Alex is a kind, energetic, loving, and determined 7-year-old who has a contagious laugh and smile. Alex has autism, is hard of hearing, and he deals with Sensory Processing Disorder daily. He also was born with a number of congenital bone conditions that make for countless doctor appointments and medical procedures.
Despite facing physical, emotional, and learning challenges, Alex is tenacious and gives his all everyday. He is an affectionate big brother to two siblings, whom he is very proud and protective of—being a brother is one of his favorite things in the world. Mickey Mouse has been his buddy since he was 18-months-old, and he loves all things Disney. He’s a wiz with anything digital, and he also loves music, biking, puzzles, camping, swimming, taking pictures, and watching home videos. Nature is his playroom, and he never forgets to point out the clouds and admire flowers we pass on our walks. Even though we don’t see them often, mountains and sandy beaches are his happy place. Alex longs for friendship and quickly loves those who take the time to know him and interact in a meaningful way for him (e.g., play “his games,” sing familiar songs, etc.).
While Alex may visually appear very similar to his neurotypical peers, his emotions and mood can be very volatile. He harbors a lot of anxiety, and he struggles to express himself in a way that others understand, both of which cause a lot of frustration. Whether it be disappointment caused by his verbal or physical limitations, or a sense of feeling overwhelmed due to his environment, he either withdraws or explodes into a full meltdown. They escalate quickly and often without warning.
During these meltdowns, he loses control, concern for his safety, and awareness of what’s going on around him, leading to potential opportunities for inadvertently hurting himself, his siblings, or anyone else nearby. Over the years, we have come to find a few tools that help him regulate his emotions back to a calmer state, such as music, a weighted vest, and his favorite scrap of fabric that he puts over his head and pulls it tightly against his face (he calls it “pillow”). In situations when he gets extremely overwhelmed, especially in public, his strongest urge tends to escapism—he either aimlessly wanders or abruptly bolts. If he gets too far away from us, his hearing loss makes it impossible for him to hear us calling. Collectively, these factors have made successfully engaging in public or family events a serious, constant challenge.
In the past two years, we have noticed that animals have had a remarkable calming effect on Alex. Having a specially trained Autism Service Dog would help calm him in these meltdowns or even prevent them before they occur. And, if he happens to run away and get lost, the dog would be trained to quickly locate him. His verbal limitations, atypical behaviors, and development delay have also made for a lonely social life. His desire for friendship was evident at a very early age, but other children would give up trying to interact with him when he couldn’t verbally respond to them in a way they might understand. He is very affectionate and loving, and witnessing his disappointment with each failed interaction has been absolutely heart wrenching. Not only would an Autism Service Dog help him cope with his many social challenges, but it would also be a constant comforting companion, a loyal friend who wouldn’t require verbal communication and would unconditionally love him.
Our ultimate goal is to help Alex gain the skills necessary to be successful in life. We want his confidence to grow and help him interact with others in a positive and meaningful way. Autism Service Dogs have proven to have amazing abilities:
- Keep children safe from wandering or bolting in public by tethering the child to the dogs harness.
- Use touch or pressure intervention when repetitive or self-injurious behaviors occur.
- Be the link between the child and the world around them. A service dog alerts the public that this child may act a little different for a reason unknown to them, changing what might have been judgmental stares or insensitive comments to intrigued acceptance and sometimes even unexpected assistance.
- Lend far more support than any one person can offer by themselves due to their unconditional love and inherent patience.
- Maintain a constant calming presence that has a profound impact on the child’s quality of life.
We have completed the application process, and 4 Paws for Ability has accepted Alex to receive an autism service dog! It will cost 4 Paws at least $22,000 to place a dog with Alex. We are committed to raising $15,000 in support of the 4 Paws mission, and we can only reach our goal with your help. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit the 4 Paws Donation Page http://www.4PawsForAbility.org/donate-now and please include Alexander Kimball in the “instructions to merchant” through PayPal. You can also mail a check with his name in the memo line to:
4 Paws for Ability
In Honor of Alexander Kimball
253 Dayton Ave.
Xenia, Ohio 45385
Please consider donating to this amazing organization in honor of Alex. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for any support you can give!
Steve, Jessica, and Alex Kimball