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PARENT TO PARENT

Fri, 10 Aug 2012 

I have forwarded you an email I send off to a lady from my Support Group 2 days ago .... it just hit me that we dont always let you know how grateful we are and i thought if you wanted to read how we think of you guys and Maddie this is it Below. 

Hi Samantha

Our OT asked me to tell you a little bit about our dog Maddie I know she is wanting me to come to group and tell people about the dog but for now that’s not some thing I am ready to do.

My son Landon was what everyone called a perfect child, he occupied himself never cried from the moment he could walk would spend extended periods of time playing in his room despite having an older sister.   It was after the birth of our youngest son Haydon that we started to take note and realise something wasn’t quite right. Landon was a very happy little boy – if you left him alone, it wasn’t until we began to interfere and get in his own space that we really noticed we had a problem and at just after the age of two he was diagnosed as autistic – non verbal and a global developmental delay. 

Without giving  you his whole story  prior to Maddie our beautiful autism assistance dog Landon could say mum and arr (for up) we relied heavily on pecs and makaton and honestly sheer luck in keeping our fingers crossed that we would understand what he wanted before it lead into a meltdown.  Prior to Maddie our biggest issues were speech, sleep, social places and engagement.

Sleep – probably our biggest challenge.Landon didn’t sleep, he was on melatonin for about 8 months almost triple the recommended dose our night would consist of shift work I would go to bed when our other children did my husband Ben would drive landon around or sit up with him until he fell asleep normally around 12 or 1…. Landon would sleep for no more than 3-4 hours often less so I would be up always before 5am. My husband and I did not go to sleep together in the same bed for well over a year and constantly fought not because we didn’t love each other but because we were just so exhausted. After sleep studies and no answer I at breaking point I begged my doctor for an answer that wasn’t medication – his answer lock him in his bedroom and just let him scream he would eventually tire himself out. I couldn’t do this and despite not wanting to we were at a point that if we didn’t get sleep my marriage would fall apart and myself and the kids were suffering I said enough and took the step to put landon on catapres a decision that never sat right with me.  The first 2 weeks on catapres were hell, my son because aggressive and agitated – which was completely out of character however after consulting with my pead and being assured the side effects would ware off we persisted with the medication and eventually got to a point landon was in bed by 11-12 and up around 4am an improvement yes but my Landon was no longer the boy I knew. 

lly Landon does not cope with big crowds and being stared at and spoken about and to at shopping centers in regards to Landon was something I just had to put a brave face on and just walk away.

I didn’t know how to play with Landon and to be honest despite loving him I didn’t know how to enjoy him.

When I received my first call from Aussie Assistance Angels following my online enquiry I got off the phone feeling hopeful we had applied elsewhere for an assistance dog after a lot of reading about the improvements they could make to children like Landon however, we were not in a position to be able to pay the upwards of $20,000 some organisations were asking for.  

(the people of AAAD) are lovely people, they are so warm and welcoming, accepting and not judgemental in the short time I have known them their support and knowledge has been nothing short of fantastic, because of their  enthusiasm in wanting to help and support families like mine we received Maddie a beautiful little girl Labrador.

My father and I took the drive to a place called Woodstock several hours away to pick up  Maddie instantly I loved her – Landon not so much I think he wanted to run around and he was happy to play with the bigger dogs we spent a little while at  the breeder's Place and when it came time to go with a mixed feeling of hope and anxiety we put Maddie in the car. After a short time I turned around and noticed Landons hand over Maddies paw – for some reason seeing that I just felt like it was all going to be ok.

We have had Maddie such a short amount of time however, in that time what we have experience is what I would call amazing.

Sleep – the first night I put Maddie into bed to watch TV with Landon and he didn’t come out – when I checked on him they were both asleep on his pillow it was 9.30!! I picked up Maddie and put her to the end of the bed as I didn’t want her on the pillow and sat up expecting Landon to be up after midnight I checked on them again and Maddie was back up at the pillow I left her and went to bed. 3am Maddie wakes up needing to go to the toilet Landon woke shortly after.  Within 3 weeks of Landon consistently going to sleep with Maddie who falls asleep with him and is now placed in her own bed after he is asleep I took him off the catapres, fast forwarding to now – my husband and I are finally sleeping in the same bed Landon is sleeping and the changes in him are a miracle.

Speech  - within the first week Landon picked up “addie”, we were cheering this dog would get in his space and not leave him alone – Landon can now tell Maddie to sit, stay, down, no and go – yet he couldn’t say dad or milk the things he needed everyday so I took a page so to speak from Maddies book and bugged the hell out of Landon and the words are coming we are still learning how to get in his space and there are times he just doesn’t want it and he pushes me and Maddie away but in such a small amount of time we have gone from 2 words to well over 20 now. 

Socially the dog hasn’t changed Landon yet ……. But for me I took Maddie shopping and yes people were talking but instead of look at that child it was oh look isn’t she cute and im going to use that to educate people on autism and on how Maddie has already and will continue to help Landon and our family.  I am sure with time Maddie will help Landon to cope better in social situations.

Engagement – our son Landon will play hide and seek with Maddie and I and laugh – the amount of close family and friends who have commented on how happy landon seems after having them always mention how sad and withdrawn he was is such a nice change.

The dog is a lot of work but she is worth it and im not alone if I have a problem I know there are 2 people (phil and gail)  there to talk me thru it to encourage me and support me.  We have a long road ahead of us maddie is just learning and having her is a big commitment she is another child  - that’s the only way we can look at it just like our daughter has homework and we need to sit and help her Maddie has tasks to complete and learning to do and requires our full attention.  We have experienced normal puppy behaviour and there was a week where I honestly felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew – we have had issues with maddie and are still working on issues but I wouldn’t change it! Maddie has given my family a sense of play and fun back.

As for your question on money – I paid $1000.00 for Maddie  which I was more than happy to do, I was allowed to pay it off without pressure.  I have chosen to keep Maddie on premium food again without pressure I was informed about alternative less expensive foods and given the freedom to make my own choices. We do have to have Maddie vaccinated/desexed etc however AAAD has been wonderful and negotiated with our local vet to assist with fee reductions .

Maddie lives inside – honestly I don’t think you could do it any other way and if its not something your comfortable with then it may not be such a good idea our dog wouldn’t be where she is now if we left her outside all day but that’s something you would need to discuss with AAAD.

Sorry I don’t have all the answers im not completely sure of your requirements all I can do is tell you about our situation and what we have done.  I am more than happy to answer any other question I can be contacted through AAAD. Take a look at there website too www.aussieangelsassistancedogs.org– and im sure that AAAD would be more than happy to talk to you to when your ready.

Yours Faithfully Belle (Parent)  

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