loves to do, which is cooking, and the fact that he can bring his dog… that touches on two categories of what Ryder really enjoys, which is cooking and dogs. “
Ryder is 14 years old and has autism. He lives in Harrison Hot Springs with his grandparents Lillian and Maxwell Newhouse.
One day, Ryder brought home a letter from Agassiz High School encouraging all grade 9 students to participate in Take Our Kids to Work Day on Friday December 10th.
The Newhouses weren’t sure what to do because there aren’t many places to work that would suit Ryder, even though he has a great work ethic, Lillian said.
“He’s limited in what he can actually do,” she said.
She remembered going to Fergie’s in downtown Chilliwack with Ryder during the summer. When he walked through the door, Ryder told MacDonald how much he loved baking dog biscuits.
“I said ‘You should come over here and we’re going to bake dog biscuits together,’” recalls MacDonald.
That offer went nowhere for several months until Ryder brought home the school letter on Take Our Kids to Work Day. Lillian and Ryder returned to Fergie’s, wondering if MacDonald remembered them.
She did it.
“I said ‘We’re in it,’” recalls MacDonald. “Every child needs an opportunity. We wanted to give him the experience.
On Friday, December 10, Ryder lived this experience with the help of MacDonald and co-owner Rose Bouthillier.
MacDonald took it one step further and also brought in a friend of his, Ruby Rodier, who not only occasionally helps out in the bakery but also works with the children as an art teacher and yoga teacher. She has worked as a daycare instructor and has experience with autistic children.
Rodier patiently helped Ryder roll out the dough, cut out bone-shaped cookies, bake them, and finally wrap them in containers labeled “Tommy’s Choice.”
Ryder said he enjoyed his stay at Fergie’s that day.
Tommy was there too, ready for Ryder’s frequent hugs, the scratches under his chin… and to test the cookies, of course.
She will get more dog treats at home, but most of the cookies will actually be for other dogs.
Ryder, who is a newspaper carrier with the Agassiz-Harrison Observer, will deliver the cookies to all dog owners on its route just in time for Christmas.