April is Autism Awareness Month. It’s close to my heart as Jeffery is on the spectrum and since I’ve started fundraising for him to receive an Autism Service Dog, I get a lot of questions and comments. Autism isn’t always visible, there is a wide spectrum from high functioning like Jeffery to kids who can’t do a whole lot, including being non-verbal. It’s such a wide range because there is also all that in between.
The one comment I get a lot is “I didn’t know he was autistic”. I get that from people who don’t spend a lot of time with him. He may seem like any typical 10 year old little boy, but he also has these extreme outbursts that we can’t predict or get under control once he’s started. His past teachers have seen it, our karate instructor has seen it and a lot of our family has seen it. So just because you don’t see something wrong, don’t mean that there isn’t. We’re so proud of Jeffery, he gets good grades, he recently earned his Junior Black Belt and he’s in training to become a karate instructor. He’s had his struggles and still does, but he is a determined little boy and once he sets his mind to something there is no stopping him.
The next question I get so much, I need to make a print out and just hand it to people when they ask, “how is a dog going to help him?” Jeffery’s moods can switch faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. He can be happy and playing one minute and the next something small can set him off and he’s mad and throwing things, trying to hit, kick or push someone and screaming. Once he’s set off, we can’t calm him down….it’s a matter of leaving him alone for who knows how long until he calms himself down. The dog would be trained that when we give it a command it would go lick, paw, nudge or lay on Jeffery (laying on him would be like deep pressure therapy) to either flip his brain back to being calm or just plain distract him with his own dog. The dog would be a neutral 3rd party, someone who isn’t connected to the situation so he would have no reason to be angry with the dog. Jeffery also rocks, it can be distract others around him since he has no concept of personal space he rocks into other people. The dog would be trained that when given a command would go give Jeffery a cue by licking, or nudging him to remind him to stop rocking. Tracking will be something else the dog will be trained to do, if Jeffery ever runs off, the dog will be able to track him down. Last but not least, the dog will be a friend to Jeffery. Just a companion that he always has and can keep him calm.
I’m thankful I found out about 4 Paws for Ability. I’m now a member of a Facebook group and the parents in there are amazing and have nothing but wonderful things to say about their dogs. Yes, raising $14,000 seems like a lot, but it’s worth it to make sure my son has a dog that is trained specifically for his needs. For more information on 4 Paws for Ability check out their website. If you’d like to help us reach our goal of $14,000 check out our Facebook page 4 Paws for Jeffery to check out the many ways you can help!