Jackson is a spunky, energetic 5 year old. He has a heart of gold, an obsession with LEGOs, and love for dogs that is unmatched. He lives with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
He has a busy brain that is organized a bit differently than most. It causes him to need near constant sensory input, and his busy brain struggles to slow down enough for him to be able to cope with change and transition from one activity to the next without a meltdown. He is constantly on the go and can struggle with sitting and focusing when needed. We have found that our calm, constant presence can help to slow his busy body and mind, but as he grows, we hope a dog can foster a stronger sense of independence by providing that calm for him through gentle, therapeutic touch and companionship.
Jackson is also a wanderer. He struggles to understand safety concerns, is a very curious kid, and as we sometimes joke, “has never met a stranger.” This combination leaves us on edge during every trip out of the house. He is contained to shopping carts, strollers, and hand-holding during every outing, which limits his freedom and ability to explore his environment safely. Through tethering with his dog, our hope is he will be able to explore his surroundings more safely with careful supervision, rather than containment.
For our family, this dog will provide hope. Hope for more social interaction with peers from Jackson, hope for more independence as he gets older, hope for more mood stability for him, and hope for more quality time as a family not spent worrying constantly about Jackson’s struggles on outings.
Jackson may not understand what the gift of a service dog will mean for him, but I hope with time he does, and I am sure we will see the benefits as his confidence and independence grow. I know he will love his dog unconditionally, and feel comfort from the companionship and love the dog will give to him. As his parents, we provide everything we can for him and love him unconditionally through all of his struggles, but a dog, a constant companion, can give him a different kind of support and companionship that we aren’t capable of. We hope the safety and comfort the dog brings him can help Jackson reach his greatest potential.