Mind Alive Blog
Friday, August 12, 2011
Psychiatric Service Dog Part 3
This is the last installment of Melanie's post. Here she talks about points to consider before getting a service dog.
"While a service dog is a very effective treatment for me, please consider it very carefully before you assume it is going to work for you. Start by doing a lot of research.
- · Look for an organization in your area that helps owners train their own service dog or one that places already trained dogs with those who need them. If there isn’t an organization in your area, choose to work with a professional trainer. Make sure you research the trainer. Not all trainers have the necessary knowledge.
- · Have the trainer help you screen dogs until you find the right one. You may look for a long time. You may end up with an adult dog from a breeder, a rescue dog from a shelter, or a puppy. Make sure you understand the pros and cons for each option. Research what type of personality traits a service dog is going to need. Be aware of what breed you pick. While there may not be any breed restrictions in your area, in other areas there may be. If you have your heart set on a Bullmastiff, Rottweiler, Doberman, Pit Bull, or other such breeds, realize that this choice may affect your ability to travel with your dog.
- · Research what you are going to have to train your dog to do both for public access and for task work to help you through your life.
- · Have a reasonable expectation as to how long this training is going to take and make sure to not rush your dog. Every dog learns at their own pace so there isn’t a standard for this. It usually takes between 1 and 2 years to end up with a dog that is able to do this job. It may take longer depending on the dog as well as your health during the training process.
- · Expect setbacks during the training. This is normal. It’s the moments where you will get frustrated because a week ago your dog did know the behaviour. These moments are normal as a dog learns.
- · Be prepared for the cost of a service dog. To have your dog be able to do the best work he can you’ll want to feed him high quality food. You will need gear that is not needed for a pet, some of which can be very expensive. Your dog will need to spend a lot more time with a trainer than a pet dog. This bond with your trainer may need to last for the life of the dog.
- · Make sure that you understand the laws in your area. Every province/state/country has different rules when it comes to service dogs and their access rights. In some areas, a service dog may have rights only if it’s from a school. In others, owner trained dogs may be covered but only for certain disabilities. If you don’t fit under the laws and really want to go forward with a service dog, you may have to deal with your local representatives in government to get the laws changed"
Labels: Service dogs
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Psychiatric Service Dog Part 2
In today's post Melanie continues her journey her service dog. I've always admired how much strength she has and was happy she accepted my request to share her story on the Mind Alive Inc. blog.
"Psych dogs are very new and that they aren’t readily available. I was lucky in stumble across an organization in my area that was just starting up. Through them, I found Paige, a beautiful rough collie that was leaving a breeding program. Paige and I started training in May, 2010. Now, a year later, I can’t imagine my life without her.
I have been her primary trainer throughout this process and we have worked through everything together. This isn’t a process for everybody. Training your own service dog, no matter how much support you have from both professionals and friends and family, is incredibly hard. I completed 9 years of post secondary education, most of it without a diagnosis or medication and the rest with anxiety that was crippling at times. I would put training Paige in that same difficulty category but condensed. Everything is happening at once and you can’t just drop a class if you’re getting overwhelmed. But I don’t regret a minute of it.
There have been times where I have threatened to give her away. There have been times where I just had to sit down and have a little cry because I just couldn’t handle any more. But there were so many moments of success. So many joys. Paige is my best friend and I am blessed to have her with me.
In our training we’re up to a point where Paige goes everywhere with me. Everywhere includes movies and we’ve started on swimming pools. Paige isn’t ready to have her “in training” badges removed, or maybe I’m not, but I’m so proud of her and myself. The world is open to me now that I have her at my side. I can grocery shopping by myself, take the bus, go to new stores and places where I don’t know anybody, and ask for assistance from the employees of a store when I need it. I can do all of these with confidence and independence.
When I started training Paige, I expected to be able to gain independence. There have been other side effects that I was not expecting. I have gained confidence in myself as a person and in my abilities. I have made new friends, which I haven’t done in years. I am now starting to mentor other people who want to get dogs for similar disabilities. I can interact with the public easily most days. I’m able to educate them and, depending on the situation, able to explain why I have Paige beside me and what that really means. In other cases I have a list of scripted answers that answer people’s questions without giving away the real reason I have Paige with me."
Labels: anxiety, Service dogs
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Psychiatric Dog Service Part 1
Today's blog post is from Melanie Hansen, a friend of mine who has a Psych Dog. Until she got one I had no idea dogs for these types of purposes existed. I've personally met Paige, her service dog and while I know there are challenges, they work well together.
" What is a psychiatric service dog? What do they do? Why do you have that dog with you? These are questions that get posed to me quite often. People are genuinely curious about how a service dog can help somebody who is limited by a mental health disability.
