Monday, August 8, 2016

Autism Service Dog for Matt

      A few months ago I began a quest. I stepped back and took a good long look at where Matt was, where he is now and what his currently unmet needs are.
       With the autism comes "social awkwardness", meaning Matt does not always pick up on social cues. Matt struggles with close friendships because of this.
       Matt also struggles to process strong feelings, like when a close friend is hospitalized and Matt has no way to check if the friend is okay. Although he doesn't melt down like a two year old, he melts internally.
      There are also attachment issues, as Matt prefers I be within reach most of the time. He will happily go off for short walks alone but needs to visually and physically touch base on returning. He is happiest when sleeping at a minimum of within arm's reach of me, meaning I don't get much sleep.
       As I began to take stock of his needs I really wondered what resources were out there that would help. As I Googled I found that the issues Matt struggles with could seriously be helped by an Autism Service Dog! I never knew there were service dogs for autism so this was a delightful find!!
      On our next visit for ADHD med refills I mentioned it to the doctor who agreed a service dog would be of benefit to Matt. He wrote a letter verifying Matt's need and the search began.
       Now, let me tell you, this is not an easy process for us. Yes, there are agencies in our area that train autism service dogs. Here are some things I've discovered . . .
      First and foremost you absolutely need to make a detailed list of the symptoms/needs created by autism. Each agency will need to know these in order to verify IF they can even begin to train a dog for you. Second, you need to sit down and take a long look at your budget and overall time and ability to do fundraising as device dogs are priced from free to $20,000/each. Third, look at your living situation~ do you have space for a Labrador retriever and do you plan to relocate in the future?
       With all this information in front of you you may begin your web search. A note of caution on the web search as there are many agencies that will sell you fake credentials for your pet dog. This is NOT what you need! Fake credentials will not sooth an autistic child or keep him from wandering off. Be cautious in your search.

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