Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Happy birthday H litter!

*** Please note that we do not receive commissions of any kind for this post. ***

The week that Henry was placed in 2021, holds two reasons to celebrate - Henry placement day and Henry's birthday.

Henry and his siblings were Covid19 puppies, born in 2020 when Covid19 was taking hold of the world and causing devastation and havoc. 

Henry is from the H litter - each of Smart Pups litters are named after a letter of the alphabet, or have a litter theme - there is a Paw Patrol litter!!

And yet, Henry and his siblings have made a huge positive impact on the children, and their families, that they have been placed with.

This past week, we just had to celebrate Henry's second birthday. The day started with presents for Henry, which he just loved investigating! His most favourite presents? The oversized tennis balls and the yummy treats.

Later in the day we went and collected the most awesome puppy birthday cake that a local business, In My Belly Pupcakes and Treats, made for Henry. And oh my gosh, the lovely ladies at In My Belly did an amazing job.

Henry's human boy was adamant that the cake looked so pawsome that he too was going to have a slice of cake. That is until Henry bit it open and the dehydrated fish heads and liver treats cascaded out!!

Henry is trained to ignore food that is on the ground and to not to eat food until he is given the command. It took a great deal of concentration on Henry's part, not to take a bite of his cake!!

Now usually our Henry hoovers his food, his main meals and any treats, down. But not with his cake. He definitely seemed to be savouring every single mouthful.


And check out these cuties - just a few of Henry's siblings!!

 

Happy birthday H litter! Thank you for being the most amazing assistance dogs that you are!

And if you're after some amazing pawsome tasty treats for your pups, head over to In My Belly Pupcakes and Treats. Every time we have purchased their treats, they have gone down, well, like a treat! They are a local business who use natural doggy friendly, human grade ingredients to make all of their dog treats. And all of their products are made from scratch and taste tested by their own furry companions. Henry definitely savoured his cake, but he usually inhales their other treats!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

☆ 365 ☆ Days ☆

 ☆ 365 ☆ Days ☆


18th of May 2021. A date that is significant for our family. It's been 365 days since Henry was introduced to L and our family.

☆ 365 days of Team Henry.

☆ 365 days of nuzzles, laps, overs, hide and seek aka tracking, furry companionship and much much more.

☆ 365 days where Henry has helped to reduce L's, and at times O's, daily anxiety.

☆ 365 days of making L's world feel a little more welcoming and easier to venture out into.

☆ 365 days of Henry's love.

☆ 365 days of life changing Henry magic.


To everyone at Smart Pups, from the trainers to the admin staff, and everyone behind the scenes, to your puppy foster carers, the sponsors of Smart Pups, everyone who has donated funds to Smart Pups. To those who supported us on our fund-raising journey by making donations or donating items for us to raffle, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you so very much. We are so very grateful for all of your assistance in helping L's Smart Pup journey become a reality.

Henry is been truly life changing for L, and for us as a family. 

#teamhenry #smartpups #smartpuphenry #labradorsofinstagram #autismheroes #autismassistancedogs

Friday, 6 May 2022

Team Henry: Independence!



This is what independence looks like ❤❤

We have before Henry and after Henry moments, and this at school drop off this morning is a huge after Henry moment.

Before Henry, school drop offs were incredibly difficult for L, especially transitioning from the car to his classroom.

After Henry, L is so much calmer with Henry by his side. This morning, L had his first beginner school band rehearsal. Over the past few weeks he has been a little hesitant and anxious about this, something new and out of his regular routine.

But this morning, L's confidence was shining bright and there wasn't a hint of anxiety at all ❤❤

#teamhenry #smartpups #smartpuphenry #autismassistancedogs #autismheroes #labradorsofinstagram

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Team Henry: Some extra information!


*** Please note that we do not receive commissions of any kind from the organisations mentioned in this article. They are simply organisations that we have found useful. ***


Henry has been with us for coming on twelve months and what an amazing ride it has been. We're often asked the most amazing and inquisitive questions about Henry, his role, the training involved and how people can either obtain or train their own assistance dog.

As a result, I have created a number of documents with all the information that are usually asked and rather than carry multiple copies with me on a daily basis, I have decided to upload these to my blog for easy access.

So without any further ado, for your reading pleasure, below are the links to these documents! Please note that this information is based on our experience and knowledge but also on the legislation that covers Assistance Dogs here in Queensland. The legislation can differ from state to state, and country to country, so please ensure that if you live outside of Queensland, you approach an Assistance Dog training organisation in your state or territory, or country.

First up is an information handout on "What is an Assistance Dog." There continues to be confusion about the public access rights of an Assistance Dog, what constitutes an Assistance Dog and the difference between Assistance Dogs and Therapy/Companion/Emotional Support Dogs.

