It’s been 2 months since we first brought A’Kos to stay with us. It’s time for an update on how things are going, and things are going amazingly well. A’Kos has blended right into the family. Perhaps I’ll be a little more resentful of taking him potty when it’s 20 below outside, but for now I’m okay with it. Kender gets more comfortable with A’Kos every week. He’s finally learning to enjoy throwing things for A’Kos to fetch. He particularly likes throwing A’Kos’ hard bones because they make really neat noises on the hardwood floors! Today I even got Kender to give A’Kos his treat at the end of our daily practice track, which was a big step forward for Kender.
For the most part, having A’Kos along makes getting out and about with Kender much easier than it used to be. When I need to fill out forms or spend time at the checkout, Kender will tend to lie down on A’Kos at my feet while waiting. Where before we had to drag Kender by the hand or carry him (a mightier task by the month!), now all we have to do is say, “Grab your handle, Kender!” Kender grabs his handle and we can take off at a normal walking pace. Normal walking pace…that in itself is amazing. Also, with the mobility harness Kender doesn’t need to use his cane. We didn’t realize what a relief it would be for Kender to not have his cane in hand when he has a meltdown!
Last week, we went to the local children’s museum. Although I used to be a regular visitor to children’s museums when the other kids were little, we haven’t made many trips with Kender. He would get fixated on just one spot, play too roughly or inappropriately, scream when we tried to redirect him or leave. With A’Kos, I could lead Kender from exhibit to exhibit. Anytime I saw him getting stuck, I’d just say, “Come get your handle!” and we’d be off to the next thing.
When we go to the park, A’Kos waits patiently while Kender plays on the equipment, frequently getting plenty of attention from the other children. If Kender starts to wander off, we go get him and bring him back. When it’s time to go, again all we have to do is go to Kender and say, “Get your handle!” No kicking and screaming. Well, not much, anyway; no more than any other kid!
Some things are still challenging. Kender has very strong memories of the place where we’ve been holding our church rituals and the people involved. This makes A’Kos a less effective anchor and distraction. Kender is accustomed to wandering about during ritual and playing with lights and fans, or being held by one of his sisters while I work as a priestess. At Litha, he didn’t want to sit with A’Kos while we were drumming. At our Full Moon this month, he kept asking for Tamara whenever I would pick him up or steer him away from the altar. Since we only hold ritual once a month right now, it’s going to take a while to work out how the Kender-A’Kos team needs to work on circle. We’re very grateful for our understanding and forgiving church family while we work through it!
Aside from A’Kos’ trained abilities for tethering and tracking, having him available as a companion is making a huge difference in Kender’s development. Someone in our church who only sees Kender every couple of months came up to me this weekend and asked when Kender started talking, because they’d never seen/heard him talk before. Kender has started talking about things that recently happened, things that are about to happen, and things that other people are doing. He’s saying hello, goodbye, and thank you, appropriately and with names. He sat in the living room with us to watch a movie when the girls had a sleepover. Tonight, he asked for more dinner after eating what was on his plate, handed me his plate, and said thank you when I brought it back. (You’d have to have eaten dinner with us recently to understand how huge that was!) It’s wonderful to see so much growth in the areas of communication, social interaction, and abstract thought, things that I’ve been waiting to see for so long.
Next week, Kender will be six years old. I think his seventh year is going to be the most amazing yet!
So happy for you all Elayne! I would guess it has been a great comfort to know that getting A’Kos was the right choice for your family. It is amazing how animals can help our autistic children!
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