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Archive for the tag “#Autism”

A True Friend and Priceless Companion…

I thought that I would explain about what’s to come next on our journey with 4 Paws for Ability and Summer receiving her autism service dog…

RECAP…WE HAD A VERY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT TO SHARE AS OF JANUARY 6, 2016…

Our family was blessed to have had an anonymous donor donate the remaining funds needed for us to reach our fundraising goal with 4 Paws for Ability!
WE DID IT!
WE REACHED OUR GOAL!!

What now, you ask?..

4 Paws is very serious about their “match” process. The pups are trained case specific to be the perfect “match” for your child, their personality and their needs. Which means Summer’s Pup may not even be born yet…

4 Paws for Ability’s dogs are fully trained when placed with their child/vet. They go through multiple programs (foster and prison) and have months of intense training before they are ready. The service dogs are a year old (sometimes older) when they are placed. 4 Paws doesn’t place a dog that isn’t ready, or that doesn’t have the right temperament.

We are in the August 2017 class; Between now and our class date Summer’s dog will be born, trained, and matched specifically to/for her. We must film a “getting to know us” video. It will be an extremely detailed video documenting various aspects of Summer and our family’s life. This will be sent to 4 Paws for Ability 4-5 months prior to our class date. This aids them in the “match process” and determining which dog is going to be the perfect “match” for Summer…

I estimate we will be filming around this time next year…Closer to our class date we will send some of Summer’s clothing as well. Along with being trained in team tethering and performing various behavior disruptions, her service dog will also be trained for tracking, her scent, Key words: TRACK HER.

That means that any of the litters born now through August of this year, one of the pups- we won’t know which one, will be Summer’s future autism service dog aka, her “furever friend!” For dogs trained in scent tracking 4 Paws’ uses larger breeds such as; Goldens, Labs, Golden doodles, Poodles, German retrievers, and Glabs. The suspense is just too exciting! Let the Puppy stalking begin!

The entire puppy/dog raising and training process is very thought out and organized. The puppies are in the the puppy house at the 4 Paes for Ability facility until they are 12 weeks old. Next, they can go to one of the 4 Paws’ “Mission Pawsible; Prison programs” or a Traditional foster home. The pups that go to prison stay in prison for about 4-6weeks, making them around 5 months old at this point. They can then go to a college participating in the 4 Paws’ program; “Paws on Campus” or a traditional foster home that wanted a prison puppy since they have started them on the basics of training. Finally the dogs go back to the 4 Paws for Ability facility when they’re 9-11 months old for advanced training. Some dogs are ready for advanced training around 10 months The puppies are in advanced training for around 4 months give or take -depending on what they are being trained to be working on. Each dog is different, just like kids. It all comes down to the dog itself.

I am confident that whichever dog fate chooses is the dog for Summer, I’m sure they will be the most very perfect match for my girl. Good things lie ahead for us this year.
I just know it.

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The one thing I will never have control over…

I’ll admit, I hate not having the ability to be in control; mostly about situations within my own life…

Being in control gives me comfort, reassurance and security of knowing if I want to change something I can.

I am aware that no, I cannot always be in control of every situation. I just said I liked to be. Who doesn’t!? Especially if and when it involves your family, your life. There is one situation in particular that I realized I will never be in control of…

Summer’s Autism.

I can control how involved her family members and I are with her, I can control how involved I am with her Preschool, education, speech therapies, occupational therapies and therapies continued here at home. I can learn ways to help her cope with her emotions if and when she has a meltdown, I can help her to communicate using PECS, I can encourage her emerging verbal skills and practice various exercises in trying to build onto the progress she has made. I can secure a specifically trained autism service dog to aid her with navigation of this complex world. I can do a whole list of things that I feel will be beneficial to her and her progress. I always have and in fact, I’m sure I will continue to do so…

I cannot force her progress nor development. I cannot predict it and I cannot control it. I don’t know what she will be like a year from now, I don’t even know what she will be like in the next month…As a parent “the unknown” can be a scary thing…

How much will she talk? Will she be mainstreamed into public school? Will her service dog be the miracle we hope? Will she make friends? Will she feel different? Will she care? Will she ever have a boyfriend? Graduate? Will she ever leave home…The list is never-ending. I have always been the “planner,” now, I cannot plan anything because I never know what to expect. I try to keep my posts light-hearted and positive but sometimes you just need to be real.

Yes, I have these worries but will I drown myself in them? No, I can make the choice to be in control of my emotions. To accept Summer’s autism. To encourage, nurture and guide Summer with confidence. I will show my daughter that she is amazing, she is important and that she matters.

It has all been a learning process for me as well, it was a struggle at first for me to take “life’s road map,” crumble it up, and toss it out the window…My tour guide and I have made it this far without it and we will all be just fine. My mom always told me that she believed one of “life’s lessons” I am meant to learn is patience. I sure am gaining a lot of that along this journey.

