Hannah is six years old with epilepsy, autism, mild cerebral palsy, and chronic lung disease. She was born three months prematurely and weighed one pound and seven ounces at birth. Despite all of the challenges she has faced in her young life, she is a ray of sunshine to everyone who meets her. She attends school at Franklin Elementary, where she is in a special needs classroom. At school, she receives speech, physical, and occupational therapy to help her become as age appropriate developmentally as possible. If you have not had the opportunity to meet her, I hope you get it. She will make you smile; of that, I am sure.
We recently found out about an organization in Ohio that trains service dogs for children. These dogs do amazing things. After some research I submitted an application to see if we could qualify Hannah for one of these dogs, and she has been approved. Her dog will be a multipurpose service dog with seizure alert and autism training.
One in 242 people under the age of eighteen has epilepsy. There are a thousand epilepsy related deaths a year, approximately 600 of those are related to SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death from Epilepsy) One of the biggest fears for us is that Hannah will have a seizure while being unattended, especially, at night in her sleep. Hannah has slept with us since the first time I found her seizing in her sleep. She was 7 months old. Our sleeping arrangements are getting more challenging as she gets older. If she has a seizure in her bed at night, and we were not there to intervene medically, she could suffocate. Her service dog will sleep with Hannah, and if she has a seizure it will alert us with a bark or it can even be trained to press an alarm. Also, some of these dogs have been able to learn to predict a seizure. It is believed that there is a chemical change in a person with epilepsy prior to a seizure. These dogs are trained to sense this change, and can alert caretakers of an oncoming seizure. Having this kind of a resource will be a huge relief to our family. Hannah can sleep in her own bed and in her own room, like most six year old little girls. She could gain some normalcy.
Along with the seizure alert training, the dog will have autism training. Autism is a neurological disorder that causes any number of delays. It affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Autism is a spectrum disorder, and it affects each individual differently and at varying degrees. It is estimated that autism affects 1 in 166 births according to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention in 2004. This means that as many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism, and this number is rising.
Like most children with autism, sights and sounds constantly overwhelm Hannah. However, Hannah has no appropriate fear of dangers such as traffic, bodies of water, or the ill intentions of a stranger. An autism assistance/seizure alert dog would be a strong companion for Hannah, trained to provide the special assistance she needs. The dog will accompany Hannah everywhere, acting as a safety feature. Because Hannah will be attached to the dog by a special harness, she will be unable to run into traffic or get lost. The dog would be trained to comfort Hannah and interrupt her repetitive autistic behaviors, called stimming. The dog will act as a social magnet, making it easier for other children to approach Hannah and make friends. The dog will be a forever friend – always loving and protecting her.
Autism assistance dogs are also trained in “search and rescue.” The dog will be able to track Hannah if she leaves unexpectedly. Unfortunately, some autistic children are “elopers” and take every opportunity to escape. Hannah is no different.
Based in Xenia, Ohio, 4 Paws for Ability is a non-profit organization that provides service dogs to families and individuals. 4 Paws trains a variety of assistance dogs, including but not limited to seizure assistance, mobility assistance, hearing ear dogs, and autism assistance dogs. 4 Paws was the first agency to place skilled autism assistance dogs and continues to be the largest organization that provides this type of assistance in the United States. 4 Paws is the only organization that places autism assistance dogs with search and rescue skills. More information on 4 Paws and autism assistance/seizure alert dogs can be found at www.4pawsforability.org.
4 Paws for Ability places a high responsibility on parents to aide in the creation of a team between child and dog. 4 Paws eliminates the necessity of a long wait list by allowing us, Hannah’s parents, to raise donations needed to cover the cost of training the dog. Hannah was approved for their program, and a dog is already being trained specifically for her. It costs $11,000 to train an autism assistance/seizure alert dog.
In order for Hannah to receive this multipurpose service dog, we must first complete the donation requirement. To reach the $11,000 training cost, our goal is to get 110 individuals to donate $100 each. However, any amount that you contribute is greatly appreciated.
Please complete the enclosed donation page. Make checks payable to 4 Paws for Ability. Mail the donation page along with your check in the envelope provided to:
4 Paws for Ability
253 Dayton Avenue
Xenia, Ohio 45385
Or you may donate online at www.4pawsforability.org
Please indicate on your check, or on the special instructions area of the online form, that the donation is for Hannah Chapman so she will get credit for her dog. All donations are tax deductible.
Thank you so much for your generosity!
May God bless you richly for your compassion and kindness.
On behalf of Hannah,
David and Marcey Chapman
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Well, ,today I got the much awaited phone call from 4 paws for ability. They asked me a few questions and told me we'd recieve our packet in the mail soon. We're all excited about it. Everyone that knows and loves Hannah is excited for her. I'll let you know more as soon as I get the packet and get more information. Thanks so much for all your prayers!
Posted by Marcey at 5:59 PM