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Family Gets Boy His Service Dog

December 10, 2020

A local family is looking to raise money for a service dog to help fill a critical need for their ten-year-old son.

“It would just make him a little more comfortable in the world that he lives in. The world that he lives in– none of us understand,” admits mom Starla Stevenson.

Her son Christian was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 3. In addition, Christian also has Hypotonia, and Sensory Processing Disorder. “As long as we could remember, he would put his hands above his ears to cover his ears and he had sensory issues,” describes Starla.

As Christian has gotten older, he faces more challenges. Socially anxious, he’s a homebody and doesn’t like to leave the house. “He does have some repetitive, stimming, and sometimes self-injurious behavior where he will slap himself when he gets frustrated,” describes Starla.

To help with the challenges Christian faces, the Stevenson family is working with 4 Paws for Ability to pair him with a service dog. “We work with all different types of special needs and make sure we’re really training our dogs case-specifically for each individual,” states Jennifer Lutes, the Associate Director of 4 Paws for Ability.

Matching Christian with a service dog is costly. It costs 4 Paws for Ability between $40,000 – $60,000 to train and properly place each service dog. “A family’s portion of the cost of a service dog is $17,000. So then that goes towards the breeding, raising, training, and placement of a service dog,” says Lutes.

The Stevensons started fundraising about a month ago and so far have only raised $300. They say the price of the service dog is well worth the quality of life it could give Christian, providing more than companionship.

“A lot of families report that getting a service dog is just this new chapter in their life and can give new opportunities to a child with special needs,” says Lutes.

“It would mean that he would be able to sleep properly at night and he would be able to go out in public, even like if we would say ‘oh it’s time to go to the grocery store,’ he would be okay to just go to the grocery store,” tears up Starla. “It would mean that we wouldn’t have to worry about him slapping himself when he gets frustrated.”

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