Plainville boy who has autism gets helping paw from his therapy dog

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PLAINVILLE – A Plainville boy who has autism is trying to raise money for a therapy dog, which his family says provides a priceless service, despite the high cost.

Matthew Blake, 11, was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 4. Today, he is on the autism spectrum, but prefers to call it “awesome-a-tism!”

Despite his positive attitude, it impacts him in ways he can’t control.

His mother, Stacy Blake, says its heartbreaking to watch Matthew panic in various situations, such as when he hears certain noises or sees grey skies.

But Blake saw a complete change in her son the first time he met Sansa, a North Star Foundation service dog specially bred to work with children with social challenges.

“When Sansa and Matthew saw each other there was an instant connection with the two of them, Sansa’s tail started wagging like crazy and Matthew just became alive with this little dog,” she said. “They’ve just had a connection like no other since then, he’s like a totally different child when she’s with him.”

In order for Matthew to share every day with Sansa, the family has to raise $7,500, which his mother says is a challenge, but worth every penny. The cost of the dog's training is $15,000, but North Star helps raise the other half.

“He’s able to function, if you ask him something he responds, he has not wandered off one single time, he has not gotten up in the middle of the night,” she said. “We don’t have to worry about him going out the front door, I mean it sounds weird but that is how scary life can be with a little one with autism.”

Matthew says Sansa means the world to him.

“She’s basically the only one that can calm me down if I’m mad,” he said. “I just feel like she’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Matthew has overcome more than just social challenges. When he was 5 years old he was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue.

“We were told he had dislocated lenses and he had the most severe case of bilateral dislocated lenses that they had ever seen,” his mother said. “He ended up having emergency surgery on both of his eyes, and before he was 6 years old the lens in his left eye ripped off and he ended up becoming completely blind in his left eye.”

It wasn’t until a recent surgery that he regained sight in his eye, which his mother calls a miracle.

Another miracle for the family would be gaining ownership of the dog. They still need to raise $7,500 more.

A GoFundMePage has been created to help. Also, Matthew and Sansa will be at the Plainville Balloon Festival on Saturday, and a fundraiser is being held at the IHOP in Southington on September 8 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.