BRUNSWICK, Ohio (WJW) — Nash Szczepinski, is a non-verbal 5-year-old with limited mobility, but he puts on the biggest smiles when playing with the family dogs.
“It wasn’t until about 10 months that we noticed he was a little late. I kept taking him to the doctors and they were like, ‘Oh, he’s fine. He just has a big head,” his mother, Faith, said.
But Nash would be diagnosed with a rare condition called ANDP syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder causing impaired communication and limited social interaction.
Nash also has sensory needs, bouts of choking, and bouts of self-harm, but Faith has noticed that when he’s around their two boxers, it calms him down in the toughest times.
“It only lasted so long because our dogs aren’t service dogs, so they don’t know,” Faith said.
The family reached out to a grassroots Southern Ohio nonprofit called 4 Paws for Ability, which has matched hundreds of service dogs for veterans and families with special needs across the country.
“The dog must be born, then go through puppy enrichment, basic obedience, crate training, potty training, socialization and finally advanced training,” said the development manager. , Kelly Camm.
“The dog is going to wear a bit like a vest with a handle so Nash can walk the dog. They train him to alert me and my husband or his sister when Nash is having a choking episode,” Faith said.
However, the process is long and expensive, at $20,000.
The family first set up a lemonade stand outside their home and raised over $500.
Their fundraising efforts have now extended to social media and they are already halfway to their goal.
“I know things are tough right now for everyone and I know it’s their coffee money, part of their vacation money, their gas money and it’s like it meant so much to us just to see the outpouring of love and support,” Faith said. .
4 Paws for Ability requires families to present a medical prescription indicating what the disability is and a family verification process before they even consider getting a service dog.
The waiting list to get the service dog is two years, so Nash won’t get his dog until 2024. His dog hasn’t even been born yet.
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