Thursday, April 29, 2010

Say What? What about the quality of life for children with special needs? Part I

I believe that children with disabilities and/or special needs can have, and deserve to have, the same good quality of life as their siblings and peers. It may be a slightly different quality of life, but nevertheless a good one and one that provides them with all the rights and benefits of able-bodied individuals.

Attitude, motivation and involvement on the part of the entire family can make all the difference in the world to a child with special needs.  All children can participate and partake in family life to ensure their pleasure and happiness even if it means that the variety and severity of impairment(s) for one child may require different care. Children, regardless of ability or disability, should be encouraged to express their wants, needs, desires and goals. I believe humor should be encouraged, particularly in children with special needs, so that they too can experience laughter while sharing in loving relationships at home.

The quality of life provided to a child with special needs may largely depend on the quality of life experienced by the family as a whole. Some parents will often implement their own social restrictions because of, or to care for, their child with special needs. Perhaps finances, living arrangements and outside (or extended family) support may play a role.

Providing the best quality of life possible for our special kids should be easily achieved.  A loving and happy quality for a child with special needs is undoubtedly dependent upon many factors not the least of which is love.

What do you do to create the best possible quality of life for your child?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Say What? What about dogs as Service Dogs and pets?

I’m at my desk thinking about my blog topic for today; and, as I look down at my beloved Golden Retriever, Griffie, curled up under my desk, I’ve identified my topic. He was formally trained as a guide dog by Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, and even graduated from their program. Then he was assigned to a sight-impaired individual, to begin his career when he suddenly developed chronic bilateral eye infections and was immediately retired before he even got started. It was undoubtedly a great loss to the individual who spent months training him as a guide dog.

But, it was our good fortune to be in the right place at the right time and have the opportunity to adopt this loving boy from Guide Dogs. Griffie, now ten, is extremely smart, and has been a treasured member of our family for the past eight years. We have reaped all the benefits of his professional training especially since he does not bark, and only relieves himself on demand. What really amazes us most, though, is how he seems to sense his “responsibility” when our granddaughter Aimee is visiting.

He immediately positions himself at the left side of her chair and stays close by during her entire visit. I should say, though, that part of this is that she might drop a crumb of food which he will happily gobble up in an instant. He sleeps by her bed (sometimes on her bed) and walks at the side of her chair everywhere in the house, even if it means tripping over him to make a tight turn or navigate a narrow hallway.

I’m especially touched when we are out walking in public where he remains at attention by her side, proudly doing the job he was trained to do long ago, even though it is not expected of him.

Dogs, in particular, whether trained as a service dogs or not, can provide assistance in many ways---not the least of which is unconditional love and companionship especially to those with disabilities and special needs.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Disability Rights Section, describes service animals as follows: “Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities—such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.”

I’ll be writing more about Service Dogs in future blogs. Right now I would love to hear from you what your pet means to you.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Say What? What you need to know about Autism Awareness Day, April 2

Has your life been touched by a child with Autism? 

On November 1, 2007 the United Nations called for one day each year to be designated as World AUTISM AWARENESS DAY to increase people’s awareness about individuals, particularly children, with Autism. This year it is Friday, APRIL 2, 2010.
The month of April is National Autism Awareness Month. In the United States, Autism affects 1 in 110 children. According to the Easter Seals Disability Services, the number of children with autism in California has increased from 13, 979 in 2000 to 46,069 in 2008. These numbers are astounding and it is important that we all understand and extend our support to the 13 million families of children with Autism.
A mysterious developmental disorder, Autism typically appears by the age of three, and presents itself in varying degrees from mild to severe. There is no cure for Autism, but early diagnosis and intervention can make a difference in communicating, learning and interacting with others.

The first signs of Autism appear in early childhood and often include:
Difficulty interacting with other children and adults.
Lack or delay of verbal and non-verbal communications.
Repetitive behavior and/or language.
Limited scope of activities and interests.
Aversion to being held or hugged.
Lack of or limited eye contact.

Show your support of families dealing with Autism by raising your own awareness about their needs.  To learn more you can tune in for “Unlocking Autism” premiering Monday, April 6 at 8pm on Discovery Health Channel as well as watching episodes of “Glee” which will be spotlighting disabilities in the coming season. Or you can visit one of the many websites about Autism such as the Autism Society at to learn more.