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Paws for a princess: One family's effort to help daughter cope with autism

By Emily Allen, Multimedia Journalist /Target 13 Investigator , emily.allen@krdo.com
Published On: Apr 02 2014 11:46:18 PM CDT

Wednesday marked World Autism Awareness Day, but one mother said for families affected by autism, it's every day.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

Wednesday marked World Autism Awareness Day, but one mother said for families affected by autism, it's every day.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention released new findings that found one in 68 children have autism. It's a 30 percent spike from results released in 2012.

Despite growing numbers, families have to fight with insurance companies to get the care they need for their children.

With no money from their insurance company, a Colorado Springs family is taking an alternative path to get their daughter the help she needs.

Shannon Hudson was diagnosed with autism when she was 2 years old. Her mom Randi Hudson said autism impacts every aspect of their lives.

"She has changed everything," said Randi Hudson. "It's hard. We are trying to get her into preschool and something as easy as public education for us, it isn't an option for us."

Randi Hudson said her daughter's behavior has started to drastically change.

"She has started bolting and wandering away from stores," said Randi Hudson. "With my husband being deployed it's been really hard to try to manage that. From a safety standpoint, as a mom it's horrible, it's made me not even want to go out to stores because I can't ensure that I can keep her safe."

The Hudsons think an autism service dog could be Shannon's answer.

"The dog will be trained to her specific scent and the dog will be able to go and find her.  Like a search and rescue dog, but specifically for Shannon," said Randi Hudson.  "The dog will also, if he is sensing a meltdown, that she is going to endanger herself, the dog will be able to jump on her and keep her from hurting herself."

Autistic service dogs can cost $12,000 to $22,000. The Hudsons' insurance will not cover it.

Caia Shoffner with the Alpine Autism Center said it's the same story for many families dealing with autism.

"We are fighting every day with insurance companies for children to get services for parents to get services for their children," said Shoffner.

The Hudson family created a page with GoFundMe.com. Now friends, family and strangers are helping make the Hudsons' wish come true. The Hudsons' coined their campaign "Paws For a Princess."

"You never know what to expect day to day. But she has taught us a lot. She has made us more compassionate and empathetic to other people and their situations. She has taught me that I'm stronger than I ever thought I could be and that we are stronger," said Randi Hudson.

As for Shannon Hudson, she said the dog will make her happy and teach her cartwheels.

With a dog as her trusty steed, the Hudsons hope their princess will live happily ever after.

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