Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We all scream for ICE CREAM!

I scream, you scream!  We
all scream for ice cream!

What better way to celebrate the new school year than with ice cream sundaes and friends??  This goes for the kids AND parents!!  We have a pretty awesome PTO, and they host an ice cream social each September which includes vanilla ice cream and lots of toppings.  It's a great time for the kids to come to school to socialize and even nicer for the parents because it's FREE!  You really can't go wrong with free ice cream, ya know??  

Zachary and Twinkie attended this event tonight at our local elementary school, and both of them did a great job!  Twinkie was service-dog extraordinaire and managed the mayhem beautifully.  She need some minor corrections to heel/sit as we waited in line and to walk correctly in a heel.  Otherwise, she soaked it all in and graciously accepted the happy children and adults patting her all the while telling her how adorable she was.  I am always amazed about how respectful our community has been of Twinkie being a working service-dog and asking if it's okay for them to interact with her.   Kudos!  She eventually fell asleep under the table; it's just another day on the job for her.  :)  

These types of events are usually very overwhelming for Zachary, but he was so willing to get up and go once he confirmed that Twinkie could come with him.  He really is so much more eager to leave the house and go places just knowing Twinkie is there for him.  Although Zachary loves to go out and about, prior to getting Twinkie, he was becoming increasingly resistant to leaving the house and even going places he was familiar with.  In kind, this was becoming increasingly frustrating and concerning to Joe and I.  It's been so refreshing to see Zachary show the desire to go out into the big, bad world even though it's not easy for him.   

Twinkie is definitely a calming force in the storm of anxiety that Zachary struggles with everyday.  Anxiety Disorder is a hidden disability for both children and adults.  In fact, Anxiety Disorder is more pervasive than any other issue that Zachary has to manage....yes, even Autism.  Anxiety fuels it all at the end of the day.  Sure, he's on the Autistic Spectrum and is definitely redefining what exactly that means, but these behaviors and the intensity of them ebb and flow with his ability to manage the level of anxiety in his environment; this is one of the things that makes Zachary so complex.   

Anxiety Disorder so closely mimics ADHD, that in order to be given a clinical diagnosis of ADHD, psychiatric disorders such as Anxiety Disorder need to be ruled out first.  Having said that, approximately 25% of all children with ADHD also have an Anxiety Disorder.  It seems as if Zachary couldn't dodge that bullet either.  And, when you look as "normal" as Zachary does, it's hard for people to really believe that the escape behaviors he may engage in like yelling, abruptly getting up to leave and non-compliance are actually the result of a disability driven by his environment as opposed to him simply misbehaving.   And, for the record, as a very bright, 9 year-old boy, Zachary does his fair share of misbehaving!! :)  Any parent of a child with special needs will tell you they high-five each other whenever they see a typical, age-appropriate behavior no matter how obnoxious it may be.  It's just how we all roll.

Click on this link to read more about ADHD/Anxiety Disorders.  
NYU Child Study Center

We ALWAYS arrive a couple minutes early or exactly on time to events like this because it gives Zach time to slowly acclimate to the rush of sensory stimulation that would naturally occur where there's a lot of happy kids at a big ol' ice cream party.  Zach did need a few reminders to appropriately use acceptable "escape" phrases, and as always, our friends are beyond supportive and accepting.  They get Zachary, are never offended by him and love him for who he is....we will always be thankful for that type of support!  :)  

It was also pretty awesome to see how well received Twinkie was by the building principal and faculty that were there serving ice cream.  We walked in, and no one gave Zachary or Twinkie a second look.  They smiled in a "Twinkie is so cute" kind of way, and that was about it.  There were no questions, no uncomfortable looks or no weird vibes.  It was an ice cream party, Zachary was there, so was his service-dog...let's make a sundae.  

