November 15, 2017

Autism Service Dog Tracks His Boy

We’ve worked on tracking nearly every day we’ve been training at 4 Paws. I hope we never have to do a real track, but our reality is that Brandon has a high risk of elopement. Heaven forbid we lose Brandon or he exits our home or his school and takes off, Bing will help us find him. As you can see in the first video, Brandon is fast. In the second video you will see see Bing tracking Brandon!

November 11, 2017

Brandon and His Autism Service Dog Walk Through The Mall

Today was an exciting day.  Brandon has had a rough couple of days behaviorally, but today was much better.  With Bing, we've been working on tracking, tethering, and commands such as sit, stand, heal, down, and under (lay down under a table).  When we sit down to eat a meal at the hotel, Bing goes right under the table and lays down with no prompting.  It is obvrious how frequently and consistently he has been trained.  He is so easy to manage in public.  We have one amazing dog!  I am so thankful my husband chose 4 Paws for Ability for us to go on this journey with.

We went to the mall today as part of our training, and Bing was perfect.  Lots of people stopped to ask us questions about Bing, and we were more than happy to answer!  Everyone we talked to asked us if they could pet him before doing so, which was great!  We do allow people to pet him, as long as he stays in the command he is in.  So, if he is in a "sit," and someone pets him, it's fine as long as he remains in a sit.  I am relieved that this allowed because with as many people that stopped us today, someone will inevitably pet him without asking, and he will be used to it.

Below is a video of us walking through the mall.  You can't really see him in the video, but the person I am talking to is Bing's trainer.  For the first time, Brandon was able to walk through the mall without having to be strapped down in a stroller, or be stuck with me having a death grip on his hand.  We rarely go to the mall.  I mean, almost never.  It is way overstimulating.  It's loud, there are lots of people, and Brandon will only tolerate being strapped in a stroller for so long.  He is six years old, after all!

November 8, 2017

First Day of our “New Normal” with Bing

We are starting to get in a routine, and so thrilled that Bing now gets to be a part of that routine by coming back to the hotel with us every night. I got in touch with a woman who fostered Bing, and she sent me these photos of him as a puppy!

Today at training, Brandon was whining, unable to communicate what he wanted. I asked, “Stroller or play?” as I pointed to the stroller, then the playroom. He clearly said “Bee!” (aka Bing). I was blown away. Shocked! Thrilled! Overjoyed! We immediately started giving Bing some treats. There were smiles all around.

I promise to get more pictures and videos of Brandon and Bing in our hotel room, but we have just been soaking in all the love tonight and I haven’t gotten very many pictures.

November 7, 2017

Two Days of Autism Service Dog Training Under Our Belts

Well, we are now on day two of twelve days of training.  Yesterday, at our first day of training, Brandon melted down right away. It wasn't a severe meltdown, but he did bite himself and was crying for about an hour.  That probably sounds severe, but the crying was not astronomically loud, and he was not trying to injure me.  In fact, he didn't want me to leave his side.  I had pulled him to the play room right off of the large training room at 4 Paws, and we decided to lay on the couch together and watch Miss Spider on YouTube.  If I moved an inch, he grabbed on to my leg in a panic that I was going to leave him.  

What caused this anxiety for him?  I can only speculate that part of the anxiety was that we were in a large space with lots of people and noise.  He had never been here before, and perhaps he thought we were going to leave him.  

I was heartbroken. Yes, I always feel bad for him (and sometimes me) when he’s  having a hard time, but I feared he was going to miss his special moment meeting Bingo.  Thankfully, as you can see in the video in my last post (here), he enjoyed meeting and feeding Bingo.  I didn't get the first second reaction, because I didn't want to miss the moment myself trying to get a video.  So, that video is a few minutes after that initial meeting.  They were both moments James and I will never forget!

4 Paws has a pretty cool playroom that has been a necessity for us to take breaks from the training room. It has also allowed Brandon to run around and play, making it easier to limit screen time. We break for lunch each day for an hour, but we’ve spent most of that time in the car.  As much as I can’t stand eating in the car, Brandon needs that quiet time in his safe place in his car seat. We tried going into Chipotle today, but he wasn’t having it. He is perfectly content to be in the car!

