T has been with us for about 6 months. He is 10 years old and is diagnosed with ASD though it seems quite mild. Some of his symptoms that are attributed to ASD could also be just down to the fact that T is a 10 year old boy. In general he is a very happy lad but one who has moments of anxiety and has some problems dealing with his emotions. Because of his condition he does get fixated on things so he has a strong passion for cars and certain movies and TV programmes and at the moment he has a sometimes unhealthy obsession with Loom Bands (tiny little elastic bands that the kids make into bracelets).
I am married with three children, one at home, one at University and one living just down the road, and I am the main carer as my wife has a full time job as an Assistant Principal at a Sixth Form College.
Friday 10th April – Thursday 16th April
T and the SportFit Toad.
A short story from Mrs. B
Once upon a time there was a boy called T.
He had dark brown hair.
He wore glasses.
He liked cars.
He had autism.
He was 10 years old.
He liked animals.
He liked the school holidays.
One Easter Holidays, Mr and Mrs B organised for T to go away on an adventure holiday with a company called SportFit. T had been away with this company before; he had been to their activity week in Norfolk when he had lived with his last Foster Carers. This time, it was Avon Tyrell in the New Forest. Mrs B said that their son had been there camping when he was at school and that she had taken some of her students there. It was a lovely place to stay with lots and lots to do. Everyone thought that this was a good idea. T was going to be picked up on the Monday and would stay away until Friday.
On Monday morning, T didn’t want to get out of bed. When Mr B went into his bedroom and said “Come on T, up you get. It’s SportFit today.” T rolled over, all wrapped up in his duvet and faced the wall. A muffled “I’m not going” was all Mr B could hear.
After a while, Mr B asked Mrs B if she could help. “I’ll try” said Mrs B and she thought about how she might help. She wondered why T might have changed his mind about going. She thought about how she felt when she was 10 years old and was going away and she remembered what it was like.
She went and sat on the end of T’s bed. Before she had had a chance to say anything, a muffled voice came out of the duvet, “I’m not going and you can’t make me.”
‘He’s right’ thought Mrs B, ‘of course I can’t make him go, but I would like to know why he doesn’t want to go anymore because yesterday he was so excited.’ But out loud she said, “I remember when I was your age, and I was going to go to Pony Camp. I was really excited to go, but on the morning I was meant to leave, I was suddenly worried and I didn’t want to go.”
The duvet wiggled a bit and a voice said “Why?”
Mrs B said “Well, I was really excited about looking after the ponies, but I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know what the routine would be, or who else was going, or what the leaders would be like and all that uncertainty made me feel very nervous and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go anymore.”
The duvet wriggled a little bit more and the voice spoke a bit more, “I’m not really worried about any of that” the voice said.
“What are you worried about then?” asked Mrs B.
“Well,” and this time the duvet rolled over and Mrs B could see T’s face peeping out. “There are two people picking me up and I’ve never met them before and I don’t know what they will be like so I don’t know if I will like them. I also want to sit in the front of the car, not on the back seat.”
“All of that sounds quite sensible things to be worried about,” said Mrs B. “I wonder what car they will be driving… Last time you went to SportsFit, were you picked up by someone?” asked Mrs B.
“Yes.” said T.
“And what were they like?” asked Mrs B.
“They were nice.” Said T.
“And what car did they drive?” Asked Mrs B.
“A Mini Cooper.” Said T.
“A Mini Cooper?!!!” said Mrs B. “Wow! So what car do you think it will be this time?”
There was a pause. Then T said in a very sad voice “A Renault Clio.”
“Ha!” said Mrs B “I bet it’s more exciting than that! Can I make a suggestion?”
“What?” Said T
“Well, before you decide for definite that you are not going, let’s meet these two people who are picking you up, let’s ask them what car they are driving and let me tell them that you’re feeling a bit nervous because you don’t know them. And, if it is OK, you would like to sit in the front seat. Once we’ve done those things, and you’ve heard their answers, if you still really, really don’t want to go and have all that fun with high ropes, and archery, and swimming and all that, then you let me know. Is that a deal?”
“Deal.” Said T grumpily.
“And either way, why don’t you get dressed and come downstairs and I will have made you egg and bacon. Deal?”
“Deal.” Said T a little more happily. But only a little.
“OK, see you downstairs in five minutes.
By the time T was dressed and downstairs, Mrs B had made bacon and eggs for her, Mr B and T. They all sat at the table and talked about the things that T had done on the last SportsFit holiday. It sounded great.
Five minutes later, the doorbell rang and Spike the dog barked and Mr B let Dom and Tom into the house. They came into the kitchen and Mrs B shook hands with them both and said hello. Then she introduced them to T who was feeling a little bit shy, so Mrs B helped a bit by saying, “T is a big car fan and he was wondering what kind of car you were driving, and also whether it would be OK if he could sit in the front?”
Dom looked at T. “Well,” he said, “it’s a Renault van so we all three have to sit up the front if that’s OK.” T looked at Mrs B with a bright smile on his face. “I TOLD you it would be a Renault!”
“Yes, you did” said Mrs B. “Are you ready?” and T smiled and nodded.
T was gone from Monday to Friday. When he came back at teatime on Friday, he was very excited to tell Mr and Mrs B all about the activities he had done and all about Avon Tyrell, where he had stayed and what he got up to. “But first,” he said, “I will go up and unpack my bag.”
“OKaaaaaaay.” Said Mr B. Mr B thought it was a little bit strange because T never wanted to unpack his bag after he had been away. Mr B helped him up the stairs with is big heavy bag. Mr B accidentally bumped it on the stairs. “BE CAREFUL!” T called out.
