On December 6th 2013 our 3 year old son Henry was diagnosed with autism.
In many ways Henry’s development has been stalled since he was 2. Emotionally he is not able to express simple wants and feelings appropriately. We’re not sure if he understands them himself. He struggles with language, repeating and scripting and often will not answer simple questions. He has limited imaginative play and has trouble making friends. Sometimes when frustrated he will have violent outbursts, throwing whatever was close and hitting everyone in striking distance. He struggles with anxiety as well as Sensory Processing Disorder. What we perceive as a calm environment can be debilitating and frightening for him. The most terrifying obstacle is Henry’s desire to wander. We don’t know if it’s intentional often when he elopes he seems to be in his own world, unaware of the danger he is putting himself in. He has disappeared in a variety of places. He has even walked out of our home alone, quietly, without warning despite extra locks on every door. Each time we go through an incident like this, our world stops and we feel panicked beyond description.
It is not hard for us to love him deeply and unconditionally despite these behaviors. 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.
Henry’s autism requires he go to 2 to 5 appointments weekly where sometimes he is a willing participant and other times he screams throughout the entire duration. 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.
While navigating through endless books, websites and other resources we came across a non-profit group called 4 Paws for Ability and felt as though this would be a godsend for Henry. Not long after we applied Henry was accepted to receive an autism assistance dog. The cost to train one of their assistance dogs is around $22,000. Our family is committed to raising $14,000 of this money. Henry’s dog would be trained specifically for his needs, helping him through episodes of his anxiety and frequent meltdowns by using touch, deep pressure and even snuggling techniques! Henry’s new partner will also be trained for tethering providing a feeling of independence that every child craves and deserves. But the most important skill the dog will have is being able to track Henry when he runs off possibly saving his life.
My husband, children and I have full confidence in 4 Paws for Ability after reading testimonies from grateful families whose lives were changed. I was able to speak with founder Karen Shirk who is alive today because of a service dog. 4 Paws takes on cases most agencies refuse and continue to maintain an impressive 98% success rate. I would encourage you to visit the 4 Paws website at 4pawsforability.org to read about the wonderful ways this organization is changing so many lives.
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.
4 Paws for Ability, Inc.
253 Dayton Ave
Xenia, Ohio 45385
(Tax ID: 31-1625484)