Welcome to the YorkieTalk.com Forums Community - the community for Yorkshire Terriers. |
You are currently viewing our boards as a guest which gives you limited access to view most discussions and access our other features. By joining our free community you will have access to post topics, communicate privately with other members (PM), respond to polls, upload content and access many other special features. You will be able to chat with over 35,000 YorkieTalk members, read over 2,000,000 posted discussions, and view more than 15,000 Yorkie photos in the YorkieTalk Photo Gallery after you register. We would love to have you as a member!
Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our community today!
If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please click here to contact us.
| ||LinkBack||Thread Tools|
|03-06-2005, 05:59 PM||#1|
YT 6000 Club Member
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Seattle, WA
[News] Yorkie Helps Autistic Child
A high-pitched yapping begins as soon as the doorbell rings at Kevin and Nancy Jahnke’s house.
It’s Sassy, a 6-year-old Yorkshire terrier.
Sassy is as loud and inquisitive about visitors as their son, 12-year-old Ben is quiet and seemingly disinterested.
The Jahnkes got Sassy after reading — always reading — about strategies to help autistic children, like Ben.
Some autistic children, the article said, form close relationships with pets when they don’t form close relationships with people.
“We get the puppy, and from square one, he didn’t like him,” Kevin Jahnke said. “They are not best of buds.”
Getting the dog is one in a long string of things the Jahnkes have tried — from medication to control seizures to a gluten-free diet to installing a pool because Ben loves to swim — to help manage their son’s autism.
Autism is a brain disorder that is often exhibited in children by resisting change, making little or no eye contact, not wanting to be touched and over- or under-sensitivity to pain or sound or both.
Autistic children often also have trouble processing information they get through their senses, and too much sensory input can cause anxiety or behavioral outbursts — meltdowns, in the jargon of those dealing with autism.
Simple variations in the route taken to the grocery store, for example, are enough to cause autistic children anxiety. Family gatherings, like holidays, can be too much sensory input for an autistic child.
Living with an autistic child — a child that may be nonverbal, can have a hard time forming close social ties even with family members, and needs to “stim” by taking multiple baths or spinning around the living room — sounds like a daunting task for parents.
Home, though, is a vital place for autistic children, especially in providing early intervention.
In his 2005-2007 budget, Gov. Jim Doyle has pledged to increase funding for autism services by $9.5 million over the biennium, a 35 percent increase from the $26.5 million allocated in the 2003-2005 budget. Such an increase could help pay for in-home intensive therapy for children with autism.
That kind of therapy — helping autistic children learn to communicate better and control behaviors more effectively from a younger age — can give those children a better chance to succeed at skills that at one time seemed impossible for the child to learn.
That’s what happened with Wendy Falk’s son Jarod after eight months of in-home therapy combined with early childhood classes at Read Elementary School.
He was nonverbal when he started and now has a vocabulary of 40 words. He’s mastering colors, the alphabet and numbers, like a typical 4-year-old.
Getting there isn’t an easy road.
Jarod has a daily schedule that would make some adults cringe. His day starts with in-home therapy from 8 a.m. to noon. Then it’s off to early childhood classes from noon to 3 p.m. Arriving home on the bus by 3:30 p.m., he’s got another two hours of therapy.
The intense work schedule for such a young child was tough for Falk to get used to, one of the emotional challenges that parents with autistic children face.
“I was afraid it was cruel, and ‘What kind of awful parent was I to put him through this?’” she said. “You know that in the long run it’s what’s best for your child.”
Therapy and school are intense for autistic children, leading the Jahnkes and the Falks to adopt similar strategies about time spent at home.
“Home is his safe place. We put very little pressure on him at home,” said Kevin Jahnke.
For a while, Ben had a talk board — a device on which he could push pictures to represent wanting a snack or other things.
Nancy Jahnke said they dropped the board because Ben could communicate what he wanted through gestures or actions, like getting the jar of mayonnaise out of the refrigerator to signal that he’s hungry.
Having an autistic child can put a strain on parents, financially and emotionally, as they work to care for their needs.
As parents of other 12-year-olds are thinking about funding a college education, the Jahnkes are focusing on self-help skills for Ben.
In the long-term, the Jahnkes and Ben’s teachers are working to help him learn vocational rehabilitation skills, such as how to assemble first-aid kits.
With therapy and the educational intervention, some autistic students will be able to perform at the same level as their peers.
For others, the long-range goal is make sure they have skills to make them successful in a group-home type setting.
Parents with autistic children tend to be socially isolated, as well, because it’s hard to find babysitters who understand how to work with autistic children.
Explaining the behaviors — the “stimming” like spinning or hand-flapping — to friends and family members can be difficult.
The holidays — with the extra people and their extra sights, sounds and smells — also can be tough for autistic children as it introduces new sensory elements that are hard to process and tough for relatives unsure of how to respond to the stimming.
Realizing a child is autistic can catch parents by surprise. For the Falks, it was a combination of a relative mentioning it and seeing their second child, Maria, pass developmental markers that Jarod hadn’t reached yet.
“We didn’t know what autism looked like,” Falk said.
“We thought, ‘Isn’t he an independent little kid?’”
The initial testing to get a child diagnosed as autistic can also be steep.
Falk said nearly $2,000 was spent out-of-pocket in initial testing for Jarod to get both the medical and educational diagnosis needed to qualify for early childhood special education and the in-home therapy through the Wisconsin Early Autism Program.
The Jahnkes haven’t been on a vacation in 10 years.
Their breaks come during Packer season when they take Ben to the Respite House run by Cerebral Palsy of Mideast Wisconsin, designed to give caregivers a break from the constant responsibility.
Kevin Jahnke isn’t bitter or complaining. “That’s just the way it is,” he said.
After a full day of therapy where Jarod’s not allowed to “stim,” spinning at home or playing in the bath tub because he likes the feel of water is just part of life, Falk said.
“When we’re home, he’s Jarod. I’m not thinking about the fact he’s autistic,” Falk said.
Last edited by fasteddie; 03-09-2005 at 07:16 PM.