There are loads of benefits to having a pet for children with Aspergers Syndrome, including the fact that they can now truthfully say “The dog ate my homework!” When we met and fell in love with Barnaby, our Pomeranian Chihuahua cross, the biggest issue was choosing a name. As much as I loved Chewy Chewbacca Chihuahua, we settled on Barnaby, because that’s what their favourite You Tuber, Stampylongnose, called his dog. Apparently.
Barnaby has proved to be a fantastic distraction, pulling the boys off their screens and into the back yard. My three aspies are not easily entertained outdoors. If good parenting prizes were given for allowing too much screen time, I’d have a wall full of them. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to allow my boys on their screens 13 hours per day, it’s not a great parenting move.
Having them make the decision to be outside, without my persistent nagging and bribery, is gold. Hearing cries of disappointment at bedtime when they realize they didn’t get any of their two hours of screen time that day, because they were too busy playing with the dog, feels like a gold award in parenting. I don’t even feel slightly guilty that they’re having withdrawal angst from playtime with Stampy’s Minecraft dog. Now they have the real thing.
Even the not so positives of pet ownership have a silver lining. Research on allergies is suggesting that not having the right balance of indoor and outdoor bacteria in the gut could be an issue. Well, not any more. We now have plenty of dirt and other “presents” being dropped around the house, so if that doesn’t kick start their immune systems, along with the longer exposure to the outside air, nothing will. Mind you, I have to watch myself, as I can be prone to following the dog with the anti-bacterial spray bottle from time to time.
So far we’ve saved every precious piece other than one 3 x 1 grey plate. I hoping it will make it’s way through. Not that I’m too keen to find the evidence.
So Barnaby is now a part of our family. He’s provided hours of mindfulness therapy as all of the boys worries are nowhere in sight, thanks to our playful distraction. I can tolerate the toilet training, the walks around the block, and the chewed up homework. I am even dealing with the dirt and the hair, and the mop constantly on standby. But the best bit about having a new family member like Barnaby, is that we all work together to look after him. And protect the Lego.