Evelyn also is diagnosed with autism and ADHD. Her biggest challenges are the meltdowns she has when her senses are overwhelmed, when she has to transition from one thing to another or when something unexpected happens (which can as small as a pencil breaking in class). Her meltdowns are NOT tantrums. They cannot be controlled by punishments or incentives. Evelyn does not choose to breakdown. The meltdowns are completely out of her control. The National Autistic Society in the UK defines a meltdown as “an intense response to overwhelming situations….they happen when someone becomes completely overwhelmed by their current situation and temporarily loses behavioral control.” When Evelyn has a meltdown, she throws her body falls to the ground. She kicks, screams, cries, and lashes out at anyone nearby. These meltdowns can last up to four hours. When Evelyn comes out of a meltdown, she is tired and apologetic. Evelyn wishes she didn’t have meltdowns. She says that “her body doesn’t listen to what he brain says.”
Evelyn’s triggers significantly impact her ability to participate in everyday activities at home and at school. We cannot do a lot of things that other families do---go to a restaurant or go anywhere that is crowded. Evelyn cannot maintain in afterschool programs, sports teams, or summer camps. It can be extremely isolating for her and for our entire family.
We are working with Perfect Fit Canines http://www.perfectfitcanines.org/ to get Evelyn a service dog. Perfect Fit Canines trains dogs to act as constant companions for children with autism. Although each dog is trained for a specific child’s individual needs, the dogs can provide improved communication skills, increased social skills, assist in forming social bonds, ease transitions, act as a ballast to stop a bolting child, interrupt injurious and assaultive behavior and de-escalate a meltdown. Not only does Perfect Fit Canines specifically train a dog to meet a child’s individual needs, they require a minimum of 12 session of animal assistant play therapy, a two week intensive training boot camp with the matched dog, and certification of following Assistance Dog International Guidelines. There is no waiting list. All we have to do is meet the financial obligation and complete the play therapy to begin the matching process.
We have utilized behavioral support, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychologists and psychiatrists. We have a great team but we continue to watch Evelyn struggle day in and day out. It is heartbreaking. A trained service dog would open so many doors for Evelyn. We honestly believe there would be no limit to her potential.
Unfortunately, the cost for the service dog is extremely high and one that we are not able to fund without assistance. A donation of ANY amount would be appreciated. We will continue to post updates as we go through the process so you can see how your contribution has been put to use.
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