My son John, at age 23, has already overcome so many obstacles. Diagnosed with autism at age six after years of searching for answers to his non-verbal nature and erratic behaviors, he has since grown into a young man who works very hard to establish social relationships and his own improvement. He graduated high school at age 21, and has been taking courses at the local community college ever since. Unfortunately, due to health issues, I am not able to attend with him, so he is no longer able to attend classes. He mostly just sits home now and is regressing, socially :(
For all of John's accomplishments and hard work, he is still a while away from independent living. Thankfully John has been pre-approved to receive an autism service dog through the organization Educating Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD). This dog will be trained to support John specifically and will be a support to his particular needs. We are attempting to raise $12,000 for ECAD to help with a fraction of the cost of raising & training a service dog, so that John can get back to either school or into some kind of training course, get a job & make some friends.
Any donation amount is appreciated and we thank you for your assistance and support! Together we will open up John’s whole world!
PO BOX 251 Dobbs Ferry NY 10522 USA
Founded in 1995, Our mission is to educate and place Assistance Dogs to help people with disabilities gain independence and mobility.
ECAD has placed over 200 dogs, in over 25 states, which is made possible by more than 750 teens that have participated in our ECADemy Program. There are over 60 dogs in training at one time and over 30 people waiting to receive a dog.
Direct beneficiaries per year:
ECAD averages 15 dogs placed per year with individuals, and rehabilitation facilities.
Geographic areas served:
Today ECAD’s training program produces a wide variety of Assistance Dogs: Service Dogs assist individuals with physical disabilities by acting as their arms and legs. The dogs are trained to perform a variety of tasks (e.g., retrieve items, activate light switches, open and close doors, assist with balance) specific to the needs of each individual. Specialty Dogs to assist children with Autism spectrum disorders in a variety of areas including emotional bonding, socialization support, cognitive development, and physical safety. Skilled Companion Dogs are placed with individuals who need support but are too young or ill to handle a Service Dog. These dogs are well socialized, trained in basic obedience, and can be trained to perform more advanced tasks based on an individual’s needs. Facility Dogs are placed in nursing homes, hospitals, private practice settings, alternative schools, or anywhere their therapeutic support is needed. These dogs have been well socialized; obedience trained, and can be trained to work in patient therapy programs.
ECAD truly opens doors. This charity hand-raises its pups from birth and trains them to become service dogs to make the lives of those with disabilities, veterans, and autistic children easier.
Every idea is born through necessity, and this organization is no different. Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which pairs service dogs with those with disabilities, veterans, and autistic children.
ECAD was founded by Lu and Dale Picard. Before the organization was born, Lu’s father suffered a stroke and lost much of his mobility and, in turn, some of his independence. Lu saw how much her father hated being dependent on her, and thus she began to teach the family dog commands like how to retrieve items and help her father get up from a chair. She realized that her father wasn’t as upset when the help came from the dog and became more active and less depressed. After seeing first-hand how service dogs can help improve a person’s day to day life, Lu quit her full-time job in 1995 to start ECAD. She purchased land in Connecticut for kennels and offices, and redesigned the home her husband and two daughters lived in to start a home for ECAD. Today, they have training facilities in both Connecticut as well as New York and have placed service dogs in over a dozen states.
ECAD has a couple of core programs and services, including the “Open Doors” Program. In this program, dogs are trained to become service dogs to help those with disabilities or trained to become facility dogs, where they go visit those in hospitals, nursing homes, and courthouses. Their “Canine Magic” program assists children (as young as two!) living with autism to build cognitive development, safety, emotional bonding and socialization. “Project HEAL” has two parts; one of them involving placing service dogs with veterans that live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical injuries or traumatic brain injuries. The second is the “Transition” part of Project HEAL, which teaches veterans to educate and train dogs that will be placed with fellow veterans.
So, how does the staff at ECAD choose their pups for these programs? It’s truly hands on: they hand-raise them themselves! They have 15 male and female who are suitable to breed in the program. The full-grown dogs also work as facility dogs, visiting school campuses, nursing homes and hospitals. The ECAD works with Labradors and Golden Retrievers – all of who have been with the facility since their birth.
As big believers in early education, ECAD places their pups in “full-time school” when they are just eight weeks old. By the time they are three months old, these pups already know how to sit, come, down, watch me, and how to walk on a loose leash. At the end of their first year of training, these pooches have learned over 60 commands to help those with disabilities. After a year and a half of training, and multiple interviews with the client requesting a service dog, instructors compare each dog’s temperament to match with the person. Once a match has been made and the client comes for team training, the dog will already have about two years of training under her belt.
There are a few ways you can help the folks at ECAD. You can donate (every bit counts!), or set up a monthly gift to give your ongoing support. You can also get involved by volunteering or attending one of their events, or purchase items such as office supplies from their Amazon Wish List. To learn more, visit the ECAD website
Diana Faria is a freelance writer who loves to write about all things dog- and bird-related. She’s been around pets all her life and her longest relationship was with a 17-year-old peach-faced lovebird named Panchoe. When she isn’t writing about the furry friends in our lives, she’s making her black-capped Caique, Max, Instagram famous. She’s also a pillow for Kika, her short-tempered yet cuddly Chihuahua/Dachshund.
