Nobody wants to be in this position... setting up a fundraising page, events and campaigns for seriously ill or disabled children, especially when those children are near and dear to you.
But in my case, my precious nephews Jack and Tom and their tirelessly hard working, hands on mother Kellie need some help.
I am seeking assistance to raise $50,000 so Kellie can buy an Autism Assistance Dog to be shared by both Jack and Tom in a life that is so uncertain and scary for them all.
13 years ago, my sister Kellie fell pregnant.
Overjoyed with the pregnancy, she knew she had to leave the abuse and domestic violence she suffered at the hands of the children’s father to protect herself and her unborn children.
Financially broke and with little or no self-esteem left, Kellie remained with her abusive partner feeling she had nowhere else to turn and too embarrassed to let her family know the real situation.
On July 25th 2004 Kellie gave birth to two beautiful baby boys. Non identical twins. Jack and Tom.
A few years on, when the boys were around 4 and Kellie thought life was finally taking a turn for the better, family and friends started to notice that Jack was showing some different behaviours to other children.
As this became more apparent, Kellie took action to find out what, if anything was wrong.
Jack was diagnoses with low functioning Autism and associated mental disability.
Low functioning autism is a form of autism at the most severe end of the spectrum. Individuals who have it often have extensive impairments. Many have little or no language skills and many have some level of mental disability. Autism is a life long developmental condition that effects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people).
Then to add to this devastating news, Tom too was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome
Asperger's syndrome is a condition on the autism spectrum, with generally higher functioning. (Like other autism profiles, Asperger syndrome is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.) People with this condition may be socially awkward and have an all-absorbing interest in specific topics.
Kellie had endured, extreme Family and Domestic violence, homelessness and Post traumatic stress from years of abuse. Now she was faced with the challenge of looking after two children with lifelong developmental conditions.
Children that are afraid of something every day, sounds, objects. Children that throw tantrums, have unusual interests or attachments and unusual motor movements such as flapping hands or spinning.
Children that have extreme difficulty coping with change and that are fascinated by moving objects be it safe of dangerous and with a high tolerance of temperature or pain that are easily hurt.
A mother who is always having to explain to strangers that her sons are Autistic that is why they are behaving the way they are and not just naughty or rude children.
Kellie has mentioned from time to time that she would love to have an Autism assistance dog for both Jack and Tom.
As the children are now becoming young teenagers- the dog, would not only ensure Jacks safety but would also serve to promote more independence for Jack.
For Tom the assistance dog would assist him with his social communication, broaden his topic of conversation and relieve anxiety.
These dogs have an incredible ability to connect, bond and assist children with disability or disease, at risk teens and young people with disabilities to heal and thrive in life. They bring out the best in these kids and lives have been transformed through canine intervention.
What it could mean to Kellie’s family:
When out in public, the dog wears the service coat, and the child wears a belt that tethers him to the dog.
If Jack were to run off which he is known to do, the assistance dog knows to sit and act as an anchor.
With the assistance dog’s help, Kellie will be able to take the boys out socially more.
They could now visit their local shopping Centre without worrying they could lose Jack.
It can bring some kind of normal to everyday things that we as families take for granted,"
These assistance dogs also help to regulate anxiety, either by reading the child’s moods or by responding to a command from the parents. Essential for both Jack and Tom.
If Jack or Tom were to become anxious at home as they commonly do, the parent can instruct the dog and it will go and touch the child’s hand and then wait. Bringing a calmness to the child and the house as a whole.
Assistance dogs are also known to assist with the child sleeping through an entire night, relieving anxiousness and exhaustion from being tired and unsettled.
Dogs for Kids with Disabilities
Labradors and golden retrievers are the breeds predominately used, as they are generally recognised in public as assistance dogs.
It takes two years to train a dog costing the organisation training them around $40,000.
However, the insight dogs can offer autistic children is life changing.
"There's always a chemical reaction in the body when you're feeling anxious or stressed or in fight-or-flight mode, and dogs can smell that change, long before we can see it."