Near Death Experience Prior to News of Special Needs Child

When Alex was just 6 months old, I was finally able to hold him in my arms after a long stent in the hospital.

Up until that point l was recovering from a near death experience following Alex’s birth.

My parents stayed with me during my recovery period and Mom got to know Alex better than she normally would have.  She practically was his surrogate Mom for the first 3 months or so as I was unable to move much at all.

What a true joy it was to finally hold Alex knowing that family was beside me the entire time.

Being in an extended afterglow since Alex’s birth, I thought everything was fine even when Mom told me that Alex was unable to support his weight on her legs when she held him in an upward position.

Then Mom mentioned that Alex’s eyes would sometimes jiggle back and forth.

I figured she was likely over reacting.

Mom took careful notice of these issues. They caused her great concern so we took Alex to the pediatrician.

They immediately scheduled Alex for a CT scan.

After the scan the doctor said, “Mrs. Sicoli, are you sitting down?” to which I replied “Yes”.

“The good news is that Alex doesn’t have a brain tumor” the doctor said.  That comment in itself stunned me because I truly believed he was fine. Then the bad news…Alex had CP!

I couldn’t believe my ears.

It had been only 3 years since my older son had been given the diagnosis of autism and now I had another special needs child to content with.  Though it was quite a shocker, I am so thankful that I at least had a head start and knew what avenues to take next in order to get him into the right programs.

As with Jonathan’s autism, early intervention is critical and our family moved forward with a plan to deal with this CP diagnosis head on.

How did you deal with a surprise diagnosis of your special needs child?

What were the steps you took (initial and long term) that best prepared you to cope?

When did you realize any missteps and what did you do to correct or otherwise minimize them?

Make a difference and share your story by leaving your comment below.

Your dedication is empowering and I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand and cope with initial diagnosis of a special need child.

To download a video presentation that will help you cope with the diagnosis of a special needs child, click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616570

 

Pride Shoved Aside by a Disability Diagnosis

It’s funny how people in the midst of denial behave.

When faced with a fact we just don’t want to see, or bluntly refuse to admit, many of us immediately try to dismiss that fact point blank.

You know what they say, “Pride comes before the fall…”

You should have seen me, a loving Mother stubbornly refusing to budge from my obviously errant opinion about my child. Excuses flowed like a river and I was not a happy camper.

My sister in-law was clearly correct, yet I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

After all, it seemed as if she was verbally “attacking” my son by suggesting he be checked for autism.

Of all the nerve!

What right does she have to spout such a thing?!? She wasn’t a doctor!

I didn’t know about Jonathan’s autism until my sister in law, Anna, told me she’d heard a radio talk show discussing autism.  In the same breath, she also said, “based on some of the warning signs, I think Jonathan might be autistic.  You should have him checked out, Karen.”

My immediate response was “no way”, there is nothing wrong with my son.

I then sarcastically said, “why don’t you have Julia checked out, she acts different too”.  Julia is her daughter who happens to be the same age as Jonny, which made it easy for us to compare.

Of course no one wants to hear anything negative about their child but I will swallow my pride and say out loud to the world…I’m certainly glad that I listened.

That entire embarrassing episode really threw me for a loop. I got schooled in the five steps of grief:

– Denial
– Anger
– Bargaining
– Sadness
– Acceptance

Although these steps are an entire conversation in themselves, I must say that my denial was very tough to get through. It took my husband another ten years or so to finally come around.

Difficult as the pain was to navigate through, it had to get done. Jonathan needed all the love and attention we could muster…especially in the early days of the diagnosis.

Looking back, the initial problem was not with Jonathan, it was with me.  I took a long hard look in the mirror and made changes.

Autism is so easy to see past, especially when a child is young.

At 15 or 16, it’s too old to be exhibiting behaviors like flapping their hands in the air or rocking back and forth. By letting go of my pride early on, we provided for and received much assistance for Jonathan.

I’m thankful for my Sister’s sharp attention and love. I’ve accepted Jonathan for who he is and what must be.   Have you caught yourself denying facts?

What was the turning point of truth for you?

In what way did those around you help or hinder the situation?

