My little boy, Morgan, is different. Not so you'd notice but the 'difference' makes a huge impact on his life. He has Aspergers Syndrome - ASD. High Functioning Autism if you must give him a label. He was diagnosed when he was at four and then discharged, with no support offered. I've had to learn how to care for my son through hands-on experience and the Internet. And I've just discovered something that I hope will change his life.
I read about Trained Service Dogs and how they can help change the often difficult and challenging lives of children like Morgan and now my friends and family are campaigning tirelessly to raise funds for a dog that will be deeply loved and will return that love with care, protection, fun and confidence for Morgan.
To me, 10-year-old Morgan is gorgeous, sensitive and loving. he sees the world from a different angle and says the funniest things at the most inappropriate times such as saying to his Step Dad, "I'm really sorry to tell you this but I think your Gran is going to die soon" at her 90th Birthday Party. Yes, it raised a few eyebrows there too!
You see he can't read situations, or facial expressions or even emotions for that matter so it wasn't funny to him, it was a fact. Though I do still secretly have a chuckle about it, this social inability leaves him very vulnerable. Imagine not knowing who is joking or being mean. Who is a stranger and who is just being friendly. A Service Dog would respond by putting itself between Morgan and any possible threat.
Morgan is a bright boy, above academic level for his age and he has kept us very busy. One of his earliest talents was using the computer and by age four was logging on independently, We purchased a game subscription, not realising a budding hacker was in our midst, watching passwords being typed in, logged into the payment details and at the grand old age of Four and half, emptied his fathers bank account.
Another of his skills is Lego building, currently part way through The Death Star.We now have so much Lego we could build an extension. As each interest develops into an obsession, Prepare for a challenge as I pirouette round a room that has an assortment of figures and space crafts in various poses for a boy who has diagnosed his Mother with Legophobia and will flip if they aren't in the right place when he returns. Now you are starting to get the picture.
However, its not all fun, cuddles and brick models. Challenging children have challenging behaviour as does Morgan. He was a lamb really until bullying opened his eyes to being different. It made him realise he didn't fit in and he gets frustrated, upset and angry. Yet while his anger is fleeting his remorse and guilt seem to consume him. Again a Service dog would see the signs and respond before he lost control.
He is very polite, well mannered, most of the time and articulate. However, take him out of his comfort zone (usually his onesie), and you will see the anxiety and panic that makes him unable to cope. Its called sensory overload and well, its difficult to explain but Morgan's anxiety has become so great that other than visiting our local newsagent for his favourite drink on his scooter once a day, he's becoming trapped in his own home. Its debilitating for him. A harness is attached to his dog who would then sense his anxiety and move into action.
As they've gone through school together the difference between he and his sister, Sophie, has shown most starkly not in achievement but in social life as Sophie's solid friendship group have a diary full of social events while Morgan's only ever invite came from one of Sophie's friends. Leaving him asking one of the hardest questions I've had to hear "Why aren't I allowed friends Mummy?". Now I know a dog isn't going to give him a party but it is going to give him a trusted companion..
In a society where it seems its acceptable to discriminate against anyone who doesn't fit the norm, maybe it pays to remember that children are born accepting of everything around them and learn what isn't acceptable from adults. This bright little star needs to shine. The dogs we are raising money for are trained to aid all aspects of every day life. Its the difference between Morgan looking out of the window wishing he could go and having the confidence to put on his coat, Knowing that if he feels anxious he has someone with him who knows what to do, isn't that what every 10 year old boy deserves?