By Dedra Cordle
A world of imagination can be found throughout the Hudson household. In their front yard is a very tall vine fort where 8-year-old twins Juniper and Henry can often be spotted running in and out of the small opening, making up stories as they navigate the lush wilderness. In the living room is a mini-trampoline, a swing and a craft station where they work off their boundless energy and creativity. In the dining room is rows upon rows of books where they spend countless hours absorbed in the land of dragons, dinosaurs, butterflies and all manner of animals. Each location in the home offers a variety of wonders for the twins and their active imaginations, but it is the outside world that their mother and father, Karma and Scott, long for them to explore.
Though the family occasionally takes trips to local animal rescue farms, the Franklin Park Conservatory and to visit friends in the immediate area, their home in their mainstay because that is where the children are the most comfortable. It is also the place that can best address their anxiety as it arises, as it often does.
“We have a little insular environment at home but we want them to be out in the world,” Karma explained.
That proves easier said than done because being out amongst the public can pose a danger to one of both of the twins, especially if there is only one parent around.
Karma vividly recalls a time when she was out alone with her kids when Henry, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4, became overwhelmed with a situation and took off.
Karma’s immediate instinct to run after him was slightly hindered by her need to keep Juniper safe as well by not leaving her in the care of a stranger so she could chase after him.
Thankfully, the end result turned out well for all involved but it was a situation that Karma said she never wanted to be in again.
Since Henry’s diagnosis four years ago and Juniper’s diagnosis two years ago, the trio are often homebound until Scott gets back from work or it is a day where their aide comes to help. Though they often spend the day laughing, reading and learning, Karma said it would be nice to be able to just take them out for a quick errand from time to time without worrying about what could happen if Henry has a meltdown.
Recently, Karma and Scott began discussing whether a service dog would be able to help their children face the public and private challenges their diagnosis poses. They spoke with trusted friends and professional advisors and decided it would be worth researching. As the pros in the pros vs. cons column started getting longer, that one con – the price tag of $13,000 – kept glaring at them from the other side.
“It seemed so insurmountable,” she said.
As someone who encourages her family to try and face their fears, Karma knew she would have to get over her fear of asking others for help if she wanted to get a service dog for Henry and Juniper. So she did and started a GoFundMe page. She began reaching out to friends, family, and neighbors. She wrote to charities and businesses. She even wrote to celebrities. In the two months since starting the page, the Hudson family has raised over $8,000. Though there is some ways to go, the Hudson’s feel they are closer than ever to getting their service dog.
“It has to be a big one,” said Juniper, the aspiring veterinarian.
Henry, the avid dragon researcher, agreed.
Even though the Hudson’s have a dog, a small poodle-mix named Sammy, he is not up to the task of comforting Henry during one of his meltdowns. Oftentimes, Sammy will get scared by the yelling and hide under beds when all Henry would like is to be comforted by his pet.
Katie Wedgeworth, a trainer with Buckeye Service Dogs, said that the dog that is selected to be a part of the Hudson household would be specially trained to deal with Henry’s specific needs.
“The dog will intervene when the meltdowns start,” she explained. “It will do that by pawing, licking or nudging Henry to get him to refocus.”
The dog will also help his public wandering since they would be connected through a leash/belt combo. Wedgeworth said this method is used because, when in flight mode, children can often drop a leash but the leash/belt combo would take away that danger. She also mentioned that the dog’s presence could ground the child and keep them from going off.
Karma said they are excited about the prospect of having the service dog around all day, every day and have it go with them wherever they may decide to go as a trio or an entire family.
“I think having a service dog will be so freeing for Henry and Juniper,” she said.
She said that right now, she and Scott are their children’s advocates and she hopes that one day, with the help of a furry supporter by their side, Henry and Juniper will be able to go out in the world, confident, independent and filled with wonder.
To learn more about the Hudson family’s progress, or to donate to their cause, visit their GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/hudsontwins.