On Wednesday, I went to William's parent's evening. For a child in special needs school, this is an especially important and interesting evening. Where many parent's evenings see you catching teachers for five minutes if you're lucky and usually being unable to get anywhere close to the one you really need to see, William's evenings give the opportunity for parents to sit down with all the therapists involved in their children's care and education and to meet with the staff you so rarely see when your child is picked up by the school bus in the morning and delivered home at the end of the day. William's health is now stable (most of the time) after his small bowel transplant which allows us to be able to focus our attention more on the therapies that were left to the side when keeping him alive was the priority. All William's therapists were thrilled about Oliver. We are aiming to train Oliver to be able to support William's asperger's and physical disabilities and his physio and occupational therapists were very excited to hear of our plans.
William is non too keen of his physio exercises but they are getting increasingly important as he grows. William has mild cerebral palsy but the impact can be greater as the child grows and this seems to be the case with Wills. His leg muscles are tight, giving him the label 'spastic diplegia' but his trunk is very loose and unstable. One side of William's body is stronger than the other and all of these things give him a very amusing 'amble' as he throws his body from side to side to walk. This is very exhausting for him so he uses a wheelchair to cover any distance but, without his physio, his legs would tighten more and his spine will curve more, making it impossible for him to walk at all in the future. I'll be looking for ways to include Oliver in William's physio sessions and to base some of their play sessions around some of his exercises. For example, William hates any activity aimed at helping his fine motor control as he hates doing things that he find difficult. I think he will enjoy stuffing a chew toy with dog treats for Oliver though!
One of my most interesting conversations at the parent's evening was with the occupational therapist (OT) about William's 'sensory diet'. William has big problems with sensory stimulation. It is common in all forms of autism and affects William very strongly. It's not as simple as a sensation being perceived much more or less than we would do so. William actually experiences his sensual experiences in a way that is completely different than we would. He describes reflections of light on a shiny surface as being sharp and hurting! I read of another child saying looking into his eyes burned the back of his head. William is aversive to things such as bright lights, loud noise and wet textures but seeks out movement. The OT explained to me that his brain can't co-ordinate his sensual experiences and he has to seek ways of lessening those he over perceives and increasing his experience of things his brain needs more of. He can't keep still. He wriggles when he has to sit for more than a few seconds and will often spin around or run incessantly up and down a room from wall to wall. All of this looks somewhat odd to others and distracts him from things he should be doing put there are strategies he can use. William is getting a textured cushion to enable him to rock his bottom while sitting doing his activities and I've been advised to get him a trampoline (with a handle!) as a good bounce should then enable him to relax while we do something together. Basically, we need to watch what William seeks and avoids and find ways of heightening the sensual experiences he craves and lessening those he is averse to.
Maximising positive sensory experiences for Oliver is the aim of the game of socialisation. Up to the age of fourteen months, puppies are like a sponge, soaking up new experiences. After that, it takes them longer to get used to situations they're not used to. Oliver went to the vets yesterday for his first vaccination and to receive a glowing health report. Because William is immunosuppressed after transplant, our fantastic breeder is giving Oliver his puppy vaccinations before he comes to us in case there is a risk of infection. Oliver's next jab is on December 9th, when he'll be 10 weeks old. We'll take him home as soon as we can after then but this will mean I only have four weeks left to socialise him into all the situations we'll want him to go into with William while he is the most receptive to them. To focus me, make some plans and to see if there are any situations on my list he'll find himself in at home with his breeder, I've been making a list. We have until the end of the first week of January to take Oliver to shopping centres, stations, school, church, on trains, buses, trams, tubes and to meet as many different people as possible in hats, masks, uniforms.....just as well we'll have the Christmas holidays and the rich variety of activities it offers to introduce Oliver to. One thing's for sure, sure Christmas will enable him to very quickly feel comfortable with over excitement, chaos, arguments, squeals, tears and those meltdowns and tantrums!