Saturday, 18 October 2014

A special bond between a boy & a dog....

There are lots of stories about how dogs make great therapy dogs for autistic children but I believe that dogs are great therapy for any kind of disability a child may have. Its not just dogs who make great therapy pets but cats, horses and small animals. 

Ever since I was a little girl our family have always had pets , mainly dogs , and I grew up an animal lover. My very first dog was Judy - a springer spaniel who I followed everywhere, even slept walked to her bed and slept with her the whole night! When she passed away very suddenly it was heartbreaking as a pet is just like a family member and losing them is incredibly painful. My next dog was Black Bess who I got on my 18th birthday. She was special as she was completely mine and was sent away to be trained as a hearing dog...for 11yrs she was my constant companion as well as my Dad as he adored her and often asked to have her overnight! When she passed away from cancer before I fell pregnant with Roo I was heartbroken again and thought I could never have another one but when I developed anxiety and didn't feel safe without a companion I decided to apply for a Hearing Dog for the Deaf. It took five long years but I was finally matched to Pepper - a gorgeous show cocker x working cocker spaniel.

I did worry if it would be too much in having a hearing dog along with caring for Roo but thought we would never know unless we tried and it was the best decision ever in letting her into our lives. She settled in so well and so quickly and wasn't fazed at all by the busy environment around her with three boys running riot, yelling and the screaming from Roo. There was a worry that it would prevent her from working but instead she just worked around the boys and didn't let them distract her...she really is amazing.

But the most amazing thing is seeing the bond develop between her and first Roo was very wary and didn't like the feel of her fur as he is the same with our cat but gradually Roo got used to the feeling and now adores stroking her! Roo even started to cuddle her, something he rarely did even to us..he just didn't do affection but for some reason he started to show affection to Pepper and eventually he did to us and now he will give us cuddles, something I treasure very much - the feeling of your child putting their arms around your neck.

Roo has always struggled sometimes with  the attention his brothers give him as he doesn't like to be mollycoddled or touched or sometimes even them looking at him. But now he is more tolerant to them and even has started to cuddle them and interact with them. He still has his bad days where he cannot tolerate them but they are much fewer than before. But since the bond between him and Pepper has grown he is learning to build relationships and this is such a positive thing.

Pepper even has helped Roo to accept Shadow as before he couldn't bear the feel of Shadow touching him but now he will touch him which is a step in the right direction but Shadow is a bit scared of him so often runs away whenever Roo goes near him! 

There are days when Roo is so tired from the lack of sleep or doing too much exercise the day before that he isn't interested in anything and just wants to go in his dark den with his ipad and not to be disturbed, or not wanting to interact but just shut himself away watching his favourite programmes but yet during those times he will go over to Pepper and lie beside her and cuddle her for a few mins and I see him smiling, starting to chill more and it seems to give him  wee boost of energy and he starts to run around, doing his crazy moves before collapsing in an exhausted heap again. 

One of his first words was "eeah" which sounded similar to Pepper and gradually over the past few months its progressed to "epa" and he is really trying to talk and coming out with some words and even is trying hard to sign! He never really showed any interest in communication but now he is trying and I really do believe Pepper has a lot to do with it...He still has a long way to go but he is finally stepping in the right direction in communication and its exciting to see if it progresses...

When we are out and about or in the house he will sometimes suddenly scream and become quite distressed about something he doesn't like, changes or something and he is practically inconsolable but I have found that if I bring Pepper to him and lift his hand to touch her he will then cuddle her and gradually he starts to calm down and eventually stops crying so I have started to encourage Pepper to go to Roo every time he is upset just to reassure him and she will sometimes jump up onto his lap if he is sitting in his buggy/chair and lets him cuddle her sobbing and she stays there till he calms down. She really is amazing , the patience she has with him, even on days when he can be a bit rough and pinch her she doesn't let it faze her and just gets up and walks over to me and gives me a look as if to say " he is being too rough"! I am currently trying to get him to understand that if I say NO when he starts being a bit too rough it means he has to stop.

