Sonia is a charismatic 5 year old whose development has never been normal. We first noticed something was amiss at birth when her eye contact gave off a “nobody’s home” vibe. Typical milestones came much later, if at all. She frequently “shut down” and repeated phrases and behaviors. This gave us a cocktail of symptoms that appeared much like autism.
However, autistic girls are often more comfortable with eye contact and more motivated to “fake normal,” leading parents and doctors to dismiss or misdiagnose other tell-tale signs. In Sonia’s case, her smile and eye contact made specialists hesitant to diagnose her, which left us with no explanation or resources for her obvious but unnamed challenges.
Today, her communication skills are severely underdeveloped, and so is her capacity to recognize danger. She regularly leaves the safety of her caregivers and has self-injurious meltdowns when she’s overwhelmed. Her limited interests restrict the quality of her engagement with the world, and though she delights in simple interactions with others, she is unable to interact at anywhere close to an age-appropriate level. She will not struggle to win hearts, but she will likely forever struggle to navigate life without some sort of support.
ENTER SERVICE DOG
Her service dog will be trained in all things Sonia–to track her down if she wanders, to redirect harmful behaviors, to provide calming pressure to her nervous system, and to be an emotional support for her as she navigates her disability. Her companion will facilitate social connection as it will provide predictable, mostly-scripted conversation starters, and will motivate her to learn new words, try new things, and tackle new challenges. We believe a specially-trained service dog is the sidekick she needs to not only survive, but thrive.
From birth through training, the cost of placing such a dog in a family like ours is at least $40,000. Families cover only a portion of the cost, $17,000 – if you can help us with a donation in Sonia’s name, please donate here.
Other ways to donate include or visiting the 4 Paws Donation Page (http://www.4PawsForAbility.
Donations can also be made by mailing a check with Sonia’s name on the memo line to:
4 Paws for Ability
In Honor of Sonia Mann
253 Dayton Ave.
Xenia, OH 45385
Please help us bring her canine companion home!