It may not happen overnight but gradually I will learn to accept that there may be detours, there may be potholes and we may even get lost at times. However, we are in this together, this may not be the life we expected to live but it is the life we are meant to live. We will certainly make the best out of our unmapped journey together and without a doubt, enjoy the ride…

~Kelly Kristine

Yes, I heard you…I was “the dog lady…”

To the woman who openly mocked my family’s current mission,

I heard you, as I passed by the various vendor tents set up at a family fun day event; You and your other friend. You even had your daughter standing behind you- This was what plucked my nerves the most I think. You were so self involved in your opinionated rant that you had no clue I was, “The dog lady.” The lady that you were speaking of that very moment. Derogatory comments followed by the harsh judging of something that I am sure, you know nothing about. “THAT much money!? For a DOG? Really! The accommodations that people expect now a days for “those” kids are ridiculous”- I was there participating as a fundraiser for 4 Paws for Ability. Our family’s efforts will honor our personal mission “Service Paws 4 Summer” in securing an autism service dog for Summer. I recently blogged about the reasoning and importance behind our mission What’s all the “woof” about!?.
I almost stopped to introduce myself, spread some good ol’ autism acceptance, awareness and service dog knowledge whether they cared to hear about it or not. However, I did not. I looked you both dead in the eyes, flashed the most fake, obnoxious and toothy smile I could muster through my buried rage towards your ignorance and strolled right back to my table. Mine was further up than your tent so as I said, I doubt you knew I was “the dog lady.”

I’m not one to care about what people think of me. As the saying goes, “you can please some of the people some of the time but, you cannot please all of the people all the time.”
I get that. Everyone has their own opinions, that’s the beautiful thing about being a human being; we are all different and we all have the ability of making our own choices. I’m sure that sometime in your life time autism will touch your life, whether it be a family member, friend’s family, an encounter at the grocery store, I could go on..By your comments I hope you were simply judging something you know nothing about.
I get that too. I can handle you, I can handle your harsh judgements, I can handle your comments; but should your daughter have to?

Human acceptance has a trickle down effect that starts at home. I say “Human acceptance” became I’m not just talking about autism, I’m talking about the general acceptance of ALL people.

If I were speaking autism, as an example, you may have no clue. I get it. You may not have ever had a single reason to read about it, Google it, or research its broad, complex spectrum.
You maybe consumed with car pooling her daughter’s friends to school, to dance classes, or cheerleading, redecorating your kitchen, planning a night out with your husband who knows…

You know nothing about the terms; ASD, SP, OT, delayed milestones, low muscle tone, ABA therapy, Floor time therapy, meltdowns, sensory struggles, elopement risks, education transitions, or IEP’S.
I get it. We live two completely different lives.
You may not understand what I am doing, you may not support what I am doing or care to try. However, as another person, as another mom, and as another adult you should think twice about condemning what I am doing if it is a beneficial cause. If your opinion is that you disagree, you can make the choice to simply say nothing.

Our children see us, they hear us, they model our behavior and many times decide to share the opinions of what they have been taught, or not taught.

Show your kids how to be accepting, how to be aware, teach your kids to be KIND. You never know someone’s journey until you have walked their path. Human acceptance starts with not only you; but with me, with other parents, adults, and supposed role models.

Xo-“The dog lady”

~Kelly Kristine

The verbal roll in…

The last few weeks have had moments. Beautiful, wondrous, surprising moments that I have wanted to shout from the roof tops. It’s almost as if I have been in a euphoric state waiting to hear my alarm go off…
But no, it’s all real. She’s real, the communication and the words I am hearing are real.

In just the 2 months since Summer has started attending her autism facilitated preschool program we are seeing unbelievable progress.

We learned through play-therapy that Summer, when asked, “Summer show me ….” can show us letters, shapes, numbers, and colors. Incredible. It doesn’t end there though…

She has started to say single words and pair two words together. Much of it is repeating, scripting, and requesting. I thought it was a dream. It’s not, they’re not, it’s real, the words are real and they continue to roll in. Mommy, Daddy, Mom-mom, Daddad, kitty, dog, one, two, three, four, five, red, green, blue, chips, rock, pool, I go, like it, no, various sounds, animals sounds; cow, duck, chicken, dog, and bird. She is pretty much attempting to say anything we ask her to. She is trying so hard too. It’s like a verbal tsunami!!

She walked to the garden with her dad to check on the vegetables and fruits. Sam pulled up two cucumbers and Summer chimed in “peekles!” Cucumbers-pickles, she was on the right track. Sam said, “How many pickles?” Summer responded, “tu.” She is amazing.