Share your story with me leave your comments below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand and cope with the unexpected.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of and simple solutions to dealing with the unexpected, click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616572

 

Clues to Autistic Spectrum Similar to High IQ Characteristics

Back when Jonathan was young, I didn’t see anything significantly different about his behavior.

He was so fascinated with the computer that he became mesmerized by it and ended up falling off the computer table on two different occasions…both times he required stitches.

That should have been my first clue. Looking back, I didn’t make a direct connection to possible disability much less any developmental issues.

After all, I thought many kids at Jonathan’s young age spun around in circles, stared off into space, avoided crowds, lined up objects, lacked eye contact , took steps downstairs one at a time, were fascinated with game shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and watch the same movie repeatedly.

Having witnesses many of those same characteristics in other children, I wrote them some as unique to Jonathan’s particular stage of development.  No two children are exactly the same anyway…right?

Further, I was consumed with the needs of my three children, then 3, 4 and 5.

In fact, I thought Jonathan was extraordinarily bright since he began reading at the age of 2 1/2, when he read the word “recycle” off of a truck. At 3, he would memorize songs like it was nothing too.  One song in particular included all the letters of the alphabet.

I tried to record him performing this amazing feat but he got into his echolalia by saying no, no, no, no sop, sop, sop, over and over again.  He was so cute but the fact that he was stuck in a rut of saying the same thing time and time again should have been a huge warning sign.

Of particular note was “the stare”.

I have often heard parents comment that their children had this uncanny stare they didn’t notice until they looked back in the earlier photos of their children.  Sure enough, Jonathan had it.

It’s hard not to blame yourself as a parent for “missing” the clues.

A shy child might “tune out” and stare into space, be absorbed in TV or repetitive viewing of moves, not like crowds, avoid eye contact, etc…

More difficult to ignore are more noticeable signs of autism that include:

-Inappropriate social interaction with peers -Not wanting to be touched -Self stimulation (flapping hands or rocking back and forth) -Hypo or hyper sensitivity to outside stimuli -Echolalia (repeating things over and over and over) -Fascination with letters and numbers -Early reading (Hyperlexia)

Despite all the clues, sometimes parents put on “blinders”.  We don’t see, or want to see, what is right in front of us.

After “…getting out of my own way…” of denial, Jonathan got early help and has made great strides.

What did you overlook that you had to face head-on later?

How did you come to terms with missing major clues?

Please share your story with by commenting below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand and cope with clues to autism.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of autism click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616568

 

Stories From the Heart: Finest Hour

The car was hot, and the air conditioning was high. Our family was on our way to Bay Cliff Health Camp, way Up North. It was the summer of 2005 and we were spending a week of it helping handicapped kids. My dad had been a counselor year before, and he wanted to give us the opportunity to be one too. “The experience definitely changed my life,” he explained. “You guys will have fun for sure,” he reassured.

The drive seemed to last forever, and the humid air made my legs stick to the leather seats. We soon pulled into the long driveway of a beaten up hotel. The wood that was supposed to be pure white, was a rusted yellow, and the grass was sharp and brown. From the very beginning I thought, “Wow this will be interesting.”

The next morning my family woke up at 10:00 am to head to Bay Cliff. The camp was so close to the hotel you could walk there without getting tired. It was July 4th, and all the kids would be going in a parade later in the day, but we went early to get to know some of the kids there.

We were greeted by a big sign that read, “BAY CLIFF HEALTH CAMP”. We walked out of the hot air into a big air-conditioned building. The inside was just as big as the outside had looked, and the smell of new wood stuck in my nose hairs. The woman behind the wooden desk greeted us with a big smile.

“May I help you?” she questioned. “We were just wondering what the kids were going to be doing today,” my dad replied. “Well, since today is the 4th of July, we’re letting them play games until the parade,” the lady smiled again. “They always enjoy that.” “Thank you very much,” my dad said, and then we were out back into the heat again.

We soon saw a ton of kids in wheelchairs and crutches playing games. The kid’s smiles reached their ears as they played the various games. The kids giggled when their faces were getting painted with any design they wanted. I went over and sat on a bench because the heat and mosquitoes were getting to me.

