Thursday, February 25, 2010

Felix the Therapy Cat

I have a cat. Not just any cat. This cat was the one we kept from a litter of six kittens born in my husband's closet the year we moved to our old farmhouse. This little boy-kitty had some distinct features that endeared all of us right away. Big, blue-green eyes, white stockings and chest and a white mustache on his otherwise black short fur--he was not the prettiest in the litter. That distinction would go to his Siamese-looking sibling, or his white, long-haired brother, or the white and tabby-spotted long-haired sister. They all found homes, but Felix stayed. Natural selection? Survival of the fittest? Hardly. More like last one picked, sticked. My husband relented and allowed him to stay.

Felix was possessed of a strong sense of himself from the start. A loud, sibilant cry announced his arrival or particular need, usually for food or a warm lap. His resonant purr rewarded those of us on his staff for our prompt accomodation. A sharp cuff from his mother kept him in line when he wandered too close to the road, or too close to her feeding dish. His hunting prowess was unparalleled.

But the most striking feature about Felix wasn't his yowl or his milk mustache. It was his uncanny ability to calm my son. Out of five of us humans who share his domicile, Felix sought out my son to sleep with, to visit, to cuddle with, to play with. He would spread his time out with all of us in good measure, but there was no denying that Felix and my boy had a special bond.

I have heard of therapy animals, and have seen video of well-trained dogs who visit nursing homes and hospitals, but a cat who naturally assumes the role of comforting an autistic child, I have never experienced.

Felix will turn seven years old this summer, on Father's Day. What a good and perfect gift he's been from the Father of Lights.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

specialist appointment

Attended a six month check-up with my son's specialist today. After a two-hour drive, we were ready to stretch our legs and find our check-in on the sixth floor. We saw a nurse practitioner who was very encouraging and helpful regarding the dietary changes I've been considering.
After that, we went to a science museum and had the place virtually to oursleves--every mother's dream who has a child prone to overstimulating in large crowds. Things went very well until we got to the restaurant. He couldn't eat and wanted to go home! There is only so much you can expect to go smoothly in one day outside of routine. I'm proud of the little buggar. He did great.
God answered the prayers of many who lifted us up for this appointment. I am so grateful for praying friends.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Obama Administration--two strikes!

My son participated in the Special Olympics last year right around the time when our illustrious leader made a slur about bowling in the Special Olympics. Can you guess my son's event? Yep. Bowling. It was supposed to be a proud moment for him to participate. He traveled to another town with his class of fourth graders to compete for a trophy and Andrew put his whole heart into trying for his top score. He had to overcome great anxiety, traveling with out his father and me, and acclimating to a strange place where he'd never been, with the lights and crowds and sounds and even changing shoes--each of these elements alone could have triggered a meltdown. And then, not winning. Not even among his group. Under normal circumstances, this should have been a nuclear emotional event. But I am sure due to prayer and great poise and effort on his part, he made it through and managed to have some fun. Until the leader of the free world denigrated the whole experience.

I heard him myself. It hurt. For a man who clearly understands how difficult it is for a minority to overcome--one who has the advantages of intellect to say this, too--felt like such a betrayal of all that is fair and just. And then, Mr. Obama apologized, and I had to accept that apology, despite the damage it caused a great deal of people, and a cause that was founded on the ideals of tolerance and nurturing and support. I took him at face value. he was sorry.

Now, hardly a year later, Rahm Emanuel has been quoted using the word "retarded"--I'm sorry--"fu__ing retarded". I'm sure there will be apologies issued again. The occasion has been decried by the ARC and other advocacy groups. And the people of this great country are a forgiving people--we will forgive again.

Let this be the last irresponsible slip up by this administration, please, against the disabled. Our children have enough struggles without having to feel abandoned and ashamed by the ones who are supposed to defend them. If there is a third occasion, I for one will consider it a third strike. In my book of fair play, they will be OUT! I can only assume that three times is intentional, and perhaps indicative of an underlying attitude toward this vulnerable population.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

review of Phyllis Wheeler's ebook, Nurturing Your Asperger's Child

Lately I have been praying for the Lord to give me some fresh strategies for my Aspie son regarding diet, socialization, anger management and schooling. Even the niggling fear of bullying that he has already started to experience. And yesterday I learned of a website, and of Phyllis Wheeler's e-book, and found some of my questions answered, plus a way to learn even more.

Written from a Christian perspective and yet with the wisdom and intuition of an articulate mother, Phyllis shares her considerable experience with Autism and Asperger's in particular. She shares about three of her children with an Asperger's diagnosis, one of whom she feels has the ADD and social challenges mimicking Asperger's but more due to attachment disorder than true Asperger's. She also discusses her brother, who was diagnosed with classic autism in his youth, but who now lives independently. She is a natural authority on strategies and resources and management skills for the peculiar needs of these kids, particularly how to maintain their self-esteem when the world seems set against it.

What struck me more than anything was her depth of understanding for the condition itself. Her explanations of the seemingly insignificant challenges these kids face gave me several ah-ha moments, such as her discussions on eye contact, small talk and discomfort in group settings. It gave me reference to relate to my son, since I have struggled with these most of my life. Her methodical approach to overcoming these through repetitive role playing and neurological connection-building gave me great hope. I attest to the truth of this method, since i unconsciously followed these strategies on my own life and have overcome two out of three. I am still uncomfortable in group settings. ;)

The list of suggested reading gives me a springboard to pursue further the ideas she set forth. I had heard of Caroline Gray's Social Stories work, but I didn't know that Gray also addresses bullying. I have connected with a yahoo group on homeschooling with Aspie kids thanks to Phyllis's suggestions. She recommends strongly considering homeschooling at the ages of 12-14 when bullying reaches its peak during adolescence. My husband and I have discussed this idea in the past, and this gives me the courage and pathway to pursue it further.

I am thankful for this little e-book, and plan to share it with my husband over the next several days. He works in human services and is familiar with the charts and reward system suggested in the book. Her sample charts were just the model I needed, with all of the examples of reward systems that I feel will work with Andrew. I can't say how valuable this resource has been to me as an undiagnosed adult Aspie, and as a mother.

to order this e-book, go to: