Monday, April 05, 2010
Laura Shumaker published OUR story in the San Francisco Chronicle!!!
Autism: Service Dog to the Rescue
During Autism Awareness Month, readers are sharing their perspectives on raising a child with autism. Today, Lora and Griffin's story.
Griffin began showing signs of autism somewhere between 12 - 15 months as I noticed more and more that he was not responding to his name. I had his hearing checked and it was fine so I knew that it had to be autism. We began early intervention at age 15 months with lots of therapy and I spent hours on the floor playing with him. He had a spoon obsession, had to have a spoon everywhere he went, it was adorable but yet another sign of autism.
He also had SIBs and would bang his head all the time and bite himself. I was a single parent from the get-go and had no support other than the women working with him each week. We lived in Anchorage, Alaska where there was no family and really the only friends I had were the women working with Griffin as I was isolated from the outside world. Autism is so isolating and then we were in Alaska so it was a double whammy!
Griffin was officially diagnosed by a developmental pediatrician at 18 months and began to receive more services. He made great progress but was still basically non-verbal at age 2 with only a few word sounds. When my friend Nina came to visit with her dog we had noticed how much Griffin enjoyed him and that he had NO SIBs when the dog was around. I was so excited! I talked to the O.T who wrote a letter to the regular pediatrician and he okayed it to have a service dog. So, I knew that I couldn't afford a trained service dog and didn't want to wait years to get one so having had a background in working with dogs.
I decided that I could train one myself. I went to the local animal shelter and the first dog that we took into the pen was Valentine, a young German Shepherd who gave Griffin his space and did not lick him in the face. I knew that was the right dog so I named her Abby, easily trained her, and now we have had her 6 years.
Griffin is now high-functioning which I attribute to early intervention. He is in a mainstream classroom in 2nd grade and still has speech in school and privately and O.T privately. He loves the computer and is a whiz on it! I am still a single parent, Griffin is my universe but we get through our challenges with patience and compassion each day. We now live in NC near family and friends.
Griffin and I both take hippotherapy separately of course. I am bipolar and have PTSD so I am on disability as well. Griffin took swimming OT classes since he was 3 until he was 7 years but they do not have it here in North Carolina so we do the horseback riding instead. He adores them....and his cat "Dot" too!
Lora lives in North Carolina with her son Griffin. A jack-of-all-trades, she has been everything from a dog groomer and landscape artist to an on air DJ and ballroom dance instructor and many other careers in between! She is currently taking classes online and plans to get her master's in autism research.