“You just need a sense of humour”. I heard this patronising and unhelpful advice from a panellist at an Autism New Zealand Conference many years ago. What about access to education and services, understanding, financial and other support?
These words came back to me when I received the following email from my friend Helen* earlier this year. Helen’s adult autistic daughter Alex has high and complex needs and various support workers come in and out of their lives. Helen has a painfully damaged back from years of hard physical caring work. Their old family friend Ben has a new rescue beagle puppy called Happy. Somehow Helen retains a wicked sense of humour. I have her permission to share this summer story.
The support workers used the old Mitsubishi for a few days when they first came back after the Christmas holidays. They went to visit someone they knew at a farm and showed Alex all the animals.
The farm owner very kindly gave them a tray of 20 fresh free range eggs. In the old Mitzi, as it’s a station wagon, there’s nowhere Alex can’t reach. So the eggs went under the car seat. They forgot about them.
The heatwave was due so they wanted to use my little Honda for its air conditioning. I had hurt my back and couldn’t drive so it wasn’t a big deal.
In the meantime those 20 eggs sat under the car seat in a locked car parked in the full sun for several weeks until we found them last Monday.
We decided they would be well and truly decomposing and the best thing to do, was to bury them deep into the compost heap.
It was the deepest hole ever dug on my section. Even old black and white puss didn’t get such a deep hole when he died.
Tonight ... God comes calling at the front door. Three Mormons. Poor Ben couldn’t get rid of them and called me.
With great difficulty, I was trying to change the sheets on my bed. Bed making and sore backs aren’t good companions. I’d got the clean top and bottom sheets on ... the new pillowcases ... and was half way through getting the duvet on.
Ben calls me in despair ... to get rid of the godly trio. I left my bedroom door open, my biggest mistake ever.
Meanwhile, Happy the rescued beagle cross pound pup had dug up all 20 of the rotten eggs. He got them out, breaking the lot. He rolled in them ... he was in dog muck heaven.
THEN ... he snuck inside through the back door, saw my bedroom door wide open and a clean bed. Happy loves beds. Happy is the laziest young pup I have ever known.
In his little peanut brain, he must have thought all his dreams had come true. Rotten eggs to roll in and my best linen and a bed just waiting for him.
You have no idea of the smell and mess when I got rid of the God botherers. I could smell it from the front door.
The linen all came off ... the dog got a bath ... and Alex drank the remaining approximately 500 mls of dog shampoo.
I had to ring the Poisons Centre. Ben had to take Alex to A&E for a chest X-ray, as my back won’t allow me too.
I’m left at home with the Mucky Happy. My poor timid Bo, our black labrador, senses the atmosphere isn’t too great. He’s currently hiding.
Meanwhile the cause of all the trouble is damp and fast asleep, lying across the entire sofa.