‘It’s harder than you think’: Family of autistic boy works to raise money for service dog

Sadie, the dog that meets the 7-year-old’s needs, is in North Carolina
Family of Autistic boy works to raise money for service dog
Published: May. 19, 2023 at 6:51 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A Tallahassee family is in need of help as they work to raise money to secure a service dog for their son.

Korbin Ashling was diagnosed with non-verbal autism at a young age and after years of searching for a service animal and he’s finally found his perfect match.

Seven-year-old Korbin Ashling was diagnosed with autism just after his second birthday.

A few years later he developed epilepsy, and two years after that a heart defect resulting in open heart surgery.

For years, the Ashlings have been on the hunt for a service animal that would match all of Korbin’s needs, and after three years, the day has finally come.

Highland Service Dog trains animals for an assortment of disabilities from mobility and stability assistance to those on the spectrum.

“The facility that trains Sadie is called Highland Service Dogs and it’s located in Harmony, North Carolina,” said Korbin’s mom, Kelly Ashling. “It’s harder than you think to find an organization specifically looking at helping people with Autism because their needs are very different than what might be more common like a guide dog or human dog or something like that.”

Connecting with Sadie was the opportunity of a lifetime for Korbin.

Shortly after Korbin’s second birthday, he was diagnosed with non-verbal autism.

“He lost his ability to speak, make eye contact, engage in social situations, respond to his name, gross motor skills, fine motor skills,” Ashling said.

That would only be the beginning for Korbin. He’d go through therapies for years to come to address other disorders from epilepsy to a heart defect.

“He’s 100% the reason I get up every day. I love both of my children but whenever I feel weak or I feel like I need some motivation or things are hard for me, I think about everything he’s been through,” Ashling said.

Kelly’s been searching for a service dog for Korbin since before the pandemic in 2020, after years of research finally some luck through a matchmaking meeting in Harmony, North Carolina.

“It was to test and see if what they thought about Sadie being a good fit was going to work. If that was not going to be the case and there wasn’t a vibe between them, they would start looking with other animals they have there around the same place in their training,” Ashling said.

But they didn’t have to look any further, Sadie is Korbin’s perfect match.

“It was just something you knew was going to be the right fit, you just felt it when you were there and it’s not something you can just reproduce or manifest or anything like that,” Ashling said.

Sadie comes with a hefty price tag, and Korbin’s family is working to raise money to bring her home when her training tailored to his needs is complete.

“Being able to bring Sadie home is going to make such a difference in our lives, Korbin’s life. If you’re a mom, you know exactly the place that I’m coming from, and you know exactly what I’m trying to do for my kiddo,” Ashling said.

Kelly hopes Sadie can unify the family so they can all enjoy things together once again.

“Having Sadie would allow us to have the freedom as a family to go to the grocery store or go to a department store and go shopping or go to a festival or market or just kind of be anywhere outside where we can be together as a family and go places that my daughter wants to go as well and now have to worry about splitting up and one take one and one take the other,” Ashling said.

Kelly said it really takes a village to raise a child, her child, Korbin. She’s thankful for Korbin’s Village and the support she’s received thus far.

To help Korbin obtain his GoFundMe, click here.

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