Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Two Birds on the Spectrum

Quality Time Between Friends
In only a short week and a half, our little family has grown quite attached to our little pet bird. For me it has been a welcome reprieve from studying ASD and ASD therapy methods. I have always loved nature specials and have found the little details about caring for a bird really fascinating. It's funny to take such care with Sofie's Gluten Free/ Casein Free Diet and add to that a little bird's organic pellet diet. From what I hear it will affect how the bird acts as well. 

I really love spending time with the little bird. And I can't get enough of seeing Sofie interact with her "baby." It's really sweet to see how similar they are. And I couldn't help but laugh reading about cockatiels- Birds are animals with Autism OR are individuals with Autism humans with bird-like tendencies? I will give you a moment to recover from me blowing your mind.
A Happy Place
Here are some characteristics I have read about cockatiels (I don't want to generalize for all birds)....

-crave routine and can exhibit "behavioral problems" when in a chaotic environment

-love attention but you must learn to approach them gently and quietly. It is a good idea to present your hand so they can approach you.

-never just grab a bird. They will learn to be anxious with this approach.

-a great healthy balanced diet helps them be much more social and happier. Digestive issues can contribute to illness but also can make the bird withdrawn and reluctant to be held.

-always speak calmly. Even when you are disciplining a bird never yell. They will only get anxious hearing yelling.

-if you notice the bird sitting in a corner of its cage for a long period of time, open the cage and offer your finger. Gently move the bird to another area of the cage with a toy or take the bird out for some playtime. 

-birds that spend long days by themselves without any human or bird interaction become withdrawn and will startle easily when someone does try to interact with it. 

-often misunderstood as an animal meant to just look at in a cage, it can actually be incredibly affectionate when cared for by someone that understands the sociology of birds. 

-if possible, encourage your bird to fly in a safe environment. Encouraging flying will give the bird practice with using its wings and it will learn to fly strong. 

For those of us that love a little one on the Spectrum, these characteristics can feel a little familiar. I know that little Doodle feels like Sofie's spirit animal. They really look like kindred spirits. 

Going to bed happy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Doodle Diaries

We have had a big week in our household! Sofie has gotten her long awaited bird (we named Doodle). It has been amazing to experience Sofie's first pet. We had decided to let Sofie stay at home with 'daddy' while 'mommy' went to pick up the bird from the breeder. When Ozzy opened the door Sofie said happily "A bird. A baby bird!" And when she sat down in front of the travel cage she said "I always wanted bird." It was AMAZING. Would never have dared to dream of their meeting going so well. And Sofie was so understanding of our little feathered friend's first day jitters. In the photo to the left you can see Sofie in mid babbling sentence explaining "I baby bird mama." We never imagined Sofie would grow so attached to this bird-so quickly!

It has also revealed a lot about how Sofie interacts with those she cares about. The first few days Sofie would check on the bird and gently stroke its tail feathers through the bars of the cage. She would sometimes randomly bring up that she had a bird. But she didn't smother the bird with attention or play too rough. She was always gentle. After seeing Doodle's temperament improve we got adventurous and had a play date in Sofie's room (ironically safest room in the house for Doodle). Sofie was ecstatic. Doodle flew and hid in the corner. I told Sofie that Doodle was shy. She then took her stuffed penguin and had it dance next to Doodle. She then took the penguin and went to another corner in the room to read a book with the penguin. It went on like this for a few minutes. Sofie then seemed to get mad at Doodle and started to have a little controlled tantrum. I think she was upset Doodle didn't attempt to engage her after her initial effort. I guess Doodle didn't get the memo. Because that is how Sofie's day usually goes. She will briefly connect to someone and then scampers away to do whatever self-directed task she has set for herself. Or sometimes she doesn't even make that brief connection but because the adults around her know how vital it is for her to learn to interact appropriately with others they do the heavy lifting and approach her. Doodle is going to make Sofie work for that connection in a way Sofie has never had to before. It's almost like a bird is tailor made for ASD therapy.

And it has been therapy for mommy too. I was getting quite anxious earlier in the week when the bird was reluctant to eat or drink unprompted. Aside from the usual parent fear of killing your child's pet, I think there was another element to my anxiety. This type of anxiety felt very familiar. I was feeling the anxiety I felt before the diagnosis when we would travel with Sofie. I was always worried about Sofie drinking or eating enough because she gave no indication she was hungry (no crying-nothing). A little cockatiel brought me back 'there.' It reminds me that we have come a long way but that I am human. And that along with those days-long-funks I can get in where I beat myself up for not getting Sofie to where she needs to be (wherever that is). I can also have an anxious feeling triggered AND talk myself back from the ledge. That's something to celebrate. Also I think I am a Bird person. I really loved having the bird play with my hair tonight. Never got the cat thing and I love dogs but I don't LOVE dogs. But I must say I love cuddling this little bird.

I think I can add Crazy Bird Lady to my resume.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Insomnia Questions

Insomnia brought on the practical reason that my little lady is recovering from a sinus infection and I am hearing every cough over the baby monitor and envisioning the worst (or rather grossest). That, in turn, leaves the door open for me to start worrying about things I can't control. This list is IMMENSE. I'm not kidding. Global warming is on there. The polarized political climate-check. Not knowing the potential markers for disease in my genetic code-yup that's on there too. Now I would like to think I am not crazy (famous last words). I don't cycle on all these thoughts. But it's fascinating that I took a second away from the keyboard to essentially call up those insane worries. It took zero effort. They were just-there, ready for me pull them out of the haze of my brain and flesh them out with some more focused worry. How kind of me-right?? Do I worry about the huge things because I feel powerless with my everyday worries OR do micromanage my daily worries because I see the chaos of the big picture and it scares the crap out of me? World's worst 'which came first?' question, isn't it?

Those worries are like water. They take the shape of the container or rather they take the likeness of the container. Feeling tired, overworked, lethargic? MAGICALLY I begin to worry about my weight (fitting the container). When I become overwhelmed about my daughter's future I can't help but sometimes see floating islands of trash, dead polar bears, little ice chunk remnants of glaciers big enough to fit in your hands. Not kidding. Am I a little nuts? Maybe.

The really sad thing is happiness doesn't seem to work the same way. When I am filled with joy-I am just that filled. My happy moment doesn't seem to set off a chain reactions of other happy thoughts. Peter Pan would have a really hard time getting me to fly-or really any of us. How often are you having an amazing day and your mind begins to race with images of amazing things you have no control over? Are our happy moments so dense that our brain is in a sense preoccupied for a moment? A rest from the worry? Maybe that's it. Or maybe it comes back to that primitive fight or flight response when it comes to worry. The mind races when it is scared. Could it be that? Why does the anxious brain not have uncontrollable positive thoughts running rampant?

We need to work on that.

Friday, July 4, 2014

I Spent the Fourth with the First

I spent the Fourth with the First
The First Person I've met that was created to see
See the things we all miss each day
Day passes to night and she says "Bye bye"
She sees 'it' all as the same-"hello flower, hello mama"

I spent the Fourth with the First
The First Person I've met that was born knowing
Knowing "it" is all the same and each blade of grass is different
She knows and celebrates the miracle of this paradox every day

I spent the Fourth with the First
And she is my last thought before sleep.