Archive for September, 2012

Myffy’s Diagnosis and Our Golden (Retriever) Summer

Well, it’s official. I have the document in my hand. I knew it was coming. I knew what it would say. If I had any doubts they vanished when I talked to the psychologist last week and set up today’s appointment. I asked her if she’d scored the tests yet and did she know. I couldn’t stand anyone else knowing if I didn’t know. So she told me. Autism. An autism diagnosis for Myffy. Here we go all over again. At least I didn’t break down in sobs on the psychologist’s sofa this time. Still it was hard to breathe and swallow on the ride home. The hard rock of autism sits deep in the middle of my chest. She’s still my beautiful, funny, silly, awesome little girl. I guess I was just hoping that with all of the early intervention she’d been doing since she was 16 months old that we might have been able to alter the course enough that she wouldn’t actually need a full and official diagnosis. I am thankful for every moment of therapy she has had, for all of the language and skills that she has gained during a stage when Lu was quickly sliding steep into a very deep regression. I feel quite certain that if we had not started ABA therapy when we did Myffy would likely be now where Lu was at this age. Myffy has benefitted from all that we have learned going through this with Lu. But beneath it all, the autism is still there. So we continue. The next month will be filled with further applications, tests and evaluations to get a special education preschool placement and state services for her therapy program. Oh and, last weekend we got Myffy her own dog.

If you are our Facebook friend and have seen the photos we have been tagged in lately, you may be wondering if we have completely lost our minds. First in June we get Dahanna for Lu and go through a grueling two week boot camp, and now from our photos it appears that we are doing it all over again for Myffy this time. Let me take a moment to explain:
First of all, things with Lu and Dahanna have been going great! Since June we have watched Tallulah and Dahanna bond and develop skills and routines that have helped Lu to weather restaurant meals, changes in schedule and most anxiety-provoking for us all, the transition to Kindergarden. Dahanna loves working in school and is so good about lying quietly under the desk until it is time to go to another center or circle time or art/music/PE/recess. She’s a big hit with the kids and has already helped Tallulah to start to make friends! It has been amazing and awesome and completely gratifying, but even as Lu’s behavior has become more predictable and easier to manage with Dahanna in the mix, things have become progressively more difficult for Myffy.

During Lu and Dahanna’s Boot Camp back in June when it was so important for them to start their relationship off right, we quickly realized that even more often than Lu melting down and causing us to abort trips and outings, it was now Myffy who had become the wrench in the gears. Lu would be doing great holding her leash and even trying to talk to Dahanna when prompted to give her commands, but when Myffy would scream Lu’s first reaction is to cover her ears. Brian the Service Dog trainer came up with the great solution of teaching Lu to loop the leash over her wrist so she could cover her ears without dropping the leash, but still it make public access training difficult. In the end we made arrangements to go out and work with Lu and Dahanna almost exclusively without Myffy there. It was just too much to juggle practicing the new skills with the dog and managing Lu to also be managing Myffy too.

Then came Myffy’s first/last day at that new preschool program where they kicked her out for a 3 hour screaming fit on the very first day. After that we started the reassessment process and as we went through the parent/teacher/caregiver interviews and answered endless questions about her behaviors I had this very familiar sinking feeling that I’d had when we did this with Lu which was, my god, why didn’t we do this sooner? It was so obvious as we filled out the forms that yes, more than likely she would qualify as autistic. But then I reminded myself that yes we did, we did do this sooner, we did it back when she was 16 months old and then put her into an Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention which is exactly why she has all the skills that she does.

In the midst of all of this we kept in frequent communication with Brian from AZ Goldens about Lu and Dahanna and one of the problems that we kept running up against is that Myffy has gone completely dog crazy. She wants to constantly be in contact with Dahanna, she wants to hold the leash, she takes it form Lu, she is verbal enough to give the commands that she hears us giving Dahanna and in many ways it is interfering with Lu and Dahanna’s work. Myffy has also started trying to interact with poor old Wheezy, our lovely English Pointer who deserves some peace and quiet in her old age.

Brain came up to Flagstaff one weekend in July to bring up two dogs to meet a couple who wanted to adopt one of them. He dropped one of the dogs off with the couple and brought the other to our house so he could do some tune-up training with Dahanna before the start of school. The dog he brought with him is named Carol and there was an instant and amazing connection between her and Myffy. In much the same way that Myffy’s personality is different from Lu’s, so Carol’s personality is different from Dahanna. Carol’s energy is explosive, she will play throw and fetch all day long, and she elicited the most beautiful squealing giggles from Myffy. After they left we learned that the couple chose the other dog to adopt and that Carol was still looking for a new home.

Fast forward a couple of months. After numerous discussions of what it would mean for our family and AZ Goldens deciding that since we have been so dedicated and diligent with Dahanna and Lu, they have allowed us to adopt Carol for Myffy! And while yes having 3 dogs does increase the crazy in our lives, we can see that this works for our kids, it only increases the crazy incrementally, and seeing Myffy this happy is worth a little extra crazy.






Carol (who we have renamed Carebear) was originally trained as a wheel chair assistance dog, which means she constantly picks things up off the floor and brings them to us. Myffy thinks it’s hilarious. Over the years she has done animal assisted therapy, but was never placed with a client because of personality mis-matches or for some other reason. Carol has not been specifically trained for autism or specifically trained for Myffy the way Dahanna was trained for Tallulah, but Myffy’s needs are so different from Lu’s and because we have already passed all of the training and certification requirements we are getting guidance from AZ Goldens on how to train Carol to Myffy’s needs ourselves and don’t have to do a whole new boot camp for her. She is certified in case Myffy needs her to go to school with her or out in public with her in the future, but we will tackle each of those issues once we get to them. For now we are happy to have Carebear here along with Dahanna and Wheezy as part of our wacky but happy family. Welcome Carebear!