JJ and Bandit Go to Therapy – Service Dog Files

19 03 2021

I don’t know if you guys ever have this problem…but sometimes I try something and wonder if it worked.

This is especially true when dealing with my boys who have ASD. Autism can be tricky. And while JJ is amazing, he struggles with communication. With feelings – identifying them in him and others. So we can try calming techniques, but I never really know how much they’re working and how helpful they are. Or if they’re even worth pursuing. I can ask him, but it’s just not information he’s able to understand and explain. Don’t get me wrong, we can do simple happy/sad/excited kinds of things, but asking, “Does this help you calm down?” “Is this soothing?” “Does this help you relax?” All of these are much more abstract concepts that he’s still working on.

So then we have the dog. And we LOVE Bandit. We’ve seen some really good things with Bandit that lead us to believe that having him around is helping. But how do we know for sure? And what specific way can Bandit help the most?

Enter our new therapist (sometimes it feels like we have an army of them lol and we appreciate them ALL). JJ started seeing a new therapist recently to see if we could address issues like anxiety and attachment disorder. He had such an amazing year last year and made a good deal of progress and I wanted to keep the momentum going this year. Actually, that’s not quite true, we were on the waiting list for almost a year, so I would have absolutely started last year if we could lol.

So here’s the cool part. Our therapist has a heart monitor. It gently clips to the ear then plugs into the computer on the other end. It monitors the heart rate variability. How often is his heart rate is changing and how quickly. It provides a real time visual for JJ to see and our therapist is excited about working Bandit into the tools to help keep JJ’s heart beat regulated (or get it regulated if it’s not).

We KNEW we were on the right track when we saw this.

This is the read out of his last session. See the green zone? That’s where we need to be. That’s a well regulated space. See the spikes into the green zone? Those are the times he simply TOUCHED Bandit.

So while we *thought* Bandit was helping because of the outcomes in situations…we saw it, in real time, and very clearly during the session. We now have visible proof of just how much Bandit helps JJ. We can SEE how Bandit calms his boy. See that area in the blue right before the biggest spike? That’s me…and hopefully we can find ways for me to help JJ get into the green more. But this was really GREAT information to have. Because now I know, to help my son calm and regulate, it’s not, “Come give me a hug,” and holding him. This would work on his brother, but we can see clearly here, that me directing him to go “help Bandit, he looks like he needs a snuggle,” will be MUCH more beneficial for him, and really, that’s what this is about. Would I like to be the one who brings this much comfort to my son when he’s struggling and overwhelmed? Absolutely. And guess what…I am, by working with Paws 4 Autism and finding a way to provide a service dog for my son. By bringing in Bandit I’m able to help my son. And I hope this is a bridge that will go both ways, that eventually, through Bandit, I will be able to help JJ regulate and spend more consistent time in the green zone.

As I mentioned before, communication about abstract, non-visual things, is challenging. The information on this screen is not context we would have been able to get from him.

So why is this important to know? How does this translate in a real life setting?

Earlier I mentioned anxiety. Every change causes anxiety for JJ. Every question. Every request. Every time I tell him we have to go somewhere. If it’s somewhere we’ve been, I can tell him that and it helps, but not always. Even good changes cause anxiety. But just touching Bandit helps regulate JJ’s heart rate, which is the opposite of a racing, anxious heart.

A few hours after this appointment, we had an urgent care visit. This can be something that’s very anxiety inducing. JJ knows the building, but doesn’t know what to expect. I can try and explain, but that usually creates more questions that I’m unable to answer. We had Bandit with us and JJ did a good job. Bandit distracted JJ, but also comforted him. The comfort and calming helped him answer the doctor’s questions. And the staff at urgent care was amazing and open to having Bandit there. It eased what could have otherwise been a rough night for all of us.

Here’s a pic of Bandit helping my boy ❤️

The doctor was more than happy for Bandit to jump up and sit with JJ on the bed. Bandit was able to “settle” and provide a deep gentle pressure that is often calming for JJ. And JJ was able to pet Bandit, which we can see from the graph above, instantly provides positive feedback for him.

And all of this is just a really good reminder for me, that I’m on the right track. We have a significant way to go to finish our fundraising and my ideas are proving harder than I expected to pull off, partly because I’m a perfectionist lol. But this image reminds me that this is all worth it.

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe and healthy


Alta and JJ

As always, if you’d like to donate to help us reach our fundraising goal for Bandit, you can donate directly to his fundraising here: Help JJ



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