Katana's journey started just over three years ago she was a tiny little girl born in the early hours of a beautiful Winters day.
She was a very content peaceful baby, she loved to be cuddled and could spend hours watching light reflections and singing away to herself.
Katana was very bright she said her first words at around 6 months old and they kept coming faster and faster by the time she was one she had over 30 full words and was starting two word sentences.
She tended to prefer solitary play rather than playing with those closest to her, she loved figurines and blocks and by 1 she could build great towers of timber blocks with precision accuracy.
She ate anything offered and slept thought the night as well as can be expected for a girl of her age. She was a happy loving little girl very excitable and would jump for hours every day.
We were blessed with this beautiful little girl and thought she just had a quirky nature. Until just after her 1st birthday when suddenly she stopped talking it is as though she had nothing to say any more.
She became obsessed with structure and would only play by lining up her toys, she wouldn't make eye contact, she started becoming fussy about what foods she would eat. She stopped any interaction with her peers and now she has no friends at all as she doesn't want or know how to interact with them.
She is unable to follow simple instruction and she will run off when we are outside of the house if we don't maintain constant contact or if she isn't restrained in a pram.
She climbs over gates and benches and can easily get out of our home we have just been lucky that so far she has not managed to make it all the way out without us finding her.
We fear if she manages to get out she may be hit by a car as she does not understand that they can be dangerous and is usually oblivious to anything going on around her.
She withdrew from our lives and would even prefer to hide in confined spaces like under her bed or in the wardrobe. We spent well over a year changing Dr's searching for help and answers.
When finally earlier this year we were referred to a speech therapist and occupational therapist they watched Katana and asked us to get another referral to a Developmental Paediatrician.
Finally we were given an answer to all of our questions my little angel has Autism Spectrum Disorder and in this moment our lives have changed forever.
Our lives now consist of Dr's appointments and specialists and therapists. Our daughter is in intensive early intervention which means she has to undergo at least 25 hours a week of one on one therapy for at least 2 consecutive years.
She has a speech therapist an occupational therapist she also attends an Early Childhood Development Program once a week and is starting an additional Applied Behavioural Analysis Therapy for another 20 hours a week.
Katana has $12,000 of government funding for her lifetime to help with her disability, although she can only use $6000 of that funding per year and only $2000 can be spent on equipment.
This may sound like a lot of funding and trust me it is better than nothing however 1 hour of speech or occupational therapy cost us $150.
ABA costs at least $1000 to start and then $800 a month for a program supervisor and then we have to pay out of pocket expenses for any people we need to hire to help us deliver this intense therapy in our homes.
So monthly it costs us around $2800 to continue her therapy her government funding will only last 2 months at this rate. We are financially struggling as is but we know what a massive impact an Autism Assistance Dog would mean to both her and our families life.
We have recently been approved for an assistance dog from SmartPups.org.au however it is a MASSIVE financial undertaking to train a certified assistance dog it costs around $25,000 and up to 24 months to properly train them.
Assistance dogs are in high demand and whilst they are needed there isn't enough government funding to help train these amazing dogs so we are asked to raise $13,000 to help contribute to an assistance dog for Katana.
You may be wondering how an assistance dog could help a child with autism well there are many different benefits but for us the paramount service this dog would provide is peace of mind.
The assistance dogs are trained to alert parents when children wake and wander during the night, they are tethered to the child during outings so the child can experience freedom and are trained to lay down if a child tries to bolt off unexpectedly.
Most valuably they are trained to track a child's scent if a child does manage to escape you have a personalised tracker in your home.
The other benefits would be a companion to keep her company as she tends to live a solitary life, they are trained to interfere if a child is self harming or stimming, they provide tactile support and can lay on a child's lap for deep pressure to help them relax.
Basically I see it as a friend that wont judge her and that is able to help her in this world she struggles to understand and exist in. It will go with her everywhere including school and will always be there to provide her with support.
An assistance pup costs about $25,000 to train and raise, and we are required to raise at least $13,000 of this cost ourselves. Furthermore, we need at least 25% ($3,250) of this within 12 weeks of signing the contract. We will be trying to raise this money through many events and venues, and if we were to somehow go over the required goal, any extra would go towards Katana's ongoing therapy costs (roughly $60,000 a YEAR).
We will update this post with more detail in the near future, and donators can opt in for ongoing updates on Katana's progress :)
- Erin Murphy
- Kareen Duncan
- Gabriel Yoran
- Tabea Federico
- Joachim Heng