Thursday, March 12, 2015

Interview Series: A Service Dog for Gregory




There is a phrase, "If you have met one child with autism, you have met one child with autism." The meaning being: each child is different, particularly for child diagnosed with autism. There are lists of red flags. The diagnostic criteria in the DSM is repeatedly updated and changed. What makes it difficult, is that no child has the exact same set of symptoms.

At the core of this diagnosis, are difficulties processing information, developing social and emotional skills, and repeated behaviors. How these symptoms present in each child is unique and varies in degree. 

Today we will get to know Gregory, a 4 year old diagnosed with autism and ADHD. His mother, Natalie, is going to share information about Gregory's symptoms and one special way they are going to help him manage those symptoms. 

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What are some things like Gregory enjoys?

Right now his favorite show is Octonauts. This particular show really encourages him to talk for some reason. He loves playing in the tub,  “cooking” in his kitchen with play-doh, playing outside, boats/cars/trucks/airplanes. 

What does Gregory do well?

He is super sweet and has great empathy. He has a natural ability with music. He is very creative (especially when trying to get at things he shouldn’t have.) 

What initially caused your concerns that Gregory had special needs? 

Family members were concerned that he was not speaking well around a year and a half. I was not worried at that point. I don’t feel like all children follow the same exact path. Some kids talk later. 

What services or specialists did you go through to find a diagnosis? Can you tell us a bit about that process?

Initially the evaluations were done through First Steps (early intervention.) Then we scheduled with the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders for official evaluations that would determine if there was any diagnosis. We were lucky to have a friend that had already been through all of this. 

What types of services does he receive now? How often?

Right now he is in a behavioral day treatment program. He goes 3 hours a day 4 days a week. We had been doing speech and music therapy but have had to back out due to behavioral issues during these sessions. The recommendation is 30+ hours a week of therapy but we don’t have that available where we are. 

You are currently collecting funds  to provide Gregory with a service dog. What led you to this decision?

I am/was a dog trainer by profession. I researched and found that one of the main benefits of a service dog is to help calm. Gregory’s brain moves so fast he has a hard time learning and deals with a very strong lack of  impulse control. These dogs also provide a bridge for social interaction and the list goes on. I feel like this dog could be a life changer for him. 

How does Gregory, and you, currently cope with those struggles?

He has a really hard time with transitions (a change in what he is already doing). Coping with that really just means you get him out of the situation. This sometimes looks pretty ugly when he is screaming, hitting and won’t walk. I walk holding both of his hands and just keep going no matter what. 

How is a service dog going to help Gregory?

There are many ways. The dog offers a bridge to deal with social anxiety. They also have a strong calming effect.  It’s getting to the point now that he is too heavy for me to carry when he has a meltdown in public. This is one of the big areas I am hoping the dog will help by calming him (plus hopefully he just wants to go where his dog goes). Otherwise, we may end up being unable to do things like go to the park or play places. We are already limited and I am hoping to prevent more limitations. 

If someone wanted more information about service dogs, where would be a good place to look?

I found some great info at goo.gl/xl2M2F. This is a power point presentation telling all about the benefits. I also googled “autism service dog” and read several web sites to get different views from service dog providers on the benefits.

What do you feel is important for other people to know about children with autism? 

These are not bad kids. They are not behaving badly due to poor parenting. These children are in distress when you see a meltdown. With a tantrum the child is in control and attempting to manipulate, an autistic child having a meltdown is out of control and really does not even know what they want or need at that point. 

Please be compassionate and ask if you can help. 

And finally, what is one hope or wish you have for Gregory?

I want him to be happy. That is all I have ever wanted for him.

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Thank you, Natalie, for sharing this special information about Gregory with me & my readers. 

If anyone wants to learn more about Gregory and his journey to get a service dog visit: http://www.gofundme.com/GREGORYSDOG

SPECIAL EVENT
GFC will be hosting a parent-night-out on Saturday April 18 as a fundraiser for Gregory's Dog. Call or email to reserve your spot now! 100% of funds will be donated to http://www.gofundme.com/GREGORYSDOG

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