Silas, a young boy who struggles with autism, may soon receive the help of a four legged friend to navigate through his daily tasks.
The 5 year old boy from Cincinatti, Ohio is playful and expressive, but is unable to speak. This communication barrier puts him at all kinds of safety risks. Silas already confronts all sorts of protective mechanisms set up by his family, who say these issues have gotten more difficult as their son has grown older. They have installed locks on the kitchen cabinets because he climbs on the counters to open them. Cameras have been placed inside the home. When he opens the door to leave the house, a bell sounds to alert others in the house that he may be outside without supervision.
But since technology can only go so far, Silas is a candidate for the 4 Paws for Ability program. This non-profit organization provides service dogs trained to assist children like him.
Service dogs trained through 4 Paws for Ability are assigned to veterans with disabilities as well as special needs children. For children with autism spectrum disorder, the canines can prevent them from running away or harming themselves in other ways. Silas, for example, is constantly at risk when he is outdoors. When taken to a nearby park, he has a habit of running for the water.
The training process can be quite extensive to prepare the animals for this type of work, and it does not come cheap either; the cost to get a dog ready for service is about $15,000. The organization relies largely on donations and fundraising to help with the cost. Silas’ family runs a number of fundraisers to raise money for his very own service dog.
Perhaps most important though, according to the boy’s mother Sally, is just having the unconditional love and support provided by a service dog. “We see pets as a part of the family that could provide him with that extra bond,” Sally told Fox-29 News in San Antonio, Texas.