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July 3, 2014

Family of special needs child seeks funding for service dog

DUNCAN — Cooper was only two weeks old when his parents John and Angela Slate realized there was something wrong.

What started out as an infant’s continuous screaming has only developed into more concerns for the parents, who have seen Cooper’s disconnect with emotions and people, temper tantrums, and a lagging mental development, putting him about a year behind his peers.

Cooper, 3, of Duncan, was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, where he doesn’t develop emotional attachments and never really responds to people. Much of his interactions are from mirroring what other people do.

To help him, his parents are looking to raise money to purchase a service dog for Copper.

“When you have a special needs child, you do everything you can,” Angela Slate said. “It seems like a good answer.”

When it comes to purchasing a service dog, Slate has looked at various businesses who train and raise them. Service dogs cost anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000.

As a result of the cost, the Slate family is seeking donations, having made contact with several civic organizations in Duncan, including the Duncan Chisholm Trail Kiwanis Club, the Duncan Noon Lions Club and Duncan Ambucs. Buckets have been set up at several businesses throughout the area including Costas, Pizza and Stuff, Daybreak Diner, Ken’s Mart, Kwik Serv and R&S Drug No. 1. There is also a Go Fund Me site set up to help raise more funds.

Angela Slate said Cooper doesn’t like large crowds, which makes it impossible to take him to a restaurant or to his brother Landon’s soccer games. She said people don’t know anything’s wrong with Cooper by looking at him.

“If it’s not a physical disability, a lot of people don’t think it’s there,” Slate said. “We want to get him a service dog for public access. It would be another constant. We hope he would imitate the dog.”

Cooper has been slow to develop, not learning to crawl until he was almost 12 months old and not learning to walk until he was 17 months.

Although he does well in daycare — mostly from imitating what other children are doing — he doesn’t play with his peers. Every week he goes to therapy, and every other week, he has a doctor’s appointment.

She said the dog would be trained to comfort Cooper if he had a meltdown. And after watching videos of service dogs helping children with similar disorders, she believes a service dog could be beneficial to Cooper’s development and safety.

Slate said she worries about her son because he isn’t aware of danger. In a sense, he has known fear and doesn’t realize things can hurt him. Additionally, he suffers from sleep apnea, which wakes him up throughout the night as he gasps for air. A service dog would be able to wake Angela or John Slate if Cooper stopped breathing.

Angela Slate said Cooper’s needs have taken most of her attention.

But she has been fortunate.

Her job and co-workers are understanding and allow her to take off when she needs to take her son to the doctor. Her older son, Landon, has helped his parents as needed, which has made the 7-year-old mature quickly.

“Landon gives up so much for Cooper,” Slate said.

Because Cooper is still so young, doctors are hesitant to classify him with any more disorders beyond Sensory Processing Disorder. She said it may only be a matter of time before he is classified as autistic, but doctors want to wait for him to age more before making such a declaration.

As a result, it’s difficult to have medication prescribed that would help him. The Slate Family is putting all its faith and hopes in a service dog.

“A service dog, I think it’s our only option,” she said. “It would truly help us.”

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Duncan Vice Mayor Mike Nelson talks during Wednesday's Duncan Rotary meeting.

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