Autism Assistance Team | Warman, SK
Olivia was born with Down Syndrome and was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) just before her third birthday. Olivia has faced several health-related obstacles, including a congenital heart defect which has required open heart surgery with more surgeries to come, as well as a blood disorder and alopecia which has resulted in substantial hair loss. Olivia is largely non-verbal and relies on speech software on her iPad to communicate.
“As many families discover, it can be challenging for caregivers to adequately support their child with ASD; simple outings and social situations can became unbearable for Olivia, which often results in complicated strategizing and planning before engaging in outings, activities, or events that will challenge Olivia’s comfort zone,” explains Olivia’s Mom, Sheri. “Regardless, Olivia is a beautiful little girl, both inside and out, who has persevered through many health and developmental obstacles in her young life. Nevertheless, Olivia is quick to smile, giggle, and break into dancing when an opportunity arises; her spirit has never wavered no matter how difficult life has been for her.”
After meeting a family with a seizure response dog while on vacation, Olivia’s parents researched Lions Foundation of Canada through their website and filled out on application. Olivia’s home includes her younger brother, Eric, as well as a 6-lb Yorkie, so the family was a little nervous to learn Olivia has been matched up with a 50-lb-plus Poodle, “But immediately after Olivia’s father, Jeff, was introduced to Ivan at the training facility in Oakville, and over the past several months having Ivan in the family home and interacting with Olivia, we are grateful on a daily basis for the skills and abilities that he has conjured in Olivia. Additionally, Olivia’s independence is currently the best it has ever been; we can visit a shopping mall or grocery store with confidence that Olivia will not bolt or flee! Watching Olivia connect with Ivan has been heartwarming and something we have rarely seen before.”
Autism Assistance dogs help their partners in a variety of ways, “When Olivia begins to become unsettled or struggling with an unfamiliar setting, Ivan will provide her with a refuge simply by being next to her or lying on her lap which allows Olivia to regain control of herself. As well, Olivia participates in feeding and grooming (brushing) Ivan on a daily basis, in addition to, giving him treats when necessary. Olivia has typically been a good sleeper, but since Ivan has begun sleeping with Olivia on her bed, her length and quality of sleep has become more stabilized. Lastly, the primary reason we applied for an Autism Assistance Dog for Olivia was due to her tendency to bolt/flee if unsupervised. Ivan has dramatically reduced this safety risk for Olivia; knowing that Olivia is tethered to Ivan while in public settings provides substantial relief to the entire family,” explains Sheri.
Dog Guides make a huge difference in the lives of all family members, and it is made possible through generous donations by customers like you. “We are grateful beyond words for the Dog Guides program. Furthermore, we appreciate the sponsorship that our family has received from Pet Valu to help make an Autism Assistance Dog in our home a reality. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU,” adds Sheri.