Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daniel's Story

Just a little warning- I'm hijacking our family blog for a little while to do a little fundraising. We decided after quite a lot of research and investigation, that we wanted to get an Autism service dog to help Daniel. I wanted to take a blog post and explain why we want a dog to help Daniel and for those who don't know Daniel or don't read this blog regularly (or at least as regularly as I post), tell his story.

**Note** Due to technical difficulties with Paypal, please click the button that says Just Give on the Arctic Paws website to donate online. Paypal should be back up soon. Thanks!
We have found a fabulous non-profit that trains dogs here in Alaska and their mission is to get dogs to the people who need them for an affordable price. They are asking for only $5,000. All other dogs I have seen are at least $10,000 and some go up to as much as $40,000 and it would still involve a 1-2 week trip out of state for training which in Alaska is a big deal. These are fabulous people who are just trying to help others. If you feel that you could donate any amount we would greatly appreciate your gift. You can donate online at Arctic Paws For Service or mail it to:
Arctic Paws for Service
PO BOX 135
Note on your donation that it is for Daniel Petersen. All donations are tax deductible as it is a 501(c)3 organization. Any businesses that donate $100 or more will have their logo or name embroidered on the service vest of the dog. The larger the donation the larger the logo! Just Email me with the name, or digitized logo.
Daniel's Story 
Sorry, this might be long...
Paul Daniel Petersen was born into the world 2 weeks past his due date. After I was given an epidural his heart rate started dropping and I was taken in for an emergency C-Section. When they got him out he had aspirated (breathed in) mechonium (poop) and his apgar scale ratings were really low (a test they do at birth). I didn't get to hold him and barely caught a glimpse of him until he was 5 hours old. He was doing all right by that time but then we had to teach him how to suck so he could eat as he had 3 different sucking patterns and only one of them was right. That began his journey.

The next 3 years he met most developmental milestones but he didn't finish them. He learned to talk and walk, but you couldn't understand most of his words and he trained himself when going on a walk to fall towards the grass as he frequently fell. He was also sick a lot. He not only got regular colds but contracted Whooping Cough, and RSV 3 times the last of which he spent a week in the hospital for, this led into Asthma. He also developed chronic constipation which he has struggled with since he was 16 months old.

When he was about 2 1/2 the kids and I moved in with my mother in law for 5 months while Paul completed new job training before moving to Alaska. At that time he kind of had an emotional melt down that never really ended. I talked to his pediatrician about it and he said, "You don't want to take him to a Psychiatrist, they'll just medicate him." Yes I didn't want him medicated but I knew this wasn't normal. I asked about Daniel falling down all the time he said, "kids are just clumsy". We also had his speech tested and they said, "He's just on the edge of needing speech therapy." I said I'm his Mom and I can't understand at least 70% of what he says. So we did a little speech therapy and just left everything else and moved to Alaska.

He was about 3 1/2 when he started getting up for the day at between 2 and 4am, no naps, and still falling apart emotionally all the time when I said enough is enough. I went to his new pediatrician and he sent us to a psychiatrist. The first diagnosis was an unspecified mood disorder which they medicated and it did help some. Next came an ADHD diagnosis and more meds. I, on my own had sought out a Play Therapist and had him going to her and that helped too, but I still felt like that wasn't quite everything that we were missing something. She sent Daniel at the age of 5 to a Neuro Psych, and suddenly a lot of things started making sense. She diagnosed Daniel with Autism, co-ordination disorder, speech disorder and a host of other things. It was a hard thing to hear but for me also a relief.

Daniel started in with Occupational therapy, Physical therapy, Speech therapy, eventually ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, and social skills groups whenever we could. Since then the diagnosis', have grown: low muscle tone, Scoliosis, near sighted... None of the things he has are extreme but just enough to give him problems and make him have to work harder than the rest of us to do normal things. At almost 7 years old he does a lot better and he has made HUGE strides with the therapies we have done.

If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering what a service dog will do for him and what does a Autism Service dog do? Here's some of the things we are hoping our dog will help him do:
-Give a warning bark when he leaves his room at night, so we can intervene and make sure everyone is safe. Mom can get a good night's sleep and get rid of the dark circles under her eyes. (At least until Reagan becomes a teenager.)
-Reduce anxiety and frustration which would enable us to reduce his medications.
-Provide physical stability and support as he walks as well as safety as the dog will stop before crossing the street enabling us to make sure no cars are coming.
-Give Mom a break! I've always said that if Daniel could he would climb right back in my body and stay. I am his security. We are hoping that some of that can be transferred to the dog and it will free me up to be able to spend more time with Paul and Reagan.
-The dog will track and retrieve Daniel when he runs or wanders away.
- Decrease what is called stimming. The dog will be trained to stand in front of the cupboard doors that Daniel likes to slam over and over again so that he can't do that.
-Give Daniel a chance to make friends. The dog would probably be Daniel's first real friend, and we are told that making friends which is hard for Autistic people to do, becomes much easier as other people are drawn to dogs and they want to know about them.
-Helping to remind Daniel to go to the bathroom. This has been a real issue for us and there are lots of his issues that play into this. Anything that decreases the amount of laundry for me is HUGE!
These are just some of the benefits that we are hoping to achieve. Thanks for taking the time to let me tell you just a little bit about our wonderful pirate and lego loving son!