Browsed by
Month: September 2017

Not impressed

Not impressed

Always a greeting

For a few days, I have to take part in civil duties. That means I will be away each day. Our son continues to be cared for and watched over by my wife and his Aunt, but I’ll not pretend the absence of myself or my wife for such long periods of time is not easy for him to come to terms with. He lets us know in many ways how much he is ‘not impressed’

We will get through it and he will get through it, and keeping him active is even more important during this time.

He’s not alone in being affected by this as we realise that Lady Bronte has grown accustomed to our routines now as well. Almost anticipating what we will do when and being ready to join in. Always with an ear on the door or the car engine when one of us is out, desperate for that little sign or sound that we are returning.

We don’t leave her alone or caged, even for a short time, and she comes with us everywhere. When we did recently all have to go out, we took advantage of a lovely ‘pet-sitter’ who lives nearby and who took her walking and swimming for the time we were away. socialising with other dogs too, she had a ball.

In the next two to three weeks we are hoping she will be joined by a new feline sister. A 14 year old cat that we are adopting into the family. We have always had cats around the house and Lady Bronte was fabulous with our last cat, who has sadly passed away now and we don’t want to leave it too long before she is reintroduced to one. Before Lady Bronte, we had a golden Labrador (Jasper) who also had a very good relationship both with our son and with the cats we had then.

Our son also learns so much by having animals around. It helps greatly with his understanding relationships as he does bond with the cats and dogs far more easily than people. One of the autistic symptoms relates to his inability to strike relationships and is not too comfortable in other peoples company. With our cats and dogs, he is so much more at ease, and holds many conversations with them, seemingly as if he gets an answer back.

It is important as well, as he sees the need to care for them, exercising them, feeding them, ensuring they have fresh water throughout the day, sensing when they are unwell or want to play. We go shopping at the supermarket and our son takes responsibility for reminding me to buy food and choosing something for them.

During this period I’m away for much of the day, Lady Bronte will play an important role – unbeknown to her – in ensuring our son remains focused on these things until I get home.

Animals are well documented as a form of assistance for many illnesses, disabilities and age and the relationship that is struck up, particularly with those with autism, can been very rewarding. Dogs and Horses in particular seem to have an ability to calm the anxieties of those with autism.

One eye on Winter!

One eye on Winter!

A potted garden for winter

In order to have something for our son to look out of the window onto is all important. Those sensory aspects of colour, smell, sound, and touch are something we try to provide all through the year.

As summer is now giving way to autumn, many flowers are seeing their last days and will be pruned back in readiness of their dormant weeks until they begin to bud again next year. Some, on the other hand are beginning to show new growth as they thrive on the colder weather that autumn and winter bring.

In our sons potted garden, we set out last year to pot up a combination of Cyclamen, and early spring flowering bulbs that will give colour from as early as October and run through in waves of different flowers in the same pot until April/May next year.

The Cyclamen have started with the green foliage and will soon develop crimson petals as the flowers come through. When it snows, the contrast between the crimson and the white of the snow is stunning. We have replicated this ‘potted’ garden idea in the garden as well and the naturalising capability of these plants will expand year after year. The crimson will be followed by yellow from dwarf daffodils, white snowdrops, and the purple fritillaries. As these colours begin to fade, the scent of the herb garden is coming into it’s own and many spring bulbs planted out in the garden.

It’s not just about the joy of gardening, which in itself is a means of therapy for myself, but also the way in which we can use these sensory aspects at times when our sons mind terrors need calming. One technique we use is to sit calmly and bring our discussion to ‘what three colours can you see?’ … it sounds simple, but in those few moments where focus is on looking for and identifying three colours, one after the other, helps to stop the random thoughts and fears of his mind and brings a single focus. Even for a few minutes, this act of bringing his mind under control eases the level of anxiety and fear. We build on this with identifying three sounds, the sound of water tricking in the pond, the sound of birdsong around the feeders, the sound of wind through the leaves and grasses, and when the herbs come through, scent is also used.

The garden is a wonderful healing place that takes a little time to develop, but the rewards are significant and endless.

Challenges …

Challenges …

Calming friends, inside and out …

How wonderful it would be if I could say to our son ‘I have to go out each day to complete Jury services for a couple of weeks’ … It seems simple enough and clear enough. Ok, understanding what happens when you are a member of a Jury may need some explaining, but the essence of being involved in something for a couple of weeks is, one would think, straightforward.

Sadly this is not the case – even as I write this article, I have to break off and rush to his aid as he collapses with yet another seizure – strangely, it’s not the seizures that are the main worry. Over thirty years, we have learned that they happen and what to do to ensure his safety until he recovers again. That can take minutes or days, depending on the seizure. The Autism is our biggest concern when changes happen such as being called for Jury service.

Our son needs, strict routine and consistency in all aspects of his life. It was said to us that when his maternal grandmother and grandfather passed away, this sent him into a depression that he will unlikely come out of, as he can’t process death and understanding of it is way beyond him. We continue to try to explain and have many books and specialists who are guiding us on how to explain it, but sadly our son’s learning disabilities prevent him from understanding comparisons, which most guides and advice use. To this end, we try and expose him to as much and a varied an experience as we can, so we can recall in picture form to try and enable understanding.

No matter how much we plan and prepare for this time when I am on Jury service, we know he won’t easily handle it. I will telephone as frequent as I can, I will be home each night (at least I hope so) and it will only be a two week period (again, I hope so) but he will slip into a very quiet and dark place as all he will see, is that I am leaving, just like his grandparents, just like his cousin who now lives abroad and it will take a while at the end of it to bring him round.

We did speak to the courts and my plea to be excused was disregarded as they say, my wife is here and we have other family members who can come in to support her. For me, this is another example of where people just don’t understand the effect on the mental wellbeing of others. I know the civic duty I am obliged to deliver (now the second time) but,  I’ll get in, get it done and get out again and hopefully pick up the pieces at home quickly and smoothly.

To aid this, we have been creating various aspects and environments to help my wife and our son remain distracted from my absence, not least of all ‘Lady Bronte’ our Parson Terrier who has developed great affection for our son and our garden with its ever increasing wildlife to attract his attention. We have placed some pots on the decking outside the living room window where our son like to sit and the butterflies visit with great frequency and our son and Lady Bronte watch from the dry warmth of indoors as they flutter around.

 

The frogs hop in

The frogs hop in

Hop into the garden

After the success of creating our Butterfly Garden, I was excited to find today that we have an abundance of frogs that have set up home with us too.

Slug eaters – they need to eat more – each night we walk Lady Bronte around the garden, she was attracted to movement deep in the Lavender walk borders. Needing to investigate, I went in search of what may have caught her attention and found them, at least eight of them all hoping over each other for protection as I uncovered their hideaway.

I have put in a small pond, but I have not seen any of these around it, but there is plenty of damp, shaded areas which they seem to love.

Our son is fascinated by them and I’m delighted they have arrived again – each year for five years now – and so our attempt at attracting wildlife is proving quite successful. Together, we have installed ‘frog homes’ that we can now check on and hopefully, we can take photographs together, look to identify them and watch them grow.