In the beginning, we noticed Sam no longer responded to his name and the words he used to say; he no longer spoke. The next several months were accompanied with a failed hearing test, ear tubes to fix his hearing, a passed hearing test, and waiting for his speech to return. The Audiologist recommended a free government funded program to help Sam catch up on his speech development. We signed him up immediately. As months past, we noticed new behaviors and still no talking. We started researching Autism Spectrum Disorder. Getting an actual diagnosis takes months and several different assessments. By the time we actually received the diagnosis, we already knew what the diagnosis would be. We felt prepared. Even the Doctor commented that we were handling this all very well. We felt empowered. "We can do this,"; however, Autism is an ever-changing, unpredictable disorder that we quickly learned we were not prepared for. We have found that the older Sam gets the more "autistic" he gets.
Keeping up with Sam is an everyday challenge and yet he is the glue that holds the family together. He is affectionate towards both of us and will sometimes burst into spontaneous laughter. When he has a day without many demands, he is happy to be on his own stimming and ignoring others. He can do the same thing over and over again and it can be tricky (usually leading to a tantrum) trying to break his cycles when he is in the "zone".
Sam loves to be outside. He loves running and wandering. Common dangers, like crossing the street, are not things he recognizes. We have to have eyes on him at all times. The first time that we lost Sam, was during a school function where Lindsey was helping out with one of our other kid's classroom. After 5 desperate minutes screaming “Sam! Sam!”, knowing he wouldn't respond to his own name, we found him. He was across the street, in a field, exploring the banks of the creek.
We share this experience because it was the precise moment we realized that we needed help. An extra set of eyes and a dedicated heart to care for our child alongside the rest of our family.
Enter Indie!! Indie joined our family in the summer of 2017 as a puppy. She was donated to us as a potential service dog. We paid, with the help of family, for her initial obedience training to see if she would be a potential candidate for PAC (personalized autism canine) training and if Sam would warm up to her. She is incredibly smart and loving and demonstrates the qualities of a PAC dog. As far as Sam warming up to her, he can now be seen smiling and laughing while petting her and resting on her.
In researching Autism Service dogs, we learned they can help these children increase their vocabulary and social skills. They can improve sleep patterns (another area Sam struggles with). These dogs help redirect repetitive behaviors, apply deep pressure as a way to calm the child and can even be trained to track and trail a missing child.
Sam explores and experiences the world around him in his own way. The hard days are really hard, but the good days are so good. We love him and want to give him everything we can to help him throughout his life.
Any amount you can donate is appreciated. From our family to yours, thank you for giving Sam his lifesaving companion. May God continue to Bless and Keep you and yours.
Eric and Lindsey
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