A Retrospective: The Doodle Diaries

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Doodle Diaries

We have had a big week in our household! Sofie has gotten her long awaited bird (we named Doodle). It has been amazing to experience Sofie's first pet. We had decided to let Sofie stay at home with 'daddy' while 'mommy' went to pick up the bird from the breeder. When Ozzy opened the door Sofie said happily "A bird. A baby bird!" And when she sat down in front of the travel cage she said "I always wanted bird." It was AMAZING. Would never have dared to dream of their meeting going so well. And Sofie was so understanding of our little feathered friend's first day jitters. In the photo to the left you can see Sofie in mid babbling sentence explaining "I baby bird mama." We never imagined Sofie would grow so attached to this bird-so quickly!

It has also revealed a lot about how Sofie interacts with those she cares about. The first few days Sofie would check on the bird and gently stroke its tail feathers through the bars of the cage. She would sometimes randomly bring up that she had a bird. But she didn't smother the bird with attention or play too rough. She was always gentle. After seeing Doodle's temperament improve we got adventurous and had a play date in Sofie's room (ironically safest room in the house for Doodle). Sofie was ecstatic. Doodle flew and hid in the corner. I told Sofie that Doodle was shy. She then took her stuffed penguin and had it dance next to Doodle. She then took the penguin and went to another corner in the room to read a book with the penguin. It went on like this for a few minutes. Sofie then seemed to get mad at Doodle and started to have a little controlled tantrum. I think she was upset Doodle didn't attempt to engage her after her initial effort. I guess Doodle didn't get the memo. Because that is how Sofie's day usually goes. She will briefly connect to someone and then scampers away to do whatever self-directed task she has set for herself. Or sometimes she doesn't even make that brief connection but because the adults around her know how vital it is for her to learn to interact appropriately with others they do the heavy lifting and approach her. Doodle is going to make Sofie work for that connection in a way Sofie has never had to before. It's almost like a bird is tailor made for ASD therapy.

And it has been therapy for mommy too. I was getting quite anxious earlier in the week when the bird was reluctant to eat or drink unprompted. Aside from the usual parent fear of killing your child's pet, I think there was another element to my anxiety. This type of anxiety felt very familiar. I was feeling the anxiety I felt before the diagnosis when we would travel with Sofie. I was always worried about Sofie drinking or eating enough because she gave no indication she was hungry (no crying-nothing). A little cockatiel brought me back 'there.' It reminds me that we have come a long way but that I am human. And that along with those days-long-funks I can get in where I beat myself up for not getting Sofie to where she needs to be (wherever that is). I can also have an anxious feeling triggered AND talk myself back from the ledge. That's something to celebrate. Also I think I am a Bird person. I really loved having the bird play with my hair tonight. Never got the cat thing and I love dogs but I don't LOVE dogs. But I must say I love cuddling this little bird.

I think I can add Crazy Bird Lady to my resume.

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