CUBA CITY—The McWilliams family is educating the public on autism, a developmental disorder affecting communication and relationships, during a fundraising campaign to secure a service dog for their grandson, Kaiden McWilliams, 10 of St. Croix County. Kaiden was diagnosed with autism, anxiety disorder, low adaptive functioning and limited coping skills when he was 7 years old. He is now 10 years old.
Autism is a developmental disorder of the brain structure or function that impairs the ability to communicate, interact and form relationships with other people. There is no cure. It can last for years or can be lifelong.
Don and Gail McWilliams of Cuba City, Kaiden’s grandparents, have spread posters throughout the area to share their grandson’s story of the challenge of being autistic.
“Most people who have met Kaiden wouldn’t know that he’s autistic,” Gail McWilliams said. “It’s when he’s in crowds, group sessions, classrooms, things like that, that it closes in on him and he has issues. He has run away from school. He hides. We have a monitor on him so we can find him. We’ve discovered by accident that he responds really well to animals. He is currently being tutored and his teacher has a dog. Kaiden has sat outside for an hour in the cold because he is stubborn and won’t give in. If he has a problem, this dog will go up to Kaiden; it’s like he understands him. He’ll put his head in Kaiden’s lap and Kaiden will pet the dog. It’s like he’s a different kid. He can tolerate and learn.”
Gail McWilliams said the family has tried many other methods to help Kaiden; nothing has worked. The response they’ve seen from his tutor’s dog has ignited hope for the family.
A service dog could help with Kaiden’s independence and his confidence by lessening his anxiety, giving him encouragement and the comfort he needs, teaching him to be responsible and caring for others as well as give him a social bond with other kids. The dog will go everywhere Kaiden goes.
“I know an Autism service dog is not a cure for Kaiden, but it will give him the confidence he needs to be independent and successful.”
The service dog would be purchased through 4 Paws for Ability. Once the funds are raised, the training, tailored to Kaiden’s needs, will begin.
“We’re trying really hard to come up with this $15,000 to get a dog for him,” Gail McWillisms said. “We’re working really hard for him to get this money.”
The service dog purchased through 4 Paws for Ability will cost approximately $22,000 to train. Families are asked to fundraise $15,000 of the cost.
4 Paws for Ability has developed a unique program for training dogs to support families who are facing the challenges of having a child on the Autism spectrum. In addition to providing a calming effect on the child, there are several other tasks the dogs are taught to do, including finding the child if they run away, serving as a stationary ballast in the case of elopement, providing redirection away from a repetitive behavior and improving reading skills. When a child is paired with an Autism service dog, they have better sleep patterns, less frustration and anger and increased social skills.
An Autism service dog is fully protected under the federal law to accompany its owner anywhere. These dogs save lives and provide independence, freedom and peace of mind for families.
Kaiden wrote a letter requesting assistance in securing the funds for a service dog: “I would like a service dog because I really want to make friends and that is hard for me to do,” he wrote. “My brain gets scrambled up and tells me to do things that are not good to do, like running away, hitting myself and messing up my classroom. I want to learn in school, but it is hard for me because I can’t sit still and it is hard for me to concentrate. A dog would help me stay calm and would be there for me when I need it the most. Thank you for your help in getting me a friend. Kaiden McWilliams.”
Gail McWilliams said approximately 33 percent of the goal has been raised already. A fundraising event is being held on April 24 in Hudson.
To make a donation for Kaiden’s service dog, visit www.firstgiving.com and search for “4 K9 Paws for Kaiden McWilliams.” All donations are tax deductible. For more information about the service dogs, visit www.4pawsforability.org.
“Anything helps: $1, $2, $5, it all goes for a good cause,” Gail McWilliams said.
Aaron and Dana (Juaire) McWilliams both work in law enforcement. Aaron is the chief of police in Roberts and Dana works in the Hudson Jail.
Kaiden has two younger brothers, a younger sister, two step-brothers and a step-sister.