Immediately the kids started to come up and just tell me their names. “Hi, I’m Cody. Who are you?” a little girl, maybe seven, asked me. “I’m Shannon. I came here to see if I want to be a counselor when I turn sixteen,” I replied. “Oh! You’re going to want to be one Miss. Shannon, it’s a lot of fun here, and everyone is really nice,” she explained. Not five minutes had passed before tons of other little kids came up and told me their names.

I was invited to five tables at the “Big House” also known as the cafeteria. The meal was set before me, and I didn’t feel right eating the food they had made. They made this for the kids, not me, I thought, maybe I should just not eat, and maybe they won’t notice. After a while of debating, I decided to eat because my stomach was growling louder than the kid’s laughs were.

“How long are you staying for?” one of the younger counselors asked. “Just for a week,” I told her. “I’m planning on being a counselor when I turn sixteen.” “Oh, that’s really cool of you to do,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun working at Bay.”

Before I knew it, the parade was going. The kids threw candy, and their smiles lit up their whole face with joy. The kids made their wheelchairs into cars, and they made signs for their cabin. The kids dressed up in cheerleading costumes and basketball uniforms. I had already fallen in love with these kids.

The week I was at Bay Cliff went by way to fast. It was soon departure day, and I knew it’d be pretty hard to say goodbye to all the kids. I hugged every kid I had gotten to know, and every time I did, there was a feeling in my stomach. It was as if this whole vacation, the whole camp was all for a reason.

That’s when I realized what I wanted to do when I got older. I wanted to work with little kids, with or without disabilities. This camp made me open my eyes to my possibilities. I loved being with little kids, and I loved seeing them happy. From that moment I knew what I wanted to be.

Author Unknown

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Suppertime Solutions to Food Sensitivity and Allergies

Many of us chow down food and move on with our day in a complacent manner never thinking twice about food until our next meal.

Maybe a burp and early afternoon sleepy nod, but no other after effects.

A lot of special needs kids have stomach issues which can affect behavior and comfort considerably.

Often times, my special needs kids complain of indigestion and Jonny in particular would always get red cheeks after eating certain foods.  Alex also has different eating behaviors such as constantly craving sweets and surprisingly enough, hot peppers.

Food allergies and sensitivities was the diagnosis from various interventions and appointments with specialists that took us a year to get.

Through this process it turns out I have a few food sensitivities myself (Yeast, gluten and even tomatoes can cause problems).

There is a great deal of information about food allergies and sensitivities and I really truly believe that our special needs children are indicators of a bigger challenge facing us all.  We’ve all seen the news over the years about toxins in our food and the environment.

Food quality and incidental effects deserves attention.

We have hosted biomedical conferences with specialists speaking about special diets eliminating wheat, gluten and some dyes which have been of particular aid for ADHD.   There are many solutions to consider so be careful not to get sucked into extremely expensive solutions without doing your thorough homework first!

What experience have you had with food allergies or sensitivities?

What particular issues have you had with your diet?

Share your story with me by leaving your comment below.

Your experience is worth sharing and I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand food allergies and sensitivities.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of and simple solutions to food allergies and sensitivities, click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616561

 

Special Orders Create Mealtime Mayhem at Drive-thru Window

“Hey, how about a quick run to Wendy’s”

“Look, there’s no one at the drive-thru!”

Normally, that would be a good thing.  You’re hungry, you’re in a hurry and the drive-thru is empty.

Nothing to worry about right?

In a family of 6 kids, you learn to be more resilient even if you don’t want to. During Jonathan’s younger years he was not keen on the idea of being flexible himself. In fact, any little issue could set him off. God forbid you got his order wrong.

I used to take all 6 kids through the drive-thru by myself.

You should have seen  the look on the cashier’s face at Wendy’s when I ordered 7 burgers, 2 with pickles, 3 with ketchup, hold the mayo, 1 with extra tomatoes, no lettuce and 1 with extra pickles, lettuce and tomatoes, oh and yes, one with absolutely nothing on it except hamburger and cheese.

Of course, the order included French fries and drinks all around which included the typical list of the particulars.

