STRASBURG, Colo. — More than 3 million Americans live on the autism spectrum.
April is Autism Awareness Month and the goal is to give people some insight about what it means to live with autism.
There is a program in Colorado that’s helping kids on the autism spectrum live the best life they can.
“One thing is, autism, is it’s full of ups and downs,” said Lori Braham, the mother of a son with autism.
The Braham family has a new member of the family. Tico is a service dog that helps 7-year-old Lukas.
“They are absolutely best friends,” Braham said. “The best part about having a service dog is when we’re in public spaces, I don’t have to have my hand clinched so tight on my son to make sure he doesn’t run away.
“Now we have a dog, now we have a dog that he can hold on to, and it gives him a sense of responsibility.”
Tico and Lukas are inseparable, Braham said. The comfort from Tico is thanks to Disco’s Dogs, a nonprofit in Colorado.
“Since nobody else in the state of Colorado was offering it to families like mine, I started Disco’s Dogs,” program founder Laura Edwards said.
Edwards is the mother to someone who has autism. She decided there was a real need for a nonprofit that can offer service dogs to people on the spectrum.
Disco’s Dogs is a program that pairs kids 5 years old and older who have autism with a service dog.
“Many of these children don’t have the social relationships that you and I take for granted, and they’re no longer the kid who has autism, they’re the kid with the really cool dog,” Edwards said.
The Brahams always wanted a service dog for Lukas but couldn’t afford one until they found Disco’s Dogs.
“All of the other other options were just completely unaffordable,” Braham said.
The Braham family says Tico is now part of the family.
“We have to realize that Tico’s still a dog, he’s not a magical unicorn, but he’s pretty darn close,” Braham said.
The family says they raised about $5,000 for Disco’s Dogs in order to get Tico. That’s compared to other companies that were charging at least $25,000 for service dogs.