I believe it would be beneficial for John to have a service dog for many reasons. I have personally seen him struggle with social situations as well as with daily routines. Growing up I did not understand why John seemed to refuse to wake up for school, did not want to go outside at night, didn’t want to go anywhere without my mom, and why he always seemed so withdrawn from social situations. It took years of medication, doctors, manic / depressive cycling, and research/educating ourselves before anyone gave an accurate diagnosis and began appropriate medicating and counseling. Even though a great team of doctors and counselors has been behind my family for years, it is still difficult for John to function at a level that would be deemed normal. He does not have normal sleep patterns, suffers from social anxiety which limits the time he is able to be without mom or someone he feels comfortable with. At this point, I do not feel John will be able to function on his own without my mother as his support. It is important for him to learn to live on his own, function in social situations, care for himself and others and most importantly gain the confidence needed to overcome his disabilities. John has shown time and time again a connection with animals that give him a sense of responsibility, comfort, companionship and safety. I have two rescue dogs that John interacts with when he is visiting. I have personally seen the difference in John’s moods, behaviors, actions and overall mental health when he is interacting with animals.
Having a service dog would allow John to be out in public without the assistance of my mother. Being able to talk to others about his dog, whether it is the dog’s name, breed, age, how it helps him, would give him the confidence boost he needs in order to interact with people he does not know well and carry on conversations in a manner anyone else normally would. Having a service dog will also help John feel more secure at home alone. I know this is something he struggles with frequently. When my mom goes out, even to the corner store for milk, John is unable to stay home by himself. However, when he is at my house and my dogs are around, he is comfortable being alone in the house for a period of time, even at night which is especially scary for him. Having a companion animal to give him a sense of security when he is alone is something that will not only benefit him when there is no one else in the home, but when he is venturing to a store on his own or out in public without anyone else.
One other area I feel a service dog can help and would be a huge benefit to John’s wellbeing is the ability to wake him up and calm him down after a nightmare. For years John has been plagued with nightmares that he has said he cannot wake up from. Nightmares can be upsetting and disruptive to anyone’s sleep pattern and mental state. For someone who already struggles with sleep problems and anxiety, this can be especially traumatic. When we were younger, John would say our dog Lucy would chase away his nightmares. The problem was, she never liked to sleep on the bed! A service dog could be trained to sleep on the bed and provide a sense of security needed to receive a restful sleep.
Watching John struggle with things that we take for granted, such as being able to stay alone, knowing how to interact with others, being able to care for yourself and maintain a home is very upsetting. Knowing the difference that a service dog will make in John's life is unexplainable and I do hope he is given the opportunity.
When I met John in 2008 he was very quiet and seemed to not do much. As he got more comfortable with me he would talk more but mostly about animals, tv shows, movies or games. He doesn't seem to go many places unless he is with his mother, but each time they visit it seems he started to get comfortable without her if I was with him.
Since we adopted two rescue dogs I have seen a big difference in John. He is more open, more animated and does more. He used to just sit and watch tv. Now he talks about things other than what I mentioned before. He even stays alone for a while, during the day, with our dogs. He has been here when we've been fostering dogs and he connects with them in a way I do not see him do with people. He has even begun to talk to the neighbors on either side of our house. They both have dogs and both know about John's disabilities. He started by just talking about the dogs and now has short conversations with them. A trained service dog could help John with socializing by being an opening to talk to strangers and develop socializing skills.
John doesn't sleep well and has nightmares so bad that he feels paralyzed. He has said he cannot even go get his mother or even call her from his cell phone. When they visit he says he sleeps better because the dogs sleep in the guest room with him. Having a dog that is trained to recognize the signs of a nightmare would help him avoid being paralyzed with fear. The security of knowing that the dog is there to help him would maybe even reduce the nightmares and help him be able to sleep.
I have not personally seen John have a meltdown or anxiety attack, but have heard the stories. I have seen his mom suddenly stop what she was doing and distract John or do something to change his demeanor. Apparently she saw some sign of a potential problem and stopped it before John got worse. It is my understanding a service dog is able to do the same thing thereby allowing John to be more independent. Relieving fear of a serious problem so that John can do things alone without worry and his mom would not have to be afraid of what could happen if she is not with him.
I have also seen John get confused and kind of spacey. His mom redirects him & grounds him so that he recognizes where he is. She also acts like a block in strange places and crowds. Getting in between him & the people or directing him to quiet corner until he is ok again. Having a service dog would, again, mean she doesn't always have to be with him or be on guard if she is also with him. We have taken them to hockey games and I see that his mom is paying more attention to him to make sure the crowd, lights and noise isn't getting to him than she is to the game. Also, people naturally give someone with a dog on a leash a wider area which would help John’s anxiety since he wouldn't be crowded or bumped into.
John doesn’t get much exercise. He gets very tired and doesn’t feel competent to go to a gym and his mom can’t take him to guide him because of her back. Being responsible for his service dog would mean he’d get out and at least walk more. Since his mom started having a lot of trouble walking she can’t take him out walking or on nature trails like he loves. The service dog would allow him to do these things again. He is terrified of taking a bus or going in a taxi by himself, he knows he would panic with strangers and be confused about what he is supposed to do. If he could take a service dog and know the dog is trained to help his anxiety and be something to talk about with a stranger he wouldn’t have to not go to school or to his therapist if his mom isn’t well to drive him. She has a very long walk to get to her car from their apartment. Or he could even go to the grocery store instead of them doing without if his mom is having a hard time walking or forcing herself to go regardless, or just because he’s 22 years old and should be able to do that and so many other things.
I think John could certainly be independent, even live on his own with minimal supervision someday and have a job. I think the only way that can happen is if he has a service dog who can help ground him, assure him he is not alone, alert him to danger or alleviate perceived danger, bring him back to the present when he wanders in his mind, be a help to better socialization, allow him to go out in public without his mom and become the person lurking in fear inside him. Without a service dog John will always need to be cared for by someone full time and not many people would be able to notice the subtle things his mom sees. It would mean he has a future that doesn’t include an assisted living group home.
Thank you for considering helping John. He’s a great guy and could have a great future with the right supports. https://connect.clickandpledge.com/w/Organization/ecad1/site/Facebook/fundraiser/JohnPaladino/