Thursday, February 9, 2012

North Star Foundation Puppy for Leila

Dear Family and Friends,

We write to ask for your support in a very important mission – to sponsor the placement of a service dog in the Patrick Family. Our daughter, Leila (4 years old), has autism and was just recently cleared for the placement of one of the service dogs bred and trained by the North Star Foundation. Her assigned puppy will be born later this spring; however, in order for the placement to occur, it is crucial that we raise the funds necessary ($5,000) in the coming weeks. The high cost of placement is due to the nature of the intensive and specific training each North Star dog receives, along with the considerable follow up services they provide.

North Star Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children with special needs through the use of well-bred and trained assistance dogs.  They have been incorporated for ten years and have made over 100 North Star placements in homes of children who face social, emotional and educational challenges around the country. Over half of the children they serve are on the autism spectrum. Their nonprofit work with children on the autism spectrum was profiled in Autism Spectrum Quarterly’s spring edition (  You can also learn more about North Star by visiting their website at and/or viewing a video at

Please consider making a donation to support the placement of Leila’s service dog. Your donation to the North Star Foundation can be applied directly to her placement and must be received by May 31st . All donations to North Star are tax deductible (EIN # 06-1589586). Your check or money order should be made out to North Star Foundation and you should put Leila’s name in the memo line on the check so that they will apply your kind donation to support Leila’s placement. You can also make a PayPal donation via the donation link on their website at; there will be a screen to indicate your donation is meant to support Leila, but if you can’t find it simply send a separate email to Patty Dobbs Gross at to inform her of your donation. Please also let us know of your donation so that we can properly thank you for your support.

We are extremely excited about the immeasurable benefits Leila will receive with the placement of a North Star assistance dog in our family and we really appreciate your support to make this happen. We’ll certainly keep you informed of Leila and her puppy’s progress in the coming months! Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions: Chris and Jessica (925) 292-1352. Hope you and yours are doing well and hope to hear from you soon J

Thank you in advance for your support,
Chris, Jessica, Lucy, and Leila                     

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lots of updates...

It’s been awhile since we posted a blog and quite a lot has happened in that time. We are now half way through the school year.  Leila is doing really well and is in ABA therapy Monday through Thursday from 2:30-4:30. I chose not to have therapy on Fridays so that we could have a break. It’s a really long day for Leila so it’s nice to come home on Fridays and not worry about being ready for a therapist to come over. Leila is using her speech more and more (when necessary) and her eye contact has greatly improved. She even uses my name “mommy” from time to time without being prompted. She regularly uses Chris’s name to get him to play with her and occasionally will even say Lucy’s name to get her to play as well.

I called an IEP last month to get Leila more speech at school. So she now has an additional 20 minutes of small group speech therapy to help with her articulation of large words. She was tending to start a word correctly and then not being sure of how to say it made up her own gibberish to finish it. She was also mixing up sounds. I am able to go into her classroom every Friday and observe her in two of her sessions as well as circle time and her first recess. I have seen some things I don’t like and Leila’s teacher is always receptive to my ideas and suggestions. Leila really loves school and runs from the car to school almost everyday. I’ve formed a friendly relationship with her teacher Nikki and really appreciate all she does. Especially since the other LASS class lost their teacher over Christmas and has had subs ever since. I was told they finally hired a teacher and that she has 11 years of experience with special needs but no experience with discreet trail – which is ABA. Why would they put someone with no ABA experience in charge of a Language and Social Skills class?? I don’t know, but I’m glad it’s not Leila’s teacher. If it was I’d be calling an IEP and demanding she be moved to Nikki’s class.

Leila’s ABA had a rough, rough start (as expected) but she has settled into it and likes her 3 therapists for the most part. She is closing a lot of programs and they have established instructional control so we are getting ready to venture out into the public for programs on learning to walk with me in a store, stop when being told, etc. next Tuesday. We are also trying to set up supervised play dates (with therapists) with another boy from the other LASS class who’s Mom I’ve become with friends with on a Saturday hopefully. So that’s really exciting.

