Category Archives: Autism

We are Ayden Wheeler! by Shannon Jarrell-Ivey – GoFundMe

Look at this truly heartbreaking but ultimately beautiful story – unbelievable that such a thing can happen. Thank you to the amazing family that helped Ayden thrive despite everything – and now, we will be doing our best to find him a “best buddy” in a Service Dog! They still could use help with the cost of training – but will go to the ends of the earth to help their son – along with the many other special needs children they have adopted. Ayden is now 8, and coming home for GOOD from his RTC! Ayden will need a medium-sized dog that is as hypoallergenic as possible – perhaps there is some wonderful agency that would consider donating or helping us find this young boy his perfect dog? A “doodle” or standard poodle perhaps? Is there any doubt there are angels among us?

Please help out and donate: We are Ayden Wheeler! by Shannon Jarrell-Ivey – GoFundMe

Active Duty Janice, and her Chihuahua mix, Bruce.

From our trainer, Beverli, who trained with Active Duty Janice, and her Chihuahua mix, “Bruce”. Janice’s son suffers from autism, so training has been focused on training Janice and Bruce first.

Beverli writes:

“Today, we had our training session at Lowe’s. I brought my Service Dog, Luke, and we worked on Bruce’s ability to heel, obey commands, and respond to his handler with another dog nearby. We started with a sit/stay and down/stay off leash, as well as crossing paths with another dog (my Service Dog), and redirected Bruce to ignore him when needed.

Bruce’s confidence seemed to have improved in new situations, and his responses to commands have improved as well. Bruce needs a little more work on his “heel” and with his focus with another dog nearby.

Homework given was to continue working on Bruce’s scent location skills, as well as ignoring the public on walks and in stores. All in all, it was a very productive session!”

Alexand his gentle SDIT, “Will”.

Laurie had her first session with adorable 4 year-old Alex, who has autism, and his gentle SDIT, “Will”. Alex lives with such a loving family. They have been through so much financially but they keep the faith and Alex’s mom, Brandie, makes sure that Alex gets the best OT and PT and other therapies he needs to try and develop his full potential.

The family has had Will for a while now – rescued from a shelter – and Will is very accustomed to Alex’s behaviors. Alex’s mother, Brandie, said that Alex’s meltdowns can be very severe, but Will is used to them and tries to nudge or lick him when this is happening. When I arrived, I found a very well-trained dog in Will, who could “sit”, “down”, “sit/stay”, “down/stay”, “come”, and “heel” extremely well. Alex had just woken up from a nap when I arrived, and he was such a sweet, shy child! Since this was the first time we met, I wanted it to be a positive experience, so I played hide and seek under the kitchen table with Alex, calling Will over and giving Will treats when he continued to stay. I eventually got Alex done with playing hide and seek, and said, “Let’s play hide and seek with Will!” So Alex came over, and I put Will in a sit, and I coaxed Alex to pet Will, play with his ears, say his name, and say “I love you Will”. Then Will would go to his favorite hiding place near the couch, so I brought Alex by the hand, all the while saying silly things to him about Will, and when he saw Will, I called Will and he came out. So it was like playing hide and seek with the dog! Each time I lured Will out, I clapped my hands and had Alex pet Will and say things like “Good dog, Will” and “Your my best friend, Will”. Will seemed to love the attention, and Alex was definitely engaging in interaction.

Then, Alex, Brandie, Will and I went on a short walk outside, and I held the leash and gave the end part to Alex. Will stayed in a perfect “heel”, and I showed Alex how good he was doing and we would stop, have Will sit, have Alex give Will a treat, and say “Good Will”. The walk was nice and sweet. When we got back inside, I encouraged Alex to give Will hugs, and talk to him as much as he could to praise him.

The goal is to encourage the bond between Alex and Will, and to have Alex have as much body contact with Will so that eventually, when Alex starts to go into a meltdown, he will feel more inclined with Brandie’s help to seek out Will to apply deep pressure therapy.

Veronica and her son’s SDiT Shaggy

From our wonderful trainer, Beverli, who had a session with Veronica, who has a 7 year-old son with autism and is nonverbal. He also has no sense of danger, and on a couple of occasions he has wandered off. Their SDIT is Labrador/Ridgeback mix, “Shaggy”. Beverli writes:

“We had our session today at Walmart, working on fine-tuning all the fundamentals of Shaggy’s public manners and techniques. In addition to usual distractions public places provide, we also introduced grocery store scents and food scents at his level. Shaggy ignored them completely and stayed focused beautifully! He is growing more comfortable in new situations and places, and is able to “settle” much more quickly. Homework given for the next session was having Veronica and her son continue taking Shaggy to new places, and challenging his focus.”

Assistance in the Rio Grande Valley and more

This is a message from our exceptionally brilliant and compassionate trainer, Jacqueline (Jackie). Her life’s passion is to help Veterans, and she asked us to post this for all Veterans, especially in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), if they need help.

I have been a graduate psychologist at the VA down here in the RGV. After working in 3 different VA health care systems, I have seen the great need for Veteran care and have seen both good (actually excellent) and bad ways VAs are run and treatment is provided. It is with an EXTREMELY saddened heart that I can no longer allow myself to provide a lower level of care to Veterans than what they deserve, nor be forced into functioning in a treatment setting that is providing unethical care.