The change in Roo since Pepper first entered our world is amazing to see, a lot of his progress is due to the fact that his IIH is now in remission but a part of it is due to the bond he shares with Pepper...Pepper has and still is teaching Roo a lot about the world around him and that's is just amazing...Ive said amazing a bit too much in this haven't I?! 

"Dogs teach us a lot of things, but none more important than to love unconditionally"

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Two different worlds...

When I talk of worlds I mean like deaf world, disabled world, mainstream world, hearing world etc there are far too many to name but basically many people class certain things as a world to tell the difference ..its always been like that... for example when younger I always thought of myself as a deaf child in a hearing world until I went to boarding school when I became a part of the deaf world as I was with people who were just like me and understood me.

When Roo came along we were thrust into the disabled world and have made many friends who understand the difficulties of having a disabled child but lately I have been feeling that Roo doesn't belong anymore. Its hard to explain, but things have changed that may be subtle to others but due to my deafness I am more aware of little changes and can sense that things are no longer the same.

The school that Roo attends is a mainstream school along side the Hub which is where classes for disabled children are held and they also have a sn nursery room as well as mainstream nursery. The kids there get the best of both worlds as they get the support they need and also a chance to mix with mainstream kids. Roo has been attending the sn nursery for almost 2 yrs and now his time is split between the mainstream nursery with a 1:1 and the sn room. In the 2 years he has been going there he has come on so much , made lots of progress and that is thanks to the dedicated staff who really are wonderful.

But....yes there is always a but isn't there....lately I have been feeling that Roo doesn't fit in both those worlds, I don't know why I suddenly feel like that but I do... Roo isn't physically disabled and is a very mobile child who is always constantly moving around and never sits still for a moment and I was/am aware that during his time in the sn room he was the only young one who was like this as the other kids all need equipment to help them to stand, sit and keep them mobile. Roo seemed out of place if that's the right way of saying it...I think it would be different if there were other children the same age as Roo who were like Roo. He needs a lot of support in many aspects of his life but not as much as his friends and I worry that he is too boisterous , too active for them. As for the mainstream world its good to see him going into nursery with the other children , he fits in with them physically as he can do things like go on the climbing frame like the other children and much more but yet he still needs 1:1 all the time and still needs lots of support and is different to the other kids. The stares from the parents of the mainstream kids is enough to make you feel paranoid sometimes! 

People keep saying that we need to make decisions about his future but its so hard when you feel like you don't know what to expect. I would love someone to come and sit down with me and say "i think this is best because etc et etc" and then that would help me to make the right decision. I feel like I'm just stumbling along in the darkness not sure which route to take...I worry that if i make the wrong decision that it will affect him later on and I would feel guilty...but I guess that's part of the sn journey where nothing is certain and all you can do is try the different options available and see what works out for the best.

I know in my heart that mainstream is probably better at this moment in time as long as he has a 1:1 at all times but I worry so much as he cant communicate to me if he is unhappy, if something is bothering him, if he is worried about something, if he understands whats going on and so on...I know he will thrive in the busy environment, watching the other children and maybe even taking part but at the same time I know he is quite delayed compared to his peers.

I think it doesn't help because I sort of know how it all works as I was a special needs child myself who went into mainstream school with a teacher of the deaf who came for a few hrs a day but I had fantastic staff who did everything to make me included but even so I still felt left out, I was the odd one out, I got picked on by some of the kids who made fun of me having to wear hearing aids, not understanding what they are saying and so on...although I had a good group of friends who were fab and didn't care about my deafness and just treated me like one of them there was still that feeling of not quite wasn't until I reached secondary age that my parents realised that I needed specialist schooling and I was sent to a boarding school for deaf children and it was there that I finally felt like I belonged, that I fitted in and was with people who understood. I know its different for me as I am able to communicate, able to tell people if I'm upset , sad or happy but Roo cant and this is what worries me so much and probably why I am feeling at the moment that he doesn't quite fit into the two worlds that he is exposed to. He has no diagnosis so we have no idea what his future will be.... 

After speaking to several other sn mums on SWAN i realised I'm not alone in thinking this , that they too are or have been through this and its only when their children have done several years in school that they can actually know for definite which world they belong to.

 As one mum put it with our kids - they have a foot in both worlds but they don't quite fit .....