Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘service dog

If you’ve been a long-time reader, you know my posts run the gamut of vents about daily life with autism, frustrating school run-ins, interesting (or scary) autism news articles, and opinions about the world of autism. If it’s about autism, it’s in here somewhere. Like any parent of a child on the spectrum, I’m a 24/7 advocate. That said, I still ramp it up during Autism Awareness Month. My house is surrounded by blue lights — not to represent or advocate an organization, but to get the word out on autism. (Believe me, the blue stands out and gets questions.) I carry more autism cards to hand out, I talk about it more in general, and in specific, I suggest other businesses celebrate Autism Awareness Month. I work with anyone available to get the word out, because the more the word is out, the more understood my son will be. The more understood the neighbor’s son will be. The more understood my nephew will be. And the more understood those children we walk past in CostCo, the library and the child melting down at Disneyland will be. And the undiagnosed? Their parents may see the signs earlier. With enough awareness, maybe one day autism will be a thing only pre-existing children/adults have, and it won’t occur anymore. I can hope, right?

Please look around your community and see what events are occurring. For us, we’re taking place in this walk on Saturday. A bit of a drive, but it goes towards Dogs for Autism, and as my son has a service dog, we know that you can’t put a value on it, and every child with autism should have that special opportunity.

Put a ribbon on your blog. This BloggersUnite page is full of resources and has a ribbon and autism awareness badge available.

Write up a blog entry about the month, even if your blog isn’t about autism. Do you know a family with a child with autism? Offer to babysit so the parents can get out for a couple of hours. Have your child set up a play-date for the child — I tell you, that’s one of the best things someone could do for me. Our kids have social issues and are frequently left out of parties and other gatherings. A lot of places ask for financial donations, but there are other ways to make a difference.

I’m off to find some notes about BB to share for my upcoming school training. Wish me luck!

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…and we just happened to end up here in the south.

Finally, it happened. We sold our house and closed escrow on 3/24. We had three days to pack it up and get outta Dodge. Gladly. We ended up at a KOA for a couple of days, ensuring our 53′ trailer full of way too many things was picked up by the transportation company hired to drive it out for us. (And at a significantly decreased cost over using a professional moving company, even with the cost of the trailer factored in we saved over $12k. And now we have storage for our belongings until our house is built.)

The drive went well. At the time, it was on/off boring, exhausting, exciting, interesting, tedious, and expensive. Our caravan consisted of our SUV pulling our 32′ travel trailer, otherwise known as the RV, driven by DH and navigated by our 15 yod, carrying the 14-year-old Husky. I followed behind in my sporty sports car, carrying the 90-pound service dog in the back seat (and I do mean the WHOLE back seat), the little Yorkshire Terrier on my lap, and BB in his handmade seatbelt covers to my right. Following me was my son in my husband’s car, with the backseat/floor full of cages for our guinea pig, turtle and bearded dragon. BB was usually carrying his DS, covered in his blue blankie because the sun made it hard for him to see the DS. We drove to the Grand Canyon right before sunset, and ended up in a comfortable KOA in Arizona, resting with a bottle of wine and homemade burritos. Ahhh, sounds nice for a long roadtrip, right?

Let’s see, what did I leave out. Oh yes, the truck inexplicably died at the top of the highest pass outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. Poof. No smoke, no sound, no power. Fifteen minutes later, we re-started, it worked, we drove. Leaving Gallup, New Mexico on Tuesday, a tire on the SUV went flat…in the midst of an hour-long delay due to a bad rockslide, where we ended up going 2-3mph. We made it to an offramp, where very nice Arizona transportation workers allowed us to change the tire on the onramp on the other side, as it was closed to traffic because too many special people were trying to utilize the ramps as shortcuts around the traffic. (Arizona, what a great idea you have! Other states, listen up…implement this practice! Stop the special people!!) Back to my story…we get back on the freeway, make it another hour and we see the SUV/RV start to fishtail. Scary stuff. My baby! My baby’s in there! (DH tells me later “I see where I stand. The dog wants to know why you didn’t worry about him either.”) He gets it safely to the side of the road, where we learn the back left tire had shredded, and the rim was shot. Because of the aforementioned flat tire, being in the midst of nowhere, and being stuck in a one-hour delay for the rockslide, we’d not been able to reach a service station to repair the spare. So we had to buckle down and call AAA.

