As parents there are times we all cave, throw our hands up in the air and just give in to whatever the demand at the moment is. There are times we say "yes" to ice cream before lunch, or "go ahead" to the toy that will wind up in next year's yard sale or "it's fine" through clenched teeth at the hideous outfit chosen for the school picture. Even though we know we shouldn't, we do, because as all the mothers and fathers who have come before us have told us, "pick your battles". That's a great motto to live by as it helps reduce your guilt when your child has ice cream sprinkles hanging from their lips before 10 AM, but when skirmishes erupt regularly throughout the day and they effect all the members of your troops, sometimes it's difficult to decide when to retreat and when to wage a full on war. Don't get me wrong, Ryan is not the captain of this army, (ok, AWEnestly, sometimes he is) and Dan and I have pushed Ryan outside his comfort zone many, many times because we know, that like it or not, the world is not going to adapt to Ryan's needs and desires, Ryan has to adapt to the world. And this past week, that world has expanded to include a puppy because regardless of the battlefield damage, Ryan can't always be victorious.
There is no real definitive answer to why so many children and adults with autism have this supposed animal connection, but Temple Grandin, the well known animal scientist, author and professor living with autism believes autistic people can often think the way animals think. In fact, in Grandin's book, "Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior" she sees "autism as a kind of way station on the road from animals to humans---putting autistic people in the perfect position to translate "animal talk". Although Temple Grandin may have changed the cattle industry with her ability to relate and understand cattle, I don't believe Ryan is the next Dr. Doolittle. However, I do believe that Ryan appreciates and loves that neither one of our dogs ever asked him to discuss his day and he fully appreciates that dogs don't care one way or another whether he brushes his teeth or combs his hair.
Although a near death wasp experience at the first puppy shopping stop we made may have prevented Ryan from utilizing any Dr. Doolittle expertise he had up his sleeve, he did at least pet two of the puppies we carried to the van where he sat waiting with the windows up to prevent any further wasp fly by's. Ryan's choice of Rook was weighted higher than anyone else's which gave Ryan some sense of control of a decision he felt was totally unfair. And although Ryan didn't want "any stupid dog" in the first place, he watched and giggled at the puppy's antics from a safe distance in the van most of the way home.
Upon returning home, Ryan begged to go with me to the pet store to pick up all the expensive, necessary items a new puppy requires. I figured he had candy in mind because yes, even in the check out line at the pet store, there is enticing candy right at kid level. Ryan helped shop for a few things then asked if he could go see the other "animals". When I found Ryan ten minutes later he was entranced by of all things, the mice. With intermittent times of flat out belly laughing to his big trying not to smile autismy grin when another man equally interested in the mice approached, to his concern that the one mouse wasn't moving, my Dr. Doolittle was more impressed with some little vermin than cute, snuggly puppies. Of course it helped that the mice were safely encased in 2 inch think glass. I asked Ryan why he liked the mice so much and he said they were "funny" and "interesting". When I told him with all his math and sciencey smartness maybe one day he could become a scientist working with mice conducting experiments on how animals think and why they behave the way they do. Ryan was thrilled such a job existed. My beautiful, intelligent son may prefer mice to people one day, and if you take just 10 minutes to watch the news, read the paper, or watch some ridiculous reality television show, you might just discover that Ryan, and kids like him, are smarter than any of us.