Service Dogs for Autistic Children
When Autism comes into your family your entire world changes. Hopes and dreams have to be rearranged. Keeping your child safe can become as overwhelming as the financial burden of never-ending therapies. Play groups, team sports, and visits with friends are replaced by support groups, speech therapy and trips to the Principal's office. Autistic children often suffer with insomnia and have a propensity to elope/wander without a sense of danger, which means that their parents don't sleep much. Worry about the future or whether they will be bullied in middle school pales in comparison to the threat of constant and immediate physical danger.
My son Anthony is nine years old and his journey with Autism is remarkable. You would never know that my skateboarding, piano-playing math whiz learned to speak less than four years ago or that he wore diapers until he was nearly six years old. If you see him diving in the pool or riding waves on his body board at the beach, it would be difficult to guess that only 2 years ago, Anthony had a crippling fear of running water that prevented him from going to the beach or even taking a bath. Our modest home is in the peaceful Cul-de-sac of a coastal community and looking at its ordinary appearance, it would be impossible to ascertain that every window and every door has a security latch designed to keep Anthony from walking outside and entering the homes of neighbors without reservation. Every day Anthony conquers something new. Last week it was multiplication. Maybe we will get through today with less than three melt-downs. Maybe this will be the week that he learns to tie his shoes or maybe this will be the week that he realizes that his grandparents and my parents are the very same two people:..maybe.
Anthony is sweet and loving and honest to his core, but friends don't come easy to a kid like mine. He is developmentally immature and socially awkward and prefers the company of animals over people most days. But Anthony has found a friend that can see past the nervous twitches, the odd behaviors and the constant incoherent chatter that comes with knowing my son. Meet my son Anthony and his best friend Moses...
Anthony and Moses have an amazing opportunity with the PAWS Training Center in Wilmington NC. During the course of the next year, Moses and Anthony will work together to bring out the best in one another.
Moses will learn to interrupt and decrease the length of Anthony's meltdowns and he will learn techniques for helping Anthony avoid dangerous situations.
Autism service dogs help deter insomnia and encourage language development through response to verbal commands. They also ease social anxiety when focus is shifted toward the dog and away from the child who often feels scrutinized.
Moses will learn to be an attentive companion while Anthony learns the importance of responsibility, loyalty, and friendship. Once they meet American Disability Association standards Anthony and Moses will be a certified therapy team that will visit assisted living facilities, children's hospital wards and even veterans of war dealing with PTSD.
Where will your donations go?
Alpha Training Camp for Moses will begin on July 1st of 2013. Once the six week course is complete, Moses and Anthony will train side by side over the coming year with therapists and trainers to learn how to be a team in all aspects of life. The cost of this journey will total $12,000-$15,000 from the beginning stages of training through the final stages of testing and certification. The combined salaries of a nurse and a landscaper simply don't allow for this kind of extravagance so we are hoping and praying for the kindness of strangers. Once certified, Anthony and Moses will be able to return some of the kindness shown to them by reaching out to people in our surrounding communities that would benefit from the kind of healing that can only come from a paw.
All donations will be used to cover the Alpha training for Moses, handler training for Anthony, food, supplies, vet fees while training is in progress, testing fees, Certification fees, etc...
If you are interested in learning more about the foundation that helped us begin this journey please read about PAWS 4 People
and help spread the word about the awesome work they are doing to bring the outside world a little closer to kids like my Anthony!
A little more about Anthony...
Since Anthony's school cannot provide a 'shadow' to help Anthony with transitions between classes, he is not safe. We had to make the difficult decision to homeschool Anthony so he spends most of his days at his grandparent's farm. He adores the animals and has a quiet understanding of them that is difficult to put into words.
While most kids are learning math by doing worksheets, Anthony learns math by calculating feed, making change in the hardware store and figuring out how much seed is needed per row in the garden.
We have tried desperately to keep Anthony's life as close to "normal" as we possibly can.
Team sports aren't an option for Anthony because the rules are far too complicated and it's not feasible to make the entire team play at a pace that is comfortable for Anthony.
So, we participate in local Autism surf and skate events where Anthony is free to roam with supervision and participate in silence without judgment----or chatter endlessly about nothing in particular if he feels compelled to do so.