(The added bonus for me is that I was so busy chatting with friends, keeping an eye on the kids and Twinkie that I didn't even eat any ice cream.   When I consider the Weight Watchers train wreck I experienced the past couple of days, I can promise you I won't be withering away!  LOL)

All in all it was a positive, happy experience for everyone involved.  

Ice cream never tasted so good.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Boy and His Dog...and a Hot Cocoa

America, and service dogs, run on Dunkin', and Zachary loves their hot cocoa!  :)

This pic was taken mid-sentence as Zachary tried to convince me that it was okay for him to open a new box of Dunkin' K-cups so he could build a K-cup tower.  If nothing else, he's persistent!

Shortly after the brief go-'round about the K-cups, a group of little ballerinas walked in and squealed with delight when they saw Twinkie.  As their moms tried to stop them from running towards us, and I tried not to laugh, I asked them if they wanted to pat Twinkie.  Hello...no-brainer!  :)  They were all super-excited to give her treats, too.  (I was a rock-star if even for a moment and with someone else's kids.  Hey, beggars can't be choosers, right??) Naturally, Twinkie, without any shame, accepted the constant chatter about how pretty and soft she was....as IF she needs anymore confidence.  

This was such an amazing opportunity to raise awareness and educate the community about service dogs and the important role they play in the live's of those with disabilities...not just those who are visually or physically impaired.  These two moms and their little one's were so interested in Twinkie and what she did!  What I also loved is that these moms explained to their little ones what Twinkie did if I were answering another question and couldn't answer them myself.  They, of course, were beyond impressed with how calm and well-behaved Twinkie was.  I, frankly, nearly choked on my iced-tea when they said that and wanted to invite them over for dinner!  LOL  

Anyhoo, this was also an amazing social and language opportunity for Zachary as I had him introduce Twinkie and made sure he made eye-contact...which he did.   Sometimes  Zachary looks down or away when he's feeling anxious which very often happens in these types of social situations.  Zachary also likes to tell people Twinkie is a Golden Retriever.  :)  While the moms and and girls asked what Twinkie did to help Zachary, I directed the questions I could to him and helped with the replies as needed.  This is such an important component of appropriate social and language reciprocity because Twinkie is HIS service dog, and he should know what she does so he's able to actively participate in these inevitable conversations. 

In response to somebody's question about what Twinkie does to help him, Zachary did make the one mom tear up to his answer of "love" when I prompted him with the fill-in of "When you're sad, Twinkie gives you a lot of ____."  It was such a genuine and completely honest response.  Zachary carried such confidence in his answer, and feelings, that he looked right at her when he said it.  It made me tear up as well because this wasn't a rehearsed, rote response or part of a social story.  Love, unconditional love, is exactly what Twinkie gives him, and he knows it.  

This type of spontaneous social encounter is also what separates an Autism Assistance SD from other types of service dogs; Twinkie is a social bridge for Zachary and helps alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that he struggles with in these types of social situations.  Twinkie's mere presence brings people, both big and small, to Zachary and helps him cross the bridge of social interaction with a little more confidence and a lot less anxiety.  

Our collective job is complete for the day.

There's a reason why we're certified as a team. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Hands of Time

So, wow!  It's been awhile, huh??!!  I guess I've been better about keeping up with Zach and Twinkie's Facebook page than I have been a updating their blog.  Although, the info and pics I've posted on their Facebook page would most definitely amount to several blogs over the past few weeks.  With Miss Twinkie keeping me on my tippy-toes all day, everyday, updating their Facebook page has proven to be a little easier at the moment!

Zach and Twinkie hangin' at
Dunkin' while Ally's at dance.

