Sunday, October 23, 2011

Emus, School, and Other Stuff

I am so delighted and moved that people have begun reading this blog, and that some have reached out to me in the comments area. For me, one of the greatest joys in life is connecting with people who empathize with what we go through around here, either because they, too, love someone who is struggling, or because they simply have a capacity for empathy and a big heart. Thank you for stopping by and saying hello!

Today Benjy announced that he has a new best friend. This best friend is an emu who lives at a nearby poultry farm. I find this to be in equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious. As so much of what he brings to the table is. The emu's name is Zaga, by the way. Ben used to call this particular emu "Crazy," but I guess as of today he's learned to appreciate Zaga for who he (or she -- I'm not sure) is.

I think many of us who parent a child with Asperger's or another autism spectrum disorder have witnessed loneliness. For Benjy, this loneliness is heavy. It weighs him down. He develops obsessive interests in various types of animals, begs us for weeks on end for a rat/leopard gecko/budgie/Russian tortoise. Because any of these animals could be the next best friend. It was only a few weeks ago that he tried to convince me a Russian tortoise was his ticket out of loneliness. He would love it so much, and it would love him back. It kills me to say no, but we already have a family dog, and Ben has some tropical fish and a few hermit crabs, none of which have filled his emptiness. So even if we could afford another family member I would have to say no, because where does it all end? Saskia is afraid he'll grow up to be an animal hoarder, and I guess I'm a little worried about that too.

And tomorrow will probably be a day of watching Youtube videos about parrots and cockatoos and budgies ("My Pet Macaw,"etc), because as of tomorrow, Benjy has no school, no hospital program. No place to be except home with me. This is because the placement that drove him to the hospital is off the table, and the partial hospitalization (i.e. day program) he was sent to after leaving the inpatient unit was exactly like the school that had driven him to suicidality (yet again). We have a found the perfect school for him -- a small, quiet, sensory-based program -- but they have not yet decided whether they want him. Until they do, we are treading water. Luckily (and unusually) we have an amazing SPED program in our town, with a principled and compassionate middle school SPED director, and I don't think the program's price tag ($90K per year -- ouch!) will be a sticking point. Our school district knows that if Ben is in a mainstream classroom he comes home with bloodstained clothes, the result of tearing the tips off his fingers and stanching the blood on his shirt and pants. That's what extreme anxiety can do to a child, ladies and gents.

But today was not a bad day, and he is sleeping peacefully beneath his weighted blanket. There is joy in a quiet evening, with no great sadness in it. We take one day at a time around here, and tomorrow is a new day.


  1. K's obsession is animals, too. I don't know if it b/c they are easier to get along with, or if she just really, really likes them. At any rate, I understand the loneliness.Last night, during a meltdown over school, Katie said how no one likes her there. Couldn't tell me why she felt this way (never can), but it broke my heart to hear. Sure, I know she doesn't really have friends, and can't maintain relationships, but it is SO sad that her perception is that everyone hates her...

  2. Hi Jen!

    I know, it IS heartbreaking. I suspect the animal thing is a combination of the fact that our kids really do love them, and that they are never treacherous in the way other kids can be. They don't laugh at you or gang up on you (although they do sometimes bite and scratch, or ignore!). Animals are just easier to deal with, I think. I actually felt that way too, when I was a kid.

    Does Katie have any pets? My sister-in-law and mother think we should look into an emotional support dog for Ben, but we already have a dog (sort of a tough cookie, very high maintenance but we love him lots) and I think it could be tricky to introduce a new dog into the mix (and our VERY small house!). Not to mention the cost -- ugh.

    Thanks for your comment, Jen! So glad to connect this way!

  3. Both J and to an extent A get a lot of comfort from animals. J was like a different child when she was riding a horse (a short venture into hippotherapy drained our resources after the state's $ ran out). A calls our cat "Maddie with the pretty pink paws"and enjoys gently stroking her fur, even if he sometimes requires the reminder to be gentle. Ironically, I have never been an animal person, but two years ago, when J's mental health began to spiral, we saw a posting from a family offering 2 cats. And they became loved and cherished members of our family. Go figure. So glad the day had peace to it. I hope watching Benjy sleep gave you comfort, I blogged a long time ago about my thoughts as Andrew slept:

    Maybe there's something in there someone can relate to...