Hi! This is our disabled family.
I am David, a househusband and a retired counselor who dedicated twenty-five years to treating drug dependency in
public health clinics; and when not taking care of our son, I donate my free time as a commissioner on our county’s
commission on disabilities, where I work to improve our county’s inclusion of people with disabilities and expand
opportunities for children with disabilities. My wife, Rebecca, is the bread winner, working for the local University
in their general finances department. Stefan, our son, is an amazingly intelligent eight-year-old boy who was
diagnosed with autism shortly after his first birthday.
We’ve had many questions about how we could diagnose Stefan so young, but the signs were very clear.Immediately after he was born, he refused to latch or look at faces. He would stare at the corners of the room or the ceiling fan. It was a struggle for his first year to keep him properly fed, as he refused any form of food or nourishment, something that we are still struggling with. I remember joking with Becca, about him looking at the spirits of our past family members watching out for him; however, this never got better and as he aged, more symptoms appeared. It became clear that one of us, me, would have to give up our career to manage his disabilities.
Stefan is very bright. From a very early age, he mastered the cartography of the world, including countries, major cities, and in the case of the United States, the individual states, capitols and in some state’s counties. He can assemble a map forwards or upside down. I believe that this is a clear demonstration of the power of his intelligence, however he also has a strong aversion to testing, which has made school and other areas where evaluations are needed an extremely difficult.
His autism affects him dramatically across his life spectrum. He is functionally non-verbal, suffers from sensory stimulation problems, eating disorders, social problems, and a massive curiosity lacking any sense of fear. Without directly holding his hand, he would run into traffic if something interesting caught his eye, wander off with a stranger because he found them interesting, or play hide and seek. We once lost him in the aquarium even with a tracking device; luckily, he was hiding ten feet from us the entire terrifying 30 minutes. What is most scary is his
love of water and our living in such close proximity of a river, which has caused me to become politically active to create a water safety program in our county for disabled children.
Stefan is the most amazing and creative boy; however, the autism makes it so that someone needs to be within arm’s reach of him at all times. Aside from his lessons in escapology from the ghost of Houdini, he is prone to becoming stuck in repetitive behaviors that are often more than just a little annoyance, like if he bangs his head into something (glass windows were a favorite for years), hits himself or simply falls into a stimulation loop like a record skipping. Being close makes it easier to interrupt the behaviors and help redirect him to something more appropriate. His internal focus can be so powerful that getting his attention is impossible without physically touching him, which can be really problematic in school or at times when we need him to recognize a dangerous situation, he may have stumbled into without thinking.
We love to take Stefan for outings, hikes, and other places, but managing him in public is a very difficult task. His curiosity has him constantly running away from us, grabbing things from shop shelves, and interacting with strangers. Once we went to a local restaurant where the lobby was packed. We had both turned out attention away from Stefan for a few minutes to find that he had rearranged all the strangers in the waiting area. It was a humorous event, but not all his interactions are so funny. We live on the coast, so cliffs and rip currents are a persistent issue
on outings, which forces us to use a leash, which feels demeaning as he gets older.
We have been wanting to employ a dog for years but finding a breeder/trainer that could provide us with a dog that could help was an all but impossible task during the COVID lock down. Recently, I was lucky to meet some new friends with a dog from 4 Paws for Ability and I was really impressed with his training, behaviors and how much it was helping them with their child. Even more, how much their child was developing socially having a dog to bond
with. When we were accepted into the program, we were very excited; however, the fees are rather daunting for our single income family. This is where we are hoping that our community will help us. It is our sincere belief that if we can provide Stefan with enough support now, he will grow to not need support as an adult. Please help us with a donation to give Stefan the support he needs to grow into a productive member of our community.