"It's hard to explain [to people] that she is on the [autism] spectrum, because she doesn't look a certain way, or she seems so ‘normal,’” said Jayden’s mom, Jessica Edwards.
Another common side effect of autism, no matter where a person falls on the spectrum, is emotional meltdowns.
“When she gets really upset, she says she feels like she has bad batteries in her head," said Edwards. “She’s actually had episodes were she's just smacking at her head and ripping at her hair, because she's desperately trying to get these bad batteries out of her head. She says they tell her to do things that she doesn't want to do."
Jayden has another way of explaining it: "I feel like Bruce Banner when he turns into The Hulk."
Enter 4 Paws For Ability, a nonprofit organization who provides those suffering from autism with service dogs. They're trained pups who help autistic individuals deal with anxiety, large crowds and meltdowns.
But at $22,000 these dogs aren't exactly cheap. Inspired by the organization, Jayden has pledged to raise $14,000, so that she can qualify for her own service dog.
“She said that she was going to raise all of the money, all on her own, with a lemonade stand," said Edwards.
With her mom’s help, Jayden sells her homemade lemonade and ice tea at the cool price of 50 cents a cup.
“The first time I did it, I felt nervous, and I didn't want to talk to any of the strangers,” said Jayden. “But my dad and mom were right next to me and said it's okay to talk to strangers, and say, “Hi, would you like to buy some lemonade? I'm raising money for an autism service dog.’"
Jayden’s parents picked 4 Paws For Ability over other service dog organizations because of their ability to help children and adults with multiple issues.
"Some organizations have a very long application process, and they have to decide whether the child is autistic enough,” said Edwards. “We really didn't feel like that was fair. 4 Paws For Ability is fantastic because they have dogs for people with depression, with anxiety, with autism. They have multipurpose dogs."
"My son is 15. He has autism. He's on the spectrum. And I just started thinking about how awesome it would have been, how different his life would be now, if he had an autism service dog," said Alyson Williams of OSo Splendid, who donated “Jayden’s Lemonade Stand” sign.
While the lemonade stand has helped Jayden face some of her fears, she still has her dark moments.
"She’s only seven and a half, and she’s already talked about committing suicide, twice,” said Edwards, struggling to explain her daughter’s condition. “It's just really heartbreaking, and I just really hope that she can get her dog, so that she can have a companion."
Jayden, who started her first day of second grade on Monday, has already raised over $3,000 for 4 Paws For Ability.
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