Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I’m a Canine-Brother Social-Guide

Yo Dude. Mick here.

I’m the adorable, slurp-your-face-so-happy-to-see-you guy.

Maybe I should make some things a bit more clear.

Yes, I’m a canine brother with the emphasis on brother.

Some biased, individuals in need of diversity and sensitivity training may consider me a dog.

They are wrong.

I am a family member who has a strong bond with my two-legged brother, Red.

In addition to being his champion and advocate, I am also one of Red’s social mentors and guides. I’m his interpreter.

I’m a
canine social-guide.

My brother, Red has many wonderful talents.

He is a comedian who can deadpan jokes really well. He’s also good at slapstick. He's got an incredible ability to mimic dialects and memorize lines. I fully expect that one day he will be “discovered” and whisked away to Hollywood to become the actor he is!

Red is a baritone player with an incredible audio memory. This helps him a lot especially with learning new music (and memorizing those lines). His hearing is also superb. Red can hear even the softest voice where most others can’t over the din of the band room as an example. His hearing is almost as good as, well, a canine’s.

Red is also an artist. Most people don’t know this but he has several shoeboxes filled with his characters, both real and imaginary, drawn on 3X5 cards. He probably has close to 5,000 or more!

Mostly he makes caricatures of people or animals playing sports or musical instruments. He puts these together sort of like a story-board for a show. With his talent, he may even become a writer or director.

With all his talents, you may wonder why Red needs a social mentor and guide. Well, Red has autism. Autism is sometimes called “Autism Spectrum Disorder” or abbreviated, “ASD”.

As a social mentor and guide, I assist in social translations between Red and others. I interpret for Red. Sometimes I explain Red and what he’s saying or doing and why to others and sometimes I explain to Red what others are saying or doing and why.

Red doesn’t always “get” others and often, others just don’t “get” Red either.

If you think of autism like you going to a different country – the assistance of an interpreter can make your visit less stressful and therefore more pleasurable.

I’m Red’s interpreter, his canine social-guide

B but mostly I’m his brother.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Polishing Our Schedule Around Band

Yo! Mick here. This was me after our Saturday Band Camp this weekend. Don’t I look adorable when I’m falling asleep on the couch?

The first month back to school has past and Red and I are still making adjustments to our schedules. Band seems to rule as well as rock!

Although we love band, it is almost a full time career. On Tuesday and Thursday nights Red and I return to school at 5:45pm to practice marching drills and music until 8:45. We play for all of the home games and we have several competitions this year.

I think I mentioned before that I play the French horn and Red plays the baritone. Mum helps out as she can. She helped with getting the uniforms hemmed and organized, not to mention organizing us. Band has become a family activity. I had no idea how much goes into getting the band up and marching on the field.

Well, we’re starting to find our footing (LOL get it?) with getting our homework completed around the band schedule. Although there are some competitions coming up that may require some additional polishing of the schedule (I crack myself up).

Next we need to add in some chores. We’ve been relying on Mum for quite a bit but she’s giving us the heads up that changes are in order. We’re bigger, older and more mature and therefore need to be pitching in more.

That’s cool. More responsibility usually means we are able to do more independently too.

For example, this Saturday Mum took us to another Band Camp practice and gave us money so we could walk over to a fast food restaurant with some of the other band kids instead of packing a lunch. It was great to hang with our friends.

We’re still adjusting to our schedules but we sure do like band so fitting our less favorite things around it just makes sense. Even if we’re wiped out, we make sure to take care of our responsibilities. Band is so worth the effort!

Mum here.

I give the boys plenty of heads up with an explanation when I'm planning changes. This allows Red and Mick to work out in their minds the rationale and appropriate responses and tends to make the transition smoother.

This is especially helpful to kids on the autism spectrum.

Band is important to the boys and is a strong motivator. Although I recently learned from a woman on the autism spectrum that it is cruel to withhold a preferred activity, such as band, it hasn't been an issue. Red is very self motivated.