There are two pieces of legislation that cover the public access rights of an Assistance Dog here in Queensland. The first being the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 (Queensland) which protects the public access rights of assistance dogs and their handlers that have been through a certification process. The second piece of legislation is  the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA, Commonwealth,) Under the DDA, an Assistance Dog can be trained by their owner/handler, so this is a link to some information in regards to owner/handler training and the documents that you will require to access public spaces.

We are in the process of owner/handler training a second Assistance Dog for O as we've realised the enormous benefits of having a task specific trained assistance dog. The majority of Assistance Dog training organisations require you to keep a training log for your puppy while it is in the assistance dog program. We began training Alaska (our new puppy) from the moment that we brought her home, so I created our own training log of evidence that we could present to any future organisation. It is a very basic training log, but serves its purpose.


We're also often asked about the contact details for different organisations that either place or will owner/handler train an Assistance Dog. And there are a number of different organisations, so rather than attempt to list the organisations off of the top of my head, I created a list! Some are registered through Guide Hearing Assistance Dogs, Queensland, others are not yet registered but are in the process of gaining their registration. I have concentrated on Assistance Dog organisations in general, as Guide and Hearing Assistance Dogs have their own specific training organisations that are easily located. Please note that this list is not exhaustive. 


Thursday, 21 April 2022

Team Henry: Expectations versus Reality - Tracking


Our expectations

Once we knew that L’s Smart Pup was going to happen within the next twelve months, or thereabouts, we began to think forward about our expectations of having an Autism Assistance Service Dog placed with L.
One of L’s coping mechanisms when he needs to escape sensory overload from crowded or noisy or bright places, is to run. When L spots something that he wants to look at, he runs. When his emotions overcome him, he just runs. It doesn’t cross his mind that he should tell us when he wants to look at something or when he needs to escape from overload. This is a behaviour that we see in him on a regular basis. At present when L wanders, he will hide and not answer to his name. We were hoping that the Smart Pup would be trained to quickly find L.
The Reality
Henry is trained to track L when he runs away off. We practice this every few days either in the house or at our local park. Every time we practice this by playing hide and seek, Henry finds L within minutes, if not seconds.
Within the first four weeks of Henry being placed with us, Henry tracked L for real three times.
The first being inside the house when I couldn't find L. The doors were closed so I knew that he was in the house. Henry found him in our bedroom hiding within a matter of seconds of being given the command to find L.
The second was out the front door of our house. Both kids wanted to watch the lunar eclipse so I said let's go out the back. When O and I went out the back door, I didn't realise that L had decided to go out the front. When I came back inside to get L, Henry was on high alert facing the front door and the front door was open. He tracked L to out the front of our place.
The third was at a park close to the beach. We hadn’t been to the park before and all it took was for me to turn away for a few seconds and L ran off. As soon as I gave Henry the command, he took off in the direction of a pond which was between us and the beach. Henry found L on the other side of the pond playing on some exercise equipment.
Having Henry trained to track L is truly life saving. Henry has since tracked L a few more times for real and has always found him within minutes.
Henry is always on high alert whenever he spots L running, even if it is just during play, including at his therapy activities. We always have to reassure Henry in these instances that L is okay. Henry relaxes a little but he is still on alert.
Henry is even responded to O running – she was extremely excited about something that had happened at school and was running being happy, flappy. Henry looked at L walking beside me and then looked towards where O was running and then looked at me as if to ask “is O okay, do I need to find her.”

Friday, 15 April 2022

Team Henry: Expectations versus Reality - School

 

Our expectations

We were hoping that the Smart Pup would also assist in decreasing L’s anxiety during his daily routines, in particular at school. With approval from the school that L attends, the Smart Pup would accompany him to school to assist in transitions throughout the day. This in turn would mean that L would have more days at school and would also stay at school rather than running off from his classroom when he became overwhelmed.

The reality

School drop offs have become incredibly easier and L is spending more time at school and is staying at school. Henry provides lap lays in the mornings before school at home. As soon as Henry senses that L is becoming overwhelmed, he will go to L and lay on his lap. This will usually calm L enough that he can get himself ready for school.

On the mornings where L is having a rough morning, Henry assists in calming L at home, in the car and in the sensory room at school. They will lay together on the floor of the sensory room, Henry giving L lap lays or just nuzzling L. All of L’s teachers and teacher aides have commented on how quickly L calms when Henry is by his side.

