Visiting the Ranch: What a difference a year makes

I took the kids to go see my brother, Bill and his wife, Toni and their 20 year old daughter, Dani, at their ranch in Cle Elum over the weekend.  We had visited last July and Joshua spent the majority of his time upstairs under the bed or playing in the closets in our room.  We had just experienced the trauma of Joshua getting jumped on by a Boston Terrier the week before and Uncle Bill had about 5 English Springer Spaniels that stayed downstairs in the basement or at the top of the stairs by the kitchen.  Joshua would only be downstairs at the kitchen during meals last year due to his anxiety.

This last Friday, July 29th, we went over to the Ranch for the weekend and Uncle Bill, Aunt Toni and Dani remarked how much Joshua had improved in the last year.  We arrived on Joshua’s birthday and I bought ice cream and sorbet to celebrate.  Joshua had little interest in actually opening his gifts, but once they were open, he certainly enjoyed playing with the gifts his siblings got for him:  Balloon Rockets, Super Mario Car, and a Barrel of Monkeys.  Joshua really liked the Balloon Rockets (we all did) as he had been playing with those at camp.  He had to work on problem solving to get help getting the balloons on the little pump and he delighted in engaging with his siblings to get them to fly around the room, whistling as they flew.  The Super Mario car was fun to run on the floor, but Joshua had the most fun, surprisingly enough, throwing him down the stairs to where the dogs were.  Michael had to be convinced that he didn’t have to go down after the car each time Joshua threw it and we got Joshua to go down there, despite the dogs (usually only one or two were there at a time) and get the car back.  Of course, Super Mario eventually lost his head to this endeavor, but it made the task all the more involved and Joshua would stay down there until he found the head to be replaced upon Super Mario’s body once again (until the next time he threw it down the stairs).

Joshua pumping the balloon and preparing for the flash.

Joshua did play upstairs again, in the closet, but this year, he pretended it was an elevator and would come back down of his own will.  At one point, to my dismay, he informed us that something was broken “Oh, oh!  Broken!”  He had thrown down a globe (no globe has ever survived Joshua’s encounter with it, as of yet) and I had the job of cleaning glass and sparkly water up off the bathroom floor.  Luckily, no one got cut.  I am open to ideas as to how to break him of this habit as it’s bound to become expensive.  He was also needing redirection on not climbing on the couches and playing with the stuffed “house cats”, which he was beginning to learn about responding to those limits.  (Bill has a stuffed cougar he had shot, which had come onto his property, which is posed in his living room, as well as a Bobcat that Toni had shot, that is posed trying to catch a grouse.  If they get played with, they will fall apart, which would not be good.)  He certainly requires vigilant supervision when a guest in someone’s home.  This makes vacations not to restful for the parent at this juncture.

Joshua did spend a lot more time downstairs, not only due to the fact that I brought snacks for him that were easily accessible, but because Dani had her trampoline outside set up.  Oh, joy! Deep joint compression for a certain autistic boy!  Joshua, and all the kids, really enjoyed that!  Uncle Bill had a great time playing with Joshua on the trampoline and was a great responder to Joshua’s cues of engagement.  He also enjoyed running around the yard, and keeping a wide berth from the dogs, and gestured to me that he wanted me to help him get up on a hitching post that was attached to a tree.  “Help, please,” was about all he could request as I worked with him to say he wanted to get up.  His purpose, of course, initially, was so he could jump off of it into the grass.  The second time I got him up there, he discovered it was pretty fun to pick the bark off the tree, which he focused on for quite sometime as his siblings helped Uncle Bill stack firewood.

Joshua Monkey and the Big Monkey, Uncle Bill

Joshua on the hitching post discovering the joy of picking off bark.

Last year, I was a bit terrified as Joshua would not want to pet or get on the horses, when his siblings were riding, but would have no fear running around them.  With visions of the possibility of him getting kicked in the head (Luckily, the horses were not easily spooked), I was constantly hoovering around him and trying to keep him from such a ill fate.  This year, he remarked about “Ruby Doggie”(re: the dog we dog sit for) in reference to the various dogs he saw and “Blue Horse” via  the book he was exposed to this year:  “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?” .  We worked with him on the true color of the horses, but for the most part, they were all “Blue Horse”.  He did allow for me to hold him and through the arena fence, had his hand on mine as I petted the horses nose, remarking how soft the horse was.  Alek, from Summer Camp had given me some wonderful advice about holding him and excitedly remarking about both the dogs and the horses.  I was so grateful for her suggestions as it really helped him have positive experiences with the animals.  Bill and Toni were so encouraging, as well, seeing the baby-steps he was making.  At some point, when he was ready, they would help him transition to actually riding a horse.  Who knows, at some point, he may end up being a bronco rider, but I think I’d rather have him pass on that endeavor.

Sarah, Rachel and Michael getting riding lessons from Uncle Bill and Aunt Toni before going out for a trail ride.

We are so grateful for Uncle Bill, Aunt Toni and Dani for having us over and meeting Joshua where he was at, while encouraging him in his attempts to communicate while also wooing him to be engaged and enjoy his time at the ranch in such playful ways.  It comes rather easy to Uncle Bill for some reason.  Perhaps due to that childlike joy he has in life’s simple treasures.  Having the support of family on this journey with autism is such a blessing and vital to the entire family of an autistic child.  Yes, we are truly blessed.  There is still so much to learn, but this time of respite is so refreshing to us all.

Uncle Bill helping Joshua wash up.

Uncle Bill and Sarah, Rachel and Michael playing a rousing game of Parcheesi


This entry was posted on Saturday, August 6th, 2011 at 9:49 am and is filed under General Autism Info. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Visiting the Ranch: What a difference a year makes”

  1. Mom Says:

    Smiles! Josh has made so much progress! Toni mentioned it to me alsoo

  2. admin Says:

    As I think about it, he started the Diflucan about that time, added the good yeast via probiotic, and then added the Carnitine, which helped his body detoxify. It will be neat to see what changes we see by next year this time.


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