Saturday, October 20, 2018

Meet Taro

Smoldering eyes.
Remember a few summers ago when we went to Japan and then things started falling apart for Stow a bit, so we decided to get a cat and build a pool? Turns out, this is kind of a pattern. Not the building the pool part--the making various changes to see what helps Stow part. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about it, but it seemed to me that since things were going so well with Momo, it couldn't hurt to get another cat. Momo and Pink had bonded so solidly that the boys were getting left out on the pet love. Since Momo's a calico, she can be a bit stand-offish, so I didn't imagine her warming up to either of them any time soon. And, my gut was telling me that Stow could learn a lot from having a pet that would put up with him.

Bird watching.
Everyone who owns cats knows that change can be hard for them. In fact, cats are a lot like kids on the autism spectrum (check out this book), so adding one risked upsetting the balance we'd managed to develop with Momo. Friends with single cats told me to leave well enough alone. Friends with kids on the spectrum told me to leave well enough alone. Ren told me to leave well enough alone, and especially since he takes care of the litter box, I was inclined to listen to him.

For awhile, anyway.

So much fluff.
Then we went away for a long weekend and Ren worried about Momo being lonely the whole time. On top of that, right after we got back, we got an email that the Humane Society where we got Momo was having a sale. If Ren's a sucker for anything, it's for Momo and a good sale. So, one Friday in July, I finally convinced him to go to the Human Society to check out the kittens.

We told the kids we were just going to look, but we also knew it would be nearly impossible to leave without a new cat. It didn't help that the kids discussed names for the twenty minutes it took us to get to the Humane Society. They wanted to name it Freddy or Jason since it was Friday the 13th. They suggested Ringo (apple) to go with Momo (peach).  I reminded them that we might not get a cat and that, if we did, Ren had naming rights. He'd named Momo, and that worked out pretty well.

The cat, eating my homework.
When we got there, we learned the sale wouldn't start until Saturday (ugh) and that there were just a handful of kittens ready to go home with people. Ren thought we should walk away while we still could, but then we found Taro. When you put a tiny kitten into a small room full of this family, you expect two things to happen: 1) the kitten to hide as far under the nearest chair as possible, and 2) everyone to fight over who gets to hold the cat. Neither of these things happened. In fact, everyone patiently awaited their turn to hold a very purr-y and cuddly kitten. Despite all the signs telling us not to get a kitten, I chose to focus on the one sign that mattered. This kitten was totally down with us.

Momo, wholly unsure about Taro
I suppose the rest is history. After a bumpy first few days, Momo and Taro became fast friends.

What? What do you want?
More importantly, though, Taro has continued to be the most easygoing cat I've ever met. He purrs nonstop and often loud enough that it sounds like it hurts. He chooses to spend time with Stow, climbing on his lap, sleeping on his bed.

A patient study companion.
For his part, Stow is thrilled when Taro shows him affection, and he is learning what cats do and don't like. These are amazingly portable skills.


Besides the cat, we've also started speech therapy for Stow. He's doing it at a place that does hippotherapy. Sky (and Stow) benefitted from OT at the same place, so I figured it was worth a try, even though I had a hard time imagining what speech on a horse would look like. (Hint: it looks exactly like speech off of a horse, but with a horse.) In the few times he's gone so far, the therapist has already confirmed that Stow most likely merits an auditory processing disorder diagnosis (one that won't be formally done until he's at least 10) and that he has a hard time picking up conversations when there is any kind of static at all. So, each session, she has the horse leader and side walker have a conversation while Stow tries to complete various tasks. Over the last several months, we've become more and more convinced that the speech and auditory processing issues are Stow's biggest challenges, so we will see if this helps manage the meltdowns some.
Speech on a horse.
Another big change for Stow is that he started doing karate. I know it seems counterintuitive to give a kid who has aggressive meltdowns formal instruction on how to hit, but we hope that karate lessons will help Stow better delineate when it is and isn't okay to use his hands that way. We also figured it wouldn't hurt to give Stow lots and lots of practice in hearing and then physically responding to prompts. The pathways from his ears, to his brain, to his body have always been a little muddied by the autism, so strengthening/clearing them can only be a good thing. The instructor, who has been teaching karate for 25 years, uses multimodal approaches to teaching and has shown unending patience. As a result, Stow has thrived. Just today, he finished the tasks required to get his orange belt. His ability to focus, listen, and follow directions blows my mind.

The small mercies of all of these things aren't lost on me.

Stow and Ren at Stow's yellow belt ceremony.
I know I've been a bit negative lately. The re-emergence of the depression after all these years caught me off guard. And, Stow's struggles have made Ren and me weary. We're getting old, after all.  The thing is, though, Stow is an amazing kid who has overcome some pretty big challenges. And, nine times out of ten, he's done that with a huge grin on his face and a ready hug for anyone who needs one.

He's going to be just fine, you guys. We all are.

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