I also did some asking around and found out that the girl’s dentist has put children under anesthesia for teeth cleaning and x-rays. Leila had her teeth cleaned almost 6 months ago and it was just awful. She was so scared that she was screaming and choking. They tried their best to clean her teeth but just did not do a good job because of how upset she was. After being told twice by one dentist at the practice to just bring Leila in and have her watch other children get their teeth cleaned (Are you kidding me?!?) I approached the main dentist and told him “I know you’ve put children under so you cannot say no to me when I ask you to do this for me.” He said that normally because Leila is young he would say no but since we have a familial history of really bad cavities (Lucy had 6 at 4 years old and I’ve had cavities all my life) he would do it for me. Unfortunately, we have Kaiser so we cannot use the surgery center located next to the dentist office so we are paying out of pocket for the anesthesia, which is quite expensive. We feel it’s totally worth it though not to put Leila through any more pain and trauma from another teeth cleaning.

Last thing for Leila is that we were recently cleared to start fundraising to get Leila and our family a trained dog. I thought we could just get an older dog but that is just not possible with Leila. She often makes dogs nervous and because she is often unpredictable we need to have a very calm dog that has grown up in our household. I found North Star Foundation on the internet almost a year ago but it just wasn’t the right time for us to commit to a dog. We’re now ready for a dog, especially the girls, and feel the dog will really help Leila to be calm and ease her stimming. I chose North Star because of their philosophy of involving the entire family in the training and transition of bringing the puppy into our house. They also are on the cheaper side and allow children as young as 3 to have a dog. Most foundations require the child to be 5 years of age. So when I say cheaper I don’t mean like $200.00… I mean like $5,000.00. Yep, $5,000.00. That’s a lot of money. However, because of the extensive training and the follow up services (and even flying the puppy from Connecticut to California) our puppy will be worth a lot of money. So we are starting to fundraise and will be sending out a letter to friends and family and posting it on Facebook in the hopes of getting some financial help!

So our most exciting news for this post is that I’m 14 weeks pregnant. This is something that Chris and I have been thinking about since Leila was probably 1 year old. However, Leila was a wild and crazy 1 year old – I mean she started walking at 9 months old (well one week before she turned 10 months). Then when we started noticing problems at 2 years old so we postponed, then she was diagnosed at 2 1/2 so we postponed. Then over the last year and half we kept pushing the idea back waiting to see more and more improvement in Leila. Chris kinda got sick of me talking about it all the time so we made a deal to not talk about it till my 30th birthday. So on my 30th birthday I brought up the subject again and we decided that we were ready. There were a few things I wanted to do before getting pregnant and one of those was running in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in October. So I beat my previous flat course half marathon time by 3 minutes (Nike is notoriously hilly) and that was a pretty good feeling. We found out we were pregnant a couple days before Thanksgiving. We are very excited! We’ve put a lot of thought into this decision and have thought out all the possibilities and what this implies for our family. We are well aware that we will now be outnumbered and that it will be difficult at first but we are up for the challenge. Basically, I could give you a thousand reasons why we should not be pregnant but all I can say is that I wanted one more baby, that I didn’t feel done, and that my heart has room for one more beautiful child. Of course I am scared but I truly believe everything will be okay.

We enrolled in Kaiser and UC Davis’s EARLI Study. This study will follow me through my pregnancy with interviews, blood work, urine tests, a dust test of our house and lots of questionnaires. Like about what I’m eating, my physical activity, my mental health, etc.  They’ll also take Chris and Leila’s blood. Then when the baby is born they will take samples of the cord blood, meconium, and even my breast milk. They will also provide assessments for the baby at 6, 12, 24 and 36 months of age to make sure he/she is hitting all milestones and helps us to notice red flags for autism. Lucy is incredibly excited and hopes to have a brother since “she already has a sister”. Obviously Leila does not understand what is going on but I’m hoping as I get bigger she gets more curious.

That is all for now… I’ll do my best to keep the blog more updated but now that I’m done for the day at 9:30 a lot doesn’t get done J.