What One Atlas Handler Wants You to Know
October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month. For Atlas Certified handler Song Mei and her service dog Cody, raising awareness about the condition is incredibly important. Here is what this awesome Atlas handler wants you to know about dysautonomia:
“I have a syndrome called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS for short, which is a type of dysautonomia. Dysautonomia is the umbrella term for medical conditions that cause the autonomic nervous system of a person to malfunction in some way or another. The autonomic nervous system controls all the “automatic” functions in the body, the things that we don’t have to think about to make them do their job, like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, temperature control, and many other things. In my case when I stand or sit up, my heart rate will increase significantly, my blood pressure will sometimes drop, and as a result I’m usually lightheaded. This often results in my sense of proprioception (awareness of where my body is in space) being a bit off. And standing for very long is difficult. I also deal with chronic fatigue which has limited me quite a bit in what I’m able to do daily.”
“When I got my service dog, Cody, in 2016 the plan was for him to be a psychiatric service dog. Since I got my POTS diagnosis this year, Cody has been doing more mobility work for me. Cody now has a light mobility work harness that I usually will hold onto when walking around. This gives me a reference point which helps my proprioception.”
“Dysautonomia is not rare, but it is often misdiagnosed and/or missed for years because of lack of awareness of the condition. There are a lot of types of dysautonomia and at present there is no cure for any of them, but better awareness can help people get diagnoses and help with symptom control. Dysautonomia is often an invisible illness. On my good days I can go out like most people do, I don’t look especially different from a healthy individual. I have a service dog, so that cues people that there’s something “different” about me, but if I go out without Cody there isn’t always anything to visually set me apart from all the other people out and about. As a result it probably confuses people when they see me sitting on the floor if there isn’t a seat nearby. Or maybe it even bothers them when I, a seemingly not disabled person, stay seated on public transit and someone who should obviously get seating priority gets on but I don’t give up my seat.“
A great big thank you to Song Mei for sharing her story and spreading awareness about dysautonomia and invisible disabilities.
About Atlas Assistance Dogs
Atlas Assistance Dogs is a non-profit organization that fundamentally expands access to assistance dogs. We support people with disabilities to train and certify their own service dog using positive, ethical training methods. At Atlas, we believe anyone who would benefit from a qualified assistance dog should be able to have one.
We work with people with a wide range of disabilities who wish to train their own service dog and offer a comprehensive Academy for professional trainers wanting to become service dog trainers. For more information about Atlas’ Client Certification program or other training services, please visit www.atlasdog.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org