ASD kids and the benefit of dogs
Bright Eyes has had a couple of major meltdowns this month and they all seem to have revolved around going (or not going) places.
The latest occurred when we picked him and the rest of the kids up from their grandparents where they’d spent the day. He was happy to come home, but he wanted to have the second back row of seats in our seven seater SUV all to himself.
This would have been fine, except that his little sister had sat with him on the way over and wanted to sit there on the way back too.
I find it hard to make the other kids do things just because Bright Eyes ‘says so’ and I told him it wasn’t fair. She wanted to sit there so I wasn’t moving her. He could sit in the front if he wanted to be on his own.
Cue meltdown. And refusals. And insults.
With grandparents watching on (but happily, and wisely not trying to help) we spent 25 minutes negotiating to the best of our abilities but it was to no avail. He WAS NOT GETTING IN THE CAR and we were all DRUNK AND DISRESPECTFUL. (I find this insult particularly amusing as I am a teetotaller and always have been.)
Sydney traffic was mounting up, we had three other, hungry kids in the car and we had to get home. There was no other option but to manhandle him into the front seat, shut the door and go. We did it, but he was extremely unhappy and spent the forty minute drive home heaping insults and threats on everyone’s heads. Thankfully he didn’t try to get out of the car, but he made it look like he would a few times.
When we got back to our holiday accommodation and parked on the street, he (of course) refused to get out. My husband took the other kids in and fed them and I stayed in the car. Bright Eyes was not happy with me and spent another hour threatening and insulting me and making horrible statements about how he wished he’d never been born and how he’d go back in time and kill himself and then I’d finally be happy, because of course, I’d never loved him and he was my least favourite child.
He got out of the car, stating that he’d walk home so I followed him, which he wasn’t happy about. Luckily the weather is cold and he had bare feet so about twenty minutes later he finally headed up towards the villa, where he sat on the steps outside, refusing to go in. Nothing was calming him down.
Suddenly, I had a brainwave. I ran inside and got our new puppy. She’s four months old and totally adorable. Bright Eyes loves her and spends hours with her, cuddling and playing with her and our old dog. I popped her on his lap.
“Look, here’s Sigrid,” I said.
Immediately his body language changed. You could see his muscles relax and his face become happier. He wasn’t out of the anxiety woods, but you could hear his words become more normal and see his brain changing track.
Sigrid gave him some licks and cuddles and soon enough we could negotiate a move into the house where he watched his favourite episodes on Youtube and then came out, completely recovered. The next morning he woke up happy, asked me if I’d like some toast and was a little doll all day.
Me? I spent the morning feverishly researching autism assistance dogs and, then, on seeing how much they cost ($15,000…yikes) and how long the waiting period is (2 years) researched how to train your own dog to help your autistic child.
Sigrid, a tiny black puppy with cranky looking brown eyebrows, made such a difference to Bright Eyes that day. It is definitely in all our interests to allow them as much time together as he needs, and to let her come in to difficult situations to defuse him.
Have you had good results with your child and dogs (or other animals?)