Whether you know a lot about Ethan or are being introduced to him for the first time, we appreciate you taking time out of your busy life to learn about him. So, a big THANK YOU from our family!
Ethan is an amazing 10 year old from Andover, KS. He loves playing ninja, video games, watching youtube, fishing, and playing with cars. Ethan looks very much like every other kid, and people expect him to behave like one, too. But life is different for Ethan. Most people don’t understand the reason he behaves different is due to Autism, general anxiety disorder, and ADHD. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior.
When Ethan is in a comfortable environment, it’s not always readily apparent and evident that he’s on the autism spectrum. But things can change for him very quickly and sometimes unexpectedly. A variety of factors can cause severe “meltdowns” where he descends into a trance-like state of panicked, uncontrollable emotions, like anger and fear. Sometimes it’s caused by fatigue, while other times it’s the transition process of leaving an activity that he’s not ready to stop, and still other times it’s due to sensory overload. His brain and body have a hard time adjusting to something he isn’t ready or prepared to do, and it’s very often something that’s quite easy for typical kids his age to do. These transition issues happen a lot when in public places, at home and at school, and can be incredibly difficult for both Ethan and us to manage. He does not handle large groups of people well and does not handle being in new places or disruptions to his normal daily routine. He gets frustrated a lot because he cannot make everyone understand what he wants or needs, and he sometimes self-harms himself during his frustration. Emotionally, he is not able to express simple wants and feelings appropriately, and his frustration and anxiety frequently invokes a fight or flight response. Sometimes when frustrated he will have violent outbursts, throwing whatever is close and hitting everyone in striking distance. Other times, when a situation is overwhelming to him, he feels the need to escape into a more peaceful and calming place – very fast. It can result from sensory overload or from an emotional meltdown that he can’t control. This can become a life and death situation in an instant if we’re not on top of him. He can run through a parking lot, into a street, or simply run off away from us in a public place. It has become increasingly difficult to even take Ethan into the public because one wrong look will set off a meltdown. What we perceive as a calm environment can be debilitating and frightening for him. There has been no way to calm him down as of right now.
He cannot do things that normal children can do like attend his neighborhood school, interact with others, or be in loud, chaotic situations. Although he is very smart, his disabilities prevent him from attending regular school. Currently in the 5th grade, Ethan has attended 9 different schools. Ethan desires to have friends, but he has difficulty understanding the social norms. He has trouble reading social cues that we take for granted. His brain is just wired differently than a neurotypical child, and he requires some extra help.
Ethan’s autism requires that he go to 3 to 5 appointments weekly where sometimes he is a willing participant and other times he has meltdowns and flees. We are still trying to find a variety of therapies to help him, but finding expertise is a frequent obstacle. Some people we encounter are kind, but most are indifferent. The few we have found who are committed to helping are like an extended family to us. Despite all the specialists and therapies, there are many areas of his development we just cannot seem to reach.
It is not hard for us to love him deeply and unconditionally despite these behaviors and difficulties. We don’t see a misbehaving child – we see a boy who gets scared, frustrated, overwhelmed and confused. He is wonderful and loving, with a deep desire to be happy in a simple life. As parents, it is difficult to watch our child struggle, especially when we have no control. Our mission as Ethan’s parents is to leave no stone unturned in our quest to give him every possible opportunity to lead a “typical” happy and fulfilling lifestyle, both today and later in life.
We came across some information about autism service dogs and decided to look around for possible ways to get one for our son. A friend told us about 4 Paws for Ability, so we researched and immediately knew the organization was a perfect fit for us. 4 Paws was the first agency in the United States to begin placing highly skilled Autism Assistance Dogs and the first agency known to place these assistance dogs with tracking skills. 4 Paws believes service dogs should be made available to any child with a disability who wishes to have the love, companionship, and independence that are the result of a service dog placement. Not long after we applied, Ethan was accepted to receive an autism assistance dog.
We feel a service dog is a necessity for Ethan’s future. A buddy tailored to his specific needs would only help him to grown more independently and safely. A service dog will help Ethan become more social and will help with behavior disruption (self-harming, meltdowns) by offering love, affection, and touch stimulus to help calm him. Ethan can also be tethered to the dog in public places to help keep him from running or wandering away. We know we won’t be able to be there for Ethan every waking moment, to keep him safe from rejection, to comfort him when he is sad, frustrated and angry, or to help him with the simplest things that we all take for granted. A service dog would be a non-judgmental friend and constant companion for him. A service dog could also help Ethan at bedtime by providing comfort throughout the night so he is able to get a better nights sleep and so he will feel safe sleeping in his own bed at night. Even in sleep, he does not get peace from his disability. A dog from 4 Paws would give Ethan self-confidence, friendship, independence and security.
The cost to train a 4 Paws assistance dog and place the dog with a disabled child is around $34,000. We are committed to raise $15,000 in support of the 4 Paws mission. The money we raise will go to 4 Paws directly, to help them to care for and train these special animals.
We are humbly asking you to please consider making a tax-deductible donation in honor of Ethan. You can help us with a tax-deductible donation by visiting the 4 Paws Donation Page (www.4pawsforability.org/donate-now). Be sure to include Ethan’s name (“In Honor of Ethan Coultis”) in the “Instructions to Merchant” through PayPal so that we receive the points from your donation. Donations can also be made at http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/coultis/4pawsforethan or by mailing a check with “Ethan Coultis” on the memo line of the check directly to:
4 Paws for Ability
In Honor of Ethan Coultis
253 Dayton Avenue
Xenia, Ohio 45385
Thank you so much for helping our family raise funds to ensure that other children like Ethan will have the same opportunity to get their own special dog! Our family would be most grateful for any assistance you can provide during our journey. 4 Paws for Ability, Inc. is a non-profit organization and all donations are 100% tax deductible. (Tax ID: 31-1625484) THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!! ~The Coultis Family