A hug can be a powerful thing – as six-year-old Mitchell knows all too well. His challenges are numerous and include sensory issues, which can be alleviated thanks to the donation of a hug boat from Satan’s Little Helper.
Mitchell is a complex young man. He is autistic, non-verbal and has a condition called Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (Arfid), which means he doesn’t eat.
“He’s on a liquid diet in the form of a nutritionally complete drink called Pediasure,” explains his dad, Andrew.
Mitchell and his family have recently returned from an intensive three-week course at a specialist clinic in Graz, Austria called No Tube, which has a 97.2% success rate in helping treat children who have difficulty eating.
They raised over $50,000 via a GiveALittle page (which has now closed) and a fundraising event to pay for the trip to Europe, which Andrew says has made a positive impact on Mitchell’s life.
“He’s a different child for it! We don’t know where it’ll lead in the long term, but he’s in a better position to learn new skills, which include eating.”
Andrew says Mitchell is doing things he’s never done before, such as experimenting with different foods and textures. He’s even accepting small amounts of yoghurt off a spoon!
“That’s huge progress for him,” adds Andrew.
At the time of writing, Mitchell hadn’t been back from Austria for long, but has come back transformed in other areas as well.
“He’s been in school for a couple of days and he’s doing things he never did, such as partake in class and display a desire to be social with the other children.”
Long road ahead of him
Despite the improvements, Mitchell still faces several challenges. He’s non-verbal and his parents don’t know if he’ll ever talk. He’s also developmentally delayed, has severe sensory issues and lacks the comprehension to understand complex instructions.
“Life for Mitchell is the equivalent of a person without his challenges living in a sensory deprivation tank. He can’t feel his body, so he’s constantly seeking out things that provide a sensory input.”
When Satan’s Little Helper heard his story, it was clear that he deserves some help – the tricky bit was deciding what to do. After some consultation with Andrew, it was decided that a Hug Boat would be perfect.
A hug can go a long way!
It’s an inflatable, canoe-shaped ‘peapod’ that applies deep touch pressure to sensitive areas of the body, helping people who use it to feel grounded.
Andrew says it’s been an incredible tool for Mitchell.
“He loves it so much, it’s brilliant! He likes being squeezed and the Hug Boat provides that sensory pressure input, which helps him relax, so we can sit him in there and it calms him down.
“If he’s having trouble sleeping, he can go into the Hug Boat and it helps him to relax. It’s been amazing.”
Seeing Mitchell make progress, supported by generosity from across the country, has also made a lasting impact on his father.
“I’m in the best place mentally I’ve been in some time, because we’ve had such a positive experience over the past few months. I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped us on our journey!”