Without anything to ground Isla she is a sensory seeker, needing to touch, lick and explore constantly to regulate her sensory system. The only things that will ground her and make her sit still are the iPad and sometimes food. Although the iPad is a tool we use often, when in her “virtual world”, she is oblivious of anything happening around her and this worries me for her future as she needs to learn the skills required to live in the “real world”. At the moment outings take a great deal of work trying to keep her safe and are fairly exhausting. A bit like chasing around after a toddler in a 7 year old body. In the past we have found it easier leaving Isla at home with a carer or one of us misses out. However this is making her more introverted and it is getting harder to motivate her to go out of the house.
Her spatial awareness isn’t what it should be and she will walk right through people sitting down, stand on people’s hands, bags, picnics etc. This also makes her clumsy and she often trips over obvious obstacles.
She is unpredictable and unaware of the dangers of the world. She goes near water without realising she can fall in, climbs up high without realising she can’t get down and that she might fall, run across a road on impulse even though she has been taught and is fearful of cars. This coupled with her poor spatial awareness and risk of seizures is a recipe for disaster.
These are some of the reasons we are currently going through the process of getting an assistance dog for Isla and if all goes to plan, we will have a dog for her this year.
ADNZ Assistance Dogs are specially trained to match the needs of their companions and will give Isla:
Increased safety; by being tethered to the dog she cannot run on to the road and the dog will act as an anchor when we need her to stay in one place.
Help in challenging situations. There are many sensory techniques the dog is trained to use with the child. The dog becomes her focus and calming companion. Even walking with the dog provides Isla some sensory input through the handle, keeping her calm, just as she is when on a horse at Riding for the Disabled.
Increased independence; when she is older the dog will hopefully enable her to venture out on her own being her guide.
The other huge bonus for us as parents is that the dog will become a positive point of interaction with strangers. The focus shifts from a child with strange behaviour to a beautiful dog obviously working to help a child with different abilities. Isla’s disabilities are mainly invisible and we often get the feeling that people think she is just a spoilt brat having tantrums, so hopefully the dog will alert people that all is not as it seems.
The dog will also be a constant, unwavering friend with no judgement or expectation through the years to come.
ADNZ Assistance Dogs are trained to a high standard, just like guide dogs for the blind and have the right to go into any public place – including, supermarkets, shopping malls, food outlets, motels or hotels, movie theatres and restaurants. They are also entitled to travel on all forms of public transport.
It costs up to $48,000 to raise and train an Assistance Dog throughout its life. Recipients of ADNZ Assistance Dogs are required to help the Charity by raising money towards the costs associated with training an Assistance Dog. The Trust relies totally on community generosity, our fundraising goal is $20,000.
I will be organising many local fundraising events this year but if you are not able to attend and would like to contribute in some way you can do so by visiting https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/simplyisla