Prior to Henry being placed, we had more rough school drop offs then calm drop offs. We had mornings where we couldn’t get L out of the house. Those mornings are now much fewer. Prior to Henry being placed, on L’s rough mornings, if often took a few hours at school for him to calm. Now, it takes anywhere between 20 minutes and half an hour before he is ready to verbally interact with his teacher aides and he is often back in his classroom before 10 o’clock.

The novelty has now worn off at school about there being a dog on the school grounds – initially we caused absolute chaos at school! The entire school community have embraced Henry and have welcomed him into the school. Whenever L and I take Henry into his classroom, the entire mood of the students in the room calms.

The students at the school as a whole are extremely respectful. On the mornings that L is having a good morning, they will say hi to Henry (I’m now known as Henry’s mum!) and ask the most amazing questions about what Henry actually does, what does a service dog mean, what was his training like and all manner of other questions relating to Henry and what he actually does.

On the mornings that L is having a rough morning, they give us space and let Henry do his thing. And then if they spot Henry and I on our way out of the school after L is calm, they praise Henry for being such a great helper in calming his boy.

School wise - Henry has helped L with his reading skills. Every night before bed time, L reads to Henry. The school aims for every child to record at least 300 reading experiences by the end of the school year. By November last year, L reached just over 600 reading experiences. Henry was rewarded for his reading log too!

Friday, 8 April 2022

Sometimes, sarcasm is the best way to respond!

There are times in anyone's life, that the best way to respond to questions or statements is with sarcasm. Over the last few years, I've become quite versed in interpreting how questions are asked. 

If the person asking the question is genuinely interested in learning more about Autism and our journey, I will take the time to politely correct them and education them about Autism.

And then there are the people are just down right rude and obnoxious. And that's when one of the below responses will slip out! Oops, sorry not sorry!


[Oh, you're neurotypical? So to what degree are you normal?
 Are you slightly normal or very normal?}


["Their struggles are all in their head."

You're right, their struggles are in their heads, Autism is a
neurological difference. I didn't realise that you had
x-ray and MRI vision to be able to see their differences.]


[Random person: "They don't look Autistic."
Me: Oops, my bad. I haven't taught them how to look Autistic yet.
Can you show them because clearly you know what Autism looks like.]


[Random person: "They aren't drugged are they."
Me: If you are referring to medication, yes they do take medication. At this moment in time,
they require medication to keep their anxiety at bay so that they can
learn how to self manage their severe anxiety.
Are you drugged for your stupidity?]


[Random person: "There's no such thing as Autism."
Me: Actually Autism does exist. And while we're on the subject of things that
don't exist, I didn't believe that there were walking adverts for contraception
but here we are.]


[Random person: (insert unsolicited advice here..)
Me: excuse me for interrupting you, but here's some unsolicited advice
for you. STFU and ping off.]


[Random person: "They'll get better when they are adults."
Me: Yes they will get better. Better at using sarcasm to deflect comments like yours.
Autism doesn't end at 18 years.]


[Share this on your profile is you know, or are related to someone,
who is an idiot. Idiots affect the lives of many. There is still
no known cure for stupidity, but we can raise awareness.
93% won't share this, many because they're too stupid
to know how.]


[Random person: "Don't you wish that there was a cure for Autism?"
Me: No. Why would anyone want neurodiversity to disappear? But did you
know that there is a cure for ignorance?]


[Random person: "What's wrong with him?"
Me: Absolutely nothing, he's neurodiverse and extremely happy.
What's wrong with you?]


[They don't look Autistic you say? I apologise, next time
I'll make sure that they're wearing their Autistic clothes!]


[Random person: "Don't you wish there was a cure?"
Me: A cure? You know that there is a cure for stupidity and ignorance, it's called
talking to and listening to Autistic voices.]

Friday, 1 April 2022

Autism Awareness and Acceptance 2022

It's April, which means it is Autism Awareness Month.

But you know what, we don't need more awareness. Acceptance is what all Autistic individuals want. We want to be accepted for who we are.

April the 2nd is World Autism Day.

Please be accepting of those individuals who are different, regardless of whether you know that they are Autistic or not.

We have been on this journey for almost 10 years, as we knew that L was different from the moment he arrived Earth side. Officially, our families Autism journey began in 2016.

Your view of the world changes when let yourself view the world through another's perspective. Both O and L view the world in their own ways. And we wouldn't have our family any other way!

Throughout the month of April, I am going to share ways in which you can show a little more Autism Acceptance. But acceptance shouldn't just be in April, it should be year round.


[Raising Autism Awareness 101
Autism has no look. Every individual is unique.]

So how can you show more Autism Acceptance?

If an individual tells you that they are Autistic, don't question their diagnosis.

Autism has no look. Too many times, and far too frequently we hear "they just don't look Autistic."

