Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dog Summer

This was the first summer Inka spent with us. We had the entire vacation to adapt, get to know and fall in love with each other.

We had a couple of uneasy moments. In first days, Sebastian poked his finger in Inka's eye unintentionally as he was passing by her, and she did not even flinch or duck to avoid him. That made things more difficult because I had to have them supervised when they were together. Then when Sebastian did not want to walk, he got very upset and it looked hopeless for a minute because he was grabbing Inka's tail and face same way he was grabbing therapists, teachers and my own hair faces and hands during his tantrums when he was younger. But this behaviour did not last long. Now things go much smoother. We walk go for regular walks all together. Inka makes us get out more. With her, every outing is an adventure. Yes, it is sometimes more difficult since we are not always coordinated, and depending on Sebastian's moods, I have to be in control of two and not just one unruly creatures. But Inka brings a calm and rhythm and enthusiasm to our endeavors.

We visited the farm couple of times, and Sebastian seemed to be interested in goats and other animals more than ever before.

Yesterday, I saw Sebastian for the first time hug Inka. He approached her several times. He was giggling and putting his weight on her, and reaching to her face and ears. She patiently stayed put, and when it was getting too much for her she would just move a bit - she seemed to enjoy Sebastian's awkward attempts at showing affection. Inka - the best dog in the world!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Inka is Now Part of the Bunda Family

Our family expanded. It is official, and we have papers to prove it. Inka stands now for a hefty 30% of our family members. She is also the best behaved.

I will never be able to describe or even fully understand what happens at the Lion's Foundation between humans and dogs. I will also never be able to express my gratitude to the people that work for that amazing organization, with a devotion and charisma difficult to match anywhere else. The impact dog guides have on people's life is unmeasurable. There are no scientific instruments to detect the change in the quality of life that dogs bring. But we all can feel the impact of what they do.

My gratitude extends to all people involved in breeding, raising and training the dogs. They selflessly contribute countless hours to welfare of dog recipients. Foster families raise the puppies till the one year old and ready for training. It must be heartbreaking to raise the puppy for a year and then give it up. Professional trainers, volunteers, fundraisers, administrators, and not to forget the cafeteria staff - all people I have met in Oakville at the Lions Foundation - are kind smart, patient, and have a sense of humour that was able to lift up many awkward situations. We had quite a few belly laughs, and bonded with our benefactors. The trainers were patient with their trainees, both the canine and human kind. Here is a link to pictures posted on Facebook from our June training session in Oakville.

Have I mentioned that I feel grateful? I do. Thank you Lions Foundation of Canada!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

At Queen's Park - day 86

When I was driving on the familiar, stressful route to Queen's Park I felt the same way I did two years ago, and a year ago, and whenever I was going there. It was like moving back in time. Amazingly, not a lot had changed there. Buses spilling pictures snapping tourists, familiar guards who still remembered us, manicured lawns and indifferent statues.

We cheerfully joined Ontario Autism Coalition protesters at the edge of the lawn . Things were going great for a while but we were very close to fast passing cars and buses, and fire trucks and ambulances, and sirens were going by often and it startled Sebastian a bit.

We went up away from the traffic, and joined picture snapping tourists for a while.

We came back to hold the signs and get people to honk at us. Sebastian decided after a while he had enough and let me know about it in a way that could startle people who are not familiar with him, but he calmed down as we started waking away from the traffic. It was time to go home.

Inka was a star all the way, though it was not easy for her to keep from being distracted: there were a lot of squirrels running around, new fragrant grass, loud sounds, and all those friendly people!

On our drive home I was thinking my old familiar frustrating thoughts, and I thought that sadly, unless protesters start doing something outrageous we will never get attention of the media and politicians. I think we need to get advice from somebody with fresh and ingenius ideas.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ontario Autism Coalition protest

