by Tricia Zarro, Board Chair
If life is like a journey, then life with a child with autism is a journey through the woods at night, in the dark, in a snowstorm.
My world came to a crashing halt 11 years ago when my son Danny was diagnosed with autism. I was suddenly thrown onto a path in the woods that I had no idea how to navigate. I felt lost and I realized that I had so much to learn. I had no idea how to get “out of the woods” - or even how to travel my new path safely while providing my son with the comfort he needed. He had to deal with his frustrations with language delay and sensory needs, as well as his social isolation from his peers and even from his family who loved him dearly. Our path in the woods was incredibly bumpy and often very isolated.
It was during this time that I met Caroline McCabe-Sandler. She was a bright light in a dark night. She understood my fears for my son and also had an incredible talent in training autism service dogs. She matched the perfect dog to my son and helped solidify a partnership that worked for Danny and for our family. With our autism service dog Shade tethered to my son, I felt empowered to venture out and try things that were once impossible for us. Where I once had fear, I now had hope. This form of hope had four legs and wore a blue vest.
I now had a tool with which to help me navigate this dark and dangerous journey we were on. With Shade by our side, we felt security on our new path. Supermarket trips, amusement parks, soccer games, and the beach were all places that we ventured out to now with a feeling of safety and comfort. Caroline led us and continued to support us as we ventured back into our lives that existed before autism.
I am so proud to chair the Board of BluePath, an organization that will help people with autism unlock life’s potential. The mission to offer safety, companionship and opportunities for independence is one that is very personal for me. Because of my autism service dog, my son’s journey and our family’s journey has had more joy, more safety and more social experiences then I could have ever imagined. As we walk our “blue path,” we walk it tethered to an autism service dog. I am forever grateful.