Friday 16 December 2022

Team Alaska!

☆☆☆ ALASKA IS ONE ☆☆☆ 

This little pupper turns one today. She's a floofball of energy who loves to play but also loves to work.

While Henry has been the most amazing Assistance Dog role model and big brother to Alaska, Alaska has taught Henry how to be a puppy!!

She's cheeky when out of coat, but super serious in coat.

Alaska has already made a huge difference to O. Alaska also regularly alerts myself and Scott Petrey when we need to take breaks. She's also showing her intelligent disobedience skills, by stopping O (and us) when she detects changes in our VOC!!

And her public access skills are spot on, so the next phase is to make her bomb proof when we're out and about ❤️

#teamalaska #autismassistancedog

Tuesday 22 November 2022

What does brave look like?


What does brave look like? This.

Two little superheroes who are putting one foot in front of the other and getting back to their usual routines.

These two little superheroes have had a couple of huge weeks where they have experienced every emotion from extreme sadness to extreme happiness and every emotion in between.

The first week that Daddy Superhero was in hospital having his life saving (literally) heart surgery, being in ICU, then being transferred onto the cardiac ward was like a very bad dream and none of us really knew what we were feeling. It was a very surreal feeling.

Last week was as difficult as the first week, the reality of just how severe and life threatening the diagnosis was, hit home in a huge way. As did knowing that if Daddy Superhero didn't have surgery, our lives could be very different.

Last week was a "school can't" week. Neither little superheroes or myself wanted to face the world. We didn't want to people, other than going to visit our superhero in hospital. They physically couldn't go to school last week, their anxiety was too high to function outside of our home.

This week is a "school try" week. Both little superheroes are still coming to terms with what has happened over the past two weeks. They're both still talking through their emotions and thoughts. And they're both trying to go back to school - both schools have been just amazing in providing support to them and us.

It may be some time before we get back to our new normal, but we won't give up.

#autismheroes #littlesuperheroes #cardiacsurvivor

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.

Thursday 10 November 2022

Team Henry: My Rock


While my rock has been battling and kicking goals in ICU this week, this boi has been my rock.

Henry has been showing just how amazing he really is by supporting both little superheroes and myself.

And he's been showing his intelligent disobedience skills!! Henry has deliberately pushed me to our couch at home so that I'd sit down and then would lay his head on my lap giving me some much needed deep pressure therapy ❤️❤️

Henry is L's Autism Assistance Dog, but he knows when I need help too.

Oh, and he is a hit at the hospital. First making friends with all the staff in ICU and today, making friends on his Daddy's ward ❤️❤️

#teamhenry #smartpuphenry #smartpups #autismassistancedogs

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? 


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.


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.

Saturday 17 September 2022

Henry the Hero


After Henry was placed with our family in May 2021, I began to form an idea for a book.

We're often approached when we're out and about as a family about the role that Henry plays in assisting L, as well as the etiquette in approaching Assistance Dogs. The book that I began to imagine, was about Henry, his role and what people should do if they see an Assistance Dog while it is working.

Well, I'm very pleased to announce that my book is almost ready for publication. I'm stepping way out of my comfort zone, but I am looking forward to seeing my idea I print.

So stay tuned on this exciting development!!!

Thursday 8 September 2022

I am Me


Hi, my name is Jenni and I am Autistic. I also have PTSD and have sensory processing difficulties. My anxiety, while manageable, is always lurking in the background.

To say this out loud, to write it, is empowering. As a late diagnosed Autistic, I can now say that my life makes sense.

For too long, as a child and teenager and even as an adult, I have been told that I was weird, an outsider, the black sheep, an outcast, that I was crazy, quirky, abnormal, odd and all manner of other terms. But not in a nice way.

I was bullied for being who I am. I tried to fit in but didn't know how to. I tried to change who I was, but then hated that person so went back to being me, but then the circle began again.

When you're told often that you are all these things, you begin to believe what you're being told. Your brain believes it, then your self worth disappears.

I now know that I am these things because I am Autistic. What other people perceive as normal, is not who I am, and will never be who I am.

I now know who I am. I am me and being Autistic is a huge part of me.

