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Category Archives: Autism: Out in Public

Autism: Powerless to Help

There was a Facebook post: A 13 week old puppy, who carried a stuffed toy with him wherever he went was at a shelter. He loved the toy so much, the workers would have to take it away from him so he would eat.

But the shelter is a high kill shelter, where the animals are given just weeks, sometimes even days, to find a home – before they are ‘humanely’ put to sleep.

No one showed any interest in him, so he was moved to the back – to death row.

He took his stuffed toy with him. His only source of comfort as he sat in the cage waiting to die.

I don’t know what happened to that puppy. I know there are many young and old in a similar situation. I can only hope the word got out on time, and he was saved.

I cried when I read about him. I am crying still. The world is a cruel and evil place, and I feel powerless in it – nearly as powerless as that puppy, sitting in that cage, holding his stuffed toy for comfort.

I cannot save them all. I couldn’t even save that one. And it destroys me.

Maybe that is why it is so hard for me to live in this world: I can’t block these things out. I can’t NOT see – and I am powerless to help.

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Autism: Successful Trip

In spite of a real scare at the beginning of our trip, I am glad that I decided to go camping with my husband – even if I had little notice, and my plans were changed last minute when a large dog crate came into the thrift store where my husband works, and a neighbour offered to lend us their portable dog pen.

This year, I even did pretty well with food. In fact, I don’t think I have ever had a better prepared trip (and often I spend weeks trying to figure out what to eat.) Unlike other years, where ‘in order to not be difficult’ I would agree to eat what I could with other people, there was no way I was going back to eating meat this trip. That meant separation right at the foundation of the meal.

Instead I opened up three cans – black beans, chickpeas, and refried beans. I mashed up the black beans and added oatmeal, onion flakes, hot peppers, capers, garlic, ground flax seed, broth, salt and pepper. That made 6 ‘bean burgers.’ I mashed up the chickpeas and added onion flakes, garlic, Kala Namak (black salt with an ‘egg’ like flavour,) hot peppers, ginger, and parsley. That made 6 ‘chickpea salad’ meals. The refried beans, mixed with taco seasoning, made five ‘taco salad’ meals. I froze the beans and chickpeas in aluminum foil (I might just freeze them next time in my silicon baking cups to take out and heat.) Then I brought up a couple of cans of lentil soup.

It worked!

I must admit, I did get tired of bean burgers on bread after a few days – especially as the buns started to get stale. But then I wasn’t really hungry, or needing vegetables (I brought up home made kale chips and had a vegan breakfast shake mix with ’27 different fruits and vegetables’ which helped a lot with that – plus, they did have salad, and I ate that.)

When I didn’t want the beans, I could easily make myself granola mixed with yogourt, or coleslaw salad mixed with assorted nuts and corn chips.

So aside from one moment asking someone not to add his eggs to the grill until my pancakes were done cooking – and another moment where I had an allergic reaction when the frying pan used for my food hadn’t been cleaned well enough after other people had eggs on it (not as bad as it could have been, since I am loaded up on allergy medications this time of year – my throat, mouth, and tongue started to swell, itch, and go numb; I took more allergy pills, and had Pepsi (which somewhat neutralizes it,) and the reaction went down) I did okay with food.

As I have said, that has never happened before, and was a huge breakthrough.

So I was able to get my time in nature, swimming every day, watching sunsets with ‘my girls’ from my tent as I wrote my journal. And I really enjoyed it.

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Transitioning to go home was another story – and one best saved for a different post.

 

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Autism: Please, Not Again!

So we did go camping. I had a lot of anxiety over this through the year as I couldn’t figure out a way (that I could afford) to keep ‘my girls’ safe during the trip – and to keep others safe from them. It isn’t that they are aggressive dogs, but they are defensive, and that often looks the same; for Clara especially.

Clara is my baby. She loves to cuddle. She loves to be held. She curls up in the crook of my arm like a newborn baby as I walk, or rock, or talk to her. She is tiny. She is cute. And maybe, people think, this is why she doesn’t behave well with ‘others’ around. Yet for as long as I have had her, I have never allowed her to jump at people, nip at people, behave in negative ways. She does get in trouble for such things – and she is smart enough to know what I mean; I can see it in her eyes. But she still does it, so I warn people away.

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Clara not wanting to leave ‘bed’ to visit while camping.  July 2017

Clara doesn’t like different. She doesn’t like new. It took me three weeks, and many liver treats to fully win her over. Thirteen months since we got her, my husband still hasn’t made it that far. He can give her treats. He can hold her leash while she is wearing it, maybe. He can be in the same room. He can even talk to her. But that is about as far as it goes. My son doesn’t even get that much. We are happy if she doesn’t bark at him when he comes up the stairs.

Clara is ‘my girl,’ and she has decided that as far as people are concerned, I am enough for her.

Maybe she wasn’t socialized well when she was young (she was nearly 3 years old when I got her, and came from a house with many other dogs.) Maybe something happened before I got her that frightened her (they did try to adopt her to another home before mine, but took her back after 10 days for she wouldn’t come out of the corner where she was hiding.)

