Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. For most of us,
the holiday season lasts a few weeks, maybe a month, but for Mark, it
is Christmas year-round. Special interests are common with autism,
and one of Mark’s for the past two years has been Christmas and Elf on
the Shelf, along with all of the many Elf on the Shelf accessories,
movies, stories, colouring books, melt beads, and absolutely anything
else he can find on this topic.
Mark is an energetic, bright, and loving 7-year-old boy who enjoys
playing with Lego, biking, swimming, running, climbing, soccer, and
obstacle courses. He loves art and is always working on a variety of
projects and we are constantly amazed with his creative streak and
One of Mark’s favourite activities is spending time with his
grandparents in Nova Scotia, but his difficulties with transitions can
make even such a welcome travel adventure very challenging for him. A
night in a hotel along the drive often results in many tears shed, and
angry outbursts from Mark for each change in routine. Our family made
the choice to make Ottawa our home in 2015 for professional reasons,
and Mark has few memories of living in Nova Scotia except for the dogs
he knew there.
Mark sees the world in his own way and is often misunderstood. He
lives with autism spectrum disorder, a severe form of ADHD,
phonological disorder, sensory processing difficulties, and
significant symptoms of anxiety. This combination has largely kept
him from being able to enjoy family outings to restaurants, or any
sort of public event for a long time now. For Mark, there has been
little relief from his symptoms, except when he is around animals,
When Mark is around a dog, it is almost like his symptoms disappear.
Mark is a wonderful and intelligent 7-year-old boy who can be
incredibly kind and thoughtful and has a near photographic memory.
Unfortunately, his symptoms hide that wonderful boy far too often,
keeping him from enjoying life, and keeping him from accessing the
curriculum in a school environment. He often runs away from anything
he perceives as a demand, or, if he can’t run away, he becomes
aggressive to avoid the demand. This has created real challenges in
our family, as Mark often directs his aggression towards his older brother.
We are incredibly grateful that Mark is approved to receive a service
dog from Kingston 4 Paws Service Dogs and hope that with his dog,
we’ll gradually be able to have more time with the best version of
Mark. His service dog will help to keep him from bolting away from
demands and help him to feel safe and comfortable in higher
stimulation environments. When Mark feels overstimulated, or anxious
to the point of aggression, a dog offers the ability to provide him
the sensory input his body needs by simply applying pressure against
him, which is expected to reduce his aggressive outbursts. At the
same time, his service dog will provide constant companionship and a
welcome distraction from whatever upset him in that moment and will be
a constant presence through changing circumstances to help Mark better
For a person with complex neurological needs, the world is a
terrifying place that is constantly judging them, and where the
demands are overwhelming. A service dog is a friend who will provide
love, care and attention, can listen, be a shoulder to cry on, and
will never tell the person they’re doing it wrong.
We appreciate any support you can offer Kingston 4 Paws Service Dogs
as they receive no government funding for the incredible work they’re
doing and rely on donations to cover their costs.
Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.