Further, the band director stresses to the students that they must maintain good grades and demonstrate responsibility in order to be in band. I don't have to be the bad guy or the enforcer - I get to be a team player and occasionally make "suggestions".

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Digging Autism

Yo! Mick here.

Sorry, this isn't my best side but I'm digging. I'm an excellent digger.

That's pretty much what we (those of us who care for someone with autism) must do a lot of.


What are we digging?

Details mostly. I'm constantly digging for the details about what's going on with Red. For example, he doesn't always let anyone know that he's been bullied. Sometimes I have to ask him (dig) point blank, "Red, did anyone bully you today at school?", to learn the answer to this question.

Digging for solutions is something else we do a lot of. Mum and I do a lot of research about how best to assist Red. We talk with other parents and families who have kids on the autism spectrum for tips and suggestions to help our daily lives function better.

I talk with other kids at the park and school about how to be successful,
what's important to them and so on. I mean, I'm a canine and Mums an adult. We don't always understand a kids perspective or insight into what's going on and important. We gotta dig this information up.

Mum digs in Red's binder and backpack looking for clues about homework, notes from classes and checking out his artwork. You'd be amazed what you can dig up from art!

Like archaeologists, we are careful and vigilant in digging up the clues to (and for) Red. You could say Mum and I have PhDs in Redology.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bullies beware! We've Got Red's Back!

Yo, Mick here. The handsome one with the blue eyes and no bandanna.

I'm still worried about the bullies at school. If I'm still worried, I can't imagine how Red must feel. To watch him though, its like someone has wiped his heart clean of the memories.

He jumps out of bed, races to get ready and flies out the door for another day of school. He loves band, and Video, is not too keen on math and enjoys meeting up with his friends.

I don't know if I could do that. I mean, I'm still wiggling mad about those bullies harming my boy!

Do you have any ideas why the bullies torment others? For years now bullies have been considered just another victim themselves who suffer from low self esteem. Ha! I mean have you actually seen bullies in action? Do you know any bullies?

Low self-esteem my flea bite!

New research shows that bullies are more likely to have typical self-esteem and maybe even border on fluffed up self-esteems. Coddling the bully and building them up just results in rewarding them with more attention.

I'd like to see bullies taken down some ego pegs!

The school where Red goes has agreed to continue the program set up last year. It is designed with the ultimate goal of improving school climate and providing a safe place for everyone.

The plan is that Red, his SCIA, teachers or other adults when they hear of or witness a bully event they report it and the student is brought in and informed that what they did was bullying. The student is then put on alert that they will be monitored. A record of the event and conversation is placed in their permanent file so that everyone knows the student has been informed.

Any further bullying incidences then have a series of consequences including detention and suspension. All incidences and consequences are documented.

I have my doubts, but things were starting to improve a bit by the end of the school term this last year. Although some of the bullies just enlisted others to "moo" at the kid with the wild red hair.

Beginning early may help - maybe.

Whatever, Mum and I are here for Red and he knows it! Red also has several teachers and other school support staff and especially his SCIA. We ALL have his back and so do several of his friends at school.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Bully Kicked My 2 Legged Puppy

Same Old Bullies - Again

Yo, Mick here. I'm the one without opposing thumbs - I'm not really opposed to much except meanness and deliberate harm. Red has had a challenging 2nd week of school because of bullies. The same ones from last year with a few new recruits.

Red came bursting through our backdoor Thursday so distraught he practically fell over me waiting for him. He collapsed on the couch. I jumped up on top of him to give him slurpies (I'm not yet a trained therapy dog but I know what works on my boy) and he wrapped me in his arms and rolled to his side holding me in a tight ball.

My boy takes on too much!

Red didn't cry at all, he's maturing. After a few minutes Red told me he'd tried to not react when the fat boy in the black T-shirt said, "Cows Moooo.", but that he couldn't help it, he'd already been "moooed" at a few other times that day.

How can humans be so cruel to one another? 

It breaks my heart to see humans kicking any puppy, even one with only 2 legs. From Red's perspective, with his sensory issues and autism, "moooing" is the same as deliberately kicking - and the bullies know this!