Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Notification of Breach of Contract

Captivity Log: Day 3,487...

When I kindly consented to come and live with you, in order to offer you the opportunity to love me, pet me, feed me, clean up my poo and - as is my right - to wait on me hand and foot for the rest of your life, you were given a wonderful opportunity. This opportunity should have filled you with joy and delight and it should have been a privilege to spend your days serving me.  The entirety of your life should, from that point forward, have been devoted to meeting my every need.

With regret, I must now inform you human, that you are currently in breach of contract.

Nowhere in my terms and conditions did I offer you the opportunity to take me to They Who Must Not Be Named on a regular and repeated basis.  And I most certainly did not give you permission to have They Who Must Not Be Named continue shaving off various bits of my beautiful fur, and jabbing needles into my paws to force me into a coma before arranging me in various undignified positions to cut me open.  And as if cutting me open isn't bad enough, all they do after that is sew me up again!  What, I ask you, Is. The. Point?!  

If They Who Must Not Be Named are in such urgent need of practicing their cutting and sewing skills, they are welcome to do so on another being.  Preferably you, human.  It is however entirely and utterly unacceptable that they continue committing such indignities upon my person.  My person does not appreciate it.  

To further add to the indignity, They Who Must Not Be Named, then conclude their practice sessions by placing a large plastic funnel around my neck, wind a strip of cloth around my throat to ensure I cannot remove said item of torture, and then notify you that I must not be allowed out side for ten days hence!  Human, it is in my nature to expect freedom of movement outside of the residence, at all hours of the day and night.  Confinement is absolutely NOT acceptable.  I have notified you of my opinions on this particular matter in reasonably loud tones on a regular basis, and yet you do not appear to be getting the point.  I do understand that your intelligence is infinitely inferior to my own, but at some point the message must get through.






In fact, my person wishes to register the strongest possible objection to this currently torturous arrangement full stop and demand that it cease and desist.  At Once.

Human, it is with regret that I must inform you that you have precisely thirty seconds to respond to this letter, after which point, further action will be taken.  And it will not occur in the litter tray.


The Cat

Dear Beloved Scruffy, Tail-less, Ginger Moggie,

1)  Abscess on face as a result of fighting.  General anaesthetic, lancing, constant cleaning of open wound until 'open' stitches could be removed.  Putting up with your constant whining.  £80.00 (November)

2) Jumping through the hedge and, instead of landing where you had planned, landing instead on a jagged fence.  Four inch long gash through to your chest wall.  Eleven stitches.  Putting up with your constant whining.  £114.00  (December)

3) Refusing to acknowledge that you are in fact no longer a kitten but a nine-year-old, distinctly middle aged cat who should. not. be. picking. fights and is. old. enough. to. know. better.  Burst abscess resulting from a large cat bite (I know, I know, I should have seen the other guy….) Twelve stitches. £99.00 Feliway plug-in hormone diffuser to make you feel like a happy kitty whilst recuperating from surgery.  Again.  Putting up with your constant whining.  £24.00 - Total?  £125.00.  (January)

4) Constant puking on the piano.  Sudden inability to poo.  More puke.  Veterinary recommended diet of whole tins of tuna to *ahem* get things moving.  X-rays and blood work.... to check for cancer... renal failure... and/or foreign bodies in your intestines.  Kitty enema (sorry about that part, must have hurt.) Awaiting diagnosis and results of blood work before potential further surgery to remove cloudy mass in abdomen.  £303.00 (February)

Loving a small(ish) furry creature enough to pay for it all:  Priceless.

For everything else there is NOT a Mastercard.  Don't push your luck.


Your Loving, Mad Cat Lady, Mother 

P.S.  If I didn't laugh, I'd just keep on crying.  Cancer?  Again?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Terror of a Phone Call

When the phone rang, Adam used to react by pausing in his play, cocking his head to one side and saying, "Hurro? Hurro!"  In recent months, something has changed and suddenly the ringing phone utterly terrifies him.  He bursts into uncontrollable sobs, covers his ears and with tears pouring down his cheeks, runs to hide his face against my chest.  I wrap my arms around him as his whole body shakes in terror long after the ringing has stopped.  It easily takes half an hour or more for his terror to subside enough to allow him to even begin to calm down.