By stating this, or something similar, you are not helping. You are in fact questioning their every being.

It can take families time to actually get an Autism diagnosis, and when you question the validity of the diagnosis, it can be a huge kick in the guts to them.

Don't question, just accept and open your eyes as to how they view the world.

 

[Raising Autism Awareness 101
Autism is for life. Autism does not magically disappear 
when an individual turns 18.]

Autism is for life. Autism doesn't disappear at the age of 18, but unfortunately therapy services for Autistic adults can be more difficult to find and access. An Autistic individual won't get better, life at times doesn't become easier for the individual.


Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Some new Memes

 Who loves a Meme? Here's a few that we've posted on our social media profiles!


[If an Autistic person is non-verbal, still include them in conversations.
You may be surprised at just how much they are taking in.]


[Meet your child where they are developmentally here and now,
rather then be concerned by where medical or education
professionals say that your child should be.]


[Stop and admire the little things in life,
the tiny details that we miss through
being busy, because these can be the most
wonderous things.]


[Be so completely yourself that everyone else
feels safe to be themselves too. Unknown.]


[Normal is not a goal for me.
Normal isn't a compliment.
Normal is too much like playing tetris,
fitting in for the sake of fitting in.
O, 12 years.]


[Neurodiversity is....
A different way of thinking.
A different way of processing everything that an individual
sees, feels and hears in th3e world around them.
A different way of communication ones needs,
thoughts and wants.]


[Remember to choose the battles that you want to fight.
But also, for your children sake,
fight the battles that need to be fought.]

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Team Henry: Expectations versus Reality - Sleep

Our expectations

L struggles with sleep and has averaged roughly 4 and a half to 5 hours sleep a night since he was the age of 4 and a half months old. We were hoping that a Smart Pup would provide L with the level of comfort that he needs to fall asleep and stay calm. The plan was that L's pup would sleep in his bed so that when L woke in the middle of the night, he hopefully wouldn’t need us every night.
The Reality
We have always struggled to get L to 1. sleep in his own bed and 2. stay in his own bed.
From the moment that Henry was placed, he has slept in L’s bed. The first month or so, L would last a few hours in his bed and then would come into us, with Henry following him.
Now, we are having more nights of L staying, not necessarily sleeping all night, in his own bed for the entire night. This is a first since L was a few months old.
And when L wakes up early because he longer needs to sleep, Henry goes with him. Prior to Henry, we would tag team so that we would have alternating good nights of sleep, so that one of us was always awake with L. Now he has Henry and is happy to lay on his bed playing on a device until the rest of the house wakes up.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Team Henry: Expectations versus Reality - Nuzzling

Our expectations

We were also hoping that the Smart Pup would be trained to touch, nudge or lay on L to disrupt repetitive or disruptive behaviours, in particular when L enters into meltdown mode he punches his own face and pulls his eyelashes out. We were hoping that the pup would be trained to disrupt these behaviours.


The reality
Henry was giving lap lays to L the afternoon that he was placed with us. Within the first week, Henry had begun to pick up on the cues that L was giving prior to entering meltdown mode and was stepping in, calming L before the meltdown had even begun. The deep pressure from Henry’s head and upper body on and over L’s lap is enough to calm L. Henry picked up on body cues, perhaps chemicals that L was releasing, that we missed every single time.
Henry has been trained to nuzzle L's face when he is in meltdown mode to disrupt L’s self harming behaviours of punching his own face and pulling out his eyelashes. L has since started rubbing his eyes when he is anxious or frustrated, Henry has picked up on this and now nuzzles L's face to disrupt this new behaviour. This nuzzling is enough to distract L that he stops and begins cuddling Henry.

Friday, 11 March 2022

Team Henry: The Why!

We're often asked why did we choose to apply to Smart Pups for an assistance dog for L.

We had a chance meeting with a Smart Pup who was still in training in mid 2019 – I can remember that the handlers said that the pup was to be placed with a boy who was Autistic and had epilepsy. We were at Northlakes Shopping Centre to watch a movie and prior to going to the cinemas, L had entered full blown meltdown mode. At that point nothing we said or did was helping him. Cue the entry of a Smart Pup. The handlers, who from memory were foster carers for the pup, asked if L would respond to the pup. The pup, not knowing L, was taken over to where he lay on the floor and immediately went through its training and calmed L within about ten minutes. It was truly remarkable to watch this young pup respond to a child that he didn’t know in the manner that he did.

For the remainder of the year, Scott and I talked about applying to the Smart Pup program as we saw the benefit that Ruby had on L and were hoping that a dog specifically trained for L’s needs would be extremely beneficial. We applied for the program in October 2019 and were accepted in November. The rest, as they say, is history.