We were blessed to find a kind-hearted piano teacher that has help us bring the gift of music to Anthony and we were all pleased to find that he has quite a talent for the piano that is helping us teach him the art of discipline.
If you made it to this point in the page, you have invested a good portion of your time learning about our amazing son and his remarkable journey with Autism. So please share this link on your Facebook page and forward it to your email contacts. Because above and beyond this fundraiser and whether or not you choose to donate, awareness is the single most valuable gift you can give my son. For that, We thank you.
The Perozzi Family
Anthony's fundraiser was a success and Moses completed Alpha camp with flying colors! He and Anthony work very hard together every day to overcome some of Anthony's biggest challenges. They have already mastered their insomnia training and Anthony has slept 7 nights in a row in his OWN bed, ALL night long!
We have been blessed enough to be able to start a scholarship in Anthony's name to get another child started on this amazing journey and we want very much to help
Awareness is sometimes a painstaking process, but we are determined to raise it...one person at a time:-) Thank you for the support. We are so blessed to have each of you in our lives.
Carol, thank you for your kind words. Mothers like you are true trailblazers for today's struggle with autism and I am grateful for your advice. As a former member of our local chapter of the ASNC and as a parent advocate for mothers and fathers overwhelmed by the system, I was very familiar with state policies and downright cozy with the Onslow County Schools handbook. I helped other parents navigate the overwhelming task of surviving IEP meetings. With Anthony's IEP, Specific Plans were carefully devised, excuses were made, visual aids and therapy support was provided (often at my own expense) and promises were made and broken inside of the same day. Birthday invitations slid past his desk to others around him while he was being scurried from speech to OT, to class and back again, always just behind when everyone else was seated and ready to move on:-/ For three years in a row, I prepared a "get to know Anthony" packet that another teacher helped me compile in the hopes that when the school year came there would be someone who knew the bare minimum about my son. And 3 years in a row, we showed up on the first day of school to find that his name tag was missing from ALL of the homeroom student door collages that scream out to a vulnerable kid, "you belong here. With us. Please, come in." Instead, each year started with chaos because not even his homeroom teachers had been told anything about him. We had to make a choice: Spend every waking day dumping endless negative energy into an administration supported by a county school district that clearly cared very little for my baby boy or I could deprive them of the satisfaction of breaking my son OR me! So my husband and I started pouring every ounce of positive energy we possessed and we built a fabulous homeschool scenario for Anthony alongside his biggest fan: his service dog Moses. He spends time at the beach with his reading book and he helps on a local farm instead of group OT services for 30 minutes. His best friend lives across the street and is homeschooled as are many children we know so we certainly aren't missing out on social interaction! I guess what I'm trying to say is that we forged a path of our own and have never regretted it❤️
I am the mother of a 22 year old autistic son with many of the same obstacles as your son. I'm here to tell you that, as a parent, federal law states that you can dictate what your son needs for public school and the school district MUST comply. His condition qualifies him for an IEP (Individual Education Plan). It is required by law that he is assigned a case worker that will put together a plan of goals for the coming year that meets with your approval. Many schools will say that they are tight on funds, but each and every school receives federal funding per child and those with learning and physically disabilities allow the school to receive additional funding that should cover additional expenses like assisted transitioning between classes. I had to fight my son's school district for the same assistance. When I went in armed with the information of the federal laws they were breaking by not complying, they caved. They depend on you being unaware of your children's rights to an education. Fight for your son and don't ever let anyone tell you that you have to accept less because your child is autistic. My son also had issues with aggression. They did not have dogs to intervene back when his issues came to the surface, so he is now on Risperdone to control his outbursts. It has been a blessing, but I do wish there was a non-medicinal way to get him to remain calm and focused. Good luck to you and your family! I know the job ahead of you will not be easy, but it sounds like you are on track.
Anthony, I know your Mom and Dad for years and I also know how much they love you. You are making them proud. Keep it up little guy.
Some of our out-of-state friends and family have requested that we set up a way for them to help us with the overwhelming costs of providing Anthony with a service dog. To each and every person who has taken the time to read his story, thank you. To those who have contributed to this amazing opportunity, words will never be enough...