Gordonville family seeks help for 2-year-old autistic son

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Nicholas McAdams can't help but reach out and touch the twinkling lights on his family's Christmas tree.

Like so many things in life, the soft glow of the bulbs calls out to the Gordonville 2-year-old, enticing him to explore.

It's his will to explore -- from climbing on top of the kitchen stove to wandering out into a busy highway -- that has Nicholas' mother, Michelle McAdams, constantly on edge.

Last June, Nicholas was diagnosed as autistic. Not long after, his mother began a quest to make the world safer for her son.

Her quest took an urgent turn in August, when the garage door at her home was left open and Nicholas wandered out onto Highway 25. A passing motorist, who was driving slower than most do along that road because he was talking on his cell phone, picked Nicholas up and brought him back to the house.

Until Nicholas was diagnosed five months ago, Michelle had barely even heard of autism, let alone the various therapies and treatments available to help cope with the disorder.

She stumbled across the idea for a specially trained assist dog for her son in a book loaned to her by one of Nicholas' doctors. A little Internet searching uncovered only one place in the nation that trained dogs for autistic children, and the price tag for one of those dogs was $9,800.

"My first thought was, 'That's impossible,'" McAdams said.

But the long list of potential benefits to Nicholas prevented Michelle from putting the idea completely out of her mind. She began to brainstorm about various resources in the community.

In October, the Southeast Missourian Jr. embarked on a "Pay for the Pup" campaign to help raise funds for Nicholas' dog. So far, under $300 has been donated.

Michelle McAdams says an assist dog would stop her son from running out into streets, from climbing on appliances and even from destructive behavior like banging his head against furniture.

A dog would even allow her son the freedom to spend more time outside, something Nicholas loves but rarely gets to do now because of the dangers involved.

"He doesn't fear anything. A dog would be a distraction for him," McAdams said. "It would be a lifesaver for us."


335-6611, extension 128

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