As many of you know, last year we submitted our service dog application for our autistic son Jacob. Last August we had our at home visit with Lions Foundation (dog guides of canada). It was very exciting and nice to have them confirm that jacob was a great candidate for a dog. A few months later we received our official letter that told us we were on the waiting list, and now we just had to wait. About 3 weeks ago as we were literally walking out the door to catch our flight to Disneyland we got a phone call from Lions foundation saying they had a dog ready for us. I fly to Oakville On. on June 5 for an intense 10 day training course. We are so excited!! It came so fast and the timing worked out perfectly.
I get so excited and want to tell everyone I see. When I first tell people I see the excitement on their face, and then excitement turns to a bit of confusion. Most people don’t know what service dogs are for let alone an autism service dog. So I thought I would share some of the things our dog will do for Jacob.
1. Anytime Jacob leaves the house he will be tethered to the dog. Jacob currently runs away very easily. Even going to the park by our house is difficult as I don’t know if or when he is going to run away. When tethered to the dog I will be able to stop Jacob by giving commands to the dog. Jacob will learn how to correctly respond to my requests by following the dog.
2. Jacob benefits from Deep pressure. Right now I need to do deep pressure relaxation excersizes with him constantly through out the day and every night before bed. Majority of nights Jacob can’t even stop his body moving enough to fall asleep so Jason or I provide pressure on him until he is calm enough to fall asleep. Jacob’s dog will be trained to provide deep pressure for him. His dog will be with him all the time. He will lean against him giving him that little bit of extra resistance which will allow Jacob to remain calm. At night his dog will sleep with him and will be able to put pressure on him so he will remain asleep though out the night.
3. Jacob struggles with transitions. He really struggles going from one task to another or from one place to another. Any change causes him to have anxiety and to lash out at people or himself. All transitions throughout that day add to Jacobs anxiety and if he is not regulated properly he will get upset and have a meltdown, and no longer be able to learn.The dog will create stability. (This is when bringing the dog to school is really important). Jacob will have something that no matter where he goes or who he is with his dog will be the same. It gives him a companion that will always be there for him.
4. When Jacob gets upset I currently need to restrain him so he doesn’t hurt anyone, including himself. The dog will be trained to sense when he starts getting upset and the dog will lie on him restraining his arms.
5. Jacobs dog will also help with his social skills. When we are at the store or meeting new people, Jacob has a tendency to yell at people or tell them to get away from him. The dog helps create a barrier. Instead of putting Jacob on the spot to answer a question that he doesn’t know how to answer (even a question like “How are you today”) most questions will be directed to his dog. He will be able to learn how to communicate properly with people.
This is only a few of the things the dog helps with. But there are so many other benefits.
When I got the phone call I was so ecstatic, but after a few days reality started to sink in. I started to realize that this is really happening. I have to spend 10 days ALONE in Oakville for training! I have never been away from my kids or husband for that long. I am so grateful to have such great family and friends that are willing and able to help watch my children while I am away. When I first put on Facebook that I needed help I had so many people reply. More than I could use! It gives me so much peace of mind to know that the kids will be with people that care about them.
“I am going to have a dog!” I know it sounds dumb but It just kinda hit me. I know not a big deal for most of you, but for those of you who know me, know what a big deal this is, because I am not exactly an animal person.
I am getting very excited for our dog, but I also get overwhelmed with the level of commitment this dog will be. For the next 10 years the dog will be with either Jacob or I every minute of the day and night. He is allowed everywhere! But with that comes things like finding a place for it to go to the bathroom and making sure it has water when we are out. We will need to constantly explain to people about the dog. They tell you that you quickly become the centre of attention everywhere you go (but I guess it is better that it is because of the dog and not my child throwing everything out of my cart 🙂 This summer will be hard adjusting to our new life, and then as winter comes I will need to get used to going for walks in -40 weather, but I just need to focus on the good that I know will come out of it.
If you have more questions about autistic service dogs feel free to ask me or check out Lions foundation dog guides of Canada. That is the company we are getting our dog from. It also has a spot for you to donate to their great program so they can continue providing dogs to needy families. http://www.dogguides.com/about.html