Easton's Service Dog
Organized by: Jenna Eddy
Meet Easton, a 5 year old boy from Richmond who was diagnosed two years ago with autism spectrum disorder, global developmental delay, and sensory processing disorder. With this, he suffers from severe meltdowns ranging from violent outbreaks, public sensory overload, and running away and hiding. All of these happen on a daily basis. Easton learned to walk at 19 months, at that same time, he was just starting speech therapy. As his speech improved, other areas of development never picked up or was well behind the average 3 year old. That is when Easton was again tested, and the results this time showed up showed up in full force. Onset of diagnosis: no eye contact, minimally verbal, extremely violent, outburst, stimming behaviors, harm to others, public outings nearly impossible due to sensory processing disorder. That’s when Jenna, Easton’s mom and single mother of 3 kids, demanded that her child will have the life he deserves. She has helped him through the diagnosis, the speech therapy, psychologist, autism preschool and his ABA specialized therapists. It was a hard battle for her with lots of red tape and lots of money, but none of that stopped her. She is determined to get Easton everything he needs and do anything to help in his development. Easton has two therapists at the house a week to assist with his development. Currently, he is on a heavy supplement intake to help improve brain function. It’s expensive and not covered. Easton has two siblings, Riley who is 9 and Hunter who is 4. This has been particularly hard on Riley. Going through her parent’s divorce, a four year run of being an only child, then wishing every day during the pregnancy that mom was going to give her a sister, but turned out to be Easton, and now only gets 10% of mom’s attention a day. It goes without saying, this isn’t exactly what Riley envisioned as being the older sibling. And for Hunter, this is the life that is normal to him. But when you meet them, you’ll know, they are family, through thick or thin. So here’s the point in the story where we go into detail on just how bad these meltdowns really are. A simple grocery store run sometimes turns into a four hour ordeal. And with Easton, this is quite peculiar because there isn’t a whole lot that can be done. It just kind of has to run its course. I watched a short clip of a 40 minute melt down and I must say, that is well beyond anything most parents will ever see from their child. Sometimes he calms down only because he has no energy left to continue, then crashes. At night, when most people are a sleep, Easton is still tossing and turning and waking up from night terrors. A weighted blanket has helped some, but he still continues to have night terrors. This is not limited to the evening and night hours, as this is a round the clock task. During the day, his sensory overloads can cause Easton to run off within a split second because he becomes overwhelmed with his surroundings. Imagine back to that split second where you almost dropped your brand new phone; now multiply that level of panic by infinity for every second you can’t find your child. That is not an over exaggeration. During meltdowns he becomes violent towards others and himself. Hitting, kicking, biting, throwing, screaming, running back and forth, hitting his head against the wall, and flailing around. But…. The past 6 months Jenna has been able to raise nearly $3,000. And his highlight of that journey? He was invited to throw out the first pitch at the Richmond Squirrels game! How awesome! And now this is where you, I, and the rest of Chive Nation come in. It has been highly recommended by the therapy team that he get an autism service dog. After a ton of reading and research later and holy buckets, would this help his entire family’s life be drastically easier. Easton’s dog would help keep him from running away and hiding. If that were to happen, it will be trained to search and find him. The dog would help in public places to not be overwhelmed and scared and to prevent meltdowns with specialized training. It would even help him sleep better through the night and calm him from night terrors. The dog would be also be trained to help Easton from self-harm and harming others during his more violent episodes. The service dog could go anywhere Easton could go including school. And now that he has graduated his autism program school, he will be attending kindergarten in the public school system, because private autism school is financially on par with college tuition. Not only will this service dog help to ease the stress on the family, this eases the public’s stress at the grocery store, teacher’s stress from class disruptions, and classmate’s stress from the same, and now kids can’t get upset because “Easton is disrupting snack time again” is not an issue. Milk and cookies are essential to a kid’s diet, right!? As some of you know specialized autism service dog training is not cheap by any means. It comes out to be close to $20,000. That will cover Easton’s top three trouble areas and be trained specifically to his dog. Search and rescue, self-harm/violent outbreaks, and public/sensory overload. Easton’s dog will get a load more training to cope with everyday life as a new member of the family. This is also a lifetime training service. What that means is the training center will send a specialist out to the home to retrain the service dog on Easton’s new top symptoms as he becomes better in one area, but worse in others. This is all done through Highland Canine Training based out of North Carolina. What kind of kid is Easton you ask? Well, Captain America is his absolute favorite superhero and wants to name his service dog Captain America. He recently got to experience his first movie theater where they host autism showings. The lights are not fully dimmed and the sound is turned down. And if you guessed his first movie was a Captain America movie, you guessed right, Captain America: Civil War. His second was the new TMNT. Kid has good taste. He also likes baseball as you could tell. And at five years old, he is excited for the next shark week, how awesome is that?! He likes the color blue. Goes fishing when he can. And as a true star wars fan, he hummed the beat of “The Imperial March”. But the best part of Easton’s story? Easton demands his service dog be a German Shepherd because when he grows up, he is set on becoming a handler for a K-9 police unit. How great is that? So the number thrown out earlier, $20,000. After you factor in what Easton’s mom has raised, it comes out to be over $17,000, so let’s just call it $18,000….That’s an amount I’ve stared at for an entire episode of “That 70’s Show” at 1:25am. The realist in us sees this as, “I don’t know, man. Maybe we could do half of that on a good night…” But it seems like we all have that “Chiver” mentality that nonchalantly looks around and shrugs “Why the f**k not?” And to take an old saying that still holds true to this day, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Let’s be his village, not because we are looking for donations. The Chive village is about helping when you can, sharing information, protecting one another, and being the voice of the underdog when times get hard. Join theChive Virginia and Berry Virginia as we help Easton and his family reach his goal of benefiting from having a service dog in his life. This is going to be just one epic adventure in Easton’s journey through life, but this is one you will absolutely regret if you miss out on. Chive Nation, you ready?