Moriah's Autism Service Dog Fund!

I wanted to take the time to tell everyone a little bit more about Moriah and some of the struggles she has on a daily basis. Moriah is four years old and has what is classified as high-functional autism.

We have known since she was approximately 18 months old that something was going on. She seemed like she couldn’t hear us even though her hearing checked out fine. Eventually, we knew her speech was delayed as well.

Shortly before her 3rd birthday, her doctor referred us to Children’s Mercy Behavioral Sciences. There they diagnosed Moriah with Autism Spectrum Disorder and developmental delays. The doctors were hopeful that her situation might improve on its own over time. We also visited the Genetics Clinic at Children’s Mercy because they discovered that she has a rare duplication in a gene that typically causes autism. However, because she is the first to ever be found with this duplication, they are unsure whether it is what is causing her autism or not. We are currently at a standstill with determining this, because the tests they want to run on her dad and I to rule it out are going to cost $500.

During the first half of the school year last year, Moriah received speech therapy at the Early Learning Center in Coffeyville. She continued her speech therapy in Caney the last half of the year. She is excited to attend Caney preschool next year.
Moriah loves music, especially the Katy Perry songs Firework and Roar. She also loves to sing and dance to her favorite tunes.

Her absolute favorite TV shows are Doctor Who and My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. She especially likes the 11th Doctor and Rainbow Dash, respectively. I cannot express this enough; she LOVES these two shows. Anyone who has seen her wearing her Rainbow Dash jacket knows that she gets very excited when trying to tell them about it.

Some families bond over sports, but not us, we bond over Doctor Who. Doctor Who has helped us connect with her because we are a “fan family”. Moriah lights up whenever she sees Doctor Who related items. For us, it is a very emotional experience to connect with Moriah because it is so rare given her condition.

We have trouble getting her to pay attention and it is a great fear of ours that she will run out into the street. She is also a little Houdini, she can disappear and get into dangerous situations before we even know she is gone. She does not like the idea of holding hands while we are out in public and will run away if we let go of her hand. For this reason we have to keep her buckled into a stroller or a cart at all times whenever we go places. She does not like this at all. Mostly, we end up walking through stores in shame because she screams at the top of her lungs. Other parents look down on us for not having "control" of her.

We have to keep locks high up on all of our doors and now she is starting to figure out how to open them. She has little fear of anything, save for loud, high-pitched noises such as the vacuum cleaner. We have been struggling with potty training for about a year and a half because she cannot tell us when she needs to go, which is also complicated by fecal retention.

Her speech is a lot like an 18-24 month old child. About ½ to ¾ of her vocabulary is “babbling” and you can understand only a few words when she tries to speak to you and her eye contact is minimal. She gets very frustrated when she cannot express what she wants or needs or when she doesn’t get what she wants. This typically ends in a screaming tantrum, involving biting, kicking and hitting.

Unfortunately, these are only a fraction of the issues she struggles with every moment of every day.

The following is a description of the benefits that a service dog will provide to her (taken directly from the Little Angels Service Dogs website):

Tether Training
If your child has a tendency to dart away from you, or if you have trouble holding on to your child for guidance, our dogs can be trained to assist in a form of guidance themselves. Little Angels Autism Assistance Dogs can wear a special 'tether' harness that has a leash attached to the belt loop or harness of your child. When the child tries to dart away the dog is trained to automatically lie down. Not only does this keep the child out of danger, but over time it can also teach the child to stop darting.

Many children who struggle against having their hands held by their parents do well with following a dog they are tethered to.

Regardless of a tether being used or not, many children find satisfaction on holding onto a special handle attached to the dog's vest that is designed especially for them. It gives them a sense of confidence and security to feel that they are walking their own dog. This can also keep a child focused on the dog and keep other distractions at bay.

Many parents come to compare their autistic child to Houdini due to the fact that they are able to disarm alarms and open locks within seconds. It seems that no matter how many precautions are taken, that their children still find ways to wander from the house. Little Angels Autism Assistance Dogs can also be trained to track and locate the child by scent. This is a similar task to 'Search and Rescue', only the dog has learned to track down one specific individual. Training such as this is invaluable to keep a child from becoming lost or injured.

Some children with autism demonstrate repetitive behaviors such as flailing their arms, hitting various surfaces, stomping their feet, etc. Parents often say that just a simple touch to their child's arm will interrupt these behaviors so the child is redirected. Our dogs can be trained to recognize these signs from the child, and paw at their leg to interrupt the behavior.

Social Bridge
Children with autism have shown enormous improvement with social skills, communication, and even facial recognition when placed with an assistance dog. Our dogs wear a special identifying vest when out in public with their child, which labels the dog as an Autism Assistance Dog. When individuals notice the 'ask to pet me' inscribed on the vest, the child is invited to communicate about their dog. In the beginning the descriptions are simple, such as the name of the dog, the color of the dog, etc., but over time discussions become more complex as the child explains how the dog helps him, and what they like about their dog.

Dogs are not judgmental, and they accept us for who we are. They are a constant companion that offers unconditional love and devotion. Above all the other ways an assistance dog can help, this is perhaps the most beneficial of all.

I realize that an Autism Service Dog will not cure her autism, but with God's grace and mercy, I hope that it will make life a bit less stressful for Moriah and for our family.

The money we raise will go towards the application fee, the waiting list fee, the cost of the two week training in San Diego, and helping to offset the cost of raising the dog as much as possible. Whatever is left over will go toward care for the dog after we come home.


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Alisha Smith 
Caney, KS
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