I have been living under the rock recently, and partly it was my clear intention do not know what is going on in the big world around me. I retreated to my solitary world like wounded wild animal that can not bear the harshness of the jungle till it gets stronger. But here it came the event that is resounded like echo from our past.
Here is Ontario Autism Coalition announcement:
Join the Ontario Autism Coalition as we wrap a huge puzzle piece banner around the south lawn of Queen's Park to protest the ever-increasing waitlist for IBI therapy in Ontario. Together, we will demand that all parties in the upcoming provincial election announce their policies related to autism. Our home-made puzzle piece banner, constructed from strips of cotton bedsheets and decorated with spray-painted puzzle pieces, will easily stretch from the MacDonald statue all the way up to the Whitney Block, which houses the Premier's office. Please feel free to invite your friends! We'll need lots of hands to hold the banner and some other protest signs while we catch all the northbound traffic. Let's cause a scene!
Queen's Park / Toronto, ON, South Lawn--meet at the Sir John A. MacDonald statue
Wednesday, August 31 · 4:30pm - 6:30pm

It happened that I had to cancel three appointments I had this day. I am not that busy, but Wednesday was the only day I had any appointments this week. Watch out! We are coming back to our old stomping grounds at Queen's Park.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sebastian and Inka's first, tentative contacts

That was Sebastian and Inka's first eye contact when we came home on Thursday.

Gentle touch.

Sebastian likes touching Inka's fur. The marks on his hands are calluses from him biting his own hands, which he does when he is frustrated, or when he is overwhelmed by sensations that he can't deal with. The calluses are softening and getting smaller since he is not biting himself so much anymore.

Inka has soft ears.

Sebastian was feeling Inkas paws with his toes. That is also an exploration.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dog days

Today we had a great day. The weater was great. Day did not start smoovely though. Inka was caughing from me pulling her leash so much. It made me think that I was not doing well at all. We had a grooming lecture in the morning. After that we went to off-leash park where dogs were runing as fast as their four paws allowed. It is a real joy to watch them play. In the afternoon Inka was a real starlet at the large and busy mall. She behaved very, very well.
I have pet proffesional who trained Inka for last few months. I saw how attached and responsive Inka was to her. I understand better now Inka's emotional energetic goden retrever ways that show themselves in nervous paws and waggy tail. I have two more days at that amaizing facility and I intend to learn as much as possible. Luckily trainers treat their human traineese with patience equal or may be greater to what their canine students require.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dog/human training

I am in Oakville learnng about the dog world. There's lots to learn! I have met my new life partner. Her name is Inka and she is golden retriever/Labrador mix. She's the only blond and girly girl among four very masculine black labrador boys in our training group. I have seen her outrun them and outsmart all them big fellas in the leash-off area.

I am learning a lot. Today we went to the mall and a pet store. I get nervous and overwhelmed more often than dogs did. Tainers tell me that Inka "tests" me trying to establish her dominance and independence. I should respond by "correcting" her behaviour by yanking her leash. I am not quite confortable doing it, since I do not like yanking anybody's chain, and my timing is off quite often. Inka certanly does more of that "testing" behaviour than the more docile labs. But it has only been our second day together, and I hope I will get more confortable in the dog's world soon.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting ready for departure

I am getting ready to go for autism dog assistance training for a week. It is only 30 km away but I will have to stay overnight there for few days to bond with the dog. I am elated, exited and nervous. Sebastian has been very good lately, but on Wednesday he had an intense allergy attack during a very hot day, and every day since his eyes get pink and he wakes up with green crust in his eyelashes in the morning. He takes prescription antihistamines everyday. After the first week of adjusting to them they seem to work some and we only had two major attacks since April. I am checking the weather forecasts and praying for good winds.

Sebastian is calm and very affectionate lately. He climbs on my lap, asks for tickles, follows me, pulls my skirt and laughs, laughs and giggles as if he was telling me funny stories. I am collecting those precious moments like jewels. I stop whatever I am doing and give him long hugs, and breathe in the smell of his hair think life couldn't be better than this.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First Communion

Sebastian is eight now, and it was quite a shock to me when I was told in the beginning of this school year that he will attend his first communion in May. I remember my first communion:the dress, the hairdo, the artificial white lily all girls were holding as a symbol of innocence, the priest's ornate robe, the smells and sounds of the church.
Time goes so fast. I remember Sebastian being a little baby, then a blur of worry and despair when we he developed autism, and now look, he is becoming a young man in spite of my reluctance and astonishment. He goes through life his own way.

There were a lot of preparations and rehearsals, but at the end Sebastian tolerated the long mass with songs and music in a big, crowded church. He was accompanied by his teaching assistants, Maureen and Gloria, who are his guardian angels during school days, and as they proved they can control his behaviour during difficult social situations like this one was.

Getting ready... It is Sebastian's first suit.