It’s hard enough to place this type of an order through a crappy drive-thru microphone much less deal with all the conflicting commotion in the car. As I said, heaven forbid you’d get Jonathan’s order wrong lest you be the recipient of his signature blood curdling scream from the back of the van.

“What I don’t want NO mayonnaise!!!”

We taught Jonathan proper English but between his crying, yelling and double negative mix up, in the heat of the moment, he gave the impression of the stereotypical backwoods inhabitant.

Thankfully Wendy’s handled it well despite almost every item being a “special” order.

How have dealt with meal time with special needs children?

What do you do to keep peace when eating out?

What did you do and how did it work?

Share your story now, leave a comment below.

Your story is appreciated and, as always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Need tips, strategies, and tools to help understand and cope with outing with special needs children?

Download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of and simple solutions for outings with special needs children by clicking this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616558

 

Stories From the Heart: Evelyn, Queen of the Jungle

I asked Evelyn for what felt like the hundredth time that day to spell a word she probably couldn’t…and we both knew it. She and I sat together twice a week in the freezing school library where the librarian glared from behind a desk, sighing as she scanned each checked-in book.

The first time I went there, I remember thinking, “This is a school where kids do not like to read.” That was a complete understatement. In third grade, Evelyn still confused her b’s and d’s. Reading and writing were horrible bullies to her, and she was beginning to find out that the antagonistic subjects loomed in every corner. On my first day as a tutor, I learned that this was not only a school where kids did not like to read, but one where many could not read.

In a perfect world, I would have given the children I worked with at Sims Elementary a clean slate – loving and available guardians, a community with more money and energy to invest in the school, and financial stability. But even in an imperfect world, I managed to hand Evelyn a relatively clean slate and a piece of chalk. I drew six short lines on the slate, preparing her for our own version of Slate of Fortune, a fill-in-the-blank game where nobody got hanged or went bankrupt. Best of all, contestants never feigned illness of sobbed in frustration.

“I have another word from your book for you to try,” I said. “Now listen very carefully to all the sounds and take your time. The word is ‘jungle.'” I began to prepare my consolations. Evelyn had already missed easier words in our session that day. She was always the last to finish the book, to master the concept, to be dismissed at the end of the day.

Evelyn smelled like the oil in her cornrows, stale milk from lunch, and the accumulated sweat of clothes handed down years too long. Among other painful inheritances were her mother’s poverty, her father’s absence, and her community’s lack of resources.

The first time I asked her to read for me, Evelyn hid under a desk crying. I took it personally. I assumed she must not respect me, but really she dreaded another defeating session with the printed word. Evelyn did not have any support outside of school, and this outraged me. How could I undo her years of pain and neglect?

I was disheartened that I could not help someone who needed it the most.  I was just born into great fortune – the victor, rather than the victim, of my family’s circumstances. These circumstances allowed my parents to nurture me by communicating with my teachers and helping me learn. They made my education one of their priorities. I grew up “sheltered” and “comfortable,” though at the time I called it “bored.”

When Evelyn said she had written “jungle,” I asked her to think about it again. It is a difficult word to spell. I don’t even know why the first letter is a j instead of another g. I was hungry and shivering in the fluorescent lighting of the library, fidgeting in a too-small chair, and getting impatient with my inability to reach Evelyn. I wondered what would have happened if I had never boarded the #6 to East Austin that day. I will probably never know. However, I can guess that Evelyn would not have spelled “jungle” correctly, because to my amazement, that’s exactly what she did.

“You spelled it right!” I marveled, and even the librarian knew this was not an occasion to be shushed. “I was right! I was right! I can spell ‘jungle!” Evelyn hollered until we were finally asked to lower our voices. This was my loveliest parting gift from that day’s game of Slate of Fortune and my entire year as an Americorps literacy tutor.

Evelyn gained a newfound confidence that day. Reading and spelling became easier and more enjoyable to her, because she finally knew she could do those tasks. So did I. Evelyn may have taught me more than I ever taught her. I discovered that teachers and tutors will never manufacture epiphany; they can only ease it along. We must keep the faith that if we try our best, we will eventually be successful. Just when I began to think that my efforts had been fruitless, I was pleasantly surprised. There was a whole “jungle” out there.

