Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Introducing Mr Monkey

I just read a post on another blog somewhere on the internet, that talked about the use of harnesses on children. I won't link it because it really wasn't very pleasant. It basically took the mickey out of them and the parents who use them.

I use a harness for my son. Meet Mr. Monkey.

I bought him off eBay a few months ago. Best thing I ever did. Not only has it saved my son from being hit by cars or being lost in a crowd several times, but it is also useful for teaching him proximity. He can wander around a little bit, and so has his independence, after a fashion, but he can never stray too far from safety.

I realise that people can see right through the whole 'facade' of it not really being a backpack. But it still looks alot cuter and more friendly than a regular harness. Especially to the child who has to wear it. (And it's handy to be able to keep his dummy in it). I never needed one with the girls. They were taught to stay with mum, not to run off, to hold hands when crossing the roads and to behave themselves when out and about. But I still have not had success teaching this to my son.

Autism means that regular teaching methods don't work, and on top of this, it will take longer to teach him anything anyway. Autism for my son means that he may become anxious if we go somewhere different, or even take a different route to a familiar place. This anxiety usually manifests in non-compliance and tantrums.

It also means he is prone to running off - not because he is naughty, but because he may be afraid. On the other hand, like any other toddler, maybe he simply wants to go his own way. The problem is, he cannot understand that he needs to stay with mum/ wait here/ pay for items/ etc. Communication is indeed our biggest problem.

Something else to be considered, is that if someone came along to snatch him away, he would not know what to do. He is totally vulnerable in that sense. He cannot talk or communicate at all. If he cannot even respond to his name, how can I expect him to comprehend other instructions? It is stressful enough for parents to think of regular children being snatched.... then how much worse for one as vulnerable as Erik.

And so tantrums - to one degree or another - are an inevitable part of any outing for us where little man is involved. He is severely anxious, and there are serious communications issues. Ultimately this all adds up to being a threat to his safety.

But people outside - the public - they don't know this. You can't detect autism going on physical features the way you can with say.... Down Syndrome, for example. ASD children usually look like just an average kid. So people don't know at a glance that there is a disability here.

So I can understand if people jump to conclusions when they see a mother with a screaming kid on the end of a 'leash'. Really, I can. And if she looks frazzled, well she must have a bad case of 'parentitis'. But if she wants to have a more pleasant trip out, why doesn't she take the time to teach her child how to behave? She must be lazy. Or uncaring. Or both. Or something. Maybe she's just stupid and selfish. And anyway, all that kid really needs is just a good smack on the bum. That should get the message across. Better than treating him like an animal on the end of that leash. How cruel!

Yeah, I can understand... I used to think that way too before I found out that my son had ASD. So I guess I deserve it. It's certainly a lesson learned in judging others. But really, I don't care what people think. If that's what they want to presume by merely looking at me with my son, then that's their problem.

No....that's not entirely true. I care. Deep down, I do care.

It hurts when people jump to conclusions. When they make judgements about your parenting methods or skills when they have no idea of the facts. It really does hurt actually. I don't know why I care about other peoples' opinions, but I think it means alot to me that people are aware of the truth.

I suppose I can put this down to one of the lessons in life about humility. I am so sorry that I used to do this. It was ignorance, but still, it wasn't right. God has taught me not to judge, because you just never know a person's story or circumstances.

We love Mr Monkey. Mr Monkey helps me keep my son safe, and helps me teach him other skills. And the boy doesn't actually mind having to wear Mr Monkey at all. In fact, he has become a normal part of going out.


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