Emma’s entrance into this life was long awaited. After ten years of hoping for a child, she entered at full steam – several weeks early and rearing to go! Always happy and highly energetic, she grew into a seemingly fearless young toddler, constantly in search of new friends and adventures.
It wasn’t until the age of five that Emma’s struggles began to impact her life in a noticeable way. While her younger brother had struggled to connect with anyone outside of his immediate family, Emma was truly hyper aware of those around her and was constantly seeking relationship and sensory feedback.
Emma and her brother each received the diagnosis of Autism, ADHD and Anxiety through Seattle Children’s Autism. Although this brought increased assistance to Wil and the family, it brought seemingly minimal success for Emma. Her previous strength of BIG emotions became the nemesis as anxiety, sadness and even anger joined her everyday life and she began to spiral out of control and into conflict.
Emma is now a typical-appearing, 15-year-old young woman who loves her family and listening to music. She is a freshman at Auburn Mountainview High School who wishes for strong friendships, is loyal, wildly creative and loves connecting with and helping young children. One of the significant challenges of life with high-functioning autism is that she struggles with what is often termed an “invisible disability” resulting in a lack of understanding and appropriate support from those she encounters. A highly capable and gifted student who can quickly grasp content and application, Emma is unable to function as expected within the school system. Even now, with significant modifications in place, she is consistently failing or minimally passing classes – often battling anxiety in the nurse’s office or library. Life can be tricky for all. For the majority of time – life feels impossible for Emma.
The goal of an autism service dog is to provide an emotional anchor in which Emma can receive needed support for emotional regulation and anxiety, as well as to create confidence and greater independence as she navigates through high school and beyond. It is also anticipated that she will share awareness and education regarding the “face” and abilities of those with autism as her invisible disability will become more apparent. We were once asked if there was anything that our children might not be able to accomplish with the diagnosis of autism. There was fear in that question and we sincerely contemplated not moving forward. Fortunately, the answer came swiftly and significantly and is applicable in this venture of applying for and fundraising for an autism service dog for Emma. Accomplishments are not limited by a diagnosis, they are limited by the failure of finding much needed individualized support!
We are confident that a service dog will greatly assist Emma as she moves forward towards reaching her potential and are asking for support in this endeavor. The process of training/placement through Autism Service Dogs of America is tremendously thorough (averaging 12-16 months) with the intent to match a dog specific to Emma’s needs and cannot begin until we have raised the minimum donation amount of $13,500, with an additional $3,000 needed to complete the placement process after a match has been made. Please consider contributing and sharing this opportunity with all that you know.