Susan's Blog

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dogged Nat

Just got off the phone with Nat’s new teacher (he moved up to an older classroom last week). The teacher told me that the class went on a community trip to a pet store. Immediately I thought, “Uh-oh, Nat doesn’t like animals.” Nat jumps away from a dog or a cat, no matter how gentle. “No dog no dog.” Even if you say, “Nat, it’s a very nice good dog,” He’ll say, “No nice good dog.” In fact, none of my boys like dogs. I think that Nat and Max were terrorized by one at a Christmas party one year, but what’s Benji’s excuse? I ask this because I kind of want a dog, a yellow lab. But I won’t get one, it’s just a fantasy. The fantasy is that the dog will bring out the happy mainstream boy in my sons. Yes, yes, I love them just as they are but sometimes we are just so far off the beaten path. We are lost in the Atypical Forest.

So Nat’s new teacher told me that there’s a penned-off area in the pet store where you can sit and play with puppies or read online on TreeHousePuppies for what dog related things! I love that idea! I might go with Ben just for a little puppy love. Nat’s teacher asked him if he’d like to go in and he said “Yes,” immediately, which is a definite yes rather than a default yes. (If Nat instead answers “Yeh-es,” beware!)

Well, yes it was. So the staff held the doggie and Nat willingly pet it! A real triumph! It was apparently a cocker spaniel, which made me think of Lady and the Tramp, one of Disney’s best and a real favorite of Nat’s. I wonder if Nat noted the resemblance; there is a theory from my autism upbringing that says that generalizing from one environment to another is difficult for “autistic people.” But, if all people with autism have autism in different ways, and all people are different anyway, how would you really know?’

It made me think of Lady, anyway, and how on the ball she was. Especially the way she saved that baby from the rat, at the end of the movie. She barked and barked, and the nanny thought she was a terrible dog and put her out, but Lady got rid of that rat anyway. She knew what she had to do, and did it, despite the ignorant neurotypical human. Her spirit is very familiar to me.

It makes me think of Nat, how he always has his mission. Once, I came upstairs and saw him running from the bathroom with poop cradled in his hands. Drip, drip down the hall into the other bathroom, where he deposited it in the toilet and flushed it down. “What kind of fresh hell is this?” I thought, thinking that now we were going to have smearing and fecal stuff in our lives. But then I remembered: the toilet in the main bathroom was clogged! So to Nat, it was more important that poop be flushed than carrying it in your hands.

He “does what he can.” This was our family’s tagline for him, ever since infancy. The family jokes about how high-energy I am and how poor baby Nat had to always come along for the wild ride with his manic mommy. I would strap him into the stroller, and walk and walk in my boring new neighborhood, chatting to him the whole way. I would throw him into the carseat and take him shopping, for clothes, for food, for anything, just to get us out of the house. He was my constant companion, and he totally put up with my grabbing, running, kissing, yakking. Even if he was a little bit unhappy, he soldiered on. He does what he can, he’s Mini man, as we said.

So Nat has always been a trooper, game for most anything, unless his autism gets in the way and he goes all sensory on us. Now we know how to read the signs, however. Except when we don’t.

Anyway, as soon as the little dog was set down on its own feet, Nat jumped up and ran out of the pen. He does what he can, but he does have his limits.


I just came to know of your blog and I am so glad I did. I love the fact that you "speak" what I am thinking. As a Mom to 2 young boys with ASD, I am forever trying to find a balance, remain positive and keep my sense of humor while raising my family. I now look forward to reading your daily entires. I also look forward to seeing you at LADDERS!

— added by Jenn on Friday, February 19, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Another wonderful story — I love your blog!

— added by Donna on Friday, February 19, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Thanks! And I love people who love my blog.

— added by Susan Senator on Friday, February 19, 2010 at 7:45 pm

I love the expression…what kind of fresh hell is this????????? I could really use that one from time to time…

— added by eileen on Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 8:45 am

Great story! Even little steps are steps, right? Good on Nat!

— added by Stimey on Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm

That was a great story.

I'm always heart broken when I hear of kids that have had a bad experience with animals and never have the opportunity to experience all the good things about them (ASD or not). Hopefully this is a positive step in the right direction!

— added by Bill on Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Those "autism isms" sometimes seem to cause more problems just be being "tallied" up. Take for instance the "autistic children don't like to be touched" as a generalization. I have found that to be so far from the truth. I'd be will to bet that the percentage of people with autism who truly don't like to be touched isn't all that different from the rest of the world. Some of the kids I've known are very, very affectionate. Some people just need to learn that being touched isn't bad. They learn about affection and the warmth of human contact over time. A bigger problem, in my experience, has been teaching kids who they can be affectionate with, where it's okay, and when. They have an incredible depth of warmth and love to give. They learn, over time, how to do this. One of my favorite little girls (I know, it's not good to have favorites, but it's not human not to, plus everyone is someone's favorite)would startle if she was touched and didn't know it was coming. Once she was familiar and comfortable, she initiated contact. It is typical for any of us to be "stingy' with our affection and really know people first. And everyone has a different way of making contct. That is good!

— added by michele on Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 7:40 pm

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