BRUNSWICK, Ohio (WJW) – Nash Szczepinski, is a non-verbal 5-year-old with limited mobility, but he gives the biggest smiles when playing with the family dogs.
“It wasn’t until about 10 months old we noticed that he was a little bit behind. I kept taking him to doctors and they were like, ‘oh, he’s fine. He just has a big head,'” said his mom, Faith.
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, choking episodes and bouts of self-harm, but Faith noticed when he’s around their two boxers, it calms him during the most difficult 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 popular nonprofit organization in southern Ohio called 4 Paws for Ability, which has matched hundreds of service dogs for veterans and special needs families nationwide.
“The dog has to be born and then go through puppy enrichment, basic obedience, crate training, potty training, socialization and then finally on to advanced training,” Development Director Kelly Camm said.
“The dog’s going to wear kind of like a vest that has a handle on it so Nash can walk with the dog. They’re training it to alert me and my husband or his sister when Nash is having a choking episode,” Faith said.
However, the process is extensive and expensive, to the tune of $20,000.
The family initially set up a lemonade stand outside their home and raised more than $500.
Their fundraising efforts have now expanded to social media and they’re already halfway to their goal.
“I know things are tough right now for everybody and I know this is their coffee money, part of their vacation money, their gas money and it’s just like 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 doctor’s prescription, noting what the disability is and a family vetting process before even being considered to receive a service dog.
The waiting list to get the service dog is two years so Nash won’t be receiving his dog until 2024. His dog isn’t even born yet.
Learning more about donating here.