Autism Awareness Day #23

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Ever heard the phrase, “Every cloud has a silver lining?” Well … today was a great example of this.  Today started badly … like a big, black, threatening cloud was hanging over me and poor little James.  But then we had an unexpected silver lining!!!  For a day that started like complete hell, today turned into one of the best days we’ve ever had!

I’ll cover the “big, threatening cloud part” first …

Anxiety. It is an uncontrollable, cruel monster.  James’ anxiety about returning to school began last night.  The lunch boxes triggered a crying meltdown that lasted about an hour.  He was under his bed for most of it.  Combined with this anxiety about school, was his concern about getting a family dog.  Both boys have been really eager to get a dog and have completely harassed Chris and me about it incessantly for 12 months.  In the last few months though the dog fervour has reached fever pitch and James has just been persistently nagging us about the dog – really perseverating on it – to the point where you just want to scream!

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As I watched him last night though I thought how a dog would actually be a big help to him when he’s really distressed and resistant to human contact and interaction. Our cat Luna has been amazing for giving him comfort at times such as these but she’s not an overly affectionate cat. She is helpful at bedtime when James is anxious about going to sleep as she is happy to lie on his bed, snuggle in and purr.  James always says, “Luna has the most perfect engine!”  I think dogs are better when it comes to emotional distress.  Over the past few months I’ve been keeping my ears and eyes open to see if we could locate a more mature dog with a gentle nature.

This morning James was really out of sorts from the get go. He was crying before we even got to school.  Tom merrily skipped off to get his day started without so much as looking over his shoulder.  He was ready to “rock and roll” – in his words!  James became quite upset whilst we waited in the hall so I took him over to his “safe spot” near the office. He just wasn’t settling.  We checked in with one of the lovely learning support teachers who all but stood on her head and whistled Dixie to distract him without success. I suggested I take him upstairs to outside his classroom.  He still wasn’t settling.  “Mum, I’m just so worried about this.  It’s been too long since I’ve been here and I’ve forgotten all about it.”  He was physically shaking and sobbing.  After 8 years of this, you would think it would get easier, but it still breaks my heart into a million pieces. Poor little boy!

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The class came up and he retreated behind a cupboard saying, “I don’t want anyone to see me. I’m sad. No-one can see me!” This was interesting because he’s never been aware of others and what they may or may not think of him.  Today was a turning point.  James’ teacher is a gorgeous woman.  She used every brilliant tactic there is but he was just too distressed to respond.  I tried to get him settled in the classroom but he just couldn’t let go of me and was sobbing – so I took him back outside the room.  In the end, I left him huddled between a table and a cupboard with his iPad, in an effort to distract him.  He was being supervised by another beautiful staff member from the school.  We are so lucky with the school.  They are so wonderful!  I also told James that he would be picked up at 12pm so he just had to manage for 3 hours.  His response was, “I can try to survive until then, Mum!  Just go mum! You’ll be late for your work and you’ll be cross with me!”  I assured him I was not cross and that I had let work know I’d be a little bit late.  “I’m just really worried today, mum.  Will I ever see you again? (this is a familiar question from him)  It’s just going to take too long until I see you again.” (again a familiar theme – he worries about how much time there is – he seems to lack an understanding of it!)

Sometimes, despite all your best planning and efforts things just still go to hell. I used to really berate myself on these occasions but I’ve learnt over time that sometimes these things can’t be controlled or prepared for.  Sometimes you just have to ride out the really tough moments and hope something is learnt from them.  I just so desperately wish that things were easier for James.  As I collected myself in the car at the front of the school, I resolved to take the boys to the pound after school to start a more serious search for a dog.

Enter … the silver lining!!!

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Introducing … “Scout”. He is a one year old Border Collie Kelpie Cross. Scout is loveable, gentle and playful. The boys bonded with Scout immediately. Thanks RSPCA 😀

The boys and I picked up Chris at 3:30pm and off we went to the pound. We have done lots of talking about dogs and how to choose the perfect dog for our family.  We also said that we would not be taking a dog home today, that we were researching and that we would be meeting lots of different kinds of dogs today.

The first dog the boys met was “Mike” – a silky terrier cross. Interestingly, neither boy was keen to approach Mike.  Mike was an “edgy” little dog.  James in particular is a very “vibe” driven child – he intuitively picks up on vibes from others.  We went and met a few more dogs with a similar non-committal response from both boys.  Then the handler went and got “Scout”.

Immediately, this dog waggled itself into a curved shape (as they do!) with its little bottom tucked under itself. It licked Tom on the face sending him into hysterical laughter.  Tom is fearless and loves all animals.  James was reserved and cautious.  I persuaded James to sit down on the ground and to pat “Scout” from a slight distance.  “Scout” reversed his butt right up onto James’ lap and plonked there.  James then patted him.  I was crying!  Then James vigorously flapped his hair and proclaimed, “Mum … Dad … this is THE dog! This is the perfect dog for us!”  Chris and I were so elated.  We then took Scout for a walk around the park just to get to know him a bit better.  James just continued to flap and proclaim loudly, “We’ve found the perfect dog! This is the perfect dog for our family!”  We had not intended to come home with a dog but Scout really was the “perfect dog” for us and neither Chris nor I (or the boys) could have left him behind.

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When we all got into the car, Scout reversed his little butt in beside both boys on the back seat. It was like he was always meant to be with us.  He was so very good and kept smooching up to the boys alternately the whole way home.  Scout is now settled into his special house and is sleeping happily as we speak.

 

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Thomas … ever the comedian! Scout clambered in there with him for a while. Priceless 😀

Many say that finding a forever pet at the pound is “saving a life”. And whilst this is true, I suspect that Scout will return the favour to our family a million times over.  Our family is now complete.  We can find our “silver lining” in the most unexpected of places and that “silver lining” can help you to find the sunshine again, even on the crappiest of days! 😀

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3 thoughts on “Autism Awareness Day #23

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