Kassidy is our baby girl, has been for 8 years now and will always be.
Kassidy was born Sept 18th, 2009 in Kelowna General Hospital. My pregnancy with Kassidy was perfect, no health concerns whatsoever. We had a 3D ultrasound done when she was about 6 months along and we found out we were having a girl. It was such a happy moment in our lives, we had our little boy Jaxson and now we he was going to have a sister! The million-dollar family! Kassidy came out perfect! We were out of the hospital within 24 hours and back at home. Her bilirubin levels were slightly elevated so she went back in to the hospital for a couple of hours to be placed under a lamp and her levels cleared up within a day or two.
Kassidy was quiet, so quiet. For a newborn, she rarely cried and slept with no issues. We thought she was the perfect baby. We took her in for her regular checkups and our Dr. found no red flags that anything was out of the ordinary. At around 6 months old, we started noticing some interesting differences in Kassidy. She was not crawling or moving about and seemed to have no sign of emotional attachment to my husband, Jaxson or myself. Kassidy took no interest in any form of solid food and would only consume milk from a bottle. Again, the Dr. didn’t see any cause for alarm and we continued to supplement formula into her diet to keep her nutritionally sound. We tried not to compare our son’s development to Kassidy’s, as we thought maybe this is the difference between boys and girls and all children develop differently. When Kassidy was 11 months old, my motherly instincts took over and I knew something was wrong. In my gut, I knew that this was not just a child developing at her own pace. I made another Dr. appointment and we were referred to a pediatrician. This was the first step; our lives were never the same.
I will never forget the look on our pediatrician’s face, almost a look of fear. We were sent to Children’s hospital almost immediately to begin a series of tests that would continue for two years. Kassidy had the “million dollar” work up, they tested her for everything. We had her hooked up to machines and wires, while she was awake, while she was asleep. We had an MRI and an EEG and every other test you can possibly think of, every day hoping for an answer. They found nothing, no clinical answer for what was wrong with our little girl. It was awful, terrifying, no one would tell us anything, they couldn’t, there was nothing to say. They would just look at us with this blank stare and send us home empty wondering what was going to happen.
After a series of physical and behavioural evaluations our Kassidy was given her diagnosis at just shy of 3 years old. She had “Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified” with and “Intellectual Disability”. This meant that Kassidy fit on the Autism Spectrum and had a severe cognitive and physical disability. There is no prognosis and no cure and no baseline to follow as to what the treatment should be. My husband and I cried for days, we cried out of relief that we finally had a diagnosis and out of fear not knowing what our family’s future would hold.
Fast forward 5 years, Kassidy is now turning 8 years old. Kassidy is Non-Verbal and is, currently, not able to use other forms of communication. She can walk however it is difficult for her having such low tone so she falls and trips often. Kassidy works with speech therapists, behavioural therapist, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists every week. Kassidy is completely dependant in all facets of life. She is not able to dress herself, feed herself and she is not capable of personal hygiene. Kassidy requires one on one care 100% of the time and can never be left on her own or out of sight. She is a danger to herself as she is not aware of her surroundings and can easily be lost if not monitored closely.
Kassidy is loving, caring and kind in her nature and as such, physical contact is necessary for her to feel grounded. We are so fortunate to have such a sweet almost angel-like creature in our lives. She is happy most of the time and loves to be loved. Kassidy struggles to sleep most nights and is often up for days at a time. We use a very strong dose of melatonin at bed time to help her slow down so that she can fall asleep. However, 5 nights out of 10 she is up in the middle of the night and not able to fall back to sleep. Kassidy suffers with severe meltdowns sporadically and unfortunately, we are not sure of the cause. It could be the result of an absent seizure, pain that she could be feeling, overwhelming emotions or something in her environment that we cannot see or understand. These meltdowns are very hard to watch and can be extremely upsetting for people around Kassidy that don’t understand. Kassidy climbs everything with no understanding or fear of falling and she lacks the cognitive ability to recognize her surroundings so if she were to wonder off she would not be able to find her way back or speak to someone for help.
We started researching Autism Service dogs around a year ago after hearing that a boy in Kassidy’s school with similar life challenges was getting a service dog. It seems that these dogs can be trained to act almost as a second set of hands and eyes to families like ours. These dogs can be trained to act as a comfort when a child is upset and as a big teddy bear when they wake in the night. The dogs can alert a parent or caregiver when a child is in danger and they can be leashed to the child when out for a walk to keep them safe. This dog will be the constant in Kassidy’s life so that if we are not there with her, she is never alone and will always have a friend and protector by her side. A service dog would act like a guardian angel. We love our baby girl and we want her to have every opportunity possible to be happy and we are so excited and hopeful that this addition to our family will bring us all joy and a sense of comfort for the years to come.