Help Josh Get An ASD Service Dog

From the beginning, Josh was just a bit different.  He cried more than other children, would only allow specific people to interact with him and didn't sleep through the night, waking 12 times a night, until he was almost 8 months old.    As his childhood has progressed we have seen him do amazing things: building complex Lego creations from his mind, creating mechanical and electronic devices that work to solve problems and experimenting to make tasty meals.  But, he also became more rigid, agitated and intolerant of change.  He was bullied in school.  He would meltdown at home and we were walking on eggshells never knowing what would set him off. 

When he was in 4th grade, 10 years old, he was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism (Asperger's) this added to his ADHD, Anxiety and possibly OCD.  His behaviors began to make more sense with but still we were at a loss to help him and to create a safe, happy home environment.  We tried homeschooling, therapy, medication, outdoor activities, diet, among other things but still a strategy would work for a time (if at all) and then not.

This spring, Josh (now 12 years old) was hospitalized as we tried to keep him and others in our house safe and happy.  It was a scary experience but in the end we were hopeful for change and more support.  There have been small glimmers of hope but still there is so much that Josh struggles with.  This fall, Josh will return to public school. We are crossing our fingers that his experience will be a positive one.

His psychiatrist suggested looking into an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Service Dog to help Josh manage his anxiety, rigid thinking, obsessive behaviors and to intervene when he panics or melts down.  This truly feels like a great fit and one that will help Josh stay with us, at home.  When we began researching, we saw wait times of two-five years to have a placement with varying costs.  We also found that there were a lot of programs and not everyone was a good fit for Josh's needs.  But, Jason (his dad) made a few inquiries and narrowing things down. He applied and today we received a callback.  

You may not be aware that although Autism is a diagnosable condition and we are able to receive health care coverage for his therapy and psychiatric visits most other support we pay for out of pocket including special education and activities,  devices (weighted blankets, ear muffs, music/meditation/yoga therapy, child care and caregiving services (he cannot be left alone), respite care.  None of these expenses include covering the costs of the items that he has broken or destroyed that need to be replaced or home repairs when he has a meltdown and lashes out.  AND, finding service providers has in some cases taken years while the need for immediate help remains.   It is a difficult road and one that is largely hidden from view.  There does exist state funding but the waiting list is ~ eight years and we have been on it for only two.    There is a good chance he will age out of eligibility before he receives any funding.

Once Joshua receives a dog, his dog will help calm him down in stressful situations, curb destructive behavior, go with him to school and everywhere else, ease social situations and alert us to problems (among other things).  His dog will be his constant companion. 

I am sharing this with you to let you know and if you are in a place where you could help us support Joshua, we will be extremely grateful.   We see this as a positive way to keep Joshua with us, giving him the support and care he needs.
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Nettie Owens
Havre de Grace, MD

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