Tomorrow we get to bring Bingo back to the hotel room with us! I will also have some more pictures and video of Bing and Brandon working together in the coming days as we move toward more complex commands and training.

November 5, 2017

Brandon Meets His Autism Service Dog for the First Time

The moment you’ve all been waiting for...Brandon meets his autism service dog!

We Made It: Day One

We made it! We believe we have thought of everything we might need for this 12 night trip to train with Brandon’s autism service dog, Bingo, but only time will tell! Brandon was a little cranky about the long trip, but overall he was fine.

We are staying in a hotel suite. As you can see, we brought his swing with us, and I am so glad we did!

We meet Bingo tomorrow!

October 28, 2017

Meet Bingo, Our Autism Service Dog!

Dear Brandon,
You're my new BFF?!? I am so excited to have my very own boy!
Do you like music?!? Well there's this song that goes, There was a farmer who had a dog, And Bingo was his name-o. B-I-N-G-O B-I-N-G-O B-I-N-G-O. It's catchy isn't it?! Well guess what?! That's my name! Bingo!! I'm actually not named after the dog in the song though. I am named after the card game called Bingo, that game is about having a perfect match! And I think we're gonna be just that! A perfect match!
I am a boy from the Card Game litter! We were born on 10-1-2016 to Nadya, a Labrador Retriever, and Nome, a 3/4 Golden, 1/4 Lab, so I am a Golden/Lab!
I spent my first few months in the 4 Paws Puppy Enrichment Program before heading out to the Prison Program to teach my handlers all about unconditional love, which just so happens to be my speciality!! After graduating the Prison Program I headed to the University of Dayton to attend college with puppy raising team! Finally I headed back to 4 Paws for my biggest lesson yet, all things Brandon!
I can't wait to start my life with my new family! Hurry here! 
xoxo Bingo

September 2, 2017

Autism Acceptance T-Shirt to Support Organizations who Support Special Needs Children (Ends Sept. 15th, 2017!!!)

Show your support and acceptance for those with autism! 

Brandon has had the privilege of attending two wonderful schools who wholeheartedly support special needs children: Scales Elementary School and The Ann Campbell Early Learning Center. We have made lifelong friends at both schools, and Brandon has made tremendous gains due to having access to fantastic programs.

The proceeds from this shirt sale will to go Scales Elementary School. A portion will also go to the Ann Campbell Early Learning Center, formerly Project Help, an inclusive preschool where children who are typically developing and children with developmental delays or disabilities play together and learn from each other. 

By buying a shirt, you will support two wonderful schools. Both schools have served Brandon and may other special needs children with love and support.


July 22, 2017

High Highs and Low Lows

Two days in a row I wrote a Facebook post about my son, Brandon.  The contrast between the two was very eye opening for my friends and for myself.  The love came pouring in from my friends via texts and social media.

My first post said this:
For the VERY first time, Brandon asked ME to snuggle with HIM!!!! He took me by the hand, brought me in my room, and put my hand on the blanket I use to lay on the couch with. I picked it up and he took me to the couch. I sat next to him, then he pushed my arm toward his iPad and we cozied in together! We will always work on his speech, but I don't need words to know he loves me!!!

The very next day the envy and loss hit me.  
I'm outside jumping on the trampoline with Brandon and I just looked over at the neighbors' backyard and the dad is weed eating his yard, and his young son is right behind him with his toy weed eater following his every footstep. I just made me feel sad for James because he bought Brandon a toy lawnmower a long time ago hoping for the same kind of scenario that never happened. James has so many happy moments as father and son with Brandon that he wouldn't trade for the world, but in being honest about this whole autism situation, moments like this are a little bit heartbreaking.  A lot of our dreams are lost. We have a lot of new awesome dreams, and I can't imagine having any other child in this beautiful one in front of me, but sometimes these "comparing" moments can be sad.

