So I am finally home from Oakville. I would like to introduce Sergio as the new addition to our family. He is a 1 yr old Black Labrador Retriever. He is so amazing and is fitting in perfectly.
The training was amazing. I had wonderful trainers who were so patient and fun. I couldn’t get over how smart these dogs are. They are 100% voice command trained so you don’t even need the leash to control them, just your voice. (we do hold the leash at all times just incase something unexpected happens). As I am not a dog person, I was also surprised at how quickly I connected with him. I found myself talking to him, and petting him for no reason. Watching the other families there was so therapeutic. They all have their own unique story but we all understand what each other is going through. We understand the differences and the difficulty of raising a child with Autism. I will miss having a room full of people that understand how I feel.
I was chosen to speak at our Dog Guides graduation so I thought I would share my speech with all of you. It helps portray what this dog means to a family who struggles with a child with Autism. The grammar is not the best. I knew I would be reading it so bare with me.
I was nominated as the speaker for our group. So I will be speaking on behalf of Kerry, Li, David, Glen, Jackie, Kathleen, and myself. My name is Alison Williamson. I am from Cochrane AB (near Calgary) and in a few days we will all hopefully be heading home to introduce these wonderful dogs to our child.
As I contemplated what to say to you tonight I decided that the only way we could express what these dogs mean to us would be to first explain what our life is like now. Although everyones experiences are different I feel that in general we all came here for the same purpose. So I would like to share a bit about my son and our life in hopes that you will understand what our children and our families are stuggling with so that you can better understand what these dogs will do for us.
The past 5 years of my life have been very difficult. I am a very out going, friendly person. I love spending time with people and going out and enjoying new experiences, however; Almost from the moment my son was born I was trapped in my home. From a week old everytime we would enter a store he would scream and not stop until I got him home. As he got older it didn’t get better he just got stronger and faster. Everytime I tried to leave my home with Jacob he would wait until I opened the door and then would take off. I also couldn’t have people to my home. He also could not handle having anyone come. Even his grandma if unexpected could cause a major meltdown. When I was pregnant my body was not doing very well. I could barely walk let alone carry a 40lb screaming child to his room so he wouldn’t hurt anyone. I would try restraining him to keep him from hurting himself but he would kick or punch me and I would need to leave. I now have 3 children and although Jacob is the oldest my 2 younger girls are expected to go to bed by themselves without stories or cuddles because I need to stay with Jacob until he falls asleep. When left alone Jacob has tried to jump out his 2nd story window, destroyed window screens and has broken numerous doors in hopes of getting out and has caused many other dangerous situations.
When Jacob was Diagnosed as Autistic a friend told me about Autism service dogs. I like most people had no idea what they were about. So after months of research I realized that this could be a good thing. We figured that if we applied now we would have time to figure out if this was right for us and when they come to meet us they would tell us if we were a good fit for a dog. Ian ashworth did our home visit. And when he left My husband and I looked at eachother and I just wanted to cry. We knew that this was going to change our life.
A service dog is about freedom. They allow us to experience the world again. But more importantly They allow our children to experience the world in a way they were never able to. My son asks to go to the store because he loves going out. But I know what will happen when we get there so I protect him from those situations that could ultimately put him and others in danger. He is a lot like me. He loves people and adventures and experiencing new things, but unfortunately his brain and his body don’t allow him to do those things. This dog, over time, will allow him and all of our children to do so many things that they have wanted to do but couldn’t.
A service dog is also about acceptance. The world doesn’t always accept people who are different. And our children are different. I have many times experienced the stares and the comments about my parenting and so many times have wanted to just wear a t-shirt saying My son has autism the more you stare the more he screams. But for me that is what this dog will do. He will help us raise awareness and understanding for these special people. And in time that will lead to acceptance.
As parents of children with Autism we live our life in fear. For some of us we can’t open our door in fear that our child will run into the street. For some of us it is fear that our child will never make friends. A fear that they will never be able to cope in a normal situation, that they will never be able to attend school or get a normal education. We are afraid of the future and what their life may become. We are afraid that they may never be independent and able to care for themselves even if in the smallest way.
But that is what these dogs are for. They help calm our fears and give us hope for a better future.
I would like to share a message from Glen’s wife and to her, a service dog means hope. This is what she says:
As I sit here and think about what Mercer can do for and with Cailum I am filled with hope. My son Cailum does not make friends easily and I am hoping that is what Cailum and Mercer will become, is best friends. I hope that during meltdowns Mercer becomes a great comfort for him. I hope during bad nights he will reach for him and feel safe. I am hoping that being out in public and doing things most kids take for granted now becomes easier for Cailum. Because he will have the comfort and safety of Mercer. I am hoping that some of our fears of traffic, crowds and stores become easier. I hope we have more enjoyable family trips together. I am hoping that Cailum and Mercer bond and become inseparable. That Cailum’s daily activities become a little easier and more enjoyable because he has Mercer. So for the hope this dog has already brought to us, I THANK YOU
We want to thank all of you families that gave our puppies a home. Thankyou for showing them love and helping them experience the world so they can now pass that onto our children.
We want to thank the trainers who spent months preparing our dogs for us. For spending countless hours getting to know our children so they could find us the perfect dog.
And finally thank you to Dog Guides Canada and Lions foundation, because whithout them none of us would be here.
We want to thank all of you for the time and effort put into taking care of our dogs so our children can receive the freedom, hope, and acceptance that they deserve.
I am so grate I had this opportunity. Going there, and learning how to work with these dogs, taught me so much about how to be a better parent. Lions foundation does all the fundraising and asks nothing in return of the families receiving their dogs. I know this was such a blessing to so many who could never afford the hefty $25,000 to pay for one of these amazing animals. It is only made possible by people like you. People that are willing to give a little to make a big difference in the lives of these special children. Please go to http://www.dogguides.com/index.html to make a donation. I am so grateful to all those who have donated money so our family could receive Sergio, Jacob’s forever friend!