For the Troy Daily News
TIPP CITY — Like every parent, Stephanie and John Welter want nothing more than for their son to be safe, healthy, and happy. For anyone who has met Joe, they will know that he is a curious, smart, loving boy who is interested in oh-so-many things like cars, LEGOs, Star Wars, space, and singing.
One will also notice that he sometimes behaves differently than other children his age. This is because Joe has autism.
The official diagnosis came when he was 3, but his parents have known for some time that Joe has a disability. Though he tests above average for intelligence, his brain is wired in a way that makes pre-planning and controlling impulses difficult. These cognitive differences make for an unsafe life for Joe. He is extremely impulsive and very easily frustrated. When he gets upset about something, Joe will bang his head or hands on anything close at hand, whether that is mom, a classmate, or a concrete floor. He has great difficulty sitting still for any period of time and has difficulty sleeping at night. He lacks the communication skills a typical 6-year-old would have to tell us if he is hurt, to ask for help, or to form bonds of friendship. His parents live in constant fear that he will be harmed, or worse, as a result of these difficulties.
This is why his family is raising money for an autism service dog for Joe. Joe’s dog will be trained by the non-profit organization 4 Paws for Ability. Joe’s dog will administer gentle contact to help calm Joe when his sensory issues overwhelm him in the classroom or crowds. Joe’s dog will also help him during school and help with other urges that are unique expressions of his disability. The family hopes that Joe’s dog will sleep with him and help him to sleep better and stay in bed longer. Joe’s autism service dog will help the Welters to keep Joe safe and will help him to thrive.
“Asking for help is hard, almost as hard as openly sharing this small and personal part of our family’s story. We don’t want Joe’s autism to define one’s perception of him. It is not who he is, but it does affect how his brain works, and what he needs,” Stephanie Welter said.
“We decided that sharing our story and asking for help outweighs our uneasiness, because it will help us give our child more of what he needs: A community that loves and accepts him, a larger support network, and a highly trained autism service dog.”