When Maria was around 8 months old she uttered a few words and then stopped talking. We became concerned with the lack of speech, and by 2 she was enrolled in an early intervention program. Initially we thought her only problem would be Apraxia of speech, but by 5 her diagnosis was changed to Autism. Maria has High Functioning Autism, or what is also known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Throughout her life she has struggled greatly with sensory processing and anxiety. Many items of clothing and textures have to be avoided to keep her from having the constant stress of sensory overload. She also experiences the sensations of light and sound much more intensely than others.
Maria is now in high school and faces a new set of challenges. The social anxiety and sensory overload is absolutely unbearable. Like most high functioning autistic women, Maria has mastered the ability to camouflage her symptoms but this has come at a cost to her wellbeing. She's had multiple panic attacks and now avoids going to lunch, attending assemblies and participating in group events or field trips because of them; she struggles with school attendance, because she has bad days that drain all her energy; she has a weakened immune system and can become ill easily.
In 2017 Maria fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Since that time, her anxiety issues have been severe. She has been having repeated panic attacks which have required hospital visits.
Maria unfortunately experiences the bad side effects from medications and has found they do more harm than good. We have not been able to find an effective way to reduce her anxiety and depression. She has been begging for a service dog for the past 5 years. Some of the benefits of having a service dog might be:
lay across her body to provide Deep Pressure Therapy during panic attacks; providing Tactile Grounding via nuzzling or licking; providing a "reality check" when she wakes up in the night from a nightmare; stabilizing her routine, giving her a reason to get up in the morning; being a companion so she does not feel alone; and giving her something else to focus on when there are sensory stimulators.
Soon Maria will hopefully be able to take some college level classes and work towards getting a degree. Our hope is for Maria to obtain the necessary skills to lead a productive life and contribute to society. Having a service dog will make the transition to college less stressful. It will give her more confidence to be out in public and face her fears of being around people. Having a service dog will give her more independence and provide a reason to make a social connection with others by talking about her dog. Most importantly, she will have a friend wherever she goes who will be there to offer support, and give her the ability to interact with the world around her on a higher level.
You can also mail a check or money order to:
W.A.G.S. 4 Kids
112 East Center Street
Berea, OH 44017
Please make a memo that your donation is for Maria