It has become second nature to remove the batteries from the house phone whenever Adam is home.  But sometimes we forget, at other times some callers ring repeatedly leaving us scrambling to remove the batteries or unplug the unit as quickly as we can while desperately trying to contain Adam's terror.    Other callers ring our house phone and then our mobiles in quick succession and it becomes a battle to mute them or turn them off in time, and with three mobile phones and a landline into our house, it's a battle we rarely win.  (Lest you wonder, no it's not possible simply to pick up the phone because comforting Adam's fear is always more important than answering a phone call - even if we tried to answer it, no one would hear us over his screams of terror.)

I have no idea why the ringing phone has suddenly become so terrifying to Adam.  It seems immensely ironic that his favourite toys are still ones that make noise, sing or are musical in some way - why is it that the phones terrify him while his toys do not?  There are other sounds that are similarly terrifying to him but in general, they are ones we can understand, for example the sound of a drill reduces him to the same state but that at least we can understand, drills are after all incredibly loud and have a certain whining pitch to them that is very uncomfortable.  But it's not just about volume - consider that we live across the road from an ambulance station so loud noises are a constant feature of our lives, but sirens don't even raise a flicker from Adam.  

On the other hand, one of his favourite TV programs, 'In The Night Garden' has a certain segment where birds whistle and sing.  Up until a number of months ago, Adam specifically looked out for this segment and paid close attention to it with a huge grin - now it also reduces him to shrieks of fear as he plugs his fingers into his ears, and sobs.  The only way to calm him is to fast forward this brief segment, once the other characters are back on the screen, his fear subsides and he returns to enjoying the show.

What is it about these particular sounds that trigger such a violently fearful response?  Is it tone, pitch, volume?  Is it a reaction triggered by autism?  We have no idea and because we don't understand it, there seems little we can do to prevent it.  Of course Adam cannot explain the reason for his fear as he has so few words.  Similarly, we have no way of asking him why he is so frightened.  All we can hope is that at some point soon, 'the switch' will flip again and these sounds will no longer trigger such fear. In the meantime, we focus on surrounding Adam with comfort and love.  

(But at the moment, please don't take it personally if we never seem to answer our phone...and please consider emailing us instead.)

Do you have a child with special needs?  Do they react in unusual ways to certain sounds or  other day to day occurences?  If you have any tips that may help us to help Adam, please do comment below.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Bridge Nursery

Yesterday felt like a big day for us - Adam started at The Bridge, his new special needs assessment nursery where he is having a lengthy period of assessment and therapy to try to understand how he can be helped to learn and grow.  Approaching this day, Chris and I felt very divided - on the one hand aware as always how privileged we are to have access to so much support for Adam, yet on the other hand continuing to find it emotive that he simply needs this level of support.  

I couldn't help remembering my reaction when we first toured the nursery last June.  Then, I was blown away by the facilities they could offer, while also being brought to tears that this place was unequivocally right for him.  On the day we toured, we saw children strapped into wheelchairs and unable to move unaided, others wearing only nappies as they were unable to tolerate clothes and others who were slightly more able-bodied...and all of the children were treated with respect, attention and care - not defined by their abilities or lack of them. (And the head teacher smilingly plied me with tissues to mop up my tears!)

As yesterday approached, I tried to manage my fear that Adam might struggle to fit in at The Bridge - you see in mainstream nursery, he is one of the less able children and distinctly outstripped in abilities by his peers who are progressing rapidly, in an 'ordinary' environment, he needs a great deal of support.  But in attending this special needs nursery, I feared the opposite might be true and he would stand out for the reason of being significantly more able bodied than his new peers.  You see, The Bridge caters for every child with special needs, from those with 'less visible' needs to those who need a great deal of support and I had no idea what sort of 'class' he would be placed in or how I would react to it.  All I wanted was for him to find 'his' place where he 'fit' and until I knew how it would go, I worried.

As it turns out, I had nothing to fear and our experience yesterday was wonderful.  After collecting Adam from his mainstream nursery at lunchtime and hearing that the children had not been allowed to play outside because of the rain, we were greeted at The Bridge with, "Oh, don't take his coat off - we're heading straight outside!"  It was absolutely tipping it down and they weren't remotely phased.  Properly dressed in waterproofs, wellington boots, hats, coats and everything else, a rainy day was simply another sensory, learning and playful experience.  Instead of shying away from inclement weather, The Bridge actively cater for it and play outdoors in everything (ok, well perhaps tornados or hurricanes might merit staying in, but that's about it!)  

