By Nicole Hegewald
Slater Gibson is not your typical 11-year-old boy. He was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of 18-months. He is mostly non-verbal, but uses basic sign language and other ways of communicating.
According to his mother, Tracy Gibson, Slater loves Barney the dinosaur, and is fascinated by anything that spins. He will soon be receiving a full time service dog to accompany him and lighten the stress load for his family.
“Slater has extreme anxiety and is afraid of anything new, so this dog will help ease that transition,” said Tracy. The stay-at-home mom then continued on to say, “And right now I am that transition . . . and sometimes I get a little sleep-deprived.”
National Service Dogs in Canada trains Labrador and golden retrievers to care for children with autism. The dog is trained to escort and assist the child to reduce anxiety and help keep the child safe if they tend to walk away. The dog is attached to the child by a leash and wears a vest with a handle for the child to hold.
“A lot of autistic children will bolt when they leave a car or a home,” said Tracy. “A dog will prevent this from happening.”
For three years, the Gibson family has been on a waiting list. Finally, Slater is to receive a trained service dog to accompany the boy 24/7. Families are not charged for the dog, or the training, but time is taken to ensure that the child is getting the right dog for his or her needs. The charity asks that any family in need of a dog raise money to donate. With the help of family and friends, Slater’s family has been trying to raise the $30,000. Any extra money raised will help another family get a dog.
“It’s going to change Slater’s life because it will offer him companionship, security,” said Tracy.