I haven’t written in a while, this is due to my son (12) finally stepping out of his school based trauma and wanting to engage instead of spending hours in his room recovering each day from the simplest of activities. He is himself again, funny, hyper, often intense, curious and wanting and needing to interact. In short it means I am tied up, I don’t mind, it is good to see him back to his old self. I recognise many aspects of his personality from his pre school days before I knew for sure he was autistic (although I had a good idea) and long before I heard of PDA. It is full on though, especially as he is home educated and so I have little time to myself to write or even reflect most days…
However yesterday something happened that highlighted for me how far we have come and how a traumatised Autistic child looks so different from an Autistic child who is not suffering from trauma and I just had to find time to write about it. It’s something I think that is even more obvious with my son’s PDA profile which is largely based around extreme anxiety to start with. So it all started with a trip to the vets (hence the excuse for a cute dog picture)..
My son’s amazing mixed bred superhero dog, like my son when he was younger, has both contact and food allergies which effect his skin and his digestion, he also has problems with the ligaments in his hind legs so we spend a lot of time (and money) at the vets. Oatey of course is worth every penny and my son knows that taking him for both his regular treatment and fairly frequent emergency treatment (it would be less frequent if he wasn’t such a food focused robber) is a non negotiable thing. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t find it hard however or that he always goes willingly but he loves his Oatey and love can overcome a lot.
So Oatey needed emergency treatment yesterday he had stopped responding to steroids and his skin had flared up badly particularly between his pads and in his ears and Oatey had been biting and scratching those areas making them really sore, so off we went. They know us at the vets and so when I pick up a repeat prescription they will give Oatey a quick check over in the waiting room so my son can stay in the car if he needs to and still see us through the glass front of the building. I knew this time though it would be more complexed however so my son had to come in. As soon as he was through the door as usual selective mutism kicked in and he didn’t say a word for the half an hour in the waiting room or the twenty five minute consultation, instead he sat quietly holding Oateys lead.
Being someone who is entirely able to have a conversation with no one but herself I chatted to him about the dogs coming in for treatment and pointed out the cute or interesting ones. During the consultation I made reference to my son keeping him involved without the need to answer verbally. My son and Oatey spent most of the consultation by the door waiting to make their escape. All of these things are very usual for a trip to the vet but I did notice my son looked far less anxious and on high alert than he normally would in this situation.
It was when we came out I realised how much had changed in the 10 weeks since he had last come with me because as soon as we were out of the door he started chatting about the dogs that had come in. He talked about the huge dog who looked like a giant timber wolf and the metallic silver Great Dane with a old scar that looked like a lions claw, the pug with the face of a sweet little old lady and the smiling staffy who had tried to lick Oatey to death.
He had been relaxed enough to take it all in and wonder about the dogs and their lives, to make up stories in his mind and to share them with me when we came out. On previous trips he would of been so overloaded he would of sat in the silence or snapped at me if I’d asked him if he had noticed this or that dog. But he real clincher for me, the real sign of how much he had moved on came when I had to explain that the visit was far more expensive than I had anticipated. I broke it to him that it had completely cleaned me out so I couldn’t afford the KFC that I had promised him (my go to bribe to get him out of the house for any period).
In the old days this would of sent him over the edge and he could not of taken in what this meant for me only what it meant for him because it was out of routine, off plan and out of his control. You can perhaps imagine then how the following response floored me…
Patting my shoulder my son said ‘I’m sorry Mum that Oatey cost so much, if I had my Christmas money still then I would pay for it myself, it’s fine about the KFC, let’s go home and have peanut butter sandwiches…. ‘
I had to stifle a tear, in the words of Cyndi Lauper – I can see his true colours are shining through.