Saturday, 12 November 2022

Team Henry: Expectation versus Reality - So much more than just an Assistance Dog!

As well as being L's Autism Assistance Dog, Henry assists L in many other ways!

Shopping trips used to be a nightmare for L – the sensory overload from shopping centres is enormous. Now, they are a breeze with Henry by L’s side. Anytime during a shopping trip that L, and at times O, begins to feel overwhelmed, he and Henry find a spot to have lap lays and cuddles. Prior to Henry, shopping trips usually ended in a meltdown. We haven’t had one meltdown while out shopping. Even Christmas shopping was an easy outing.

Haircuts. L has naturally curly, think ringlets, hair but due to his sensory processing difficulties, he dislikes his hair being brushed so regular hair cuts are a must. As L doesn’t like people touching his hair or head, hair cuts are a sensory nightmare for him and can take up to a few hours for a simple trim. Now with Henry, a haircut takes less then 20 minutes. Henry is a bit of a hit at the barbers too and no longer munches on the hair treats on the floor!


Hospital and medical appointments. Even though we are on a first name basis with the medical staff at four emergency departments, L struggles with hospital visits and medical appointments in general. Henry has been a godsend and each time we’ve had an appointment or a visit to the emergency department, L has been able to stay calm. He still reverted to being non-verbal, but he was calm.

Lockdowns, isolation and flooding! Well, what can I say. The last few years have been a challenge for everyone. The first few lockdowns prior to Henry were a real struggle. But having Henry to help L, and O, to self regulate has been awesome. So far, because goodness knows what is going to happen in the future, we have been through one covid lockdown, three covid isolation periods and the February flooding, with no meltdowns. Henry is so super calm, that he causes both little superheroes to remain calm.

Family outings have always been tricky for both little superheroes. Prior to Henry being placed, our family outings wouldn’t last more then a few hours and they were usually to the same places so that both kids wouldn’t become too overwhelmed. If we were even thinking of going to a new place, we would have to give both kids at least a weeks notice so that we could prepare them for the outing.

Since Henry, our family outings have become much easier, more frequent and have become longer. We’ve become more adventurous and have visited places that we haven’t been to previously. We’ve done a few surprise outings, which we could not have done prior to Henry being placed.

Australia Zoo was our first successful outing. We lasted roughly five hours and the only reason we left is due to both kids complaining of sore feet. Neither entered into sensory or emotional overload. I may have become teary later that evening because of how amazing Henry was. 

We've visited two of the theme parks on the Gold Coast in one day - this is something that we couldn't have done before Henry.

Now when we are on outings, if either of the kids begin to feel overwhelmed, Henry steps in with lap lays, overs and nuzzles. And not once have we had to end an family outing early due to one of both kids becoming overwhelmed. Sealife on the Sunshine Coast, a full day school excursion for L, a full day at the Gold Coast Supernova convention to name a few, all have gone exceptionally well.

Even a simple outing such as Santa photos was near impossible prior to Henry being placed. Our 2021 Surfing Santa photos were a breeze for L and we had to constantly remind him that we had to leave!

L is responsible for looking after Henry on a daily basis, under our supervision of course. He feeds Henry, brushes him, picks up Henry’s poops, plays with him, helps to wash Henry and everything else in between. This is developing L's skills a whole range of areas.

Henry is L's furry sidekick and as long as L always needs him, Henry will be by his side.

Friday, 4 November 2022

Team Henry: Expectations versus Reality - Companionship.

 Our expectations

Just the pure companionship for L is another aspect that we were looking forward to with having Henry placed with our family. Having a pup that he could say was his, as a conversation starter with our family and friends and other people that we come into contact with on a regular basis.

The reality

L has always struggled with communication. When he is overwhelmed or when he meets new people, he reverts to being non-verbal and will use key word signing or sounds to communicate his needs.

Henry has been amazing in calming L to the point that he is able to communicate using speech.

When are out and about, if L is calm, Henry is a conversation starting point for him with new people. This is a huge first for L, and it is all thanks to Henry. The focus is taken off of Lachlan and onto what Henry does and the tricks that he can do!

Both little superheroes have complex needs, and as a result regular medical appointments are a must.

Before Henry, L would shut-down and hide under chairs, tables, cupboards, anything that has a space underneath.

Now, with Henry by his side, L is able to self regulate enough to communicate via sounds or key word signing with the medical professionals. And with some, like our pediatrician who has built an amazing rapport with L, he will communicate verbally with them.

Sunday, 30 October 2022

A Message From Henry!

 

Hi hoomans!

Tis me Henry, and slothee.

Just like you hoomans, us working dogs need a healthy balance between work and down time.

At home if my boi needs me, I work. But when I'm not in coat, I can just be a puppy.

My hooman family always make sure that for every day that I work, I have a day off at home.

It is your Sunday today, so take some time to chill out and relax.

Henry out, slothee needs to sleep ❤️

Saturday, 29 October 2022

Team Henry ..... School Training

This past week at L's school, we've had two Smart Pups trainers at the school training teachers on how to work with Henry.

While Henry is L's Autism Assistance Dog, Henry cannot be at the school without an additional handler, which up until yesterday was myself. It is simply unethical to have Henry at school without an additional handler.

We are incredibly fortunate in that L's school is so supportive of having Henry at school - they can see the positive impact that Henry has had, and continues to have, on L. So after a few months of organisation, the time came for the teacher handler training to occur.

Prior to the training we were told by Smart Pups, the organisation that trained and placed Henry with us, that his original trainer was not available so we would be getting two new trainers. What Smart Pups didn't tell us was that one of the trainers, Carol, was one of Henry's foster carers and had Henry with her in her school classroom as part of his initial training.

When L found out who Carol was and her connection to Henry, he was absolutely blown away that "the teacher person who taught Henry how to be a good boy at school" came to his school to train his teachers!

At the conclusion of day one of teacher training, we had one very tired puppy and very happy child. Henry was his amazing self, as usual, and the teaching support staff were buzzing from their day learning how to handle Henry at school.

The teacher handler training was a very brief version of what we were taught when Henry was placed. It is important that they use the same commands with Henry that we do. The training only allows them to be the additional handler at school, but it does mean that on the mornings when L is having a rough morning, I don't need to stay at school in future.

Simon and Carol involved L in the teacher training - he spoke with them and the teaching support staff how Henry helps him and showed them some of Henry's task specific skills. L even helped out in his classroom, showing his peers the tricks that Henry does!

 L went to bed that night a very happy camper!!

Day two of teacher handler went just as well as the first day. The teaching staff were able to experience the task specific skills that Henry does for L - the deep pressure therapy laps and overs, and the nuzzling. We use these on a regular basis so it was important that they too saw, and felt, how effective they are.

Simon made L's day by complimenting L on how well he handles Henry. The teacher handler training was the next step in L's independence, he was able to show his peers, Simon and Carol and the support staff just how Henry helps him on a daily basis.

Thank you Simon and Carol for going out to L's school, we are very grateful ❤️


Tuesday, 18 October 2022

What does independence look like??

 What does independence look like? 

This! 

Both kids were meant to walk to their grandparents place after school today, but unfortunately O went home early. The look on L's face when he saw that I was picking him up from school was definitely one of "wtf are you doing here??"

We still needed to go to Grandma's as they had the puppers today, so when I asked L if he wanted to go in the car, or walk, he jumped at the chance to walk by himself.

After a few ground rules about stopping at the road he'd need to cross and looking for cars before he walked across the road, he was off. 

Keep in mind that Grandma and Dudduds is only a few minutes walk from school.

As I drove around the block, I will admit that I half thought I'd find L collecting sticks or rocks on the way, we get distracted very easily and there are some awesome sticks in the park he had to cross first!

I will also admit that I was slightly nervous, but the only way L will develop these skills is by us letting him try!!

But no, he'd run to the road, stopped and looked for cars, walked across and then ran all the way to Grandma, who was waiting out of view inside but keeping an eye out for L.

This is a HUGE step for L. A few years ago, crossing the road by himself was not something that he could do safely.

It's only a short distance but a huge step of independence for L.

One of his goals in L's NDIS plan, is around developing skills to be safe in the community - that goal has been in his plan since day dot, 7 years, 8 plans. 

Community safety is now a reality, this kid is kicking goals!!

Monday, 10 October 2022

End the Stigma

 

Today is World Mental Health Day. The day is a global event that aims to promote, educate and raise awareness of mental health issues.

Our own mental health is incredibly important and something that we should be aware of. Unfortunately there is still.some stigma around having a mental health issue. By talking to one another, we can begin to eradicate the stigmas that are associated with mental illness.

If you ever need to talk, I am here ❤️

Let's end the stigma and talk more so that society as a whole recognizes the importance of an individual's mental health and well-being.

#worldmentalhealthday

Friday, 30 September 2022

The Perfect School Holiday Activity!



What is the the perfect school holiday activity according to L?

Strawberry picking!


This child loooves strawberries and will eat punnets at a time of them if we let him. He ate the equivalent of a punnet on the short drive home 🍓🍓 I said that he'd better stop eating as he'd eaten about eight, L's response "no, I've eaten 13!"

Now he has a box to get through!! A few containers of 🍓🍓 in the fridge and lots of bags in the freezer. Strawberries are one food that L never tires of.