I will spare you all the tired eyeballs that will result from reading that saga, but suffice it to say, AAA stunk. Big time. After an hour-plus alongside a very busy freeway in high winds — three cars, a disabled vehicle, a windblown RV and an autistic child — the SUV was rescued…but ended up with it and DH (and the dog!) stuck on the other side of the freeway, 30 miles west of me, out of gas..then they couldn’t figure out how to get it started. Three hours later, me and the RV were rescued, but DH was still stranded..cold and hungry. Long story short, we were literally dropped by a rude towtruck company owner at another KOA, off-center and unable to open our slideout or use all our hookups, around 630pm. DH was still stuck until around 7pm, and he made it to our KOA spot around 800pm, four new tires and spare. AAA, still waiting on the reimbursements and admittance you won’t hold these two, ahem, “tows” on our record since I hardly think they qualify. We ended up backwards and a day behind, but oh the stories we can tell now! (How I renew our auto club membership will NOT  be a story I’ll be able to tell. Pay on our own sounds like a good plan.)

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. We made it to our destination on Saturday instead of Friday, but saw a lot of hilarious things and really could say it was a good time after all was said and done. We did have a few meltdowns, the scariest of which was at the Grand Canyon, but that was resolved after, hmmm, 40 minutes or so? People still stare at kids with meltdowns, even if they’re faced with literally one of the most gorgeous distractions in the world. Go figure. Kid in tantrum, Grand Canyon…hmmmm, I’d look at the Grand Canyon, but that’s just me.

BB’s doing really well. Settling in here has been easy, he’s surrounded by family and a relaxing environment. He’s got his dog, and a lot of room to run. Couldn’t ask for more.

I’ll update tomorrow on the school situation. Too much for one entry already!

My husband’s in another phase of traveling for his job. I don’t mind — he’s got a good job and he does it well, and I have to admit I like sitting up in bed with the light on late, not having to make a real dinner, and pretty much just doing things however. But I do miss him, and so does BB. (For any new readers, BB is Barnacle Boy, a nickname from when little guy was so firmly attached to me due to our attachment parenting style, we called him the barnacle.) When he hears the door, I get “Daddy?” “No, Honey, remember? Daddy’s traveling. He’ll come home on Friday.”  “Oh.”

So we go about our regular business of computer games, snack, homework, more computer games, and dinner. Shower, flossing, teeth brushing and some TV. Nail trimming. Hair brushing. And what would regular be without some upset? Tonight’s came from me ridiculously (not) saying no to him playing some violent video game. (It turned out though that we don’t even own the game and you can’t play it on the computer, so that would have made it easier HAD I KNOWN THAT.)  The homework was shoved on the floor, pencil went flying, and the sobbing ensued. Crash. Bang. Boom. The sounds continued as he stumped up the stairs and into his room. I was able to fix it, as much as you can at that point, by promising to look at the game next time at the store, so I can see for myself if it is violent or not, instead of basing my decision on what a few people have told me. Sniff.

Now he’s snuggling into his bed. He insisted on sleeping in my room, in a little bed he made on the floor. And you know what THAT means. It means the dogs are sleeping in here, too. I wonder if I’ll make it through the night without waking up to the Yorkie on my pillow.

Not sure if it was a smart idea or not to agree, but his routine’s already out of whack, and for years, he’s slept in here when Dad’s traveling. Not sure which decision would be worse…..

And when we bought him the monthly package on Roblox, he promised us he wouldn’t throw fits over certain things. Ha. Gotta work on that one.

I think no matter what your relationship with your school is like, an IEP still makes you sigh. I’m not sure if it’s the thought that parents of ‘normal’ kids don’t have to do this; maybe it’s the worry that some surprise will pop up. Or, maybe it’s just the exhaustion of having to deal with so much.

To be clear, our school admin is amazing. We don’t have to fight for things, they ‘get’ our son, and he’s in good hands. But, it’s still an IEP, and dh couldn’t come this time due to an off-site work thing. (Otherwise known as some work-related golf tournament. Really.) But, I wasn’ t worried, I knew there’d be no surprises or anything bad, and I don’t sign IEPs in the meeting anyway. You always need time to go home, review with a clear head, chew on it some, and draft any changes you may want. Or, you realize that after a day or so, you’re still comfortable with it and haven’t thought of anything that’s not on there, and you sign it. I guess that’s my biggest advice, being an IEP veteran now — don’t sign it there, don’t let them rush you, and take your time to be sure it’s all-inclusive so you’re not calling for another IEP right away.

