2009-05-16

Welcome to the Land of Gonzo a little chat about Autism

WIERDOS? WHERE?


If Sam the Eagle ever visited our farm he would leave muttering "YOU'RE ALL WIERDOS!" Perhaps I should rephrase that from muttering to screaming as he heads for the nearest point of sanity. In a way Sam the Eagle would be quite right - two of us on this farm have an official looking piece of paper from medical experts with the very complicated sounding Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Oh what a tragedy! Poor people having such a terrible thing life will be so difficult right? I haven't found having Asperger's Disorder a tragedy - it's just a diagnosis telling me I'm a little wierd now and then. I have my quirks I'll admit but saying having ASD is a sad state of affairs - on that I beg to differ. For me it's just a diagnosis - I've had for years. I always knew I had it - all I needed was a Doctor to tell me that yes indeed I was in fact someone with ASD. Other than that I get on with my life and deal with any issues if they arise in a positive manner - woe is me gets put in the trash bin.

MAYBE IT'S DA HOOMANS NOT US KITTEHS DAT R DA WIERDOS

Reading up on Aspergers and Autism began when my youngest child Michelle was born. She wasn't doing the things most babies did. She just sat and stared most of the time. She didn't move and she was about impossible to feed any solid food to. Tell me about it. I knew she was Autistic but of course those expert who tend to ignore a mother's intuition were insistent that Michelle did not have Autism. Oh yes she did. Not just that the Autism Gene is prevalent in my immediate family. My dad was a little off the wall - he was never diagnosed but we all knew deep down Dad was also affected by ASD. He was a sucessful businessman, a great father and had a huge circle of friends. So much for the anti-social part there.

I've read all kinds of stuff on ASD. Different diets, blaming MMR vaccinations for ASD, name it I've read it and came to just one conclusion. Do what you know works best. Someone somewhere termed the purveyors of special diets, supplements and intensive programmes for ASD diagnosed children as Autism Nazis. I tend to agree with them. Subjecting your Autistic child to a regime of gluten free diets, intensive over the top therapies and endless diagnosis sessions just doesn't cut it and in the end does it really work?.

Here's how I view Autism. Think of a room with a huge pile of jumbled boxes - and each box represents the things we take as coming naturally - none of the boxes are in order. For someone with ASD learning to speak,climb a tree, acting in an appropriate way, emotional response, motor co-ordination, creative thought. The boxes aren't put together in the room right. Sending your child to a specialised Autistic school won't prepare them to cope in the real world. The real world is a different place and yes people can be cruel - but sheltering our ASD kids from the real world won't do them any favours. I view helping these kids as putting all those jumbled boxes back ont the right shelves and into the right order. A bit like getting the missing pages of an instruction manual and putting them back into the right page order. Fill in the gaps and connect the missing parts together one step at a time.

When I took Michelle at 2 years old to visit Dr Mike she had only just started to walk. Speech didn't exist, and her fixation on her hat and her plastic books were the only thing that existed in her closed little world. Dr Mike is an expert of Autism and instead of telling me I had to start some regime of special diets, intensive medical therapes and heck knows what else - he told me to treat Michelle as NORMAL just as I had worked my way through the challenges I had with my Asperger's Disorder so it was that day by day I worked with Michelle to start her on her own journey to overcoming her challenges and I was on my own without David (the girls dad) to help.
IF I HIDE IN HERE THEN THE WIERDOS WILL NOT SEE ME

Dr Mike helped to organise an Early Intervention Teacher, a Speech Language Therapist and a Physiotherapist to work with me and Michelle to get things working together. They gave me the tools and the support I needed to get started. We walked every day for two long years - Michelle had a badly turned in left leg which with the right exercise walking,climbing, and playing returned to its normal position. The other day I watched her at 10 years old climbing a tree. A far cry from the terrified little pre-schooler hanging onto a playground ladder screaming while her Physiotherapist and I encouraged her to take the next step up. She can ride a bike, create her own artwork without copying. She writes imaginative stories and can read at her own age level. Why? Because I treated her as any other normal child making the allowance where I had to whil still being aware that some things couldn't be rushed. The first word I taught Michelle to say was HELP. And it worked. If she was scared or unsure she would say Help. I taught her colours by walking along the road and saying this is a yellow car, this is a yellow flower etc etc. One step at a time this wonderful little girl of mine has blossomed. She still has her challenges but she's now learning to overcome those herself.