A number of years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar type II. While most of the symptoms associated with this diagnosis don’t limit my life very much, I was developing social anxiety that was getting progressively worse. I was starting to have trouble leaving my house and going about my life. It was starting to limit my ability to make it to class or to my part time job. When I realized that it fit the definition of a disability, I went looking for help. My doctor was hesitant to add more medication to my already complicated mix. One new pill and everything else may need to be adjusted which could take months. So I went looking for other options to help and I stumbled across the idea of a service dog.
Service dogs can perform a number of roles. The ones that everybody is most aware of are guide dogs for the blind and assistance dogs for those who are physically handicapped. A service dog can also be trained for any number of tasks.
- · They can alert somebody who is deaf to sounds; fire alarms, oven timers, crying babies and more.
- · They can alert to a diabetic blood sugar drop. This is systematically taught the same way you would teach a drug sniffing dog. The dog senses the drop and the dog is then trained to alert the and handler what to do when they sense that there is a problem. This is the same case for an effective seizure alert dog.
- · For somebody with schizophrenia the dog can help discern if the voice or image is real or if it’s a symptom. An example of this would be a “go say hi” command where the dog would greet somebody if they are there but would perform some other behaviour if there isn’t anybody there.
- If they are paired with a child who has autism one of their main tasks is to prevent the child from wondering off. Often the child is tethered to the dog and the dog is trained to prevent the child from going towards hazards such as roads.
In my case, my dog accompanies me in public without judgement or any plan of her own. She is there entirely for me. She is trained to alert me when I’m becoming too stressed out in a situation before the stress triggers a panic attack. She is also trained on how to assist me if I do have a panic attack. With the bipolar, the dog is taught to help me as other symptoms arise as well. She is taught to alert to rapid mood changes and how to help me through them. If I’m working through a depressed cycle, she helps me keep going and not fall into a self destructive pattern. Even looking after her basic needs helps with this."
Labels: anxiety, bipolar, Service dogs
Monday, August 8, 2011
More from A Chance to Grow
Last post parents talked about the improvement they saw in their children. This time a teacher shares his experiences. I'm not sure what some of the abbreviations mean though.
Special Education Teacher
Marshall County Central Schools
We have used Audio Visual Entrainment for almost five years. My first experience with the effectiveness of this type of Neurotechnology goes back to a forth grade class, currently this years eighth grade class, in which 6 students we reading at the low first grade level. The gender makeup of these six students included four boys and two girls. I put all six students on SRA Corrective Reading and the two girls immediately showed significant improvement. The four boys only demonstrated minimal improvement. All four boys did demonstrate some ADD or ADHD behaviors and consequently, we decided to try AVE with all four boys. Within a couple of weeks, I noticed a significant increase in their reading ability. After one school year, they all appeared to read at or close to grade level and their scores on the Iowa Basic Achievement Test in reading verified this. All four boys achievement scores above the criteria score for Title I services. Another interesting phenomenon occurred in that two of the boys we retested with the WISC-III IQ test. One boy had a Verbal/Performance discrepancy of 21 points with a lower Performance score. The other boy also had a discrepancy of 17 points with the Verbal score lower. The boy with the lower Performance score showed an increase of 18 points on his Performance score and the other boy showed an increase 13 points on his Verbal score.
The fourth grade group from the last year has an interesting demographic profile in that at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the class functions below average academically. The class of 33 students has three students meeting criteria for DCD, one student borderline DCD, two other meeting criteria for SLD and one student meeting criteria for hearing impairment who also demonstrates severe autistic behavior and is unable to function without the assistance of a full time paraprofessional. A total of 17 students receive additional help through special education or Title I. One of the DCD students receives one-to-one instruction for a DCD teacher. The other DCD students receive special education instruction in Math and reading. Depending on the severity of the students, we utilize three different interventions for students experiencing difficulties in reading. Our first choice is SRA Corrective Reading, but in severe cases we try to supplement with Fast Forward for theses with obvious Auditory Processing Deficits and Audio Visual Entrainment.
We test students twice a year, fall and spring, with the NWEA assessment to determine individual student achievement growth. Last year we put five students from fourth grade on AVE. Two of those students also received FastForward and worked through the SRA Corrective Reading Program. Except for the students classified as severe DCD, all students presented gains from 9 to 21 points.
I initially began using AVE for behavior control but I have found that AVE is just as affective for academic achievement and improvement as for behavior control. I usually try to write my own programs relatives to the needs of the individual students. I look at IQ test scores, most specifically the Verbal and Performance scores, classroom behavior, checklists provided by A Chance To Grow, and most recently, in some instances when other indicators are not providing me with enough information, I will use 2D/4D digit ratio of the right hand to give me possible indicator as to which cerebral hemisphere may be dominant. But I only use the digit ratio as a last resort. And, when else fails, you can always fall back on the programs and trial and error.
I am totally sold on AVE and I truly believe that AVE has applications for focus, behavior, and improved academic improvement
Labels: ADD, ADHD, math, reading, school, students, teacher