Child, family seeking service dog
Brunswick News - 4/11/2017
April 11--Jaime Riddle is like most mothers -- she is both proud and protective of her son, Matty. But unlike most, Riddle and her little boy face a mountain of challenges on a daily basis.
Matty is autistic, suffering from a debilitating form of the illness that limits his ability to speak or live a normal life.
"He was diagnosed when he was 3 and he's 7 now. He is severely autistic. His speech was delayed ... he's not non-verbal but he can only say short sentences. He can also repeat things like, 'I love you,'" she said. "But he can't have an actual conversation. It is just short spurts."
Matty is making strides. He is a student at Glynndale Elementary School, splitting his time between a special needs and regular classroom.
"He knows 15 of his sight words. He can count to 30," she said. "He has an assistant that goes with him throughout the day."
But Jaime is hoping to get a different type of assistant for her son soon -- one with four legs. Riddle wants to get Matty a service dog to help with a variety of problems stemming from his autism.
The only challenge -- the dog costs $25,000. Like any mama, though, she refuses to give up on something that she knows could immensely benefit her child.
"They are good companions. They can create that bond that autistic children don't really have with anyone outside their parents," she said. "It will help him with interactions because he is very antisocial. He might play with another kid for 15 minutes but then he's done."
Studies have shown that children are able to connect with the dogs which allows them to relax while out in public. Riddle hopes that, when Matty gets his dog, it will help reduce the number of breakdowns he has outside of his home.
"I think it will help with his meltdowns," she said. "Matty loves dogs. He loves all animals."
The dog, either a golden retriever or a labrador, would be specifically trained to work with Matty. The company would come to Riddle's home to show them how to interact with the dog. Later they would return to retrain the dog as time progresses.
"I think that it's really cool that they would teach the dog to work with Matty and his specific needs," Riddle said.
First, they have to raise the money to buy the dog. The family has been selling $20 t-shirts for quite some time. And they are currently planning a fundraiser to generate more money.
That will be from 4-9 p.m., April 29, at Matteo's Italian Restaurant in Brunswick. On that day, a Saturday, a portion of the dinner proceeds will go toward Matty's service dog fund. Titled "Fine Dining for a Cause," Riddle hopes the public will go out to eat that night to help Matty.
"All you have to do is go out to eat ... that's it," she said.
Direct donations can also be made by going to the family's website or through its Facebook page link: Autism Service Dog for Matty.
And Riddle is always grateful for any amount toward the cause.
"It doesn't have to be a lot ... any amount would help," she said.
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