37% of $32,000 goal
Fundraiser since Dec 2022
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73% of $16,000 goal
Amy Kotha's StoryThank you so much for your support!
Do you remember what it was like to be a teen?
The quest for self-identity. The need to fit in. The hormonal fluctuations. The academic pressures. The social expectations. All while you dangle somewhere between childhood and adulthood.
It was a challenging time, wasn't it?
Now, add in the undermining traits of autism and generalized anxiety disorder to the mix, and the coming-of-age years become an exceptionally turbulent journey to navigate.
Our sweet daughter doggedly flies in the face of these deterrents every single day.
But we know life would be easier for her if she had an ace by her side - a professionally trained service dog that can copilot her way.
That is where this fundraiser comes in …
Maya is our beautiful 16-year-old daughter with a sensitive soul.
Like many teenagers, she enjoys spending her free time focused on her preferred hobbies. Airplanes, music, Tae Kwon Do, and animals are her favorites. She likes visiting the airport to point out different aircraft, practicing her guitar, and researching how to understand, care for, and work with animals properly.
Maya has an exceptionally compassionate and nurturing personality.
She loves helping others and often does so with no expectations in return. She wants to improve other people's lives, especially if she can support other kids facing similar struggles. This is why she's open to sharing her story, especially if doing so also helps fight stigmas.
Maya is very goal-driven.
She is looking forward to a future career in the healthcare field, possibly as a nurse practitioner. It wouldn't surprise us if Maya ended up working with children in some capacity as it seems to be her calling. She has an especially strong connection with younger children; they tend to fall in love with her right away!
Our daughter is a wonderful young lady with a bright future.
Still, living with invisible disabilities is challenging, and it feels pretty unfair to watch someone you love struggle with things that come easily for most neurotypical people.
Maya has contended with challenges throughout her life that have included extreme generalized anxiety, depression, and a connective tissue disorder.
Recently, she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a complex developmental disability that causes significant communication, behavioral, and social challenges.
This new diagnosis only adds to the constant stressors Maya faces.
Automatically picking up, incorporating, and effectively using social information doesn't come naturally for autistic people. They process information differently, which often results in unintended miscommunication on both sides.
Maya speaks very well but is not as good at understanding others' verbal and nonverbal communication. Unfortunately, she negatively interprets misread cues due to her rigid, black-and-white thinking. She feels left out in conversations, especially when people are excitedly talking and laughing with each other.
As a result, Maya shies away from group situations and spends her time alone.
This ongoing cycle only makes it that much more difficult for her to form meaningful relationships - something that she very much wants and needs in life.
It's stinging to know your child missed much of the mundane, everyday experiences that many young people take for granted.
Hanging out at the mall with friends ...
Attending a favorite band's concert ...
Enjoying dinner with family at a restaurant …
Debilitating anxiety and panic attacks limit our daughter's participation in these kinds of activities.
Triggered by sensory overwhelm, she avoids community outings that are loud, visually stimulating, or crowded, knowing that these kinds of circumstances send her body into flight mode.
Understandably, when Maya has a panic attack, she feels scared and wants to leave.
It's important to understand that Maya is not having behavioral issues during these times; she simply needs to get away from the situation. Instead, she needs to be with someone she trusts, usually her Mom, who can help her transition and relax.
It becomes even more stressful for us when people stare or give unsolicited comments.
Can you imagine how it feels to be constantly misunderstood for something out of your control?
The reality is that people are quick to judge maladaptive behaviors when they can't physically see the neurobiological differences causing them.
Many people are accepting and helpful once they understand.
However, we shouldn't have to explain Maya's conditions to receive compassion during dark moments. And, we don't wish to repeatedly explain Maya's disability as if we are apologizing for her. Of course, we're not, and we couldn't be more proud of her.
Maya has a connective tissue disorder.
This condition causes loose joints, including her ankles and feet, which impact her walking. She has to walk more slowly to feel confident because she feels unsteady. She's hesitant to walk by herself after her last fall, as she feels unsafe and afraid it will happen again.
It frustrates Maya when she can’t keep up.
It's not that people are intentionally being rude by walking ahead, but it sure feels like it. The reality is it's easy to forget she has support needs because her disabilities are invisible.
On top of that, it's tough to speak up about needing accommodations when self-advocacy is a substantial stressor within itself during these circumstances.
