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.