Back in February, Cole Wildasin and his chickens made local headlines. This past November, Cole and his mom Jennifer sought a variance at city hall for the chickens as emotional support animals; there were no problems initially, and they were allowed to keep them as long as they resided in the home. A neighbor down the road, however, appealed the decision, and Jennifer and Cole had to return to court. Just days prior to the court appearance, the St. Augustine Record conducted an interview and printed it on the first page of the Sunday edition. The morning before the meeting, Channel 4 and Action News Jax were knocking on the door. The community was rallying in support.
Cole’s chickens are much more than just pets. Emotional support animals provide comfort and help alleviate symptoms for a number of different conditions. Cole says the chickens – who he’s named Chickaletta (his favorite), Rosie, Hay-Hay, Chick-Fil-A, Blueberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, and Sunny – help him feel calm while he cares for them.
Jennifer got the chickens for Cole almost a year ago, because Cole was diagnosed last June with dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As Jennifer was fighting at city hall for Cole’s chickens, she was driving almost five hours per day to get him to a school in Jacksonville that had resources for children with dyslexia. “Cole and other dyslexics have differently-wired brains,” she says. “They think differently, and they see the world differently – which means they can be really good at some things but have challenges with traditional learning.”
As Jennifer drove the nearly 25 hours a week, she realized that this is much bigger than chickens. So she decided to use the unexpected spotlight to start a nonprofit – the Dyslexia Center of St. Augustine. The Center will allow children to receive an education from certified Special Education Teachers who will offer specialized classes and tutoring as well as parent resources. Jennifer also wants to employ an Occupational Therapist and Speech Therapist to provide support. The Center addresses a glaring need in the community. Now in its fledgling stages, Jennifer is seeking support in making a difference. “Cole is a kind, loving boy,” says Jennifer, “and, like all children that have Dyslexia, deserves the right to an education that will teach the way these children learn.”
For more information on supporting the Dyslexia Center of St. Augustine, email [email protected]