No teenager wants to stand out from the crowd. Nobody wants to feel like a burden.
But that's how it feels for Maya; the hurt of being left behind is very real and painful.
Maya misses out on restorative sleep benefits due to her chronic pain and nighttime anxiety.
Insufficient sleep is known to have sweeping negative implications for overall health. For autistic people, it inhibits social interactions and elicits maladaptive behaviors during the day.
Anxiety disorders and autism are both frequently connected to sleep disturbances.
Excess worry and fear make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate anxiety, eliciting a damaging cycle of insomnia and anxiety.
It's been a tough road for our beautiful girl with complex physical and emotional special needs, but she meets every challenge that life throws her way.
Maya's been under the care of mental health professionals since she was seven years old.
Over the past 1 ½ years, she's been in a fantastic residential treatment center. She has made huge strides and has just recently graduated. We are so proud of Maya and excited to have our family together again!
Our daughter's multiple conditions have impacted our family as a whole.
We proudly serve as Maya's support team, working together to anticipate her needs and help her feel safe. Of course, Mom takes on the most, and she cannot work because she needs to be available whenever Maya needs her.
But life is also unpredictable.
Anxiety attacks and sensory meltdowns do occur.
And, in those moments, all we want to do is protect and guide her back to her naturally sweet demeanor. We want her to feel secure and loved for being exactly who she is - our amazing daughter.
So many people in Maya's life cherish her, especially her adoring family.
We know that there is nothing that our determined daughter cannot do --- especially if given just the right tools.
Maya's therapist at her residential facility suggested that a service dog could benefit her.
After considering it, we also agreed!
Maya loves dogs so much! Having a specially trained pup to be with her in public and at home could help open her world for her.
Maya's service dog will be federally recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act and will be able to go wherever she goes, including school, parks, doctor's offices, restaurants, beaches, airports, etc.
Some of the ways Maya's service dog may help include:
After speaking with a few service dog organizations, we partnered with Good Dog! Service Canines to get Maya's pup. We found this nonprofit to be very professional and well-run. We felt comfortable in our discussions with them, and everyone was extremely knowledgeable. Additionally, a family we know who has a service dog for their child gave Good Dog! a glowing recommendation.
Click the donation button to contribute to our fundraiser!
You can also mail a check to waive the small credit card fees. Please indicate "Maya’s New Leash on Life" on the memo line and send it to:
Good Dog! Service Canines
Attn: Maya’s New Leash on Life
855 South Main Avenue, Suite K-162
Fallbrook, California 92028
Please note, mailed donations are recorded and deposited at the end of each month.
Also, your donation applies to many corporate matching programs! Please check with your HR department to get your company's support.
Thank you for your support!
Because of your kind generosity, we can't wait to see Maya's world open up with the life-changing benefits of a service dog.
Please feel free to share our story and this fundraiser with your friends, family, and co-workers.
The Kotha Family
Good Dog! Service Canines is dedicated to bringing the benefits of the human-canine relationship to children with disabilities and their families. With a service dog by their side, children and families can participate in life more fully and with greater ease. A service dog can be a life-changer for a family!
Good Dog! invests an average of $32,000 to raise, care and train each dog as well as educate and support each family. Currently, we add 8-10 new teams to the Good Dog! Family each year, in addition to supporting our active Good Dog! Teams. That means we must raise up to $320,000 annually. To help us offset the $32,000 per team cost, our families agree to raise a minimum of $16,000 each. We have seen that the love and support that families receive through fundraising can be a healing process in itself. Please help our families by donating and sharing their stories.
All gifts are received with the greatest gratitude.
Good Dog! Autism Companions was founded in 2011 by the parents of an autistic boy. After getting a service dog for their son, they soon realized the life-changing benefits these dogs could provide to so many more. Today, Good Dog! Service Canines provides highly trained service dogs to children with disabilities and their families, helping them live better lives! Each dog is professionally trained using only positive reinforcement methods because we believe the true power of the human/canine bond is brought about through a loving, trusting relationship. Good Dog! Autism Companions, founded in 2011, has expanded its services to help more kids and families. We are now doing business as Good Dog! Service Canines. Thanks to all whose support let the love grow!
For more information, visit gooddogservicecanines.org.