Help Joshua get an autism service dog

Help Joshua get an autism service dog

From Sharon MacGregor

Joshua has an opportunity to get a service dog that will be trained just for him & his needs, to keep him safe, as well as enable him to feel safe. His birthday is May 11th, so lets get him a gift that will keep giving!

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Update #1

12 months ago

This is Cocoa - Josh's puppy! He's now with the trainer, learning basic skills and training to "herd" Josh. He will come play with Josh and get to know him every couple of weeks!

More Info

Joshua is a 12 year old boy with autism. He loves jumping on his trampoline, going on long car rides, playing ball, swimming, crazy rides, and the ocean!  He is warm, affectionate, very smart and full of laughs. He is also learning to talk via an AAC app on his iPad and a communication method known as facilitated communication, or supported typing. He is in the 7 grade at Celebrate the Children in Denville, which is a school for kids with alternative learning styles like Joshua. Through CTC, he gets occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, facilitated communication classes, and many social opportunities that the public school could not provide for him.  He lives with his dad and older brother in Roxbury, NJ. His mom passed away when he was 6 years old. 

 As a part of his autism, there are some challenges that Joshua has – mainly because he does not have a lot of control over his body. He can be impulsive – such as touching hot surfaces, grabbing things he shouldn’t – and ‘eloping’ (running off). He is highly “sensory seeking”, which basically means if his sensory needs are not met, he doesn’t feel right – which is the reason he will seek out more stimulation by running. Sometimes Josh can struggle with aggression, coming from the lack of ability to control the reactions his body has to negative emotion such as anger or pain. A headache, overstimulation, or too much noise can cause him to suddenly become anxious and lash out at others or himself. He also suffers from a type of seizure called an “absence seizure”, which is a seizure that only lasts a few seconds, but causes him to zone out or freeze – and possibly triggers impulsive or aggressive behavior. Joshua is also limited verbally due to his speech apraxia, which is why he is learning alternative communication methods.

Joshua has an opportunity to get a service dog that will be trained just for him and his needs. This dog will keep him safe, as well as enable him to feel safe, which will help his anxiety, and help him to better be able to control his aggression. It will also allow him independence, as right now he requires an adult to sleep with him, the house needs to be locked up like a fortress so he can’t escape unnoticed, and he cannot run and play in the backyard without someone that can follow him around to make sure he won’t climb the fence.

The dog that has been chosen for him is an Australian Shepherd, which is a herding dog. They are often chosen for kids who elope due to their natural ability to “herd” that child to safety. They have a gentle, sweet disposition, are highly trainable, and very patient.

In addition to being trained for elopement, the dog will also be trained in calming techniques to help Josh’s aggression, trained in seizure detection in case Josh’s seizures become more serious (which they often do with the onset of puberty), and will basically serve as companion for Joshua to help keep him regulated. This requires extensive training, boarding and travel expenses for the trainer (and dog), and the normal costs of obtaining a puppy and related vet costs like shots, spaying/neutering, etc…. for over a year. The dog will be trained to accompany Josh to school, out in public, hotels, shopping, etc….as well as to help Joshua at home.  Training will continue for over a year. This all comes at a cost, and we’ve been quoted that it will cost close to $11K – which believe it or not is reasonable for a service dog. We have been quoted numbers like $15K and as much as $20K from other organizations – so this seems like a more reasonable option. These lower numbers are only possible because the trainer lives in the Philly area, about 2 hours from Josh’s home.  

Any money raised for this fundraiser will go towards offsetting these costs, as this is a huge expense for a family to take on themselves. If for any reason it is determined that the dog is not a good fit for Joshua and it doesn’t work out, any contributions will either be refunded, or with the donor’s permission, donated to Celebrate the Children School in Joshua’s name. 

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Sharon MacGregor posted a new update:
12 months ago

Update #1

This is Cocoa - Josh's puppy! He's now with the trainer, learning basic skills and training to "herd" Josh. He will come play with Josh and get to know him every couple of weeks!

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