Service Dogs

There’s been a lot in the news here lately about service dogs for those with autism. Even today, there was news about an autistic boy that can’t stand to be touched but immediately cuddled up with his new service dog. We became aware of service dogs about two years ago and after some research decided two things; 1, getting a service dog that has been specifically trained to work with autistic individuals was completely out of our budget and 2, we would rather try to adopt another rescue dog that was more known to be good with children and could be trained for our needs for J. So with all that said, I would like to introduce you to our new addition, Scooter!!!

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Scooter’s a 3 year old black lab boxer mix. So cute! He came all the way from Texas but we discovered him at a local humane society rescue. He considers himself a lap dog, loves having his ears scratched, monitors the squirrels outside but doesn’t bark which is a shocker, knows to go to the restroom outside, will play catch with rolled up paper, doesn’t know if he enjoys the cool hard floors on his tummy vs the comfy couches for his back & is a joy to have around our home.

When we decided to start looking we took J to the state humane society a few different times but the dogs that we were looking for weren’t available. Then we finally remembered about our local county rescue and that is were we found Scooter. He was one of two dogs that J really showed an interest in. img_1922We luckily were able to do a meet & greet in a few short days with Scooter both for J to be able to see and touch him and to introduce him with our much smaller dog Oliver. Everything went really well and the next day we picked up Scooter for a day at home with us. The ladies at the rescue contacted us to see how the day was going and because it was going so well, we were able to adopt him that very day. So happy that everything worked out so well.

We’ve now had Scooter with us for a week and it’s been a great addition. J has slowly grained more of an interest as the week has gone on. At first, he would only pet him real quick if we asked him to but now he’s very interested in Scooter’s tail since it is constantly moving back & forth. And when J is sitting on the floor he doesn’t img_1923become as alarmed as earlier this week when he notices the big dog next to him, even reaching out to do a quick pet without being asked. Right now our focus is to get everyone comfortable with each other completely and to house proof our home for a larger dog. Definitely wasn’t prepared for the amount of shedding (we’ll be sweeping the floors and vacuuming the couches more often) or the superficial scratches to our hard floors (so we will also will be putting a floor protectant down to help with that). In time, we want to get Scooter used to laying and sleeping in the new bed we got him so we don’t have to kennel him at night and ultimately get some training for him to assist and monitor J, emotionally & physically. We are hoping they become the best of friends!

 

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The adventure continues!

So we are finally working it all out. It has been a long 2 weeks but boy it felt longer. Our initial ABA bill was HUGE and I mean HUGE! It didn’t even include the actually therapy but just the assessment & evaluation. (See previous post for more information on that.) During these two weeks of having no provided services, my amazing husband continued therapy with J after school for 4 days during the week. Going off of what we had already learned from ABA as well as purchasing a few books on the subject. He even created his own data sheet to track J’s progress and difficulties. I am happy to say though, that we have picked services back up if only for half the time of what were previously doing until insurance is finalized. Because having therapy, however minimal, is better than nothing at all. Oh and because this is what we can afford.

img_1845I can’t describe the relief I felt when getting this all worked out with our ABA provider. Knowing that we have support from our ABA team members, opportunity for the provider to teach us how to basically become an ABA therapist, and being able to rely on them for programming (which is thinking about the next steps ahead of the next steps), is an amazing feeling. Because although I realize how great my husband is, he can’t do the strenuous therapy needed 4 days a week after school for 2+ hours each day. The man would go nuts, I for sure would! He would burn out eventually, I don’t care how much he tells me he wouldn’t. He needs to enjoy J and not have to be just the therapist. I appreciate and love how he says it wouldn’t be an issue because it would be helping J, helping us and our family, but I would rather pay for reduced services than save money to keep my husband sane. Plus having just 2 days of services would be more like the speech therapy we had before and we excelled at so well. It might take longer to see results but that is just a challenge being accepted.

