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.

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