He is my bighearted 9-year-old with a vibrantly inquisitive mind.
Avery genuinely wants to understand the world around him.
He loves asking questions and quickly absorbs new information, especially when a topic fascinates him. His current interests include science, nature, and the great outdoors. He dreams of visiting as many National Parks as possible, with Yellowstone at the top of his list.
Avery has a fantastic imagination.
An avid book lover and Harry Potter fan, Avery loves to practice his wizardry skills at home.
He also loves dreaming up his own cool stories! This year, Avery learned to use speech-to-text on his Chromebook to write stories and create books. His latest is called "The Kingdom of the Pinecones."
Avery even makes up stories about his favorite toy, Bug Bug, a stuffed puppy that goes almost everywhere with him. He provides the personality, and Avery has turned his stories into little books like "Bug Bug's Adventurous Guide to Being a Knight."
Avery is also a great LEGO builder.
He likes making ships, planes, robots, and other creatures. However, machines that fly are his specialty. He is so talented when it comes to building working doors, moving parts, and little compartments.
Avery's kindhearted nature is one of his biggest strengths.
Avery is outgoing and friendly with just about everyone he meets – even if he's just met them. He delights in making others laugh with his silliness and sharing his interests with others. When someone is upset, Avery is eager to use these traits in cheering them up. He is also gentle and nurturing with younger kids. He likes teaching them to do the things he knows how to do.
People close to Avery describe him as "a pretty cool kid," and I couldn't agree more!
In addition to the many characteristics that make Avery such an incredible and unique kid, there is something else that makes him different from neurotypical children his age …
Avery has Autism and ADHD.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability that causes significant communication, behavioral, and social challenges. The condition affects everyone who has it differently.
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disability characterized by persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior that interferes with academic, work, and/or social functioning. ADHD is a medical condition diagnosed when symptoms are severe enough to cause persistent and disruptive problems in multiple areas of day-to-day life.
The symptoms of Autism and ADHD are far-reaching in how they impact my son …
Avery has poor executive functioning.
These are the mental skills used to learn, work, and manage daily life. They include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control that allow us to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things.
Executive functioning troubles affect Avery at school, home, and even when tending to activities he enjoys. Daily tasks like getting dressed and going through his morning routine to be ready for school are challenging to complete. It also causes trouble with school assignments, homework, and focus in the classroom.
It is difficult for Avery to control his body.
While he knows what he should be doing and wants to do it, his impulsivity often works against him, and his body doesn't follow through.
Avery requires a lot of sensory input, so instead of walking, he runs. Instead of sitting down, he will throw himself onto the floor or furniture.
Avery doesn't have many friends.
His intense interests and inflexible thinking make it hard for him to create and maintain friendships during play, especially with peers his age.
Avery is often left feeling lonely and isolated.
Intense emotions are hard for Avery to handle.
When he gets upset, Avery acts impulsively and has trouble communicating his needs before it gets to the point of a meltdown, often resulting in throwing or breaking things. Most heartbreaking, he sometimes attempts to hurt himself.
Avery's outbursts become even more of a struggle when dealing with a teacher or caregiver who doesn't know how to work with him. Being told to "control" himself only exasperates the situation. Avery becomes hurt, frustrated, and feels unwelcome and unsupported by the people he is supposed to trust.
Can you imagine what it must feel like to be constantly misunderstood for having an invisible disability?
Misconceptions about ADHD are harmful.
Parenting a child with invisible disabilities, I have often felt the stigma around Avery's diagnoses (especially ADHD) and how many people think it is "not a big deal," which is not true.
I'm constantly advocating for my child and educating others that:
• ADHD is not a made-up condition.
• ADHD is not caused by bad parenting or poor discipline.
• ADHD is not something children outgrow.
• ADHD is not an excuse to be lazy or misbehave.
• ADHD does not mean a person is dumb.
ADHD Myths and misunderstandings often lead to damaging, longstanding consequences.
Unfortunately, this is a reality for my son.
Avery was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 4 years old and has only recently received his Autism diagnosis.