The thing is, Adam adores water.  He is constantly into sinks, turning on taps, pouring cups of it over himself and generally making a nuisance of himself while indoors.  But once he realised it was not only ok, but was being actively encouraged to jump in puddles, splash, throw water around and generally get soaked he was in his element.  The staff brought out bubble trays, bottles full of warm soapy water to squirt about, a huge flat tray to splash and jump in and they were actively trying their best to get him wet while having as much fun as possible.  And this was the result:

Wreathed in smiles, Adam was absolutely beaming.  He danced, splashed, played and giggled for a full forty-five minutes in the pouring rain.  You may have noticed that Daddy was slightly less enthused by the idea of standing in the rain, with no hood for three-quarters of an hour, but at least the staff loaned him a very fetching, masculine sort of umbrella - and it did match his coat...

No, of course I wasn't laughing at him.  Well, ok, maybe just a little but not that much.  

I did take just a very small handful of photos before realising my mistake and being (very politely) asked to put my camera away, as of course adults can't just take photos of children in schools these days, so I can't share very much of Adam's fun with you, but it really was a joy to see.  He danced, he bounced, he splashed and he even slid on his bottom once or twice.

Finally, even Adam was cold enough to want to go back indoors and was actively tugging me towards the school entrance, so the class of four children and four supervising adults (plus us) returned to his classroom for snack time.  Here is where I saw yet another difference between this nursery and pretty much any other one, the adult/child ratio is currently 1:1 (the most it ever gets to is 1:2) which is quadruple the OFSTED requirement for this age group in mainstream nursery (1:4 for toddlers and 1:8 by preschool)  After getting changed, warm and dry again, we trooped into 'the group room' where each of the children have their own chair with a photo of them pasted to it to aid recognition.  Because every child has an adult sitting with them, it made no difference that Adam struggles to stay seated or comprehend 'circle time' because an adult was there to gently help him each time he bobbed up and to show him what to do.  The thing is, that the four children who are in his class - while all clearly having differing needs - were on a reasonable degree of spectrum with Adam.  He didn't 'fit in' so to speak because every child is unique...but he also didn't stand out.  He was just one of the group and that was wonderful.  I was able to relax.

After singing a song and washing hands with wipes, all aided by Makaton sign language and picture exchange cards for each step, we returned to the main classroom for snack time where each child's place had a personalised placemat with small picture exchange cards of the items that were on offer that day (milk/water/apple/pear/breadsticks) and every single mouthful was used as a teaching time.  Adam was shown the choices, the picture card was matched to the item and the corresponding sign was made for every single bite.  Through it all, just as for the other children, he had an adult sitting directly with him and helping just him.  This meant he was able to drink from an open cup (something that is rarely achieved elsewhere as he simply tips it over himself) and was able to make choices, albeit by reaching rather than understanding the cards and signs.  But it was a start.  

And the immensely major thing about it was that the staff simply weren't at all phased by his struggles to sit down, communicate or any risk of overstuffing his mouth because they've seen it all before and they knew how to handle it.  It is just immense to say that despite knowing these people only for hours, I was able to feel absolutely confident that Adam was safe with them. So much so, that after snack time, Adam was in turn able to trust the staff enough to no longer need us to stay quite so close.  He began to spend time playing with them while we first hovered by the door and were then able to sneak out to have a cuppa in the parent room - no screaming, no tantrums, in fact he didn't even appear to notice we had left because he was so absorbed.  

We were told that in addition to spending time with the ordinary toys in the classroom, Adam had spent some time in 'the dark room' which is a specific sensory experience where he can play with lights and control buttons to create custom rainbow atmospheres - another form of heaven for him as our little munchkin adores playing with light switches to see what happens.  Usually he gets told off for doing so, but here it was all part of the fun!

Periodically, one of the staff popped in with her camera to show us digital photos they were taking of him while he played so that we could be confident he was safe and happy and at the end of the session, he was returned to us wreathed in smiles, jumping and wriggling in delight.  

Today, I dropped him off for his second session, and this time I only needed to stay for twenty minutes during the outdoor play session until he was fully absorbed and I was able to sneak away.  Chris is currently collecting Adam from his second session and then, hopefully, we will be able to celebrate his older brother's twelfth birthday, so despite one broken fridge freezer and one cat having yet more surgery at the vets, the week isn't shaping up too badly.

And I'll leave you with this one last photo of my Monkey playing outdoors, soaked to the skin, and clearly having a fabulous time:

What on earth was I worried about?  :-)