As most of you know Dominic was diagnosed with Autism at 3 years old. He is non verbal, but uses a communication device in which he communicates with pictures. Dominic used to have pretty severe self injurious behavior and since being taught how to communicate with this pictures exchange book, his self injurious behavior is almost non existent. Although, every now and again we still see some of that behavior peak its way through. Dominic will hit himself when he is overly stimulated or in a very stressful environment, and because he can not communicate his emotions he sometimes will go to hitting immediately. Dominic has also been known to wander and we have had moments when Dominic has wandered out of our sight, VERY terrifying. We also live in a subdivision in which there are ponds all around us. We have to keep a watchful eye on Dominic at all times. We now have a fenced in yard and alarms on all our doors just in case he gets curious. We are always on lockdown.
This brings me to our newest venture idea! We have been doing some research on service dogs for Dominic. We are dog lovers and have always wanted a dog but feel that it would be better to have a dog that would provide service to Dominic. We have been interviewing with a company called Argos K9. We are in love with the process and how they raise the dogs not only as service dogs but also as members of the family. They acknowledge that every child on the spectrum is different and the dog would be trained for over 18-24 months along side of Dominic. He would undergo extensive training to calming Dominic, working through his meltdowns and anxiety situations. He would be certified to attend public places with Dominic so that we as a family would be able to do more things like going to restaurants and grocery stores. The dog would be able to able to wear Dominic's communication device so that Dominic would always have his means to comminicate. At this time Dominic's "book" sits on our kitchen counter. That means that if Dominic is upstairs in his room he has to walk downstairs to request something from his book. This makes things that much more immediate for him. The dog would also be able to be trained in emotions or behaviors to be able to better tell us if Dominic is not feeling good so that we would be alarmed if there was a medical issue.
An autism service dog is a service dog trained to assist a person with autism to help them gain independence and the ability to perform activities of daily living similar to anyone else. For the most part, these dogs are trained to perform tasks similar to those of service dogs for other sensory processing disorders. There are three major ways a service dog can help, especially with children:
1) To help prevent the child from wandering or running away.
2) To help with self-soothing during melt-downs. The tactile stimulation, whether by petting, hugging, or having the dog actually lie on the child, can help the child learn the skills of calming themselves.
3) Socialization (including serving as a "social bridge", so as children and adults come over and ask about the dog, the child with autism is prompted to answer. The parent should not answer questions, but should refer all inquiries to the child. Thus with the dog, rather than having just the parent or teacher try to bring the child out of their own world, the entire community is talking to the child.)
The cost of the dog and the training is $12,000.00, however, we look at this as a life changing experience for Dominic. How can you put a price tag on a smile?
From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for any donation to our son's future! We love you all!
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