J is an amazing little, not so little, boy. He is a wonder. He’s learning to read by pointing to words as we read each sentence sometimes over and over and over and over and over…you get the point. He knows his body parts, shapes and name with letters. He weakness is colors, so we are refocusing on that. He has become more aware of his emotions like being scared, as he’ll cover his eyes or shy away from parts in movies that he is unsure about. He continues to use his words, signs and gestures. I literally dream for the day he’ll speak to us. Tell me his wants and hugs, say mom or dad. Fingers crossed that having ABA will help us get there eventually. My favorite part with J right now is his interaction with peers at school that both his teachers and aides are seeing. I love reading in his journal that he played ball, sat with his peers or gave them high-fives. As I’ve said before he is a wonder. All we do is in some small way or more than often all for J. We will continue to do everything, no matter how small, for him to provide the best possible future we can. The adventure continues!

 

Insurance & Autism

The past 3 years have had their ups, but mostly downs with having insurance provide coverage for needed therapy services. We were lucky that when we started therapy, it was just for physical & occupational and we only had to cover the copay. But there was a limitation of how many appointments we could have in a year, which wasn’t enough. We had to compromise with the therapists, as we couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket expense after our allotment was up. We then decided to give speech therapy a try. Insurance allowed for only half of the appointments compared to physical/occupational, so since J was in preschool we thought to have this therapy in the summer since he wasn’t receiving the school’s services. BIG MISTAKE! After 4 sessions, only 4, we received our first bill and found out insurance didn’t provide speech therapy based on development delay (which is what J had a diagnosis for at the time instead of autism). Why This wasn’t covered but physical & occupational was a mystery to us. We ended up paying for those 4 sessions all out of pocket and that was not cheap. (I won’t even go into all the hoopla we had to go around with insurance with on providing some sort of coverage of J’s ankle braces, which was usually none. Thank goodness for payment plans.) Thankfully, once school started back up and we were able to talk to J’s school speech pathologist, she referred us to MMI and we received a grant which allowed us to see a speech therapist twice a week for 2 years.

This brings us to our new, but hopefully relived, headache. We started ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) with an assessment & (another) evaluation in June and then started sessions in August. Four weeks in, we received our bill for just the assessment & evaluation. I literally saw it and started crying. We are talking big bucks here. We called the ABA provider and found out services were to be covered by our deductible first and then the 80/20 offset from insurance. And even after the deductible, the 80/20 offset services were going to cost more than, once again, we are able to afford. We immediately postponed services till we were able to figure it all out. Why would these services (which are categorized for autism treatment) be subject to a different type of billable coverage than the physical, occupational, speech and behavioral services we have already received?. After 2 long, stressful, at times teary, heartbreaking weeks, we believe we have received confirmation that these sessions should be billed at a copay level. In the meantime, our ABA provider happily agreed to let up continue services from 4 times a week to 2 times because having something is better than nothing. More importantly, I want these services for J. I know in my gut that they will help him become a better him and make our family a better us.

I write this because something has got to change with how insurance is ran in this country and especially for those with disabilities or those trying to provide for those with disabilities (both children and adults). It shouldn’t have to cost these individuals the endless mountains of paperwork, phones calls or trips to their HR department to get services for their loved ones and it most certainly shouldn’t have to cost them their livelihood either. Lance & I watch our money closely and after 5 years we are finally beginning to save again. We don’t go to the movies, we rent; we don’t buy new books, we go to the library; we don’t buy new clothes, we watch for sales or go to the goodwill, we don’t go out to eat, we plan our meals for the week (except for the occasional pizza order or QT stop here and there, let’s be reasonable). We do buy beer & wine (because how else are we suppose to stay sane). But my point is, if we pay insurance premiums then why is it such a hassle to get the coverage we need for the special people in our lives. The answer, it shouldn’t have to be.

After 4 years of paying endless copays, costs for an MRI, 3 different sets of ankle bracelets, speech therapy that wasn’t covered and now ABA therapy issues too, I understand why Canada looks so appealing.