We met five-year-old Jacob in October 2016. Jacob was diagnosed with “regressive” autism just before his second birthday. Before his diagnosis, he was able to crawl, sip from a cup and say basic words like “Mama” and “Dada.” Things were moving along as they should for a growing child. However, with the regressive autism he stopped speaking and began to struggle with walking and eating – frustrating setbacks not only for Jacob, but for his parents as well. The life of Jacob then became a whirlwind of meltdowns, lack of engagement and no regard for his own safety.
After researching the different benefits service dogs can have for a child with autism, dad Jason and mom Angela reached out to W.A.G.S. 4 Kids in the hope of getting a service dog for Jacob.
“Our biggest hope was for Jacob to have a friend, as making friends is difficult for kids on the spectrum,” Angela said. “We also were desperate to find a new avenue to help with meltdowns as Jacob's were intensifying.”
It has been about 8 months since service dog Ryken became part of Jacob’s family, and the change in Jacob has been nothing short of amazing. As it often goes with a new friend, it took a few days for Jacob to warm up to Ryken, but once they formed their own special bond, the rest was history.
Jacob still has meltdowns, but they are less intense. “Ryken does not fix everything for Jacob, and he still has difficult days,” Angela said. “On those days, knowing W.A.G.S. 4 Kids is there for us, and they understand our daily struggles is comforting. It's also not just the W.A.G.S. employees, but the other W.A.G.S. families. Knowing we are not alone in this journey helps make it much less stressful.”
Jacob has also finally started to sleep through the night on his own, with the help of Ryken’s company. One of the biggest moments along the way has been non-verbal Jacob beginning to speak small words. In May, Jacob said a word Angela had never heard before – “Mom.” We can only imagine how Angela felt in that moment.
Jacob has come incredibly far in his adventures with Ryken, and we cannot wait to see how much further they can go.
Angela said, “We have already given others information on this amazing organization. From the very start, we felt like a part of the team. What an amazing group of people!”
It is a very Thankful Thanksgiving for Jacob and Ryken, thanks to your ongoing support of W.A.G.S. 4 Kids’ programs and children. Check in next Thursday for Part 2 of our 2018 “A Thankful Thanksgiving” blog series.
If you’d like to change the life of another child in Jacob’s name, please click the button below to make your online donation today. Along with us, you are “Growing Possibilities, One Child at a Time.”