God Love Ireland!

In case you hadn't heard, The Domican Family (aka; Boo, Bratty and Mr Hammie et al) appeared in a television documentary last week called "Life With: Autism"

It was part 3 of a series of programs which demonstrate that life with a serious condition can be just as joyful and rewarding as any other, sometimes more so. We took a risk taking part but have to say that while the experience of filming and being interviewed was quite stressful, the final result was wonderful.

Gracie in her little nest

If you are in Ireland you can watch it on the above link. If you are outside of Ireland you have to wait until we can get it uploaded on to something else. When you do watch it you will get to meet not only my children but my other half, who finally gets to tell his side of the story. It was so positive in fact that the press department of the TV company had trouble getting any additional media coverage for it. Seems it is easy to latch on to a hard luck story like: "My Autism Hell" but when a family are coping and getting on with life with two very challenging but brilliant children - the red-tops just aren't interested.

Anyway, they followed us around for 2 days at home and at school and as a result they followed us to Glendalough, the scene of many a happy forest walk en famille. Gracie actually had a mini-tantrum while they were filming, but the producers honored our request to leave that out as we did not want that that to be the "snapshot" representing us and potentially upsetting a family who had only recently been diagnosed.

Well today if you were in Glendalough, you would have caught the Directors Cut with as previously un-seen footage of Liam having a major meltdown....

Liam had a difficult summer, as many of our kids do and as a result I put him back on the Abilify - a medication which helps with impulsive and irrational behaviour. But it can cause weight gain and as Liam is a teenager with the appetite of a small platoon anyway, there are health implications. With the shorter days there are less opportunities to run off that weight safely, so I have taken him off it, for now.

Anxiety isn't always a rational thing and while Liam had been offered a good incentive for engaging in exercise; traffic and delays in parking at the Upper Lake had contributed to him working himself up to a bit of a frenzy as we were arriving. When we finally found a parking space I got Gracie out and was quickly lead off to investigate the chocolate opportunities at the kiosk; while Bill got Liam out of the car.

When Gracie and I met up with them on the edge of the car park, Liam was squealing and struggling with Bill as he tried to get him to wear his shoes properly before we got on to the path. I could see that physical strength wasn't working as Liam was "in the red zone"where rationality didn't figure. Bill being as strong as Liam was holding on but Liam was overwhelmed, he was frightened and his body was telling him to bolt. We were literally between a rock, a busy car park and and a rushing, freezing cold stream. Letting the boy run it off was not an option.

In practiced form we did a quick switch and Bill took Grace off towards the lake while I tried to talk Liam down. Please note that in these situations, the physical is pointless. Liam does not learn through pain. This kid has had his finger trapped in the centre of a DVD more times than I can count. (in case it happens to you, run it under the cold tap and apply moisturizer to the finger until it slips off)
If you leave him alone with a coke can he will alternate between getting his finger caught in the hole (this time you can use wire cutters while running it under the cold tap) and ripping the can apart with his teeth - resulting in a cut lip. Then he does it again. And again.

The only way to reach him when he is that stressed is through contingency. I make a reward contingent to the desired behaviour; which in this case was a promise to sit in the living room and watch "School of Rock" as soon as we got home from the walk. So I broke through the melt-down by asking him if he still wanted me to sit with him at night-time. He would calm for a second so I could hold his palms, maybe move in for a tight hug, and then he'd remember how stressed he was and start getting ready to bolt again. Bit by bit I began to calm him down and start walking, firmly towards the lake.

The whole time this was going on we were on a really busy path that lead from the car park to the walk to the Upper Lake. It was the first sunny Sunday in a long time and dozens of people were passing us as Liam squealed and pulled against me. We must have been quite a sight. I am 5'4" and weigh in at just under 9 stone. Liam is now 5' 6" and could lead Leinster Rugby out of the ruck, he is a sturdy fellow.

But nobody interfered. Nobody made a face or a disapproving noise or stopped to jeer at the kid who was "going mental" in a very public way. People just stood aside or steered around us and I was able to gain control of the situation quite quickly without creating a huge scene.

We are lucky to live in Ireland because in many other countries we would have been judged, mocked and maybe even vilified to a tragic degree. I know parents who have been in situations where the police were called when their child wasn't co-operating, and once when we were home in Australia, a stranger in a local coffee shop actually smacked Liam - for bumping into him in his boisterous way.

But not here in Ireland. In Ireland children are allowed to be seen AND heard. In Ireland you actually tolerate a good bit of eccentricity and are not so quick to judge or mock someone for being a bit strange.
As my Grampa, who is not Irish, has never been to Ireland but who inexplicably says;
"God Love Ireland!"
Because today it made a really difficult situation pass quickly and without incident. And so we live to enjoy another day - with Autism.



K.Line said…
You have to get access to that link and post it! I want to see your amazing family in action!
Me said…
Yes me too. Can't wait for you to upload for those of us outsides God's fave country.
jazzygal said…
I loved the TV show because they showed your family life in such a positive way. A pleasure to see Liam and Gracie smiling so much!

So glad you were just let get on with it up in Glendalough.

xx Jazzy
Yes, I have had far more stares and tuts on my occasional visits to the UK than I have ever had in Ireland. I'm so glad you feel that people are supportive. It helps xx
Di said…
What a great blog, you write so beautifully...
AND you are an AUSSIE ~ just have to tell you that I am a Kiwi and a very strong All Black supporter!!! ;)
Would also love to see the tv show!

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