Assistance Dogs for Children With Special Needs

Assistance Dogs for Children With Special Needs

Our first real experience with an assistance dog was at a children’s hospital when Chloe was staying there for a few days. Elliott, a big black labradoodle, came to see her several times and she just loved having him as a visitor and getting to pet his soft, curly hair. Elliott’s handler gave me some information on assistance dogs and I started gathering information. There are several types of assistance dogs: guide, hearing, service, seizure response, and emotional support (therapy). I’m going to highlight a few types that I think might apply to most readers on this site. Service Dogs For Chloe, I decided to look into a service dog, which would primarily provide physical or mobility assistance. Service dogs can be trained to do different things for children with special needs like picking up and/or carrying items they might need, turning on lights, etc. Companionship, comfort, and increased self confidence are major bonuses, but not their primary purpose during training. Assistance dogs are typically trained and certified by an organization and are legally allowed full public access under ADA regulations. This would include school, doctor’s offices, hospitals, shopping centers, etc. Many service dogs are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, or Labradoodles (for those with allergies). In order to be allowed full public access, the dog must wear a special vest and be accompanied by the child they have been trained to serve. Therapy Dogs Therapy dogs are typically put through obedience training and provide companionship/comfort, but are not trained on any specific tasks for the child. Therapy dogs are not given public access rights like service dogs, but can still be...
Life is Better With Friends

Life is Better With Friends

Keep in mind, I am not a child psychologist or social scientist. I am, however, the mother of a little girl with special needs and I care a whole lot about her being included in social situations and having genuine friends. I have encountered some positive experiences with other children reaching out and including Chloe and watching her enjoy those relationships and experiences has been a delight! Abby is a little girl in our previous neighborhood who, when riding bikes or walking past our house, liked to stop and see Chloe. During these short visits, we found out Abby was learning to read and we told her how Chloe loves us to read to her. Abby’s mom suggested Abby come read to Chloe once a week. So that’s what Abby did. Both girls loved it! We all looked forward to our weekly book readings. Abby’s mom would help her pick out different books at the library about things Chloe liked — princesses, animals, cars…. we let Abby borrow books of Chloe’s so Abby could learn to read them as well. A real friendship developed and Chloe always looked forward to her visits from Abby! Abby invited Chloe to her princess birthday party. I was so nervous for Chloe to go, thinking she might get left out or have sensory issues, but neither happened. The other girls were so sweet making sure Chloe got included getting her makeup done and nails painted. When they played with the parachute and danced, they made sure there was room for Chloe’s Cinderella “carriage.” This was one of Chloe’s favorite parties ever! At the princess party, Chloe met...
Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

It has been over 7 years now of asking the question, “Are we out of the woods yet?” To doctors, to my spouse, and as an internal struggle I’ve kept hidden at times, I have had this constant nagging question. When can we just get settled in to what our life is and not have something we are trying to figure out, fix, and/or deal with? She was 13 months old when I read the official diagnosis of cerebral palsy. I saw it on a consultation report from one specialist to another. That probably isn’t the greatest way to receive a diagnosis like that about your child, who also happens to be the center of your universe. But that was how it happened. I’m sure the report also included her history of infantile spasms, a debilitating type of seizure that had been controlled after 6 weeks of steroid treatment. The report likely indicated that she had global developmental delays (non-mobile and poor fine motor skills) and bilateral exotropia (wandering of both eyes). Those are her main diagnoses. However, no report could sum up or label who she really is and what the world is like with her in it! So let me attempt to do so now. Chloe was born just 10 days early. They induced labor because I had gestational hypertension. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary with my beautiful little newborn. In fact, the pediatrician told me she appeared to be the healthiest baby in the nursery! She sure looked perfect to me! She was my first child so I wasn’t in tune with what a “normal” newborn looked...
Losing a Friend

Losing a Friend

A couple of weeks ago I lost a good friend of mine, a friend in HoPE. A darling lady whose daughter was born with the same diagnosis as my daughter. We met online because we both had babies due in September, hers with a devastating diagnosis, the same as my daughter. The world of online support groups was unknown to her at the time as it is most new special needs moms. She quickly took the online forums by storm! Right out of the gates she because a very faithful, reliable source of support. Always the first to speak to new moms when they joined the group. The first to offer prayers and lend a sympathetic ear. She had met a few mothers in person and developed deep, lasting friendships with them. They all had children that were the same age, all with the somewhat rare diagnosis. They lived near enough to each other for somewhat frequent visits and talked often. She passed away unexpectedly, just a few weeks shy of her only child’s 2nd birthday. My little support group was shattered. I have connections with her husband and sister online and I will be honest, I have never ever seen so many kind things said about one single person than I have about Rachel. It’s incredible. The outpouring was stunning. But more than that, I am trying to figure out why it’s been so difficult to process this loss. In this environment we lose children all the time. All the time. Survival statistics about children with Dylan’s diagnosis are crazy. Very few live to birth and even few...
The Power of Social Media in Special Needs Parenting

The Power of Social Media in Special Needs Parenting

I get it. Some people hate FaceBook and hate all social media. How annoying that people can see so much into your life – how annoying that nosey people you hardly know can find information about you! I have heard people comment about FaceBook being so horrible that you would think that FaceBook did something to them… personally. This last Friday a friend commented “FaceBook will be the downfall of society.” The passion! I offer a different perspective, and one from a special needs parent. In the last couple of days alone I have seen: A parent with a new baby boy in the NICU – the new baby recently diagnosed with something she had never heard of and she was scared. Not only was she faced with having to educate herself on a diagnosis that there just isn’t a lot of information about (and most negative!) but she dreaded the day they discharged him because then she would be responsible for all of his care. Where does she start, it was a cry for help. A parent desperately looking for medical supplies that she needed to feed her child. The proper insurance approval hadn’t been received yet and she was seeking out any extras parents may have amassed. The request did not stand long before she received offers. This reminded me of the time when someone asked for spare 60 CC syringes and before I could respond that I had an extra BOX, 20 other people had chimed in that they were willing to help. A parent struggling with taking her child to church because her sweet special...