I LOVE my work with Veterans and see such a huge need for this to continue, but as I leave, I also see several other amazing psychologists leaving as well due to the same challenges. I continue to see a need for Behavioral Health Care in the Rio Grande Valley, with Veterans and Civilians alike. After 11 years of schooling and 7 years providing Behavioral Health (BH) Services, I was completing my licensure requirements as a psychologist to provide the highest and most comprehensive options out there, however, despite the need for services in the RGV, I ran into several dead ends for finishing this last piece. However, I am willing to put my own final step on hold to help two communities (Veterans and anyone in the RGV) in need of BH services.

I hold a Masters Level License in the State of Texas that allows me to practice independently (but with some restrictions from what I would have had with my psychologist license and obviously at about 1/3-1/4 of the pay). I am hoping to make some things come together over the next month or two (and will probably be open to picking up random general labor work as my student loans have gone into effect and I incurred debt moving from Idaho to here), but am hoping to offer TeleHealth (similar to Skyping but in a much more secure system) and/or in home therapy/animal assisted-therapy services here in the RGV at hopefully a fraction of the cost of some other places (most likely on an income based sliding scale fee basis) since I will not be accepting insurance and I am wanting to reach a larger population of those in need.

That being said, minus the in-home piece, I am able to offer this TeleHealth service within the scope of my practice anywhere in the state of Texas. I am most wanting to reach Veterans as I know for many, wait times between treatment sessions is 2-3 months in several facilities throughout the state. However, I am also really wanting to service Civilians in the RGV and throughout Texas. I am NOT bilingual unfortunately, but have a considerable amount of understanding of the RGV culture, the Hispanic Culture, and the Texas Hispanic Culture.

For those of you who may know of people who may be able to benefit from this, please feel free to contact me. I will gladly share my extensive training and treatment experience with anyone who requests this, and am hoping to start this as an option for the community within the next two months.

Please contact me at: Jacqueline Kappelman

Caleb and SDiT Anna

From our trainer Kendra in Houston, who is training with Dera and her son Caleb, who has autism.

“Dera and her son Caleb had a meet and greet today. I found this beautiful dog, Anna, at my local high kill shelter after an assessment. It went perfectly! Anna bonded amazingly with them. She played with Caleb, and sniffed him on multiple occasions. Caleb was nervous at first due to Anna’s size, but he warmed up to her quickly. Anna took to them like they were best friends! She is very gentle, and even let us brush her long coat. Anna already knows “sit” and “come”. I received an email from Dera that Anna is fitting right in at home! Neither one of us can believe that she has been in the shelter so long just because of her size. She will make one amazing Service Dog!

Dera wrote about the first trip home: I am sitting here is disbelief that this dog was at a shelter! On the car ride home, she was nervous with extra drool but laid on the floor of the car quietly even though the boys were all acting very excited to have her there. When we got home, we kenneled our dog, Bear, to let Anna explore the backyard, which went smoothly. We gave her a bath which helped a lot!

We introduced Bear with both dogs on leads. Bear was a little unwelcoming at first, but Anna was very good. After walking around the yard with both dogs on leash, we let them off. My neighbor’s very vocal and rowdy dog was out running the fence, which stirs Bear up. Anna got a little excited, so I went and stopped Bear from running and barking. Anna was very responsive. I told her to “leave it”, and she simply sat and looked at me!

We then came inside for lunch where we decided to put her in the kitchen until we have a chance to work more with her. The boys went down for a nap and we sat down to watch a movie. Anna will put her front paws on the couch, but we tell her off and then praise her when she sits.

Bear barked at the mailman, Anna perked up and paced a little, but no vocalizing! With training she is going to be amazing!

Apparently, Anna is also kennel trained. I led her in with her new Martingale collar, and she went right in and laid down. Kaleb has really started to take to her! He clipped her leash on and started his own training session! He would tell her “sit”, then gently push on her hips. When she would sit, he would ruffle her head with both hands and say “good girl”. He is a master at copying anything he sees. He saw me do this with Bear yesterday.

I CANNOT believe anyone would give her up!

The Jaynes Family

From our trainer, Candace, in Fort Worth, who is working with the Jaynes family, who have 2 severely autistic twin 8 year old boys and an 11 year-old daughter.

“The Jaynes family is dedicated to training Bear, their SDIT. He is a handsome golden retriever who is just as laid back as laid back can be. Really. He is content to just lay there and hang out with his buddy, Parker. But for this night, the Jaynes’ family mother and daughter have teamed up to work on the basics with sweet Bear Bear. He made some progress since the last time we met, but what I didn’t tell the Jaynes’ family is that we were really working towards increasing Bear’s attention span. And it worked! Together, we got Bear to participate longer in the training and he seemed a little bit more excited about the training process than he was the time before. He is such a sweet boy, we just need to get him a little more motivated to work!

Brandi, Alex and SDiT Will

An update from our trainer Beverly, who is working with mom Brandi and her son, Alex, who has autism, and SDIT, Will!

“We walked around the whole apartment complex, around several people in passing and dogs barking from balconies. Will did great! There were no signs of any problems. Will growled for a short moment at the frenzied barking dogs, but walked on and ignored them when told “leave it.” Brandi will take treats on her walk and have random people feed treats to Will while he is in a sit position so he knows other people are okay (especially strollers and any unfamiliar objects.) She will also ensure he sits whenever they stop walking and is not allowed to pull on the leash while walking. I showed her how to give a proper leash correction with the flat collar and discussed the importance of not letting him get ahead and start any pulling. Will did GREAT on the walk around the whole complex and only needed to be reminded to heel a few times. Will knows sit, down, stay, watch me, and leave it.

Brandi says Will and Alex sleep together every night and they have a very tight bond. Alex loves to pet and hug Will, which can calm him if he gets upset.”