Little bit of encouragement goes a long way...

Perfect worshiping behaviour.

Big moment.

Big church.

Group photo opportunity that was almost missed.

Church looks more interesting upsidedowndown.

Practicing pious pose.

Looking handsome with our old friend Simon.

Looking handsome with mom.

Communion cake!

Swinging at the garden party.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dog pregnant!

Yesterday I had a phone call from the Lions Foundation - Dog Guides Canada, informing me that we were matched with a service dog. When it happened my heart skipped: our family is about to expand by 50% percent. How exiting! It will happen in June. I will have to go for a week of training and bonding with the dog.

Sebastian started prescription medication for his seasonal allergies two weeks ago, and it took some time to adjust because it seemed to not be work at the beginning. We went through lots of tears, medical visits and phone call advice. But things calmed down and we just had the most peaceful and tranquil Easter since I remember. Sebastian was running around, laughing asking for hugs and tickles, playing on his i-pad (yes he has an i-pad, I will write about it later), watching "Blue's Clues", swinging on his swing and humming happily.

And now the good dog good news.
I want to get our home and yard ready for the new member of our family. We do not know yet what he or she looks like, so we are going through feelings of expectation that is are a little like being pregnant. Dog pregnant.

Monday, January 31, 2011

IBI waiting lists = denial of therapy

I haven't written a single post for a long time. The reason was, I had couple of unpleasant things happen, and I was postponing writing about them since spreading my misery is not my favourite pass-time anymore. Procrastination is my faithful although irritating companion, so days became weeks and weeks became months. Things were happening, Holidays came and went, and I was waiting for a whiff of inspiration. And waves of it were coming periodically, but none of them powerful enough to knock me out of my sluggish ways. Untill yesterday that is.

I heard a knock to my door, and there he was: the young father of a two year old boy who was diagnosed with autism just few months ago. He lives just couple of blocks down the street. He had noticed my car window sign, and decided to came and ask "What is it all about?" I saw in his eyes pain and shock, disbelief, and despair, and I also saw strength and determination and love for his little boy. He reminded me of my own self from six years ago. I was moved and at the same time shaken a little.

Why? Because nothing has changed in six years. The difference is, my neighbour was told he will be waiting for two and a half years for the therapy, whereas I was originally told that we would only have to wait a year. As it turned out for us, Sebastian got funding for treatment two years after he was first diagnosed. And we were lucky since a lot of children were waiting even longer. So, in six years, nothing has changed. The situation for parents who learn they have autistic children is even worse then it was six years ago!

WAITING LISTS that last years are nothing but a disguised yet very blunt DENIAL of the only available chance for autistic children to have improved, adult lives. I do not know why this situation is able to go on for so long... Maybe it's simply the fact that society in general does not value kids who have intellectual difficulties. Maybe our policy and decision makers (politicians and judges) are of a generation who grew up when kids who did not measure up intellectually or developmentally were a source of shame for their families and were often locked into institutions so that even their existence was kept secret. Maybe the parents of autistic children are so overwhelmed by the daily realities of coping with and caring for their children that concrete political change seems an abstract and unattainable goal.

Waiting lists are a very effective way of keeping parents of autistic children in line. Dangling that carrot works well. Parents do not think about the fact that the therapy will be taken away just a few months after it started, with an official explanation that their kids are too autistic or not autistic enough to continue to receive this vital service. Professionals corrupted by years on the government payroll laboriously prepare the way to justify such actions by producing discriminatory documents like the Clinical Continuation Criteria. It is difficult to believe, but true.

The public is led to believe that it is about money, but it is not. The word EXPENSIVE is always used when IBI (Intensive Behavioural Intervention therapy--the only clinically proven treatment for children with autism) is mentioned in the media. Yet in my son's case, attending public school for nine months of the year is more expensive for the taxpayers than would be six hours of therapy a day, year round, by a private IBI provider. And as our friend Bruce said once:

"Our government claims that it has fiscal problems and our children have intellectual disability. The truth is our children have fiscal problems, and the government has intellectual disability."

I often wonder about how such a compassionate, self respecting and "progressive" society as Canada can create and tolerate such absurd and senseless, judgmental and cruel policies. It boggles my mind.

I am trying to be positive and optimistic to get myself out of the burnout I am going through. But I have yet to find the positive angle form which to look at this situation.