The service dog is working out perfectly. We continue to see positive changes with the little guy, and the dog has melded with our family like he’s always been here. It also means that when I do Pilates, he thinks there’s something wrong, as I’m laying on the floor, and he stands there, leaning onto me and checking me out, intensely worried. Makes for an interesting Pilates session. (Then there’s the Yorkie, who seems me as available to pet, snuggle and lick since I’m defenseless.) Gotta love dogs.

Sad to hear about all the brouhaha with the Wakefield paper — I don’t agree, but I can’t focus my life on autism 24/7. I still block quite a bit on Facebook, it’s just too much. I do better getting away with it and dealing with it more on my terms. My son is such a success story, and I need to remember that and put him first instead of dealing with making change. Selfish, eh, I suppose someone could say so but I can live with that.

Enjoy your weekend!

I don’t know about other kids with autism, but mine, when he gets scared, he gets really, really scared. Even when the situation is resolved, he’s still scared. He’s still scared days later when he thinks about it. If he’s not pushed, his fear can get to the point where he goes into complete denial of the situation that was fearful, and won’t ever go near it again. Sometimes it’s a big deal, sometimes not. Today? Big.

Since he got his service dog, we work daily on fine-tuning their relationship. The dog is amazing, and is the sweetest animal ever; he came to us trained, but we need the dog to realize BB’s in charge, and for BB to take charge and be in command. BB just has this lovey sweet high-pitched voice with the dog. It’s cute, but it doesn’t inspire anyone or anything to take him seriously. The dog is also 89 pounds of pure heart, but when he hasn’t taken a walk in a few hours, he’s 89 pounds of pure enthusiastic energy, making it hard for a 65 pound boy to walk. Tonight he had a bit of a scare, as he led the dog one direction, then changed his mind last-minute, and as a result, got a bit too close to the street for the comfort of a car that was going too fast through the neighborhood. All that added up to a freaked out little boy afraid to take his dog for a walk ever again.

In stepped big brother and his friend to complete the walk (as we walk the little terrier at the same time) and dh spent the next 20 minutes cuddled with a crying, sad BB on the couch, rebuilding his self-esteem and confidence. Attacked soon, the problem dissipatd, but BB has yet to take the dog back out. In another half-hour or so, we’ll try again. The dog loves BB, and there’s been so many positives to having him, so we need to remind BB of that. I’ll let you know tomorrow what happened.

So I’ve been gone a while. Took a break. No real reason other than living and breathing autism 24/7 was too much. I would turn on Facebook and see an overwhelming number of status updates about autism: articles, stories, news, etc. It was all I saw on some pages. That’s nothing bad about those people — but it’s just more than I could do. We’re in the midst of this move and BB is having issues at school. Keeping on top of all that was enough…or more than enough. Neighbor issues with little guy, meanies out and about, and I just wanted to move on.

The holidays were good. We had a lot of gatherings, and I also was fortunate enough to be able to fly out to the Carolinas to help my sister-in-law after her surgery. I was gone nine days — I was having a “can you really do this without me??” moment…or several…but it’s husband’s sister, and he really wanted me to go, in a non-pushy kind of way. “You’ll like this. You can bond. You need the break. You can help while having fun.” And in one of those “man, I hate to acknowledge it, but…” moments, he was right. I did like it. We did bond. I did need the break. I think I helped, and I know I had fun. It reaffirmed my feelings about moving out there, and it allowed me the opportunity to just live out there — driving my niece to school, shopping, getting gas, and working. (I worked all but one day of that time. Saving my days off for the move.) I got to know my niece and nephew much better (I miss them!), I checked out the local places to shop and found that the Wal-Marts of the south are nothing like the hellholes crowded whiny employee dirty buildings I’ve experienced out here. I learned how to put gas in a car, even if it was an old-timey nozzle that we actually had to TOUCH, and I enjoyed working while looking out at trees that were changing color, with nature making its beautiful sounds. Gorgeous. Just driving to school in the mornings, I loved seeing the Christmas decorations all over. They do it right there! None of this political-correctedness of SoCal, where saying “Merry Christmas” can earn you a nasty look. In fact, I came back and challenged anyone to hassle me when I said it, loudly and often. Not a single challenge! I felt better, ahhh.

