Service dog training: It’s harder than I thought it would be.

Sorry I haven’t written in a while. Here goes nothing….

Service dog training, it seems easy right? You train the dog, take them out into public, and they slowly grow into a good service dog. WRONG. It’s really hard, harder than I ever imagined. There will always be problems with public access such as people not knowing the laws under the ADA, things such as “It will be too long of a car ride” or “She’ll be a distraction to everyone”. Also you can have big fails too. In my last class Nikki got up during art. So now I can’t bring her back, at least not for a while.

There is also behaviour issues such as barking, chewing, whining, and other things that I did not expect. In public Nikki is usually very well behaved. In her first trip to Walmart she had NO accidents and no barking or whining! But at home it’s a different story. I’m trying a Kong toy and some other things to help mentally stimulate her more so that she will hopefully do this behaviours less.

There are many tasks to train also, and you cannot just “skip” a week of doing them. They need to be practiced every day at the most, and every other day at the least. And sometimes your service dog “forgets” a task and you have to re-teach it to him or her. Nikki forgot her “touch” when I fake startle during training, and I had to re-teach it to her. You may have to repeat a task 10-15 times just to get it right. You have to be consistent and persistent, but in a nice way. I clicker train Nikki, because that is how she was trained to do some things through the center before I got her.

Some day I hope that Nikki becomes a well-behaved Service dog. Both at home and in public. And I hope that I won’t fail again, but I’m pretty sure we will have fails along the way. I just have to press through the good and the bad, the beautiful and ugly, the successes and failures. One day we will be a Pawsome team. For now I gotta keep my head up, even if there are tears and bad days.

Note: My Instagram account is private now. This is for personal reasons. I’m sorry if this offends anyone. 




My struggle with unspecified anxiety disorder.

A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with unspecified anxiety disorder. The reason that I was diagnosed with this disorder is because my anxiety is very complicated. I have anxiety in social situations, Obsessive- compulsive like behaviors (worry, constant checking, routines, etc.), and I have panic attacks. I did not fit into the criteria for any anxiety disorder, so I was diagnosed with “unspecified” anxiety disorder.

My new SDiT (Service dog in training), Nikki can help me with my panic attacks. She can either do DPT with a treat offered or snuggle with me (which isn’t a task, but DPT is). This helps me when I am having a hard time with my anxiety or panic attacks. She is working on other tasks such as grounding, block, and cover. We haven’t gotten to anxiety alert and guide to exit yet.

Today has been sort of a hard day. Yesterday I had an emotional breakdown, and I was really struggling with my social anxiety

  • At doctor’s office:

Oh my gosh, my heart is pounding. I wish it would stop. Every muscle is tightening in my body, why am I feeling this way? This isn’t scary! I will be ok! Ugh, come on body! Calm down! Ugh, I hate this feeling.

  •  Walked into bathroom when they were waiting for the floor to dry on accident:

Oh my gosh! Why did I do that! I bet a lot of people saw that! What are they going to think of me? I bet they are going to think that I am so stupid. I wish I wasn’t so stupid!

  •  After reading upsetting text about a mistake a made:

(Crying on bed and snuggling with Nikki) Ugh, why did I do that! Social communication is so complicated, I’m always getting things wrong. I don’t want to communicate anymore, it’s too complicated. Why should I communicate when I’m just going to make mistakes and fail? What if the person is mad at me? What if the person mentions my mistake in front of others? Maybe I should stay home, so that I don’t cry in front of everyone or make a mistake.

 That is a peek inside my brain. I also have had my Zoloft increased to 50 mg, because the 25 mg was not working for my social anxiety. My doctor recommended increasing it to see if it will help in addition to Nikki. I haven’t felt a lot of side effects, except for feeling a bit shaky. I’m tired too, but they may have been because I had an emotional breakdown earlier today.

Sometimes I wish it wasn’t like this. I don’t know if it will ever get better or not. This is the  struggle I have with unspecified anxiety disorder.