Whatever the reason, she doesn’t allow people close to her.

“She might nip,” I tell them. (Please give her space.) So far she hasn’t hurt anyone. She has scared and surprised many when she suddenly lunged at them. I don’t know that she would hurt anyone – but I also am not convinced she wouldn’t. So… please stay away.

I love my girl. She is comforting, and caring, and loving, and absolutely the one I needed to help me through and past – even if I didn’t know that when she first came to me. But she is a one person dog – and (much like myself) it will take more than your confidence that you are ‘good with dogs’ to gain her trust. In fact, nice as you probably are, it is unlikely she will ever give that trust to you.

Molly is much more laid back. Much calmer. But it is rare that Clara will give the chance to get close to her. So Molly likely wouldn’t nip – but Clara would do it for her. Best to leave her alone, too. We are her ‘pack’ I suppose, and she would quite possibly give her life to defend us (all 6.5 lbs of her.)

But she is cute – and that cuteness is almost an overwhelming temptation for dog loving children who don’t understand that not all dogs can be won over by kindness.

Such was the case with my niece’s 4 year old daughter who was up camping the same time we were. We all warned her, but she had no fear. She knew that she wouldn’t hurt ‘anyone,’ and was convinced that she would be able to get Clara to see that. After all, she was able to sit and pet Molly while my husband held Clara’s leash out of reach.

Alas, such was not to be the case.

I was sitting on a camp chair. Clara was on the ground resting. Her leash was wrapped around the arm of the chair to shorten it (there were a lot of people up at the time) and I was holding the end, also wrapped around my hand. The girl came from behind us. We didn’t know she was coming until she was there – but Clara was aware. She barked, and jumped at her before I could pull her back.

Away the girl left, in tears and badly frightened.

I took my girls, and left too; I needed alone time. Perhaps they didn’t see the tears I cried that day, or feel the fear in my heart. Perhaps they didn’t know how badly triggered I was in that moment, or how afraid of what would be done to ‘my girl.’ Perhaps they thought I didn’t care… Or maybe they saw all of it. Maybe they knew what it reminded me of. Maybe they saw me then, too – for that happened only feet away that time so long ago – and yet not long at all.

I talked with her father later that day.

“Has Clara ever nipped you,” he asked me.

“Once when I first got her,” I answered, “but so far it has just been scary, and she hasn’t hurt anyone. I don’t know if…”

“She didn’t hurt her,” he said. “She was just scared.”

But had we been there with another person – the one who was there that other time – the one who… but I can’t talk about that now. Had she been there… had it been her child… it wouldn’t have mattered that Clara “just scared her,” she would have had my dog put down.

My children stolen. My ‘baby’ murdered. I don’t think I could bare it again. I don’t think I could live – no, not even live – through such pain again.

Not again.

 

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Autism: Crates and Pens

Well, there we were; three days before my husband’s vacation started, and I was feeling particularly bad. Though I was thankful at first he understood why I thought I couldn’t go – I was also emotionally struggling with the fact that he didn’t seem to care, and didn’t seem to be trying to find a solution. Suddenly I really did want to go (mainly because I had found out his sister wouldn’t likely be able to come into town to visit; and we don’t see her often since she lives kind of far; and she has health issues; and…)

I had spent most of the morning picking cherries off our backyard cherry tree. It is north of our carport, in probably the worst possible location for it. It is loaded with cherries, but they tend to be quite wormy. After harvesting, I took them inside, and spent most of the afternoon cutting and pitting them, and removing worms. Gross.

And then the phone rang.

It was my husband. He works at the thrift store, and right before he phoned, a large metal dog crate had been dropped off. “It is 4′ x 2.5’” he told me. Did I want it?

Now, that isn’t huge, but my dogs are small. A crate with a roof meant that I could take my dogs camping, and still keep them safe from eagles, osprey, and owls that might like to eat them. It would also keep them from chasing all the people, bikes, cars, dogs, cows! And other animals they saw – so keeping them and others safe.

The phone call was brief, yet it changed all of my plans – and I was very happy!

Yet I still wasn’t sure my husband wanted me to go with him. “So we can come with you?” I asked when he brought it home. Yet his response (while admittedly it might have meant nothing of the sort) didn’t confirm to me that he was thrilled with the prospect.

Still I carried on packing.

That evening, neighbours came by. I had the crate set up (to ensure I could) and they offered the use of their hex pen as well. The hex pen was the same height as the crate (3′) and had 8 2′ sections with a door in one. Perfect!

I guess that my husband saw my excitement at that point in the idea of being able to go up to the lake – and whether it was something he wanted, or didn’t, he did accept it then.

Still I worried. I don’t want to be where I am not wanted, yet… I really do want my husband to want me there. I really do want my husband to love me. And as I packed, I was not convinced. I suppose I should be one way or another – but my husband and I were… thrown onto different wavelengths when our children were moved. I guess that is the best way to describe it. Sometimes I really believe he wants me around. The rest? I guess I am convinced he wishes we never met. I suppose it is the same for him.