When T got to his room, he went in with his bag and closed the door.
Mr B came back downstairs and Mrs B noticed the puzzled look on his face. “Something’s a bit suspicious.” He said to Mrs B. “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see” said Mrs B.
Five minutes later, T came downstairs with a kind of carry case about the size of a lunchbox. It had air holes in and little doors at ether end. “What have you got there?” asked Mr B.
“A frog” said T.
“You’ve brought a frog home from the New Forest?” Asked Mr B.
“No!” said T. “I didn’t bring it home. It was just in my bag. I just found it!”
“It just came home with you without you knowing? I find that very hard to believe” said Mr B.
“IT DID” shouted T and he stormed off to his room with the frog.
Mr B phoned Dom. “Hello Dom. T seems to have brought a frog home with him. Ah. Aha. Yes. Right. OK. Thanks. Bye” He turned to Mrs B, “He has been playing with this frog all week and has been asked many times to leave it alone.” Just then T came back downstairs.
“Can I ask you about the frog?” asked Mrs B. T nodded. “I just want to be very clear” she said. “This is the first time you have seen this frog, is that right?” Tristan nodded. “So you haven’t been playing with it all week?”
“No” said T.
“Well we’ve just been talking to Dom on the phone and he says that you have been playing with a frog all week and that you have been asked repeatedly to put it back and leave it alone, so that sounds like a fib to me.”
T went very red in the face and he jumped up out of his chair and shouted. “SHUT UP! I HATE YOU! GO AWAY!” and he ran off to his room.
Mr and Mrs B had a chat about what they should do. Mrs B felt that it was really important that they take the frog back to the New Forest to where its family live and where it belongs in its natural habitat. Mr B agreed. “But that will take us two hours tomorrow.” He said. “I know.” said Mrs B.
After ten minutes, T came back downstairs. Mr and Mrs B asked him what happened and this is what T said. He was doing a final check that he had packed all his things and while his bag was open, the frog had jumped in. T had decided to leave it there because, he reasoned, if the frog had chosen to jump into his bag, that must mean that the frog wanted to come home with him. Mr B gently pointed out that it also might mean that the frog liked dark spaces. “Where did the frog live?” Mrs. B asked. “Under the cabin” said T. “Then probably, it’s a toad.” Said Mrs B.
Mr B told him what they were going to do. “We are going to take the frog back to the New Forest tomorrow. He or she needs to live in his or her natural habitat with his or her family.”
T was not happy. “No! I am not going in the car for two blooming hours to take a stupid frog back. There are some woods down the road. He can go and live there.”
Mrs B looked at Mr B. “Are you cross?” she asked him. “No.” replied Mr B. “No, I’m not cross either. I’m just trying to help.” She said.
“You’ve made a mistake T,” said Mr B. “Our job is to help you put things right again. The way to make this right is to take the frog – I mean toad – back to where you found it. I have phoned Avon Tyrell and they are really pleased that we are going to bring the toad back. So tomorrow morning, no TV, just up and dressed and breakfast, and then we’ll take the toad back.”
“NO TV! NO! I’M NOT DOING IT AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!”
“OK.” Said Mrs B. Let me put it another way. Tomorrow, nothing else is going to happen until we have taken the toad back, so you can either get up and take the toad back and then get on with your day, watching TV, going to the climbing wall, playing with your transformers, reading your book, OR you can sit on the sofa all day, refusing to take the toad back, and then finally agreeing to, but by the time we get back, the day will have finished and there will be no time for anything else. Which would you rather?”
“OH GOD! I HATE THIS FAMILY! I WISH I LIVED SOMEWHERE ELSE!”
Finally T agreed that taking the toad back was the best thing to do and so he and Mr B found a nice plastic box in the shed, and put some rainwater in a saucer and some grass and some lettuce to help the toad feel comfortably damp, and covered him or her with a lid because we had all learnt that this toad liked dark places, and they left him for the night.
In the morning, T had changed his mind. He didn’t see why he should have to sit in a car for two hours taking a stupid toad back to the New Forest. First he refused to get out of bed. Then when he heard some bacon was on offer, he decided to get dressed and come downstairs for breakfast, but he wasn’t going to get in the car.
After breakfast, T shouted and screamed and slammed doors and banged around. He was so rude to Mr and Mrs B, swearing at them, that he lost his pudding for a week. He was so cross and angry and shouty and went around kicking things and slamming things that he lost all his electronics for 24 hours. And still the toad was waiting to go back home.
Mr and Mrs B did a very good job of ignoring his anger, but they did begin to feel a little frazzled at the edges. And still the toad was waiting to go back home.
Finally, everything seemed to calm down a bit and T came and sat on the sofa. He had a very big frown on his face and his arms were crossed tightly across his chest. Mr B asked “Are you ready to take the toad back now?”
T scowled at Mr B, but he also nodded. “OK,” said Mr B. “Let’s go.”
When they got to Avon Tyrell, T refused to get out of the car. Although he had been chatty on the journey, now they had arrived, he was feeling anxious. A very nice woman was waiting for them at reception. She was very pleased that the toad was OK and after they had made sure he had been put back under the right cabin, the woman explained how important it was for toads to live in the right habitat with all of their toad relatives. She also told T again how pleased she was that they had brought the toad back and not just let it go somewhere near them.
When T and Mr B had come back home, Mrs B asked how T felt. “Happy.” He said.
“Why?” asked Mrs B.
“Because I know that I did the right thing for the toad.” T said.