Caring for a Child with Autism
Pictured above: Ryan and Elaine
Autism is a condition that affects one in every 100 people in the UK, and there are varying symptoms across the autism spectrum. Autism can cause speech and language problems, learning difficulties, or in some cases above average intelligence. The condition can have a significant impact on the sufferer and the lives of affected families.
Elaine Pearce, 36, cares for her five-year-old son, Ryan, who has autism, epilepsy and hypermobility of the joints. Ryan’s complex health conditions mean that he needs constant care and attention.
4 Paws for Ability: Training Assistance Dogs for Children with Health Conditions
It’s American National Pet Month all of June which aims to promote responsible pet ownership and increase awareness of the important role service animals can play in society.
Many animals are being trained to help their human owners who have disabilities or health conditions. Medical assistance or service dogs are a great example of this. They can be trained to aid a wide variety of issues and the number of organisations devoted to training and donating them is on the rise globally.
4 Paws for Ability is a non-profit organisation who train and place assistance dogs with children who have a range of health conditions and disabilities. They train dogs for children with autism, diabetes, food allergies, mobility issues, FASD, hearing and guide dogs plus multipurpose dogs for those who suffer from multiple issues. They have recently introduced a Veteran Assistance dogs section to their business too.
When Karen, founder of 4 Paws for Ability, was turned down numerous times by assistance dog agencies for being ‘too disabled’, she vowed to start her own service that didn’t judge applicants on the severity of their disability or their age. She saw a gap in the market for assistance dogs for children that were granted public access, that were trained to help specific health conditions and that could be given to any child, regardless of age. Read more
A Lifelong Condition
Emma Buckett, 35, from Reading has multiple health conditions including Friedreich’s Ataxia, a degenerative neurological condition that causes damage to the nervous system and attacks the spinal cord, resulting in restricted movement.
“I’ve had mobility problems since I was 2 and started using a wheelchair more permanently at age 16. Having a wheelchair was easier and made me more able to move independently rather than struggling to walk. It was a relief to get one really.”
A common health issue related to this condition is diabetes, which Emma has in Type 1 form, plus she suffers from hypothyroidism and a penicillin allergy.
“I was diagnosed with all my conditions between the ages of nine and 25. My ataxia is a degenerative condition so I may develop other conditions throughout my life because of it.
Variety of Symptoms
Emma’s conditions have a range of symptoms and unfortunately her ataxia symptoms are likely to worsen over time.
“I am a wheelchair user due to my ataxia, with reduced strength and coordination, so things like typing and lifting are difficult and time consuming. It has affected my speech, gives me hearing problems and severe tiredness.
When Managing Multiple Health Conditions, “Take Control and Never Give Up”
For Peter Haswell, 59, from the Wirral in Merseyside, managing multiple health conditions requires organisation and perseverance.
He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1973, and later with asthma in 2005 after feeling his chest tighten up whilst out on a run. Whilst his diabetes took only 24 hours to be diagnosed, his asthma took 7 days.
Pictured above: Peter (far right) with his son Alexander, wife Ann and daughter Victoria
Being Diagnosed with Diabetes
Peter experienced symptoms of increased thirst and extreme tiredness before being diagnosed with the least common form of diabetes, type 1. He has daily insulin injections, but even with controlled treatment he’s had medical emergencies.
“On several occasions at work my blood sugars have got too low and I’ve needed help to recover.”