Benjamin Van Ryn & Brody
In the summer of 2015, Ben was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism; many people are more familiar with the term Asperger’s Syndrome. We always knew our Benjamin Bunny was quirky: when he was learning to walk, he'd never let you see him trying. As soon as you'd turn your head to see what he was up to, he'd sit down. Then one day around 15 months old, he just walked across the living room like he'd been doing it for years.
Fast forward eight years, and many quirks, later: in third grade, Ben's teacher noticed his difficulties in the classroom were more than the average struggle with increased school work and social pressures. Ben really struggled through that year of school, but we started working with the special education department to figure out what would work best for Ben in, and out, of the classroom. That led to a neuropsychiatric evaluation and his diagnosis.
Ben currently receives Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy and is in a Social Skills Group. He also has an Individualized Education Plan at school. All this has helped him greatly, but his dad and I know how much he struggles with the frustration that he can’t always do what kids his age do, mostly because of anxiety of the unknown. Anything new or different is very hard for him to process. Unexpected changes in his routine also trigger his anxiety. He also has a hard time making, and keeping, friends. His interests, or rather the depth of his interests, make him difficult for kids his age to relate to. (Not many 10-year-olds can tell you all the details of many different WWII tanks.) Even day-to-day tasks can create frustration since he gets overwhelmed very easily by too many sights and sounds; other times he seeks stimulation (being held, weighted blankets, music).
One of his greatest loves has always been animals. He is always looking up more information about animals on his Ipad. He stops every dog-walker on the street, asking if he can pet their dog.
That’s where the idea came from that Ben might benefit from a service dog. A NEADS Social Dog would be a friend who doesn’t question how he can talk about tanks for three hours, someone that helps him calm down when he is feeling anxious because the world is just too much for him, and someone he can take care of and maybe learn a little patience with. In Ben’s words:
NEADS pays over $42,000 to raise and train each service dog. We are being asked to fundraise $8000 to help offset this cost. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to NEADS in order to help Ben reach his fundraising goal. Every little bit counts, and our family would greatly appreciate your help!
Brody has been life changing for our whole family. Ben generally feels calmer just by having Brody around. Just one example of the many ways Brody has helped Ben: when Ben feels overwhelmed, a snuggle with Brody helps him calm down, often to the point where he can talk about what upset him. Now, instead of spending hours or days trying to figure out what upset him, we can help Ben address the problem or plan what to do the next time it happens. Their bond is truly amazing.