We adopted him a few months after he was born in 2005 and he’s been a blessing to our family. Ben brings a smile to everyone he meets and has touched a lot of lives so far in his young life. In recent years we’ve also discovered that music is another of his gifts to the world.
He has given our family so many gifts. He has taught us the value of pure joy and living in the moment and celebrating the small stuff.
Ben also has some extraordinary challenges. He’s legally blind, has autism, cerebral palsy and a low IQ. He’s worked extremely hard to navigate these challenges and now we are asking for some help to given him more independence and a gift that we believe will open his world even more.
We’ve been exploring getting Ben a service dog to help with his safety, his anxiety, his happiness and his overall well-being. We believe a trained service dog would benefit Ben’s future in tremendous ways. Luckily in the past few months, we’ve found a
in the DFW area that trains service dogs and could help make this dream a reality!
Unfortunately, the cost of finding, training and maintaining a service dog are very expensive, so we are asking our community of friends, and all the people whose lives have been touched by Ben in the past if they can donate any amount of money toward helping us fulfill this dream.
We have spent the past 13 years trying to make our son’s life easier. He has worked so hard and overcome many obstacles, and we truly believe a service dog will fulfill so many needs for him and give him a loving, caring constant companion and friend. It will also increase his independence and open his future to more success. Our dream for Ben is to make him as independent as possible and a service dog would give him the opportunity
to venture into the community or take a walk around our neighborhood without constant supervision. A dog could help end Ben’s unsafe behaviors and lessen his constant anxiety. It could also give him emotional support in new situations, which typically cause severe anxiety and behaviors. It would also give him companionship he sorely needs right now. WHY WE THINK A SERVICE DOG WOULD HELP BEN
We have always thought Ben communicated better and felt more comfortable around animals then people. We believe a service dog would make a remarkable difference in his life in the following ways: A dog trained to keep him from getting into a dangerous situations and also make him safer and much more independent.
Service dogs can be trained to stay with the child at all times and bark for attention if the child is wandering in a street or getting into an unsafe environment. Ben loves going out to public places and exploring, but we have to be constantly within reach of him for his safety. A service dog would open the door to Ben’s independence in public places. He could shop in a store or look around at things he wanted to look at without the constant need of a close adult supervision. He could have the ability to hold a job safely without the concern of him leaving the work area. All of this exponentially increases his self-confidence and independence. Ben loves nothing more then doing chores and having work tasks. Getting to do this outside of our home could help Ben establish an exciting and fun future —a future that gives him to have more independence and self-reliance.A dog trained to keep him from wandering or putting himself in danger inside the house,
especially at night when we are asleep. His dog would be trained to alert us if Ben left his room at night (Ben has always had a lot of issues with sleep and we currently give him medication to get him to sleep at night.) A service dog would also be trained to give Ben comfort and companionship when he wakes up in the middle of the night and is unable to fall asleep. A dog could help Ben with his significant anxiety issues.
Often the anxiety will come out of nowhere or occur when he is in an unfamiliar environment, with unfamiliar people or is unsure of his schedule. His anxiety is often displayed as self-aggression, yelling and screaming, pacing, handwringing and aggression towards others. Service dogs are trained to successfully alleviate these feelings. Ben’s anxiety and the behaviors that come with it are quite debilitating for him. He misses out on opportunities to hang out with kids his own age and to do typical things like go to a store, a movie, an athletic event or even a restaurant with his family because he feels such overwhelming anxiety and stress. Ben has missed out on many opportunities due to this anxiety. Family trips and events are often thwarted, birthday parties are missed, tickets to events go unused and he consistently misses events that would enhance his life. Service dogs are trained to give deep pressure by lying on the person experiencing these feelings (Ben responds incredibly well to this), to be a reassuring familiar thing in an unknown situation. They are also trained to stop self-aggression by using their body to stop the violent acts, and provide soothing licks and snuggles to alleviate anxiety and stress. Service dogs have been used quite successfully with anxiety concerns in children and adults with autism. A dog could also be a constant loving companion, which would help fulfill the lack of peer relationships
(for many reasons, it is not really possible for him to have ‘friends’ in the way most people do, which we believe leaves Ben lonely a lot of the time — even if he isn’t able to verbalize it.) A dog can also help Ben with social engagement.
The presence of a therapy dog will motivate him to join others and have a subject to talk about with others that is socially appropriate and more relatable then Ben's current obsessions. The dog would encourage others to engage with him. All of these things could boost Ben’s confidence and increase his peer relationships. A QUICK HISTORY OF BEN SCHNEIDER
Ben was born in April 2005 at Parkland Hospital. His mother had hidden the pregnancy and wanted to give him up for adoption. But she waited a week after her water broke to have him delivered and he spent the first month and a half of his life in the NICU. He had pneumonia and was septic for the entire stay.
Luckily, his mother picked us to adopt him and Ben came home with us that June. From the moment we brought him home, it was obvious that he had a lot of challenges. He was born an albino and because he’s Hispanic that made him look a lot like our family: pale skin, strawberry blonde hair and incredible blue eyes.
Unfortunately those weren’t the only challenges he faced. He had significant sensory needs and was inconsolable much of the time (sleep was a problem — he would often scream through the night.) He was also immediately falling behind normal infant milestones.
We spent the next few years in a lot of doctor’s offices trying to figure out what was wrong. First, it was his vision (the albinism meant he was legally blind even with glasses, we found that out at six months); next the cerebral palsy (age one, it made it hard for him to swallow and also affected his fine motor skills and overall coordination.) Still, our determined Bennie worked hard and got better.
When he was 2, he lost a significant amount of his speech and after a lot of appointments we got the diagnosis we feared — autism. When he entered kindergarten he was only using one word and because of that inability to communicate he was often very physically aggressive. At one point in our journey, we also found that he had a very low IQ that greatly held back his ability to understand a lot of simple concepts.
At first, simple things like walking, speaking and eating solid foods were a challenge, but our determined Bennie kept working hard and improving and gradually things got better.
Fast forward to 2018 and he is a totally different child. Thanks to a lot of hard work; incredible, loving educators; talented, brilliant therapists, some awesome doctors and lots and lots of prayers our Bennie has made astounding progress!
He can speak with a great vocabulary and can read very large type. And most of the time he is able to tell us what he is feeling. Because of this, his violent behaviors have significantly decreased. He is reading at a second grade level and doing math at a kindergarten level. He has also learned to use his sight cane to help him navigate the world and new environments. MUSIC: HIS GIFT TO THE WORLD
One of our more recent discoveries, though, is that Ben’s gift to the world is his music. As a child, even when he couldn’t communicate, he was always drawn to music and started messing with the piano as a baby. But over the past few years and thanks to some amazing music therapists, he has made remarkable progress. Ben has perfect pitch and can listen to a song once and then go play it on the piano. His skills in this area continue to expand at amazing levels. In fact, a few years ago our son had some excitement when he met musician Ben Folds before one of his concerts. His story was featured on the front page of The Dallas Morning News and also had a segment on a WFAA newscast and in USA Today. THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS STORY ABOUT BEN BEFORE CONCERT THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS STORY ABOUT BEN AFTER CONCERT WFAA STORY ABOUT BEN USA TODAY STORY ABOUT BEN USA TODAY PODCAST ABOUT BEN