My one huge criticism of the support by our government in New Zealand for ASD diagnosed people is that there isn't any. What little there is of it is flawed, under-funded and in need of a huge improvement. The only decent organisation for getting any information and help from is the New Zealand Autistic Association but even they can only do so much to help. Where I live in Northland the nearest branch for the NZ Autistic Association is in Auckland. Not their fault - buildings and staff cost money to maintain. One thing that needs to be done and that is for the government to stop cutting the budgets of RTLB teachers, Speech Language Therapists, Child Physiotherapist and Early Intervention Teachers. If a child with ASD is caught early then they have the chance to have a great life without having to be trapped in that room of jumbled boxes for life.

As for yours truly? Well it's like this I've overcome my minor glitch - almost. Now I'm trying to avoid doing my landscaping in straight lines. I think the old hose laId out in a curved shape should sort that out. They say in some writings on Aspergers creativity is lacking....so why do I draw mad cartoons then? Must be copied from the mind of Gonzo the Great...


Sorry Sam we're all Wierdos here and loving every moment of it.

2009-05-13

Teaching Life's Lessons..even to a dog

Barely five days ago I came home with a less than friendly puppy. Dumped on me by my ex-husband simply because the pup had become suddenly a very bad problem. The only problem was the people - not the dog. We've made huge progress in a very short time. A visit to Amy's today reinforced my belief that perhaps Sonny had finally realised nobody was out to hurt or growl at him. Amy's dog Tia had had similar aggression issues and she hadn't ever been badly treated. She had a great home - just a little dog with a big dog rules the house attitude. Not anymore she doesn't. Amy has done wonders with her and tonight that was confirmed with both dogs getting along really well. Tia played boss but it was her house. No biting anyone, no snarling or growling. Sonny jumped up onto Amy's lap, and above is the proof, that yes, indeed, a little love and kindness goes a long way to putting things right. How's that for a good thing and not just for the dogs but for all of us today. Thanks Amy you rock!

2009-05-11

Dishwasher Cats, Sleepy Cat and Goggie progress

Dishwasher Cat. A new product or employee for the Mad Bush Farm Kitchen. Sasquatch is doing a fine job at giving the new goggie the evil Minion of Basement Cat (Part Time employed) glare. Goggie has faced the trial of sharp Emerald Kitteh claws and the growly snarl of Dream. He has a lot to learn...
A little bit of sunshine this morning and a goggie on the floor meant Dream was on the old chest freezer being a typical Freezer cat and having a sleep sitting upright and pretending to be a work of art cat. So far goggie has had two snarls from her and a couple of claw swipes.
As for the Goggie. He was such a sad withdrawn little dog when I brought him home. Social Skills for this dog rate a huge big fat zero. Aggression, fear and biting seem to be the main problems. Yesterday when my Mum came to visit Sonny was still barking and growling at her. I gave her some treats to give to the dog and this definitely improved what could have been a bad situation. This morning I had to move the cows. That was an interesting experience. Walking a tiny little long haired chihuahua with an attitude problem on a piece of string for a lead just seemed somehow utterly ridiculous. I got to the top and tied him up to the fence well that was really interesting. Sonny completely lost it snarling and barking at the cows as they came up the hill and across into the next paddock. I left him tied there for 15 minutes and totally ignored him and his silly behaviour. It worked nicely. He decided barking wasn't going to get him anywhere so he sat down and just stared
Finally this afternoon I went to the Vet Centre and was told off by Katherine for being a big softie. Amy....just HAD to tell her we had a goggie here.LOL Amy and I are going to get our dogs together for a play session. This will help Sonny socialise and not be a snarly growly puppy. Positive reinforcement has worked wonders on this little dog. He's listening 99% of the time and the whole family including my Mum are involved with his training. I've had a dog ten times worse then this little pup would ever be and after a year of consistent training and loads of priase and love Josh became the best dog I ever had. Reading about Chihuahuas and their little traits has been an eye opener. Lucky for me I've had poodles before and this breed of dog has similar (bad) habits. He'll come around. Lousy weather here. Winter has come...YUK!