Thursday, 1 May 2014
We have been so busy in our house over the last two months I haven't had time to write a blog post. There has been a big change in our house and this as an introduction to it –
Stardust has always loved animals and especially dogs. When I heard that it was possible to get dogs trained specifically for children on the autistic spectrum I started my quest of getting him a fully trained dog.
It was not easy by any means and a lot more complicated if the dog were to be trained to be allowed to access everywhere. Charities were not forthcoming - it seems the North of England isn't even thought about when it comes to this. We found a charity with a section called PAWS but they didn't cut the mustard for us.
After some time my Mum decided to buy a standard poodle and we were planning to train her up ourselves. Easier said than done....she's full of beans and loves life and training a dog to do anything is tough and extremely time consuming.
Last November when the poodle was one and still bouncing about like Zebedee Stardust was continuing to say he really needed a dog in his life so I started to hunt again. As he doesn't go to school and has only a handful of peers his own age I felt having a dog around 24/7 could only be a very positive thing. (I don't give up on something I want to achieve - even if it takes a while) Luckily for us a private company in Ireland had started training up assistance dogs for children with autism literally a week before I found them. When I phoned they were so positive and said they could definitely sort a dog out for us no problems. We just had to wait for them to call back to say they had one. Retriever was being long and the week after Christmas I found out Cassie an 11 month old Golden trained especially for Stardust. We sent information and video footage to them showing his behaviours and explaining how he responded in certain situations,.
In February we went to Ireland for a week to be trained up and to collect Cassie and bring her home. It was an incredible week I was exhausted by the end of it. I was worked pretty hard! The training that has gone into her, my goodness she can do no wrong. One word when she has her magic jacket on and she does as you say. It is amazing. We go to the supermarket, cafes, in museums, cinema everywhere with her.
Cassie is a dream, she is more than that, she is like one of those dogs you don't know exist until you meet them. She has brought this calm peaceful space over me and Stardust and I feel indestructible when I have her by my side. I feel brave, bold and beautiful (she gets so much attention it's helping my ego too!) Stardust is happier, I guess calmer, he is more compliant and most of all he is going out and about and just doing stuff in a way 9 years old should do it. I can't really explain it but even after two weeks she has changed our lives in a big way. I am in love with her completely and have so much respect for her. I think every family in the world needs a Cassie dog.
Saturday, 14 December 2013
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Thursday, 21 November 2013
Friday, 15 November 2013
I sometimes get a bit weighed down with people saying how lucky Stardust is. Lucky why? There is nothing lucky about his situation. I feel like shouting, hollering and bawling from the rooftops when people say that, I find it offensive. They don’t understand, they really don’t get it, his life has been full blown toughness. He has fought more than most of us will in a lifetime, in a system that really had no time or inclination to find him. He has had to work on building up a resilience that would out shine the sun because he knows how much he hurts and upsets people when he becomes aggressive. To bounce back from that and keep going is incredible. He cannot read and he cannot write yet he keeps trying, he keeps trying because he desperately wants to know. Stardust has intrinsic motivation for sure, he is riding the wave. He helped me find my passion – I found it because of him. I am lucky not Stardust.
This week has been an eye opener for me. Stardust seems to be moving quickly, his problem solving skills have been flying out of him at the supersonic speed of light. Reassured and content that we are 100% definitely doing the right thing.
I know to many these things sound so unimportant and pretty much insignificant. Nothing is ever a given with Stardust so these things are really important and really significant. They show leaps and bounds of progress. They help us to confirm that his brain is starting to work things out and they really show us all that Stardust always does the best he can - this we knew but to have affirmation of it is reassuring. I am feeling pretty pleased with these big steps he has made this week. Stardust responds to the way we work with him because: we respect him and trust him to do the right thing. I know this is because we do not sanction, we do not reward and this gives him the opportunity to really work things through. Removing items, taking children out of situations without giving them a chance to suss it out for themselves is unhelpful at best. How will internal coping ever occur? It doesn’t – it is controlled coping and this is never good. I am looking miles into the future and helping him to lay down foundations for success. We will keep going, we will get there, I know we will.
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Stardust can become extremely anxious in certain situations and unfortunately this means he can lash out aggressively. This has been problematic for him over the years in a number of different ways. We have stories of situations which have made me and I am sure him, feel like digging holes and hiding but life goes on. I am here to help Stardust gain tools to manage his frustrations, like an extension of his body if you like. Aggression is the most debilitating part of his make-up and one that causes me pain and worry on a daily basis.
Friday, 1 November 2013
- a magical or charismatic quality or feeling (that is why the name was chosen)
Stardust has a brother, lets call him Resolute (definition: admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering). He is 14, he also has a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome with oppositional defiance disorder and high anxiety (this basically means he will not agree with anyone about anything without holding swords up until dawn). It can be very tiring for him and everyone around. When someone is adamant they are correct believe me they will not give up. Resolute was very keen on getting a diagnosis and he had a thorough assessment done earlier this year - we travelled to The Tavistock Clinic in London. He has managed to keep himself focussed in school to an extent and out and about, but at home we have had to endure very difficult moments. Times when anxiety has struck him so hard. This has caused lots of struggles.
He was relieved by the 'label' he was given as he has been insistent for a while that he has similar challenges to Stardust. I am a bit funny about naming a set of behaviours, it does play havoc in my head, but I do have to hold my hands up and say that it has helped Resolute to know what's going on with him. He literally breathed a sigh of relief after he found out. I saw a weight lifting from his shoulders and since that day he has had a shift in behaviour - still lots to work on but not so ultra challenging. He decided after he got his diagnosis that he didn't want to stay at the school he was at. Too academic, too pushy and nothing like the philosophy we have at home. We hunted about high and low and we discussed about home schooling, but he was keen to move on to another setting and was sure we would find one. We did, but it was all the way down south. It is a small independent school in the countryside and he loves it. The teachers are respectful, the pupils are all kind to each other and he has a good laugh. He isn't spending his days competing about who has the latest gadgets, he is computer programming and playing FIFA and doing lots of things teenage boys should be doing. The most important thing is that he is happy there.
Stardust sees Resolute a lot - we try and make sure we spend at least every third weekend together and he is home for all the holidays so it really isn't as bad as one may imagine. Things soon slip back to normal after a few minutes, it is like we have never been apart.
I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the boys having their difficulties. It can be too overwhelming and I think at times unhelpful (maybe depressing). We take each day at a time and slow everything down to the speed of a snail. The slower and calmer I can be; the more productive and happy they are. I do so much listening, not to words but to everything. I observe like an owl. I know the boys inside out and back to front and they know me too.
They can feel emotions across miles - they know my mood is going to switch before I do. They can feel a baby crying and the hunger inside its belly. They can feel anger from people conversing in the street, and often believe it is directed at them. My two boys have an amazing ability to pick up on individuals that are less than genuine. This can cause problems, but sometimes it can be helpful. They have if you like a sixth emotional sense and they don't know what to do with it. It causes crazy reactions inside of them and this is when they can become disengaged, agitated, angry and aggressive. To say a person on the autistic spectrum has no empathy to me is like saying fish can't swim. They have gallons of the stuff, so much that it hurts.