Saturday, 12 January 2013

Rather no help then bad help!

The words I've chosen to use in the title of this blog entry might cause alot of disagreement and/or discussion.
Good! That is exactly the right thing to be doing when deciding on whether you can support a statement someone is making. I have met so many people with autism, young and old, where receiving the wrong help has meant the only option left open to them has been to close themselves off for all help, good or bad.
Receiving bad help is damaging to the extreme.

I think that there is one essential thing that people without autism often forget, even the very best of health professionals.
Opening up to someone about the difficulties you encounter in life, whatever they may be, is not the same as someone talking about their daily problems. It's one thing to experience them yourself but quite another to actually verbalise them. Turning those thoughts into words make them even more real then they were before.
We all know the saying 'admitting you have a problem with something is the first step'.
I disagree with this in my case and for many other persons' with autism. The first step was going through the pain of not knowing what the hell was going on.
Getting to the stage where you actually verbalised your thoughts is equivalent, I feel, to abseiling down a cliff.
Why you say?
Well, you know how hard the rocks are beneath you as you've experienced falling over before. The cliff face is just as hard, easy for you to cut your hands on whilst trying to find a safe way down. Then think of all those rocks that looked so sturdy and safe that you thought could be used as a handhold, but who crumbled under your touch.
Last but not least, the rope. Something that looks so delicate and yet can support so much; assuming that it is going to function like a rope should function that is.
The key to getting down that cliff face safely is the rope.
What if it had been overstretched? What if it had been called upon too many times and had started to fray?
What if the rope was the wrong rope for the job but wanted to help so badly that it ignored the feeling?
Health professionals are our ropes and yet if they fail us, even with the best of intentions, the results are potentially the same. We crash onto the rocks, pick ourselves up and vow never to go abseiling again.
Yet we might miss out on an amazing future experience because of a previous one they went wrong. Worse of all, the next person who wants to help is going to have to move mountains to get him or her to trust them, and that's before you even start the process of helping someone.
Just getting them to the top of the cliff is a journey in itself. In this society, where everything has to go so quickly (including in the health profession because time is money and there's only going to be less of that in the future!), who are the ones going to suffer?
Maybe we need to take a step back and just take a moment to realise the enormity of the task at hand, as health professionals, family members and people with a diagnosis.
So yes, I'd rather have had no help then bad help. Thankfully I haven't had much bad help, but I'm still working at reversing those effects years after it happened. What a waste of my energy. Energy I could have been putting towards achieving my goals.
Then again, you learn from everything in life and I wouldn't be the person I am today had I not experienced bad help.
I am however relieved that I didn't have to go through that much of it!

Thankyou to my auti coaches, Dick and Pien for providing the best guidance I've had yet.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Autism and dog training classes