Thursday 1 September 2022

Team Henry: Expectations versus reality


Our expectations

The Smart Pup would be trained to snuggle and comfort L when he becomes upset or distressed, which would help prevent L's emotional reaction from escalating into a meltdown.

The reality

Since May 2021, we haven’t had a full blown meltdown last longer than half an hour, Henry steps in and begins going through his paces as soon as he senses L's emotions  escalating.

There’s only been one occasion that Henry hasn’t known what to do, and that was when L was throwing a tantrum over not going what he wanted. Henry literally sat on the floor, looking at L as if to say “what the hecks is you doing??” But as soon as L escalated from tantrum to meltdown, Henry stepped in.

Within a month of being placed with us, Henry began to pick up on O’s anxiety. If Henry sensed that L was okay and O wasn’t, Henry would go to O and nuzzle her leg or do a lap lay or over.

The first few times this occurred, Henry would look to us for reassurance that it was okay to help O. Now he steps in and goes through his paces.


Saturday 27 August 2022

Just a weekend giggle for you!!


Your weekend giggle, courtesy of L .... this is an incident that happened a few weekends ago when we were out as a family. L always keeps life interesting!!

Things we say before getting into a lift...

Us ... L what aren't you going to do?

L ... Get my arm stuck!

Now the back story.

Up at Sunshine Plaza, we all get into a lift on level 3 to go down. At level 1, Scott, O and Alaska get out of the lift as I say to Henry and L "let's go," to which L says "I can't."

Me ... what's wrong?

L ... I'm stuck!

Me ... wait, what??

L ... My arm is stuck.

Me ... (thinking to myself) WTF Of course you are!

Then I saw where his arm, elbow actually, was stuck ... in the gap between the bar and the wall. By now Scott, O and Alaska are out of the lift, standing with people wanting to get into the lift in the middle of Myers, yes Myers! Me? I'm starting to giggle quietly but to the point that if I talk, I'll PMSL, so instead of calling out to Scott to tell him that L is stuck, I try to hit the open door button but am too late. Door closes to go down a level. Okay, we're in this now, let's get L's elbow unstuck!

So I try to get L's elbow out, all the while Henry is sitting and staring at L as if to say "what the fluff, how you stuck boi?" 

The door opens on level G in Myers and a lady comes into the lift, nope we're not getting out, we need to go back up to level 1. As the door closes to go back up, I get L's elbow unstuck and I'm at the point that I'm trying really hard not to laugh out loud. 

L ... thanks Mum!

Cue the door opening on level 1, Scott, O, Alaska and everyone who was previously waiting to get into the lift are all staring at us.

I'm now at the point where I physically can't speak because I'm PMSL very quietly. I can't even apologise to those waiting or explain to Scott what happened.

As we walk out through Myers, O keeps asking "are you okay?" and "what happened?" I still can't talk, so L says "I got my arm stuck!" At which point I can't contain my laughter.

Scott and O's response to L ... Of course you did!

No child was physically harmed or injured, just a little embarrassed!! But a lesson was hopefully learnt, don't stick your elbow in the gap between the bar and the wall!

Oh and the photo was taken on the second lift ride!!

L keeping life interesting since 2012.

Friday 19 August 2022

We need to chat!!

Let's have a chat about this!!

It seems like every month, nay every week, yep it happened again yesterday, that someone says the dreaded words "I just can't see their Autism," or a different version of it.

This statement is not okay to say to anyone - unless you are a walking MRI machine. And unless we have some android humans walking among us, this just isn't possible!

Saying "I just can't see their struggles," or "They don't look Autistic," or "Are you sure they are Autistic?" or any other version of this statement, you are implying that you don't think or believe that my children are Autistic.

It isn't a compliment. It isn't polite.

You are, in fact, questioning their ASD diagnosis. You are also failing to recognise that every Autistic individual is unique. You are also dismissing all of their struggles and the obstacles that they have overcome to get where they are today.

If you have an idea of what Autism is meant to look it, how an Autistic person is meant to behave, how they should sound like, please do a data dump from your brain, and get to know the Autistic individual that is in front of you.

There is no one look to Autism.

As the saying goes, if you've met one Autistic person, you've met one Autistic person. 

If you've taught one Autistic student, you've taught one student.

