Kenny is a funny and smart 1st grader who has had pretty major struggles since going into head-start at the age of two. He had been diagnosed with ADHD, but we knew there was something else missing. The behaviors he struggled with; obsessing over things, sensory struggles, becoming easily distracted, wandering/running in parking lots/stores, and let’s not forget about the meltdowns! Daily fights getting him to follow one request without him throwing himself to the floor, hitting/pinching/biting himself, or screaming at the top of his lungs. Any kind of social interaction, even with family, was usually one of several triggers. We couldn’t figure out what was going on, and he often refused to say a word. Kenny was diagnosed with Autism in April of 2017. Getting that official diagnosis felt like a dream come true and a nightmare. Now we had all this information, but still struggled to find the best supports to help our son. It was overwhelming, and still is. And even with some support from his school staff, our doctors, and case workers; Kenny still struggles. The good news is there has been progress made with his ability and willingness to communicate. The bad news is that he often tells us how much he understands about his struggles. He also notices the looks on people's faces when he has meltdowns in public. I know that he can feel the harsh judgement of others. It’s heartbreaking to hear him say that he wants to have a good day, but knowing that he is so impulsive and defiant it doesn’t happen often.
The changes in our family have made the struggles worse. Kenny’s dad and I are in the middle of a difficult divorce. Kenny has witnessed some negative behaviors from his Dad that he has started mimicking. He struggled understanding and managing his moods before; all this change has been very hard on him and the family. One of the only things that seems to help calm him down are the family pets; dogs, cats, turtles. No matter what Kenny’s mood or behavior is, as soon as his sister’s puppy comes to snuggle with him it’s like he’s a different kid.
My hope is that getting a service dog for Kenny will help with his inability to function and relate to others; basically, help him get through the everyday things other kids his age can handle. I know that Kenny can be an independent young boy if he just had a little more support and confidence. Having a service dog would provide that for him; as well as emotional comfort during difficult times and tasks, and comfort for us knowing that he has a buddy to help keep him safe.