Anyway, I returned a few days before Christmas and jumped full-bore into celebration mode. I’d finished shopping and was able to just spend the time with the family and friends. Cookie-baking, Christmas light tours, fun dinners, open-houses, all that stuff and more. Little guy did wonderful at the holidays and only had a few meltdowns. He’s working harder to be aware and we’re working harder to not flip-flop on how we handle him. We did a lot of fun things while on vacation — like cleaning out BB’s desk, decluttering the rest of the kitchen cabinets, putting away Christmas gifts — and also threw in a New Year’s Eve bash. And by bash, I mean bash. So many items were bashed in the trash can at the end of the night..everyone left happy and safe, and quite a few slept here. We get to leave California on a high note!

And on that note, the For Sale sign is in the front yard. The realtor is assured the house will sell quick. Phew. We also experienced an amazing blessing that words can’t quite convey. Several months ago, a dog trainer for service dogs visited our therapy group. We listened to his talk with much interest, but that interest turned into disappointment the next morning when we learned just how expensive they are. We don’t begrudge the cost — the dogs are beautiful and take a lot of time/equipment to train — but it was money we didn’t have. Then stepped in a woman with a huge heart and a  beautiful soul. She donated a dog to BB, a trained dog. Therapy and service-trained, he is so darn cute. BB is thrilled, but learning how to handle him while handling himself. It goes hand-in-hand, as the dog is a calming device. He’s cuddly, loving and a re-direct when BB’s upset. And, just for fun, we threw in a Yorkie; we’ve never had house dogs, and now we have two. We don’t mess around!

I don’t normally whine about my health, or at least I try not to, but I got the MRI results for my back: two herniated discs, and two bulging discs. Then, just for fun, I had to get an ultrasound on Christmas eve because they found a lesion on my kidney. Great. It’s really cut into my running time, which has kept me feeling healthy, but I managed to get back on the horse today and run a 5k in under 31 minutes. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.

School’s back in session tomorrow, and BB is nervous and anxious. He is concerned that his one friend there won’t be allowed to play with him anymore; we tried to invite him over the holidays, twice, but each time he was busy “all week long.” Then he’d show up playing at another boy’s house in the neighborhood. Two moms get together, one blabs and a little boy with a disability pays the price for others’ ignorance. At least we’re moving soon!

It’s time for Family Movie Night now. Another Scooby-Doo movie is on tap. I’m ready to fall asleep after a late-night yesterday — BB’s friend celebrated his birthday, and BB was his guest for the night. Wahoooooo! He did wonderful, not a single problem, and we went out to lunch, shopping, dinner, and saw Avatar. Amazing movie, though I did doze for about five minutes early on until the pace picked up. Then I was glued. Go see it. Just plan your potty breaks well and settle in for the long-haul with shoes that haven’t caused blisters. Taking off boots during the movie, with people walkin back and forth to the snack bar and bathroom, is not something you want to have to do. Trust me.

Happy new year!

It’s been a week since I wrote about my discouragement with promotion of Autism Awareness Month. I wish I could say I felt a ton better about it, but I am afraid that the momentum will slow as we get further into April.

I did find a few interesting things on autism to share:

What Do You Know About Autism?  (Seattle Post Intelligence) A quiz for those unaffected by autism, short but sweet.

Family of Autistic Boy Battle Over Service Animal  (The Pittsburgh Channel)

This is a school that ought to be ashamed of itself. ADA, anyone?  

Tulsa World: House committee rejects bill to provide health coverage for autistic children   Do you ever wonder about people? Why money is more important than caring for autism? Why isn’t this discrimination?

That’s it for now – my little one’s been raging since yesterday morning, and is upstairs sobbing hysterically now, in his bed, his ‘cave,’ his safe place. Not sure yet what’s got him so out of sorts but we’re working on figuring it out. Just getting him home from school took 15 minutes, while he found his backpack, then his headphones, and we avoided the crying at school at least. Now? Who knows, but we’ll see.


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