This evening was my weekly dog training class. A wonderful time to spend with man's best friend...a wonderfully frustrating time!
When I decided to say yes to giving a home to an 8week old chihuahua, I made a conscious decision to enlist in the nearest puppy class. I had met too many nasty or pathetically afraid chihuahuas to not do this. I knew how important early socialization and training was for dogs of any size, let alone mini dogs with a mind as stubborn as a block of cement!
We completed a year long course and she did brilliantly. I, however, did not do so well. The key words told to the owners were repetition, be consequent and patience.
Now repetition and consequence are words I know!
Having autism is definitely not a bad thing in this case as following rules set out by animal behaviorists, doing the same thing repeatedly and always being consequent is natural behaviour for me. Why would a dog learn something without me teaching her in a way that works? Why would she remember which behaviours link with which words if I didn't use the same word every time? Simple questions with obvious answers but ones we animal owners more often than not forget.
Then we come to the last word; patience. Teaching a human or animal anything requires patience. Teaching a dog means first learning their language. That's the start of the great journey of patience!
If the most of us were truly honest, we would acknowledge that we rarely take the time to learn this language. Humans are unfortunately not known to be that blatantly honest most of the time which is a great pity.
The second leg of the patience journey happens when our little monsters hit puberty (I'm talking about both humans and animals here by the way!). A wonderful time where we have to hope that the lessons we taught them in the beginning will eventually resurface once the hormones have calmed down.
Kaya and I have gotten through this stage for the most part I am thankful to say. Now the third part of the journey has started...I decided after a break of just under a year that we both missed the classes, but she wasn't a puppy anymore so we had to find a new class.
Then we found it! Where could we both have fun whilst getting some exercise and meeting other dogs? An agility class! However, before starting in this class I had to start off in the basic obedience class before taking the test.
To my shock and dismay, I realised that I had fallen short of what I had expected of myself as Kaya's owner. I had become lax.
She would sit brilliantly for the allotted time, weave in and out of cones whilst following me to heel but then we came to the lie down (and stay for 1 minute).
I tried and tried but she just would not do it.I then realised something. She had learnt to lie down in the summer time, when the temperature was warm, the grass dry and the days light. I now go to evening classes so it is not only dark, but it's cold and usually wet.
I am sad to admit that I was ashamed of her behaviour in the beginning and got frustrated very quickly. Today was my first time back after the Christmas holidays and I vowed to do things differently. I had come to the realisation that patience was to be my personal challenge.
So I took a deep breath, changed my attitude and changed the reward I was giving her.
This all worked! Tonights class went brilliantly and both Kaya and I left with our heads held high.
Again, the world has chosen to teach me a life lesson through my dog.
'Be patient, with others and yourself.'
Another month and she can take the test and hopefully by mid February we'll be taking part in the agility classes. Patience will be my new middle name and I'll have learnt another valuable life lesson.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Dogs, legs and chocolate

So, what do dogs, legs and chocolate have to do with eachother?
Well as I have nerve pain in my leg chocolate can sometimes really help to give my brain some happy endorphines. But dogs and chocolate don't go together as we all can maybe see where I'm going with this. My small chihuahua Kaya managed to sneak a taste of milk chocolate for the first time this Christmas which gave me a shock. Luckily this wasn't enough to have to go to the vets.
This evening I came downstairs and saw an empty packet of chocolate lying on the floor with a very happy Kaya sitting next to it. I had left it on the kitchen table and had not even thought a dog that size could reach it. Never assume anything when it comes to dogs, their sense of smell, a chair and chocolate. Maybe one of my 3 cats made a deal with the devil to get rid of the damn dog (in their thoughts!) or it was just chance that they knocked it off. If not, then that mi.d means she jumped onto the kitchen chair to reach the table.
This is an amazing feat considering I have laminate flooring and she slips and slides all over the place so doesn't even dare to jump off my lap if I'm sitting there. I can definitely say that she follows the example her owner sets when she goes after something she wants!

20 minutes later we were at the vets and a €1 chocolate bar turned into a €58 one!
Poor Kaya got stabbed in the bottom with a nasty vomit inducing injection and within 5 minutes was heaving all over the vets floor. 20 minutes later I was driving home with a very sorry looking doglet who then installed herself in her bed once home.
She has now emerged from her bed and is looking much happier and refreshed.
Her owner is left swearing off chocolate which should help the weighing scales for the new year!
One other good thing that has come out of all of this is the fact that the adrenaline has helped to reduce the pain for the time being. And never make assumptions as they make an ASS out of you!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

First Attempt!

Good morning to my as of yet non-existent readers!
As this title says, this is my first attempt at blogging. Maybe a strange thing to be saying in this day and age...'what?! You've never blogged before!' you may be thinking. I never really saw the point to be honest, and the big question- what have I got to say?
Now that I am writing articles for the autism Looking Up magazine edited by +Adam Feinstein I realise I do indeed have something to say. 'What?' you may ask. Well that is something I can't write down in black and white at this time.
You see, I am still on that journey of discovery. Maybe this blog will be a written account of this journey?
So I will keep it short and sweet. Welcome to my thoughts, memories and hopes.