Author Unknown

Sister-in-law’s Opinion Saves Window of Time for Autistic Child

EIP (Early Intervention Program) was a Godsend for Jonathan.

Since I was still not absolutely convinced with the second opinion, I sought a third which had the same results.

That second opinion came about from another doctor’s hour long observation of Jonathan and was the first I heard of EIP.  Though still in denial, I was finally becoming one of the converted. I had decided to take my sister in-law’s advice by bringing Jonathan to a doctor mentioned on a radio talk show.

Two months later Jonathan was in an EIP.

It was the original opinion of the first specialist that Jonathan had autistic characteristics. They told me to bring him back in a year. Sister in-law Anna nearly went through the roof upon being informed of that advice.

Anna said: “You can’t wait a year, it could ruin his entire life.”

Early diagnosis of any issues could change Jonathan’s life forever. The best opportunity for intensive therapy is during the most important “window of time” for development…the first four years.

Anna’s continued pleading with me to have Jonathan checked out by a specialist and said that it wouldn’t hurt him, even if he didn’t have autism.

At the time, Jonathan was literally fixated on Duke Nukem and Archie, and Pokemon. He also went through loving, then hating Barney and so forth. Although this was one of many clues to autism, I decided to prove Anna wrong and brought Jonathan, kicking and screaming, across a busy street to the specialist I found.

Anna was right.

Thank God I was able to get out of my own way, for Jonathan’s sake.

Your pride and denial can get in the way.  What delays have you encountered by being stubborn?

Is “humble pie” on your menu?  What are you doing to “Get out of your own way” to help others?

Your story is important to me. Please leave your comments below.

Stay strong. I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here are some recommendations that will give you tips and strategies to help you to take action with your special needs loved one.

Get help by downloading a video presentation about ending delay and moving forward with developmental disabilities of a loved one.  Click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616556

 

Rain Man and a View of an Invisible Developmental Disability

The year was 1988 and it was called Rain Man.

The movie Rain Man.

Dustin Hoffman was cast as Tom Cruise’s long lost brother who had autism.

Although Rain Man portrayed many visually striking and engaging scenes (displaying such characteristics as rocking, screaming and head banging), autism ranges from very low functioning and severe to high functioning autism such as Aspergers syndrome.

Part of Rain Man’s appeal was Hoffman’s character as adult with autism. Children also show prevalent behavioral characteristics of autism such as shown in the movie.

Autism can be diagnosed in childhood, usually between the ages of 24 – 48 months of age, and is known as the “invisible disability”.  Even as autistic children age, they can look very normal and are beautiful children.  Their behavior is what gets attention as “odd” and peculiar.

Also, differences in the way the child interacts, socializes and communicates with people will become apparent over time.

From the various workshops and medical information I’ve been exposed to, I have learned that autism is a developmental disorder, which is thought to be genetically linked. Early treatment is critical in order to foster as normal development as possible.

In Rain Man, the contrast between Cruise’s character’s lifestyle before and after being thrust into the role of caregiver of an autistic brother is something to behold. As the movie shows, there is much responsibility Cruise’s character takes on.

A willing and deliberate decision must be made to care for anyone stricken with a disability. Autism, as a developmental disability, has its own characteristics that must be understood in order for one to provide the most effective help and means to cope.

What experience have you had with autism?

Can you relate to the struggles of developmental disabilities?

Share your story now by leaving a comment below.

Let me know your story.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Get tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand autism.

To download a video presentation about the nature of autism click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616531

 

Stories From the Heart: Mason and Zeus

When Mason was born I would have never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be a Mom walking down the mall with a beautiful autistic boy attached to his best friend and protector. A god sent gorgeous eighty-pound golden retriever service dog, meticulously trained for our son by National Service Dogs.

Mason developed just like any other child until he was eighteen months old. He was a great baby. Hit all his milestones and started cooing and talking early. Then he started to regress. He no longer would talk, look us in the eye, or respond when we yelled at him and he seemed deaf. He also developed a scary habit of bolting out of the house or yard and had (and still has) no sense of danger. He is also extremely fast.

We sought the help of the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Mason was diagnosed with Autism and we were unsure of what to do. How could we keep Mason safe and provide a out going life for our family? A sympathetic mom in the waiting room told me about a show she had seen where an organization called National Service Dogs was training dogs for children with Autism. So I went straight home and hit the net.

I was convinced that Mason had to have one of these dogs. Little did I know that we wouldn’t be gaining a dog, but that our son would be receiving his best and only friend. So we applied for a service dog and were accepted. We started fundraising and then just before Christmas they emailed me and said that an anonymous donor had paid for Mason’s dog. How do you express gratitude to someone who is gracious enough to give to a child a future and his only hope for safety? A child that they did not even know.

It was the best Christmas gift our family has ever or will ever receive. It gave Roy and I a renewed hope for mankind and let us know that there are still people in the world that care for others more than they do about themselves.

Then we were introduced to Zeus, a wonderful, gentle, huge golden retriever. My husband and I spent the week bonding and learning how to work our new angel. He was a great help, gentle and very forgiving of these two new masters that forgot the commands and were so unsure of them selves. By the end of the week we knew the commands inside out and backwards and had made a new family with the other new families and NSD’s staff and volunteers.

Tears flowed as we said our good byes and headed back home to introduce our son to his new companion. Our son shocked us with his reaction to Zeus. Mason whom at the time was completely non-verbal snuggled into Zeus as if he had been waiting all along for us to bring home this dog for him.

Mason had earned his ticket to freedom. He new if I took out Zeus Jacket he was going out and he loved it. In the first month we were given our life back. We went out to parks and shopping and even camping. Our daughter was thrilled with her new found freedom as well. Unless we could get a sitter for Mason, we had literally been stuck inside our house were Mason was safe.

Zeus seemed to blend into our family like he had always been apart of us. Then over the next few months amazing things started happening. Zeus was getting the idea that Mason was his boy.

The first event occurred when I came into the Kitchen one day I noticed Zeus lurking in the hallway to the laundry room like he had done something wrong. I called him to me and he wouldn’t come. I tried to pull him out of the hallway but he wouldn’t move. Then I heard a sound in the Laundry room.  There was Mason sitting stuck in the washing machine full of water.

We were getting out of the van to go to church when I heard this little voice say, “There’s my puppy dog”. I turned to my daughter and said “Hayley, Zeus is not your dog”. She said “Mom I didn’t say that. It was Mason”.  I couldn’t believe it Mason was talking! He still has a hard time with speech but before Zeus, he had no speech at all.

One day Mason, Zeus, and I were walking in the mall. A gentleman was looking at Mason and Zeus, laughing really hard. I looked over to see Mason on all fours walking next to and just like his best buddy Zeus.

Another time, while shopping, I stopped to look at something. I guess I took to long because when I went to gather up Mason and Zeus their they were lying next to me on the floor of Wal-Mart, Mason with his head on Zeus, and both fast a sleep.

One time I was downstairs when Zeus ran down and barked at me, so I followed him, only to find Mason out in the garage. Or another time Zeus was barking around the house out in the back yard so I stopped weeding to find Mason gone. We opened the gate and Zeus rounded the corner of the street to show us were Mason was.

Going out to eat at large restaurants would have been too much for Mason before Zeus but now he loves to go out. If it gets too much he crawls down on the floor with Zeus and he feels better. He loves going to amusement parks and zoos now. All would have been too overwhelming before.

Zeus also goes to school with Mason. The teachers and Mason’s aide wonder what they did without Zeus, and claim that Mason is much calmer with Zeus there.

Zeus has given Mason and our family a whole new life. Don’t get me wrong it is not always easy to travel with an eighty pound golden and we have had a few issues regarding public awareness, but know that we would never go back. Zeus is our extra set of eye’s and hands. He has brought quality back to our lives.

For this I am eternally grateful to: Zeus’s donor Kevin, Cathy for raising Zeus, our anonymous donor for funding Zeus, and also to Chris, Heather, Wade, Sharon, Danielle, Allison and all the other people whom give of themselves with National Service Dogs.

In my opinion National Service Dogs is not an organization; it is a group of angels that are working on earth.

Thank you NSD. We love you!

By Roxanne Davis

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

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