I went on to say, 
It also kind of makes my post previous to this both happy and sad. Happy because look how much joy I had last night, but sad because it was something so small to everyone else that I was jumping for joy about. Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair. And I know...I know that I'm the grand scheme of things my son is alive. He is happy and he is healthy and things could be so much worse. I'm just in this funk right now and my mind is traveling to dark places like what will happen when James and I are gone and waiting for this miracle where he talks and can live independently one day. I have to end this rant with saying that Brandon is the best thing that has ever happened to me! Words can never describe how much I love him and my family!

I have these feelings of sadness and frustration, then I feel bad for feeling that way.   I am the luckiest mom in the world to have Brandon as my son. (There I go again!)  I think about him being older, thriving, and looking at my blog or Facebook posts feeling like a burden.  He is not a burden.  I know that sharing my difficult experiences are often more helpful to other special needs moms even more than the happy ones.  I can't stop helping others with my honesty, and it is therapeutic for myself to share.  
Autism sure is full of high highs and low lows.  The lows shatter my heart, but the  The small things that we all take for granted in life can make my shattered heart feel like it will burst with love and excitement.  I will not be embarrassed for being so excited about them!

June 20, 2017

Autism on an Airplane

We are now home from our week long Florida vacation!  Travel is stressful.  Add autism to the mix, and it just amplifies it.  I was very pleased with how Brandon did in the airport leaving home.  We waited for the shuttle to take us from the parking lot to the terminal, and Brandon absolutely refused to get on the shuttle.  I was not anticipating this reaction from him, as he had ridden buses and shuttles before.  Whenever he refuses to budge we always say he "put on the brakes."  Well, he put on the brakes over getting on this bus!  I gestured and calmly told him, "We ARE getting on this bus."  I tired to walk him up to no avail, while my husband is busy loading four giant suitcases.  I finally had to hoist him under my arm like a sack of potatoes and carry him on.  Once we got moving he settled right down.  The bus driver was watching all of this unfold in the rearview mirror, and I could only imagine what he was thinking!  He asked if our little one was okay, and I explained that Brandon has autism and didn't want to get on the bus - he didn't understand what was happening, but once it clicked he was fine.  It turns out this man used to drive a special needs bus and was very familiar with these kinds of reactions.

Side note:  It's interesting to me how awareness has evolved even in just three years.  Nearly every time I talk about autism, whoever I am talking to either has a family member, or know someone with autism.  People just seem to get it (for the most part).

So, we flew Southwest and got "pre boarding" printed on Brandon's ticket.  This allowed us to pre-board so that we would either get the very front row, or get a seat where James could sit in front of Brandon so that if someone was being kicked the whole time, at least it was one of us!  They cannot require to us to show proof of disability, although, I always bring it with me to things like this just in case.  I just don't want to mess with any delay at all.  We take is high back booster with a five point harness on the plane.  He put on the brakes again going into an aisle on the plane until his car seat was strapped in.  I could not imagine flying without his car seat.  There is no way I could physically make this six-year-old who is super strong for his age anyway, remain in a seat with standard airplane seatbelt   Eventually I will likely have to look into harnesses specifically made for airplanes for people with special needs.

Speaking of not having a car seat...

On the way back we left the car seat in our friend's car!  Brandon was NOT having a good day, and just as we were about to go through security, we realized we forgot it.  James had to go back to get it and we were forced to go through security without him and hope that he made it back before the flight took off.  I cried through it.  Not boo hoo sobs, but constant stream of tears.  I have NEVER cried in public from having to deal with Brandon's behavior.  I have cried in the car. I have cried when I got home.  I have never stood there, in front of so many people, and just cried.  But I guess there is a first for everything.  One of the TSA associates asked me, "Why are you upset?"  I think I just looked at her all doe eyed, speechless.  She asked, "Are you late for your flight?"  I just told her, "It's just been a hard day," and moved on.  Thankfully, we got though it, tears and all, and James made it with the car seat for the flight home.

All in all, it was a wonderful vacation with even more wonderful friends!

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