Thursday, 15 March 2018

A Boy And His Dog

On the 24th April 2017, we received a wonderful new addition to our family, compliments of the SA Guide Dogs Association.

Let me introduce you all to Zeke:

A yellow, male labrador, 18 months old at the time, that walked in through our front door and straight into our hearts.

I'm sure many of you have seen a story or two about how a non-verbal autistic child was given a dog and it dramatically changed their lives.  Their child suddenly started talking, hugging their dog, never leaving their side.

The problem with these stories, as wonderful as they are, is that it doesn't happen often.  The reality of it is, like any relationship, it takes time to bond and form trust.  

When Zeke arrived, Gabriel was very excited.  He flapped his arms so much (stimming) I thought he was going to levitate!  He shrieked and smiled so we knew he was excited.  Now, bear in mind, Gabriel is VERY tactile resistant.  There are alot of textures he cringes at touching, feeling or even eating.  Water is the biggest foe.  If he messes even a drop of water on his clothing, it has to come off immediately.  When it is time to wash hands, Gabriel hovers his hands in the basin, anywhere but by the water.  Although, he does love his baths and adores swimming.  

And so, Gabriel discovered Zeke's wet nose.  Oh, and his big licks.  On the face, on the legs, arms, anywhere Zeke can lick, he will.  In the beginning, when Zeke would touch his wet, goofy nose on Gabriel's leg, he would bolt forward, like he had just been shocked!  Now, thankfully, he just moves slightly and mumbles at Zeke.  

But we have seen a difference.  Gabriel loves touching Zeke's fur.  He will often walk past him, stroking his back, and sliding his tail, ever so gently, through his hands.  And Zeke is AMAZING with Gabriel.  He is exceptionally patient with him and has the most gentle soul I have ever encountered.  Sometimes when Zeke runs around the garden like he has just been inflicted with Mad Cow's Disease, Gabriel giggles like a teenage girl meeting Justin Bieber for the first time.

Zeke, like most labs, loves to chew.  May I present Exhibit A:

And his tail is like a propeller on speed.  There is an adorable sticker that sums it up perfectly:

Gabriel shows us, in very unique ways, that he adores Zeke.  One morning, Zeke was blocking our bedroom doorway, and G-Dad was running late for work.  He raised his voice to Zeke and the next minute, Gabriel ran out of his bedroom and promptly smacked G-Dad.  

We have no doubt that Zeke is making a huge difference in Gabriel's life, but most of all, he is a companion for our son.  Plus, we all love him to death.

And we can never, ever imagine our lives without him!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Starting The New Year With A Bang

Life has been a little hectic and eventful lately, hence my lack of blogging.

So I thought I would finally discipline myself enough to update you all on how Gabriel is doing.

Firstly, Gabriel received a new friend earlier last year -an amazing and adorable yellow labrador, called Zeke, from the SA Guide Dogs Association.  I will write more about him in my next blog posting.

Gabriel is doing remarkably well, developmentally.  He has had a very keen interest in aircrafts for a while now, and loves learning the names of all the various military planes and civilian planes (thanks Youtube!).  We use this to our advantage - we are using his interest to teach him language and communication, via typing on a device or keyboard.  He loves this and beams with pride once he has completed a word.  He also repeats the various names, verbally, as best he can and does remarkably well!

With growth and knowledge comes another, harder, less spoken about side of classic autism.  Intense frustration and Gabriel's injurious behaviour has increased too.  And he always takes it out on his own head.  Gabriel will alternate between hitting his head hard with his palms or smashing the back of his head against a wall.  We have to restrain him, by pulling him away from the wall (who knew a 7 year old could be so unbelievably strong!) or letting him ride out his meltdown on our bed; a big, safe space.

Two weeks ago, we received a frantic phone call at work.  All that could be made out was, "Gabriel ran into the wall with his head".  He was screaming in the background and we rushed home immediately.  When I got out the car, and I approached the front door, I was greeted with this sight :

That is our front door.  Gabriel had had a meltdown, ran towards it and, in the blink of an eye, smashed the back of his head so hard through the blinds, that the glass shattered.  We ran inside to find our son, calmly playing on his ipad.  Upon inspecting him, he only had a tiny, superficial cut on his head and some scratches on his neck - of which the skin was unbroken!  His guardian angels were definately working hard by his side!  The one advantage is that Gabriel got such a fright, he hasn't attempted this anywhere where there is glass, again!

We have invested in a padded helmet, to try and protect his head during a meltdown - this is only worn when he starts to bang his head:

We are terrified he is going to develop epilepsy as a result of this, so we are trying everything to prevent this from happening.  Communication is key but this takes time and many 7 year olds battle to self-regulate their emotions when upset.  

Sometimes we do feel like we are swimming upstream, battling some invisible force, trying not to be overcome with fear of what the future holds.  But no matter how we might feel, we always try to imagine how Gabriel feels - how hard this world can be for him and how immensely frustrating it must be to battle to speak, to be understood, to have a body that doesn't do what you always want it to.

But most of all - we believe in Gabriel 100%, no matter what happens.  We love him unconditionally, deeply and madly!  And we will never, ever, give up on him.