While his preschool classmates were building confidence in their abilities, Avery discovered he was very different from his peers. He became very aware of the labels his teachers placed on him. It has progressed over the years, with him receiving so many more negative comments than his peers. It affects his self-esteem and confidence.
Avery is a very passionate little boy who wants to learn!
Of course, this requires understanding and patience from a teacher who understands his disability.
So, when his public school wasn't equipped to help him, we moved to an area with the proper support and teachers to help him thrive.
As a working mom, finding appropriate care for Avery has been difficult over the years.
Most people do not understand how ADHD can impact so many aspects of a child's life, and Avery has also been written up or suspended from school and childcare for things related to his disability. As you can imagine, keeping the stable and predictable schedule Avery requires is hard to manage.
I want to see my child thrive and be happy.
So, we adjust our lives to make sure Avery is in the best environment for his needs.
Still, Avery's diagnosis has been tough on our family.
It can be tough to be in public where people make unsolicited comments or give unsolicited advice when your child is exhibiting unexpected behaviors.
As Avery gets older, he's become more aware of how others are perceiving him.
It's upsetting to both of us, and I find myself wanting to explain to people that he is not a "bad kid."
It's hard to do activities that many other families enjoy.
Shopping, eating at restaurants, attending family gatherings, and visiting amusements parks are things our family avoids. They end up being stressful for everyone instead of fun and enjoyable.
Instead, we usually stay home or stick to solo activities Avery enjoys – swim lessons and swimming in our pool, hiking, visiting the library to find new books, traveling to state and national parks.
It hasn't been easy, but together we persevere.
Every kid deserves to feel accepted and loved for who they are …
And a service dog would be just that for Avery.
Avery loves dogs.
This became clear when he met the service dog his aunt was training.
The smile on his face and the calmness that comes over him was awe-inspiring. He was utterly different around this dog. Suddenly, he seemed more in control. He was able to "be" in his body.
During a later visit, the dog helped Avery remain focused while attending a distance learning class. The dog's presence kept him grounded, and his teacher better connected with him because he was present - not only with his mind but his body as well.
Strangers are quick to judge Avery because he appears as a "typical" kid.
One incident that has stuck with me happened when Avery lost control during a shopping trip. As I tried to calm him and get to our car, a person stood from across the parking lot, recording a video of us in the middle of his meltdown.
It was one of the most upsetting experiences I have ever had!
I've often wondered how different things would have gone if a service dog had been with us. Would it have been clearer that Avery's behaviors were related to an invisible disability? That is my hope.
How Will a Service Dog Help Avery?
Federally recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Avery's service dog will be able to go with him to places like schools, playgrounds, medical offices, restaurants, and more.
Avery's pup will be specially trained to mitigate his unique needs, including:
• Preventing and managing emotional dysregulation and sensory meltdowns
• Reducing anxiety and maintaining calm during stressful situations
• Interrupting maladaptive and self-injurious behaviors
• Helping with grounding and regaining focus
• Providing spatial boundaries when interacting with others
• Facilitating positive social interactions
• Providing non-judgmental companionship from a loyal friend
• Reminding people that not all disabilities are visible
We are most excited to attempt everyday activities that other families enjoy – like shopping or eating out together, visiting amusement parks or other activities, or attending family gatherings.
Knowing Avery would always have a dog for support, calming, and focus in difficult situations would allow us to enjoy these activities!
We've decided to partner with Good Dog! Service Canines in getting Avery's service dog because they are the first organization we found that trained dogs to assist children with ADHD and autism.
Having a non-judgmental friend and support system for Avery was something I never thought we would have until I found Good Dog.
Each of their dogs undergoes nearly two years of training, including specialized training specific to their paired child's needs. Good Dog! also provides our family with education, training, and support for our working dog's life.
How Can I Help?
Click the orange "Make a Donation" button to contribute to our online fundraiser.
You can also mail a check if you want to waive the small credit card fees. Please note, mailed donations are recorded and deposited at the end of each month.
Please indicate “A Paw-some Ally for Avery” on the memo line and send it to:
Also, your donation applies to many corporate matching programs! Please check with your HR department to get your company's support.
Wags + Gratitude
Thank you so much for being so supportive in giving Avery the best life paw-sible!
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