Every Autistic individual is different in their own way.

Saturday 13 August 2022

Independence: Learning about Money

*** Please note that we do not receive commissions of any kind in regards to this post. The product mentioned in the post is simply a product that we have found useful. ***

In raising children, regardless of if they are neurodiverse or neurotypical, all parents just want their children to learn the skills to become independent as an adult - well that's what we want anyway!

One of the skills that Daddy Superhero and I are constantly teaching both little superheroes about is money handling skills.

As with most children, both little superheroes struggle with the concept of money - how to earn money, spending money, budgeting and saving money, and the fact that money doesn't grow on trees! 

A few years ago we introduced the concept of superhero bucks, and while both little superheroes seemed to grasp the concept, the superhero bucks just wasn't teaching them the budgeting skills that they both need to learn.

Early last year, we purchased a game called "Pocket Money." It is a little like Monopoly, but all themed around spending and earning money. The game box includes the game board, a dice, game pieces and pretend coins and notes that are similar size to the currency in Australia.

When we first introduced the game, both little superheroes immediately loved playing the game - and over a year on, they still love playing the game.

For L it's more about recognising the value of each of the coins and notes and that money values can look different, for example $4 can be made up using different monetary  denominations. We also work on his maths skills.

For O it's more about beginning to learn budgeting skills, as well mental maths skills in calculating how much change O would receive when "spending" money in the game.

And because we have fun while playing the game, neither of the little superheroes realise that they're actually learning and practising skills while having fun.

Friday 5 August 2022

Fidgeting: the dos and don'ts

Recently I blogged about movement breaks and how they can assist an individual to self regulate. A few years ago, fidget spinners were introduced on the market, then bubble poppers and now , any time you go to literally any shop, you will find many different types of fidget gadgets.

Fidgeting is a form of a self regulation tool that many Autistic individuals use as a means to self regulate their emotions.

We all fidget, regardless of whether individuals are neurodiverse of neurotypical. But how does fidgeting assist us?

Fidgeting promotes movement of the fine, and at times gross, muscle groups as well as provides tactile input, or a sensory input, to an individual.

Fidgeting is one strategy that O has in the sensory tool kit to assist O to focus on a task. As O has said numerous times, "when my feet are busy moving, my brain can stay still to focus."

When used correctly, fidget tools in the sensory kit assist O to become a better listener. Fidgeting assist O to focus attention on the task at hand. Fidgeting assists O to slow down the body and in turn calm the mind. Fidgeting assists in cutting out the extra sensory information that floods the brain.

We have worked with both little superheroes to assist them both to identify when they need to use their sensory kits.

Many schools have now banned fidget spinners and other items that are classed as fidget tools as students become distracted by them. But there are a few points that can be taught to children so that they know when to use their sensory tool kit.

1. Be mindful of what is occurring around the student - if in an exam, using a sensory tool that has the potential to be noisy may in fact disrupt the class. Both little superheroes have a range of items in their sensory tool kits, so they can choose the item that best suits them in which ever environment that they are in.

2. Only use the tools to focus or calm down. This is a point that we make sure their teachers are aware of as well - you will know if a sensory tool is doing what it is intended to do, if either of our little superheroes begin to calm and focus, the sensory break is needed. If it has the opposite effect, the individual becomes even more distracted or unfocused, then a movement break may be needed, or the individual just doesn't want to do the work!

3. Don't use if they become a distraction to others or interferes with others. This goes back to point number one! If those around the individual are becoming distracted, then choose another quieter item from the sensory tool kit.

4. Once the sensory tool has been used and the individual is calm and able to focus, put the item back into the tool kit. Both little superheroes have a large pencil case to keep all their sensory items in. In the past, if an item hasn't been pout back into the pencil case, it has often been misplaced or taken by another student. This has then caused a severe anxiety attack for the little superheroes. They both know now, through losing or misplacing items, that they need to put items back where they belong.

5. If all else fails, and the sensory tool kit isn't working, a movement break is definitely needed. Movement breaks work on the gross motor muscle groups and provide a much more intense sensory input then the fine motor muscle groups.

And as with movement breaks, if you notice that you, or a child, is not focused, please give them a discrete reminder that they may need to move.