The past 7 weeks since I've last blogged have gone by in the blink of an eye.  I can't even believe it's already September 10, and we've been home with Twinkie for just about 3 months.  It seems like we were just at 4 Paws training with her.  Time stands still for nothing, although, sometimes I wish it did so we could hold onto those precious times we don't ever want to see come to an end.....like having the 24 hour support of your trainers at 4 Paws.  I, without an ounce of shame, have tried talking Jeremy, Jennifer and Karen into coming to live with us for the next 6 to 12 months of Twinkie's puppy-hood.  I've offered to take in their families as well; being a home wrecker is so not my thing.  I've offered trips to NYC for Broadway shows and Rockefeller Center to see the magnificent Christmas tree.  They all just laughed not realizing just how serious I was.  :)   

Truthfully, there are times I wish time was standing still between June 5 and 15 while we were training at 4 Paws.  I'll always miss our 4 Paws peeps as they will forever hold a special place in our hearts, but training and getting through day-to-day life with your service dog is A LOT easier while you're there despite the fact you're drooling tired at the end of the day.   While you're training in Ohio, you're living in a completely unrealistic bubble.  Sure, you're dealing with training a brand new service dog and helping your child through the process, but it's just not reality at the end of the day.  It's definitely not easy, but it's definitely not reality.  Reality is so overrated these days...

"That's funny how you thought
you'd have time to read."
Jeremy always talks about the fact that things will indeed be different for you and you're SD when you get home.  He also reminds us many times over that it can take about one year...12 whole months...to establish the bond and level of respect you need from your child's SD and for them to completely fall into place with your child.  Jeremy also reminds us not to give up and be patient.  Ah, patience.  Between Zachary and Twinkie, my patience meter is working over-time and constantly smoking these days!  LOL  The demands of life are different at home, so you're not only contending with the constant training of your SD, BUT you're also contending with life in general.  The phone rings, you get texts, you have other children, you have a husband, you have friends, you have school and work, you have Scouts and ballet, you have laundry and dinner, you still have a child with special needs AND, now, you have service dog.  Dear Lord!!??  A service dog??!!  When the hell did that happen??!!  Oh, that's right...when time was standing still in June.   The hands of time.  In the blink of an eye...got it.  (Whew!  I scared myself there for a moment.)

Between you and I....leaving that bubble of non-reality and time being uncooperative in that it does not stand still for you makes coming home with your SD exhausting....and frustrating at times....and brings you near tears at times.   Anybody who tells you that coming home with your SD is a walk in the park and has not experienced these emotions is still living in a bubble of non-reality!  (Although, I am a fan of non-reality at times.  I do like the sound of Private Citizen Kristy.)    Jeremy and I average a call approximately every 10 days.  I meant to call him last week after Twinkie pulled an oven stuffer off of the counter and helped herself to the leftovers (Yes, for real!) and ate a book I borrowed from a friend,  but it was the first week of school and time got away from me.  I do, however, have a call into him today; I have my list of concerns and questions at the ready.  The last time we spoke, Jeremy and I agreed that I have spoken to him more and for longer lengths of time in the past couple of months than I did the entire year we had Aubrey.  Talk about the hands of time being a funny thing.  Oh, Twinkie... 

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Twinkie...you know I do!  Now that she's home with us, I couldn't imagine our life without her.  Zachary couldn't imagine leaving the house without her.  She's brought Zachary a sense of peace while we're out that you wouldn't necessarily see, but Joe and I know it's there.  She's a shoulder to lean on at home that he looks for when he's had a rough go at it.  I love her for all of those things and more because I have such high hopes for Twinkie and Zach as they both continue to grow, learn and mature together.   I even love every bit of Twinkie's naughtiness although I was ready to sell her to the gypsies a week ago.  LOL  For as on-the-money as she is in public, she is still a puppy, and I need to constantly remind myself of that....like when she's trying to eat one of my bra's from Victoria's Secret or Joe's Disney Visa Card.  

Our sweet girl, Aubrey.  xoxo

As I take deep breaths and navigate this first year with Twinkie,  I have to also remind myself that time truly stands still for nothing, and we could lose this precious, if not chaotic, time with her in the blink of an eye as we did with Aubrey.   

On we go...you can never turn back the hands of time.