We’ve been looking into getting Jeffery a service dog. I am about to send in the application and I hadn’t mentioned it publicly until I got the paperwork filled out from his doctor agreeing that he would benefit from having one. Yes, I had mentioned it to select friends who know what I’m dealing with with Jeffery. But those are the people who hear from me or see first hand how Jeffery’s behavior is. Everyone I’ve told privately agrees that a dog would be beneficial for Jeffery.
Now, I did mention it publicly on my personal Facebook page the other day (Jeff did as well on his) and the reactions we got were mixed. So before, we go into the fundraising part of getting the dog, I figured I’d explain a little about why Jeffery is getting a service dog.
1) The thought that service dogs are just for the blind, wheelchair bound, or other physical disability. They now have Autism Service Dogs and that’s what we’re looking at for Jeffery. These dogs are trained for many different things. Autism is a wide spectrum and the dogs are trained from anything from comfort when the child is upset to tracking when a child has bolted. They can help a child with repetitive motions (flapping of hands, rocking, etc) by just nudging them with their nose when they see it happening…just a little cue to get the child to stop.
2) But Jeffery seems so normal. I don’t see why he would need a service dog. This is one that only people really close to us would understand. Jeffery is high functioning autistic. And while in public he can most of the time hold it together, he is working hard to do that. So by the time he’s home where he can relax, he’s tired of holding it together and it all comes loose where we get the brunt end of his behavior. There are holes in his wall, broken toys, broken doors/door frames. We get yelled at, swung at, kicked at, things thrown at us. Yes, we do punish the behavior…but part of his issue is that he DON’T CARE! We can take anything and everything away from him, ground him, time outs, spank…nothing sinks in that he’s going to get punished for the behaviors. Once that switch flips and he’s tantruming…the only way to switch it back is himself. While he’s tantruming he pretty much loses control of himself. No, that don’t mean we give up punishing the behavior…he ALWAYS get punished….but we refuse to give up (mostly because we need the other kids to see that we don’t accept that behavior). We also can’t predict what will send him into that tailspin. In public we tend to walk on eggshells to keep from saying/doing something that might cause a meltdown. It don’t always work, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been in the vehicle and he’s gotten mad about something and ended up hurting one of the kids because he’s mad. These are the types of situations where a service dog would be beneficial. When he’s tantruming, he would have an outlet, he could pet the dog, play with the dog, take the dog outside for a walk around the yard. Something to distract him and the dog would cue it. Dog would see the tantrum starting and go to Jeffery to pretty much ask for attention.
3) If Jeffery’s behavior is so bad, don’t you think he’d hurt the dog? No. He only hurts the people who make him mad. Like he’s never hurt the baby even though he sits beside him in the vehicle sometimes. His aggression is towards me, Jeff, Jaylin and Jaxon for the most part…and we’ve had very few instances of him getting mad at Justin. We already have a dog in the house and he’s never hurt her no matter how mad he is.
4) Why a service dog, why not just a therapy dog…you could use the dog you already own. Because therapy dogs can’t be taken anywhere/everywhere. Therapy dogs aren’t trained as much as service dogs. Yes, it’s going to be a lot of work to get one (application process, then fundraising, then a 2 week trip out of state for training with the dog before we can bring it home) but we feel it’s well worth it to be able to take the dog with us when we go on trips or vacation. I’ve even already discussed the possibility of it going to school if the need arises (right now he’s fine in school so he wouldn’t need to take it) and the principal was so understanding and I know that if he ever needs the dog at school, it won’t be a huge hurdle and the school will support it (have I mentioned I love our school system here…the support for all special needs is awesome)
5) Won’t the other kids get jealous that Jeffery has a dog to himself? I think the younger kids might be a little upset, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. Jaylin has her own guinea pigs so I know she won’t care. We also have a family dog the other kids can play with. I think Jaylin and to an extent, Jaxon, understand that Jeffery isn’t like them. Justin is so laid back I really don’t think I’ll have any problems with him about it. We’re thinking of getting a rabbit for Jaxon because he’s asked for one and we think he may be old enough to help take care of one now. And of course Jamison is too young to care about anything lol.
So yes, while Jeffery can manage to make it through school, karate and football practices and games….he has his issues. He is just really good at suppressing his behavior problems while at those things. He’s smart and he knows he has to behave to get good grades (that is slowly slipping though so I’m getting worried), he knows he can’t throw a fit at football because the coach won’t put him in the game, and he knows if he misbehaves in karate he could not get his next belt. At home, it’s whatever though. Even though he knows if he behaves he gets computer time, DS time and more freedom…he don’t care. I’m to the point of losing my mind with him most days because I don’t know what to do with him. There have been a few times I’ve come really close to calling the police because he gets so violent. He is on medication, but medication can only help so much.
I’ll be posting more about the service dog once we get the approval. So keep an eye out.