She completely blew our minds this past week. Sam and I were reading her alphabet book with her and we decided to switch up our approach. Sam pointed to each letter and asked, “Summer, what is this letter?” She proceeded to verbally sound out EVERY letter!! Correctly at that!

The amount of joy that I feel hearing my daughter speak is an emotion that no one could ever explain in words. I am so Proud, surprised, and hopeful of what is to come.

~Kelly Kristine

A Service dog, for Autism? What’s all the “woof” about!?.

I have heard a few questions, comments and concerns about our family obtaining an autism service dog for Summer, I thought I might answer a few…

Before I do let me clarify something, animals have always played a very important role in my family’s life. It is no surprise that Summer is also an animal lover. However, she doesn’t just have a love for them, she connects with them. She connects and bonds with animals in a way she doesn’t with people outside of our family unit or school. We feel that this is the best decision/choice for SUMMER. Our life, our story, our choice. This is what our family feels to be right in our hearts for Summer.

• “Summer doesn’t look disabled, why does she need a service dog?”
Well, not all disabilities are visible. Summer is medically diagnosed as having moderate autism spectrum disorder, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder (she is semi-verbal with the communication development of an 18 month old) and delayed milestones. She does not appropriately process danger or unsafe situations the same as most. Until you interact with her, try to communicate with her, or spend some time with her you wouldn’t know she has a disability. Her actions and reactions to the environment around her can be unpredictable at times. Whether it is the general scenery, the amount of people, lights, or sounds, the world can be just too much for her to process and understand. Summer uses most of her energy trying to understand a world that seems confusing to her. Much of what we take for granted can be physically and mentally stressing for her. Normal situations such as; trips to the grocery store, going to school, family functions, appointments, and social events require a team effort because they can overwhelm her in a way that no one realizes.

• “Why 4 Paws For Ability? There are organizations that provide service dogs for free.”
A large majority of the service dog agencies list their dogs as “no cost to the recipient,” which is often taken to mean “free.” However, their dogs are not free. The agency placing the dogs, “at no cost to the participant” has received donations for the funding of the dog placed. In other words, someone other than the recipient paid for the training of his or her dog. Some of their age requirements and pet limitations were strict and Summer wouldn’t qualify for a couple of them because she is only 3. The wait lists were ridiculous, most agencies with these “free” dogs have waiting lists averaging from two to five years.
4 Paws for Ability enriches the lives of children with disabilities by training and placing quality, task-trained service dogs. This provides increased independence for the children, and assistance to their families. 4 Paws also works with veterans from recent conflicts who’ve lost the use of their limbs or their hearing while in active combat.
In all cases, the results speak for themselves. Lives are transformed.

• “Why does it cost so much money?”….It’s “just” a dog.
As volunteers of the organization and to secure Summer with her own autism service dog our family will be raising a minimum requirement of 15,000. In reality it costs 4 Paws $22,000 to raise and train the dogs they offer for children and veterans. The funds that are raised go directly to the 4 Paws for Ability organization to support and help their mission. All of their dogs are fully trained when placed with their child/vet. The dogs go through multiple programs such as; residing and training with foster families, training within prison and have months of intense training before they are ready. The dogs are a year old (sometimes older) when they are placed. 4 Paws doesn’t place a dog that isn’t ready, or that doesn’t have the right temperament. Every dog is trained case specific to the child and their needs.

• “Can’t you rescue a dog and train it yourself?”
This actually makes me laugh because if we were just looking for a companion or emotional support animal, sure. The requirements we need for Summer are a lot more intense than just keeping her company through the day. This dog will provide her with companionship, security and will keep her safe. When given a command her dog will immediately jump into action to disrupt or redirect Summer’s behavior. We aren’t sure if in time she will progress and break through the social barrier to form meaningful relationships with her peers or in the event Summer is to go missing her dog will go and track her down. Summer will have the access and ability to go places that she may not have been able to before due to the situation being to overwhelming for her or for our family.

When Summer gets her dog she will be legally able to take the dog anywhere that she goes in the public. She and the dog will be protected under the ADA because the dog will be a SERVICE dog (a lot of people don’t understand that).

4 Paws for Ability has their own breeding program. They know the temperaments of the dogs they need and the breed of dogs that make the best service dogs. Plus, as long as we have the dog, we’ll have the support of the trainers at 4 Paws for Ability. If we have a problem, all we will need to do is call them.

I 100% stand by our decision to go with 4 Paws for Ability. In the 4 months we’ve fundraised we’ve made friends with other families who have their dogs, are getting their dogs soon and some who are fundraising just like us. Yes, raising the money is hard work…I’m taking a break from working on that to make this post, but in the end I know Summer will have the dog that she was meant to have and will make a huge difference in not only her life, but our entire family’s life.

~Kelly Kristine

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