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Our only son Matthew has struggled with Autism since being officially diagnosed at the age of 3, he has overcome many challenges and obstacles throughout his early years and still continues to display many symptoms. We will always continue to be there for Matthew to guide and provide him with unconditional love and support in his journey ahead. One new challenge we have ahead of us is purchasing an assistance dog for Matthew to aid with his lifelong special needs.
Matthew's childhood and teenage years were difficult to manage, he had no interest in being around dogs and would often scream and run away from them when they approached him to play.
We were totally amazed with Matthew’s turnaround when he was recently introduced to 2 specialised assistance dogs for the first time at our home. Matthew became remarkably relaxed while doting on both the dogs when they were individually brought to our home at different times. The dog breed that we are seeking is a “Lagotto Romagnolo” which is specifically trained intensively to assist Autistic people, the Laggotto is very receptive to the training and we were keen to commence the program with the team at CSTDA .
Matthew currently has a medical support team but our family continues to witness Matthew’s struggles day in and day out with episodes of elevated anxiety resulting in Matthew retaliating by having meltdowns and becoming overwhelmed with worry. It has been heartbreaking for our family and friends to see Matthew affected sometimes for many hours leading into reclusive tendencies where he needs to be alone to process his emotions. No medical intervention can overpower the affection, loyalty and love a dog can give a human being. We recently made inquiries and applied through The Centre for Therapy Dogs Australia ( CSTDA ) regarding an assistance dog for Matthew.
Matthew’s medical support team consisting of his specialist Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Family Doctor have all kindly provided referrals as additional support for Matthew’s NDIA funding application.
After 2 trial home visits arranged through CSTDA with Laggotto therapy dogs meeting Matthew for the first time, we have seen an amazing turn around in Matthew’s demeanor while in the presence of these wonderful loyal animals and more importantly Matthew's exposure around other dogs in our neighborhood. A trained assistance dog would open up so many possibilities for Matthew and we believe there would be no limit to his potential overcoming his challenges, therapeutic goals and the opportunity to create a lasting partnership that aims to improve Matthews’s quality of life, enhance his independence and facilitate his increased participation in society.
The purpose of a assistance dog in Matthew’s life will greatly aid him in improving his sporadic sleeping patterns and controlling his high anxiety episodes.
Recently, we were advised by NDIS that our proposal for funding of an assistance dog for Matthew was rejected on the basis that an assistance dog is not deemed to be value for money or a “reasonable or necessary” support, the two words used in the governing legislation for the scheme.
Ironically, the premise of the NDIS was to listen to what worked for an individual and support them, and the agency’s refusal to do so for people like our son Matthew is a failure in our eyes to “give effect to the purpose of the scheme”.
The one thing that we have witnessed first-hand in Matthew’s life that can act spontaneously to calm him, doesn’t discriminate or have a social dimension unfortunately cannot be provided to Matthew by the NDIS.
An assistance dog does not challenge Matthew socially and that is something that cannot be replicated in any other therapy at all, which Matthew seeks regularly and is managed at our own cost.
Having a assistance dog will also provide a purpose for Matthew to communicate, promote an exercising regime, become more settled, encourage positive interaction and conversation with family, friends and the general public and most importantly, to ALWAYS have a friend.
The costs associated for the assistance dog and training is not cheap (valued around $30,000 over a period of approximately 2 years of specialised training and one that we as a family are not able to fund ourselves without further assistance.
We have set up a secured account and committed $10,000 of our savings to kick off the fund campaign. We have been overwhelmed with the level of support we have received so far to make this goal achievable and a reality for Matthew.
Are you willing to assist to make this very important support program become a reality sooner rather than later?
A donation of any amount would be greatly appreciated by our family to put towards the training program provided by The Centre for Therapy Dogs Australia (CTSDA).
Arch, Paola and Matthew Donnoli.