Lately, everything reminds me of shit I don't want to be reminded of. Kindergarten registration, playdates, birthday parties, christmas concerts and all that other 'good stuff' is punching me right in the feels. I want to worry about my growing line of credit or my growing ass, but instead I perseverate like a motherfucker about the stuff that I can't change. I'm only asking for a short reprieve; a rest from the constant guilt, shame, worry and anger that consumes me. So, Cinnamon, for Christ's Sake, cinnamon; because cinnamon is my safe word.
Isn't this Autism Service Dog thing really a racket? Frankly, I am sick of hearing about it.
Charles "I'm still not sold that autism is anything more than bad behavior" Dickson
Obviously, autism has yet to touch your life, but with number like 1 in 68 you're sure to be touched soon. It's going to hurt, too. It's going to hurt really bad; especially because the guilt you'll feel for never allowing yourself to understand this complex disorder will overwhelm you. You're done having children (I hope) and thankfully all your children are fine and even successful for many reasons. I'm sure you credit their stern upbringing for their successes, while I'm sure they don't. When they have children I sincerely hope you don't have to hear the words: "Dad, I think there is something wrong with my baby" because Chuck; that's going to crush you like you could never ever imagine. And if that happens Chuck, you'll do anything and everything earthly possible to help that perfect little grandbaby of yours get by in this world, including getting a service dog like me.
p.s. That reminds me. I must suggest service dogs be trained to relax cranky old bastards.
How do I distinguish Kate's bad behaviour from her autism?
Joan "Why is she so bad" Vaughan
Kate exhibits behaviors at times and some of them may seem terrible to you, but as long as I am around she will not be defined by them. Her behaviors are a manifestation of her utter confusion with a world full of people that won't take the time to try and relate to her. Do you understand? She is Kate; a little girl who loves ninja turtles and superheroes and hugging. We spend far too much time talking about what she does that is considered "bad" or "wrong". I think you can tell by the look on our faces in this photo that we don't want to hear it anymore. Why don't you ask me about all the cool things we do? Or you could ask me what I love most about my girl. It's her hugs, by the way. She has mastered the art. Maybe, that's exactly what you need?
The days are short and the nights are long. Morning wake up calls are earlier than ever and none of really know if we are coming are going. Daylight savings time is a drag and I bet you'd agree.
This year I am going to try really hard to keep our spirits up with some fun family activities. I won't pretend I'm going to scour pinterest and make these but these are a sure bet.
The less I self-medicate with wine and chocolate the better, so I'm going into this season with a plan.
Happy and funny titles on Netflix, Only: Titles like this, and this and a family favorite of ours, this.
Great books that will make me smile, like this one and this one.
Walking that gorgeous new dog of ours with the goal to make him give in before I do. It's a lofty one, I know, but it will keep me moving.
Getting rest when I can, so that means saying no to some of your events. I think you'll understand.
What do you do to get through the season? Got any tips for me?
"Weave it, Oak-wee. Weave it Awone!" Kate belts as Oakley eyes the cracker she has just dropped on the floor. He won't budge, of course.
With his articulation-defying name and ready set list of commands Oakley "Long Legs" Mouland has bounded into our hearts in a big way. Wait, what...?
What's happening to me? I sound all corny and happy and stuff.
That big old, brown-eyed Labrador has ruined me.
Never again will I be able to drink the good stuff and use my disdain for parental ideals, or policy-makers or even the human race, to write, because I am so damn pleased that this dog is laying at my feet as I type. What is this feeling?
Try as I will to come up with witty, sly or even dramatic prose, all that comes to mind are fanciful phrases about the bond between an autism service dog and his little girl.
It's really killing my editorial calendar, if you know what I mean.
If I ever had an edge, Oakley has smoothed it.
I thought this dog was here to help Kate?
