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Autism service dog Haley helps Adrianna succeed...
Autism service dog Haley helps Adrianna succeed in a Lee's Summit classroom
Feb. 4, 2012
By Mary Pechar
Adrianna Wible will be 8 in March. March will also be the second anniversary of her diagnosis of educational autism.
Adrianna is very open to discussing her disorder and this is how she explains it.
“It’s not contagious and I can’t give it to other kids,” Adrianna said. “It is something I was born with. Our brains don’t work like other peoples. My brain gets scrambled a lot and I have a hard time doing what people ask me to do. My brain will tell me to do something and I don’t want to, but I do it because it gets all scrambled up. I don’t always make good choices.”
Adrianna has a new member of her support team. Her name is Haley, and she is an autism service dog, the first in the Kansas City Metro Area. After extensive research, Adrianna’s parents, Ken and Terri, determined that the Autism Service Dogs of America best fit their needs. Terri spent a week in Oregon receiving training, and after bringing Haley home, her ASDA trainer Kati Rule came to Lee’s Summit to work with Adi and Haley in their daily environment, including her school, Summit Point Elementary.
“This was a unique and fun placement for me,” Kati commented. “I really enjoy seeing the different ways service dogs can help all across the (autism) spectrum. This is giving Adi a degree of independence, something for her to have control over in her life. Her autism makes her want to have control and to manipulate the situation. Having such a positive thing in her life will allow her to learn positive control. Haley will be a calming influence in her life.
“Her relationship with Haley will be a friendship that is real. It hurts when she doesn’t have those relationships. She is so aware that she does not have those relationships with her peers. Haley allows Adi to have conversations that interest them. Adi feels empowered as she explains her autism and what Haley does for her. Haley helps her manage her anxiety so she can engage with them longer.”
It is apparent that this is more than a job to Kati. She cares passionately about the dogs and the children.
“I don’t know if I could do my job if I couldn’t come and see the dog in the environment and see all the beautiful things this dog will do for the child,” Kati shared. “We go places that are challenging and do things the family may not have done before. I need to see the family create the relationship with the dog that allows the dog to know ‘I am in a good place; I know that I am going to be taken care of and given what I need to be successful.’ When the service dog is secure, then they are comfortable bonding with the child.
“Taking a child that may be disruptive or having a melt down out in the community can cause reactions, a negative look. With the service dog, the community recognizes what is wrong with the child and understands. The looks are positive and everyone benefits.”
Kati was quick to praise Summit Point Elementary, their organization and their willingness to make this work.
Principal Heather Kenney was equally enthusiastic.
“We haven’t really needed to make any accommodations,” she said. “We have worked together as a team (school, family, and trainer) to figure out how each part of the day would look and areas we needed to work out. For example, it has been important for us to find a safe place for Haley to lay/stay during physical education and recess. We did want to ensure that Haley would be safe riding underneath the seats on the school bus and that we would be able to take the dog outside for breaks during the school day.”
In Adi’s classroom the staff visited with the students about what to expect and that a new member of the class would be starting last week. They taught all students about service dogs and what is means for a dog to “work.” Everyone has the information they need to help Haley stay focused on her “work.” “It has been an enjoyable experience,” said Kenney. “We are all learning: Adi, our staff and Haley. She is a sweet puppy and is a wonderful member of our learning community. The first day of school (post training) was great! Adi is learning to lead Haley and building a strong rapport with her. As for our school, all kids and adults enjoy seeing Haley “work.”
And how is Adrianna managing? “The focus is really tough,” explains Kati, “This is a big change on the family and child. Taking in all of the changes and with the spotlight on her, Adi is handling it really well. I am so impressed with her focus and compassion. She wants this, and her awareness of Haley and Haley’s feelings is wonderful to see. She noticed Haley’s mood change and showed empathy, wanting to make her feel better. On her own, Adi was starting to seek Haley out and comfort her, at one point quietly telling her, ‘It’s OK, we’ll be OK.’ Haley is already beginning to have a calming influence on Adi’s life.”
“Haley helps me, she cuddles with me and helps me calm myself down,” said Adrianna. “She helps me stay focused and not to get into a meltdown, which is kind of like really annoying and scary because I have no control.”
For Ken and Terri, this was an intense, eye opening experience.
“You know what the dogs can do,” Terri explained, “but actually seeing them in action, watching Haley help settle her down, seeing Adi show signs of empathy. We are reestablishing our routine, but Adi is so ready just to take off. She is learning responsibility. It is not just Adi any more; Adi and Haley are a team. It is so beautiful to watch.”
As the LS Tribune has previously reported the Wible’s have started Paws 4 Autism, a 501(c)(3) focused on sharing the benefits of Autism Service Dogs and assisting other families that they may benefit. Franklin, another certified Autism Support Dog, has joined the team. Because each situation is special and therefore has specific needs, it was determined that Franklin would be the ideal “poster dog,” focusing on public awareness and education.
For more information on Paws 4 Autism visit www.paws4autism.org.
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August 9, 2010 http://lstribune.net/lees-summit-news/the-gift-of-adriana-paws-4-autism.htm
June 24, 2011 http://lstribune.net/lees-summit-news/please-help-adi-get-her-dog.htm
August 29, 2011http://lstribune.net/lees-summit-news/lee-s-summit-update-on-adi-s-autism-service-dog.htm
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