Monday, June 30, 2008
Dogs, Doughnuts and Dolphins
As some of you may know, my ambition is to put all these thoughts and opinions of mine in a book, and make everyone who is ignorant of autism and special needs; buy it.
But whenever I think about it too much, or indeed another person suggests it to me; I think "who would buy it?"
People want to read books about cures for autism; me included.
They want the hook of the Dog that brought their son back to them, or how giving up gluten and casein has made their child's autism almost invisible; or how swimming with our clever mammalian relatives; taught their child to speak.
Sorry folks, thanks for tuning in but I still don't know how this story will end.
I did once take part in a documentary about the very special riding school that my kids attend. The documentary makers were understandably looking for the animal angle; and repeatedly questioned me on how I thought the horses related to my son.
I am sorry, but I grew up around horses, and while I think they are pretty smart, they do a good job of rounding up sheep and jumping over fences, and entertaining pre-pubescent girls (and delaying an interest in boys)
I have yet to see one set up a decent task analysis or behavioural intervention plan.
I actually believe they have their own personalities, and like the other more willing participants in the documentary, they probably tune into our injured souls and help to nurture them a bit.
But I don't think they really understand my kid's needs.
So I am afraid that the interviewer got my usual straight speaking answer to that question.
(it helps if you imagine my flat aussie vowels)
"you mean like the dolphins and that? nahhh"
Because the real stars of my son's intervention at that riding stables are the people.
Good people watchin' out for us and making me feel like there was a little less gravity whenever I opened the gate.
My Bratty started at the stables shortly after Boo and as a result I was out there every week with one or the other, anxiously walking along beside them and often holding on to a leg or arm in my anxiety to ensure their success.
My weekly visits were amalgamated at one stage, and I had both Boo and Bratty getting lessons at the same time. Quite a torture for the over anxious Mammy as I dashed from one to the other.
The anxiety continued out of the saddle as I struggled to manage the two of them, around the stables and back to the car. And when I walk with Boo, it is like we are trying out for the zig-zag olympics.
But my struggle did not go unnoticed. Once again the gravity of my daily life was lifted when one of the riding instructors approached me and offered to help teach the kids to Walk nicely.
Yes, that's right, THEY approached me. No kicking in doors, no writing letters, no assessments in big white offices under fluorescent lights.
All the instuctors had been on a course that taught them about using audible rewards for positive behaviour and had recognised kids like mine in the video clips.
And they wanted to use it to help me.
The walking course worked. 10 minutes a week with Boo and a senior instructor and he was no longer dislocating my shoulder every time we went outside the house.
It would have worked better if his school had participated, but they couldn't get on board. A pity, but their loss.
Now Boo has the basic skills and his new school are willing to come and learn it, just as soon as the instructor can spare the time. Our new goal is walking BESIDE me without holding hands, as Boo is as tall as me now and will be 11 in 6 months.
They are also starting to teach Bratty, that she is not the centre of the whole universe and that sometimes you have to moderate your own behaviour in order to be accepted by others; in this case a short stocky black pony with a strong will and a dominant personality of her own.
At the end of each lesson, Bratty has to lead this pony back to the yard.
And April the pony does not appreciate sqwarking tantrums. So Bratty has learned.
Some very good people indeed within those timber and corrugated iron walls.
Because of my situation, I get to meet a lot of good people. I guess having two kids with severe autism gives everyone the chance to show what kind of people they are.
I guess it gives them the chance to find out themselves, what kind of people they are.
It isn't every one's strength, and that is fair enough.
I have been very honest about my own difficulties with physical differences like giant cists and goitres. And by the same token; some people get freaked out by weird kids. Fine.
But some people also get jealous, and defensive, or disbelieving and BEGRUDGING, the Great Irish Tradition.
"Ahh it's well for yer with yer Carer's Allowance and Yer Home Help, it's far from that ye were raised"
Instead I prefer to celebrate the good people, like the folks at the riding school who have made such a difference to our lives.
And there are many more to come.