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
When your child receives a diagnosis your world spins. Your mind tries desperately to manage emotions so intense you wonder if you’ll ever make it through. And then, then you find someone else just barely able to stay afloat and you look at them; secretly, at first. How do they do it? Do they feel the guilt, shame, fear? Do they feel a love so fiercely protective that they can hardly breathe? Are they like you? And, when you realize they are like you. You open up a little, and then a little more. You talk, you laugh, and you share. You bond because there are few like you and your friendship will be rare. This week many of these rare bonds were formed and for that we am grateful.
All our life we have realized that it is dogs, without ego or fear of failure, that are the most superior of friends. It is this friendship that we want for all of our children. Whether it be a loyalty that keeps them safe in a world so difficult to navigate or whether it be the deep pressure that makes them feel calm; it is a dog that I wish will help us teach our children all the most important lesson about life.
A dog, like a parent, will love a child more than it loves itself. It is for this reason these dogs are the only therapy suitable to live in our world, day and night, year after year. If you need more evidence than that I will direct you to the kind brown eyes of any pup in the room.
You’ve no doubt bonded with your pup already. He likely adores you, too. If he could, this is what I believe he would say to you today:
I will miss my puppy raisers and trainers because they are my family but I know that you are now my family, too.
I won’t forget how selflessly and tirelessly they worked to show me how amazing I am, all the while, knowing they would be saying good-bye someday soon.
I won’t forget the patience and cuddles and treats. I won’t forget my lessons and all the hard work.
I won’t forget my first family who so kindly prepared me for my forever family. . I won’t ever forget.
I will love your child with such abandon that it will make you weep at times. That’s okay though, I will lick your tears, because I will love you, too.
I will protect your baby. I will keep them close and safe. I will be their connection to a strange world. I will be their safe place.
I won’t need words to understand what they need because I don’t use words either, you see.
Trust me and let me do the job I was born to do, raised to do and a job I take so very seriously.
And don’t think I won’t be providing some much needed therapy for you, too. A scratch behind the ear (where the philosophers say my soul is kept) and a kiss on the head and I won’t be the only one feeling on top of the world. Let me do that for you.
So, for now, get ready, because the best part of this journey is about to begin. What are you waiting for? Get me home to my kid! I have work to do. The best work in the world.
And if some of you have shed a tear today then let me lighten the mood with a quote to end this speech:
“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.”
― Robert Benchley
Alex and Shanell
"Right there...shit, where is she?"
"I thought you had her!"
"She can't have gone far."
"Kate! Kate! Kate!"
"Did the alarm go off?"
"No. I don't think so. It didn't right? She has to be inside the house"
"Grace, where is your sister?!"
"I hear her. Check the closet."
"She's here. She's in the closet with her turtles."
A common conversation for us. Kate often doesn't respond to her name. Sound familiar? I am sure it does. We lose her inside our house and we panic. Our stomachs drop. We quickly calculate home many minutes she has been gone and how far she could have gone. It is our biggest fear. One day, it is likely that we could lose sight of her when we are outside of the outside of the house. This can't happen.
Why would she leave? She seems so social and happy to be around people?
She would leave because she does not fear leaving. She would leave because she saw something of interest outside the window. She would leave because she is looking for her cat or her ball. She would leave because she is completely fearless. She would leave because she is confused or angry. There are so many reasons why Kate would leave.
She would not be able to tell someone who she is or where she lives. She would go with them in a heartbeat, feeling she's made a friend (which scares us even more) and she could not reliably express helpful information to get her back to us.
She would not be afraid. She would not feel alone. She would not stop if she chose to go. It absolutely terrifies me. I've tested her. I watched her walk away at the mall. I slowly crept behind her to see how far she'd go. She didn't ever look back. Why didn't she look back?
We've often tried the: "Okay, fine Katie, we are leaving and you can stay here in the grocery store." Typical kids run to catch up, terrified at the prospect of spending the night at the store. Kate doesn't even look up to acknowledge our threat. Staying suits her just fine.
How will a service dog help?
