My kid who has special needs — let’s just call him Pineral — might benefit from a service dog.
We met with a really amazing woman named Megan from a group called Triumphant Tails. She specifically trains shelter/rescue dogs for service. She seems to work primarily with soldiers who have PTSD, and children with autism and other issues. Pineral doesn’t have autism, but he has some issues that are autism-like. (I’m not up on the lingo about Asperger’s but I’ve read that it’s being combined with Autism now? He might fit some of the mildest autism symptoms.)
And I think he could benefit from a service dog.
A service dog could be trained to bump/nudge him when he is engaging in repetitive behaviors — like when he licks his mouth repetitively. A service dog could tether him to me when we’re out (he tends to run off under the guise of “hiding,” no matter how many times we talk about it). A service dog could distract him when he is starting to have an outburst, and give him a focus that keeps him from going back to outburst-triggering thoughts. A service dog could help him stay focused when he needs to focus, like when he’s doing chores or doing school. And a service dog could teach him empathy — something he really lacks, that concerns me greatly.
The operative word here, of course, is COULD. A service dog COULD do all of this. However, I’m sure other things/therapies/medications/experiences COULD help. (And probably wouldn’t cost $8,000, which is approximately what a service dog would cost.)
If we get a service dog, we will definitely get one from Megan and Triumphant Tails. Megan is local. Other autism service dog companies train the dog at their facilities and bring the family to meet him for about a week before receiving the dog. Megan would work with our entire family, weekly, for as long as it takes to get all of us comfortable with the situation. She charges a flat training fee, regardless of how much time she spends with our family, and adds to that the cost of food, toys, crate, etc. It’s a good deal, and it saves a shelter/rescue dog.
Meanwhile, we do not have $8000. We’ll see how our finances look in a few months; for now we’re starting to train Pineral with one of Megan’s two service dogs, just to see how he responds to that. I’m mulling over the idea of fundraising, which Megan suggested. Several autism therapy dog companies require the families to fundraise. I hate asking people for money though. “Can you please donate to this organization that MIGHT help my kid who does NOT have a life-threatening illness (or something like that)?” Yeah.