Casey Jean is 9 years old and has an epileptic encephalopathy with CSWS (continuous spike wave syndrome). The CSWS causes progressive disturbances in cerebral function as her brain is never truly resting (like a constant electrical storm in her brain) which results in associated issues of intellectual impairment, autism, epilepsy, attention deficit disorder, sensory processing disorder, extreme hyperactivity and lack of impulse control, motor control issues and behavioural disturbances.
In other words, she is a handful! She is prone to unpredictable prolonged seizures requiring rescue medication that occur during the night. We are in the process of training an assistance dog, Max to alert us to Casey’s seizures which will allow her to sleep on her own, in her own bed, creating independence as she grows older.
Casey’s condition requires complex, aggressive treatment with heavy medications, most with significant side effects, as well as ongoing therapies to keep Casey on an upward learning curve rather than her skills spiralling into regression.
Casey does well with her weekly therapies but because she finds it very difficult, resistive behaviours hinder her progress.With Max by her side during these sessions he helps her to keep her focus and increase her interest in activities – the possibilities really are endless in tasks for Max during therapy lessons ie he chooses which colour pen to use, use dog treats in many different ways to aid with fine motor skills.
A well trained assistance dog can notice and respond to changes in a person’s sensory level and intervene and help eliminate a potential meltdown. The dog can provide proprioceptive feedback for Casey (proprioception is how our bodies move and feel in space) as her proprioception is out of balance – deep pressure from Max and moving her hands through his thick coat can help get Casey’s proprioception back in sync therefore her thought process will then be more in sync.
It can be a challenge for Casey to access the community safely. She is at constant risk of wandering and her communication issues prevent her from responding when called.She also has no sense of danger and will run straight into the street. Max is undergoing intensive training which will qualify him with public access so he may accompany Casey many places which will help her gain social acceptance and involvement as well help keep her calm and focused in public situations.Max will be anchored to Casey and help keep her safe and prevent her from running off.Max will also be trained to search and find Casey should she get lost in certain situations.
The dog will also play a role in helping to improve Casey’s speech and sentence structure and commands as well as her self-care awareness. Her challenging behaviours will be better managed when she has her dog constantly by her side, protecting and encouraging her. Ultimately Max is in training to assist and respond to Casey’s individual and unique needs which is a very exciting concept indeed!
We have created this page to help ease the financial pressure of the expensive specialised training, vet bills and for other ongoing care for the dog. The opportunity to have an assistance dog like Max join our family has already made such a huge difference to our entire family and we would like to express our gratitude for your interest and support in helping to make this opportunity a reality. Thank you.
To Donate to Casey Mackay, please use the form below. Thank you for your generosity.
Marayke Jonkers, 36, is a retired Paralympic medal winning swimmer, paratriathlete and founder of Sporting Dreams, a grants program which helps athletes with disabilities. Unfortunately after 20 years as an elite athlete Marayke has been diagnosed with an overuse injury to her arms and now n...