A service dog will keep her safe. A service dog will plant and hold her if she tries to slip away while I reach for something high on a grocery store shelf. He will be my eyes when I need to address Grace's needs or pay for a purchase or even blink a little too long. She's quick you know. It doesn't take long.
A service dog will provide pressure and comfort that will keep her calm and create less chance of her trying to escape somewhere we need to be. The doctor's office, the hospital, or even just a family function will be easier for all of us. We are the master's of leaving early and I know some of you are too.
A service dog will allow her dad and I to visit friends without always checking and double-checking that Kate is staying put. We will be able to fully engage in conversations. We won't always be checking exits and making excuses for why we keep running to check on her.
A service dog will not allow her to run to the road when her ball rolls there. She's fast you know. I grip her hand tightly when we go out in public but in our driveway she has more freedom. She can be happily playing in the sand one minute and racing for the road the next.
A service dog will help us do all those things we do to keep Kate safe, anyway.
I don't know when or if Kate will develop a healthy fear of the unknown. I don't know if she will learn to regulate her emotions without help. For now, she needs a little help and we feel a service dog can help us provide that for her.
Dear Law Enforcement,
Can I get some details on the penalties for the following offences:
Destroying public washrooms.
Slapping people at the grocery store, in the face, with my purse.
Covering every inch of a politicians office with actual red tape.
That’s all for now.
Thanks so much,
You’re a fickle prick, aren’t you? Ever since Kate’s diagnosis, I can’t really find you. I see snippets of you here and there. Every day I interact with this side of you or that side of you. The quirky side of you is the easiest to find, but the real, true version of you is as elusive as sleep these days. Did you ever exist? I used to be so sure.
In autism terms we call you “neurotypical” now. We even call people who supposedly exude you, ‘NT’s’.
I would have considered myself neurotypical a few short years ago. It seems bizarre to even make that assumption now.
For starters, I write letters to inanimate objects like my ceiling (coming soon) and to ‘so-called’ neurologies, like “Normal”.
Furthermore, in the four short years I have known Kate I have decided that “Normal” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Did you know that I once had the following conversation with a medical professional that had the power to decide if my Kate was ‘normal’ or not?
Medical Professional: Does she flap her hands?
Me: Only when she is really excited. In fact, just yesterday I brought home a new Ninja Turtle for her and……
Rudely cut off by Medical Professional: “We are going to need to make her stop doing that.”
MP: It isn’t normal development for her stage of life.
MP: She’ll stand out.
Me: I don’t care. It is the way she expresses happiness. I will never try and take it away from her.
MP: (Coldly) That is your decision.
Me: Damn Right, it is.
I think I am done looking for you Normal. So, go off and spend time with Average and Boring, where you belong.
You know what really makes me angry, besides the whole lying about cake thing? When I share MY families reality and people feel obliged to attack. I know an autism mom and her family, who are stumbling through this autism thing like characters in a dramedy, are a likely target for trolls and the like, but can I get short reprieve. Thanks.
“If you disagree with something, it's easier to say 'you suck' than to figure out and explain exactly what you disagree with. You're also safe that way from refutation. In this respect trolling is a lot like graffiti. Graffiti happens at the intersection of ambition and incompetence: people want to make their mark on the world, but have no other way to do it than literally making a mark on the world.”
― Paul Graham
Seriously? I understand your pessimistic view on life. You are continuously bombarded with requests for titles to eighties songs, the meaning of words the world should already know and obscenities that probably fry your great and powerful brain but when it comes to questions about health and development could you please get your facts straight? I’m not worried about a mole, here. I am worried about my girl. Get it right. In your defence, any idiot knows that sound medical advice must come from a physician and not a search engine, but, in my defence they don’t keep your hours.
A Worried Mama
It’s time. Let’s scale back on the number of posts detailing the triumphs of unnaturally young potty-training infants. I have made multiple complaints to your administrative office and have yet to see a difference. While you’re at it, please slow down with the talking babies, too.
A Tired Mama