Please don’t “Tease” me or joke about me being Autistic.

Sometimes I get very frustrated because people tease me about being Autistic. I’ve had good friends that I think unintentionally teased me and hurt my feelings, because they don’t know what it is like to be autistic. I’ve heard my fair share of comments that make me feel upset. The best thing to do is to try to remember, we can’t control our reactions to certain things. A sudden loud sound can make me jump, it is an automatic reaction of my nervous system. It hurts when people laugh and tease me or joke about me being Autistic.

It’s ok when I joke about it, but I don’t like it when people laugh when I am startled. It makes me feel different and ashamed. It’s not my fault, if I had a choice I would make my nervous system to where it wouldn’t jump at loud, sudden sounds or movement, but I can’t change that. So what can people do that will help me? Well people could learn to not laugh at me, and ask me if I am ok. That would be helpful.

Yes, I know, it’s silly in neurotypical eyes to watch an Autistic person jump at a loud noise, but imagine if you were the person? How would you feel? This is what frustrates me about neurotypcial people, they can’t understand because they can’t experience the overload.

I hope that someday people will not tease or joke about me being Autistic. It may be hard to deal with people who don’t understand Autism, but I will keep going forward.

The stigma surrounding Autism and mental illness.

“Just ignore it, don’t complain, grow up, everybody has that.” things that I have heard to many times. As an Autistic individual with anxiety, I find the stigma around Autism and mental illness to be very frustrating. I sometimes wish I could magically put the other person in my shoes, so that they could at least experience some of my difficulties such as auditory sensitivity, panic attacks, phobias, social difficulties, loneliness, etc.

But, they are not me. They cannot understand what I am thinking and feeling, because they are not me. I am a unique individual, but also a challenged one. I believe that I can improve on things with time, if I work at it, such as social difficulties, but some things are probably going to be challenging for my whole life, such as my sensory issues.

Autism never goes away when you become older, it stays with you. It’s not something that just is in children and slowly fades away as you grow. I hate it when people talk about Autistic people like they are “children”, because I’m sure a lot of Autistic individuals don’t appreciate that, I would not appreciate someone talking about me like I am a “child”.

The stigma also stereotypes Autism, so if you look like a neurotypical person, a neurotypical might not believe you when you say “I am Autistic”. They might say “But, I know a boy named Robby, and he bangs his head, bites himself, and rocks back and forth, you don’t do that”. Well, we are ALL DIFFERENT, each Autistic person has different gifts and challenges. We are not all the same, stereotyping also prevents us from getting treatment that we need to help us improve things such as anxiety, social difficulties, and sensory issues.

Anxiety is a really hard thing to explain. I’ve heard about the stigma “It’s all in your head”, “you are just making it up in your head”, “If you would just try harder”, etc. I would, but some of my anxiety is super difficult to deal with. Imagine having panic attacks once or twice a week,  worrying about if the schedule will work out, analyzing your past social interaction to death, obsessively unplugging electric devices to make sure they don’t cause a fire, and having horrible images sometimes pop up into your head out of nowhere, this is what I deal with daily.

So, what would help? First, acknowledging my anxiety, accepting it, and trying to help me if you can. Maybe it would help me if you could text me instead of calling, or ask if you can give me a hug during a panic attack. Saying “just get over it” or “it’s all in your head”, or “why are you doing this??” will only make me feel worse and worse.

Someday I hope that the stigma around anxiety and Autism will change. I wish people would say “Oh, I’m sorry that you have to deal with this, is there any way I can help you?” instead of “Everybody has sensory issues”. I would feel better if somebody did not scold me for not talking on the phone, but rather said “I understand your anxiety about this, let’s try to break it into small steps, and maybe you can call Miss Kellie as a first step.”

Until then, I will just snuggle with my Service dog in training, and listen to some music to get the yucky bad feelings out, or draw too. It may be hard to deal with the stigma surrounding Autism and anxiety, but I will keep fighting it.