When I first had counted my sons ten fingers and ten toes I saw his life ahead as perfect as his new born self could be. I had no idea that on May 17th 2013, the day before his fifth birthday, I would be sitting in a room getting my son’s diagnosis of Autism.
Kai had been developing as expected. I have two teenage daughters so I was aware of the stages of development. Without debate I say after vaccinations Kai regressed. Kai at 4 1/2 years of age had become almost non verbal and not testable due to his limited ability to communicate. Kai was uncomfortable with light, sounds, smells, people, touch, food, the list knew no boundaries when it came to altering our lives. Basic, simple tasks like going into a bank became a dreaded screaming, crying melt down. Sometimes I joined Kai in the sadness and frustration that had enveloped us.
I began to isolate Kai from the stimulus that caused him distress. It is hard to live in a world that seems to assault your child’s senses, not to mention the adults who seemed to feel they had the right to approach Kai to tell him he was a bit old to be ‘misbehaving’. Unfortunately, even in the home, frustration was a daily occurence due to Kai’s inability to verbally express his needs.
Kai also had a common characteristic found in children diagnosed with Autism, bolting. One minute Kai would be at your side or focused on something and then, shazzam, he was gone. Kai was unable to grasp danger so being outside when he bolted put him in danger of injury or death. The unimaginable stress in keeping Kai safe wherever we were is beyond description. At five years of age we still had Kai between us through the night so we could sleep with only one eye open.
Potty training was an on going transition that Kai was not grasping. I watched Autism friendly potty training videos with him to encourage development. We used books to read on the subject, and had pcs (pictures printed out and laminated) showing the steps to going potty with no progress.
Back at the diagnosis meeting, preparing myself for the outcome and the fear of the unknown future for my son was overwhelming. I was determined to do what it took to help my son stay safe and be able to communicate. The diagnosing pediatrician, psychologist, speech therapist had compiled a report along with recommendation of needed services to aide Kai in his development going forward. The report is acronymed BCAAN. I now had in my hand Kai’s guidelines to implement, specific to Kai, detailed in point form to follow.
Autism support dog?! What the heck was that? The pediatrician explained I could help Kai by seeking out a support dog to help with his safety and development. I had never heard of this service, I was also made aware that no financial support was available in attaining the dog and that they were as costly as buying a new vehicle. I was determined to do my best…. so off I went to be super mom.
I began in my home province of British Columbia to seek out a specialty trained dog for Kai. It didn’t take long to learn that I would be required to wait an average of two years to be able to even be put on a wait list to acquire this unique dog. Being the super mom I began a Canada wide search for companies who may have been able to help me keep Kai safe now with a service dog.
By mid April I concluded I had one choice, to purchase a pup and have it privately trained to serve Kai’s specific needs. I had received advice on some specifics in choosing a dog as in a male, to handle Kai’s growing strength, of good temperament for the challenges it would face in the erratic behaviour my son could display.
Andy was attentive to my story and my needs for Hunter’s training. I needed Hunter to be able to be comfortable tethered to Kai to keep from situations of bolting. I was also hoping to train the pup to be able to ‘find’ or track Kai as Kai often hid when he felt embarrased or confused; on more than one occasion Kai hid himself within the house and fell asleep, while I frantically searched for him.
Hunter was being counted on to assist in finding Kai and save me from tethering myself to my son. I lived in a constant state of fear. Showering, going to the bathroom were all at the risk of Kai being placed in danger of taking off. Andy and I had agreed to allow him a few days to formulate a plan and financial package for the training I requested. I left Andy on a Friday with my email address and my hope in his hands with his assurance he would get back to me within a few days.