We did end up going camping. We did end up having a good time. And for the most part? He seemed happy to have us there with him.

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Autism: What They Don’t See

The week was hard to begin with. I mean… the appointment on the Monday was one I had been dreading for six months. It caused a lot of panic, and nearly constant fixation on my inability to communicate well with the doctor. How was I supposed to say what I needed to say in a way that she would understand me?

She summed up the issue very well – in the very moment she was trying to ease my stress over the issue: “I think you are being very clear,” she told me.

And that is the problem. I think I am being clear. She thinks I am being clear. But, like what happens with most people who talk with me, when she summarizes what she believes I am saying, she is completely off the mark.

So what was I so afraid of? That.

People are so sure that what they are hearing is exactly what I meant, that they won’t even accept when I try to put it in another way to let them know how wrong that was, they don’t believe me. So as a result, they treat me as if what they believe I am saying is actually what I meant to say – and for the most part, it ends up being the worst possible response to my issue.

Anyway, the appointment that caused such distress in my mind for six months lasted all of fifteen minutes, and then was done.

Yet the week was still to come.

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I guess that in most people’s lives, there are a lot of different things that go into a week: work, friends, church, cleaning, shopping, appointments, socializing, phone calls… but for me, if I have one appointment in a week plus church, that week feels busy for me. Anything more becomes overwhelming.

That week, however, started with church, had an appointment thrown in, a shopping day, a friend visiting, and a wedding. Impossible! Stressful. Exhausting. Overwhelming.

It was a lot!

Four days of things outside of routine are at least three too many – even though the appointment only took up an hour of one day (most of it waiting to get in,) the shopping took two hours of another day, and my friend’s visit took another two hours of another day. Five hours spread over three days, plus a wedding to attend.

Written down, it doesn’t seem like much – I mean, I don’t even have to work. In truth, though, I was completely overwhelmed before the week even started, and am still exhausted and panicking two days after it has ended.

I am aware that what I do is nothing compared to how other people live – but at the same time, I think other people are quite unaware of how much panic, anxiety, preparing before, analyzing after, emotional and intellectual work goes into such activities for me. If they did, I think they wouldn’t be surprised that I am unable to live with even that much going on in my life, let alone expecting me to do more.

 

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Autism: What Change May Come

It has been a cold, wet spring. I am not sure what to make of it as thoughts of ‘typical’ are replaced with an idea that things are changing and perhaps what once was will no longer be. I must prepare myself to accept what changes may come, for I know that flexibility is not natural for me – yet can be survived, perhaps even well, should I accept ahead of time that “all shall be well.”

All winter, for instance, we had our bird feeders hanging from the maple tree in the front yard, filled with seed – but the birds didn’t come. “Oh well,” I thought, “we can take the remaining seed up to the lake in the summer, and feed the squirrels and chipmunks.”

Then, a little over a week ago, the birds started coming. I have refilled the feeder twice since. True, it was meant to help them survive the winter, and there are many other things they could be eating now, but it sure is nice to watch them at a time when I am able to sit outside (even if I remain undercover, bundled in a sweater.)

It is a change, but I am okay.

There is another change that I am considering for this year. It is not so much the change itself that causes me to hesitate, but the ability (or rather inability) to express it well… the need, that is. The idea – and one vocalized as a suggestion from a friend, and confirmed as a… sensible choice from a relative – is that I not go up to “the lake” this year.

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The more I consider this, and the more I observe “my girls” growing calm and content in the safety of our yard, the more I come to believe this to be the most logical course for me to take. There are just too many things about that trip which cause me stress and anxiety:

  • food issues which have always lead to meltdown and humility there
  • eagles, osprey and other wildlife that actively seek to eat my girls
  • where I will sleep (tents are no longer suitable as I fear for safety for my girls)
  • how to stop my girls from barking and chasing neighbours, family, and their dogs
  • cows – yes, cows! Clara will chase them, which also becomes a danger, and they are free range up there
  • how to safely contain my girls when I go swimming, kayaking, or playing games with others up there
  • a more than 2 hour drive each way to get there in a vehicle without air conditioning (again, safety and food issues, and there is the motion sickness on top of that)

As I consider all of these things, and my anxiety grows, I return to the comment from my friend. “Wouldn’t it be better to stay home?”

Is it better to stay home? Pretty much always!

And the truth is, I live in a beautiful tourist town where my pastor frequently reminds us, “people save all year to come to a place like this.” And he is right!

My house is a short walk from the lake, and two beautiful nature trails. I live maybe a five minute drive from a really nice beach. I have a fully fenced yard, with many shade trees and bushes, a lawn swing and a freestanding hammock, lots of wildlife (though easier to keep my girls safe) right here in my own home.

My girls are happy here, and I am able to relax, so… why would I want to leave?

 

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