Thursday, June 21, 2012

Above and beyond the call...

I'm not sure I've ever been this thankful in my life.

Yesterday, Billy was able to do something he has wanted to do for the vast majority of his life - something that his brand of autism has stopped him from doing. He is 50 feet tall today, immersed in the knowledge he gained from his experience and he thinks the world is his oyster.

This is not a set of circumstances he experiences every day, as hard as we try to make it happen.

Long story short, Billy's hearing is hypersensitive. It's insanely hypersensitive. It rules his life with an iron fist (or maybe it's a very delicate spiderweb lace glove...)

While autism (the language/social/interests part of his life) is obviously present, it is not the thing that impairs his life, per se. He talks, he plays, he tries new things. He doesn't always succeed, it isn't always easy, and it sure doesn't look like the NT kids, but he takes it all on.

The hearing sensitivity impairs his life.

One of the things it stopped him from doing was entering the Nocturnal House of our favourite zoo - Taronga Zoo. This is because there is a soundtrack in there (howling, hooting, night time sounds)and Billy cannot tolerate it - physically or emotionally. We walk past the Nocturnal House, we stand near the Nocturnal House, we talk about how much we want to go into the Nocturnal House, but we do not enter the Nocturnal House.

Until yesterday. The Great Nocturnal House Day of 2012. A very, very good day.

Billy, aka Mr Modern Electronic Living, had suggested we try contacting the zoo via Facebook, after we found their awesome Facebook page. After exchanging a few messages and then emails with the staff at Billy's favourite zoo, first to the social media manager (a very clever and switched on young woman, in my opinion) and then with a wonderful keeper, something awesome happened.

Rob, the extraordinary keeper agreed to switch off the atmospheric soundtrack in the Nocturnal House at the zoo. This was miraculous enough, but it didn't stop there. When we arrived at the zoo yesterday, he asked if I thought Billy would be able to help feed some of the animals.

Does a Bilby poo near gum trees?

For the next 30 minutes or so, Billy was in his element. Feeding, meeting and greeting some of his favourite Australian animals. He asked questions, he answered questions, he got a little bit taller with every step he took. At the end of it all, Rob the keeper gave Billy a DVD of his photographs of all the animals in his care.

Even though the soundtrack is back on now, Billy has a LOT of video, which has already been edited into a movie detailing his journey through the once out-of-bounds Nocturnal House. He has done it. He owns it.

I cannot thank everyone who made this happen enough. It has opened a door in Billy's mind. It made the world, which so often seems like it is against him, seem like it was all there for him. Animals are his world, and yesterday, his passion was affirmed and respected by people other than his parents. Real, kindred spirit type people.

Yesterday, after the Great Nocturnal House Visit of 2012, we walked around the rest of the zoo, with a slightly different step. Billy, exhausted as he was by the specialness of what he had experienced, seemed a little older. He was a little more confident. He approached each exhibit with a little more ownership and knowledge. He held my hand less.  Every so often, he would look at me and say, 'I can't believe I went into the Nocturnal House.'

As we were leaving the zoo, yesterday afternoon, Billy and I had a little chat. I am not sure how much it sank in but I asked him if he was proud of himself. He said he was. I asked why. He said, 'Because I found a way to get into the Nocturnal House.'

Channeling the parents in all the cheesy family dramas I have watched, I said... 'I think you should remember this day for the rest of your life. If there's something you want to do, and it seems really hard, you know now, you can find a way to do it.' Billy thought about this for a second and said, 'So even though you said no McDonalds, If I really want it, I could have it?'



Anonymous said...

<3 <3 <3 I'm so happy for Billy, I WILL tell J about this, I think Billy could inspire some much needed confidence. :)

The Bright Side of Life said...

I love that Billy *made a plan* and hats off to the zoo for making it happen for him. What an amazing experience... happy tears! :-)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it an incredible world, when kids this age can reach out using social media to "encourage" organisations to make such "one-off" arrangements for customers.

Incredible. Most of us probably expect that customer service like that doesn't exist in SYDNEY of all places.

Well done to Val, Billy, and the Zoo (or at least, the nocturnal enclosure habitat keeper, and the social media manager).

Michele said...

oh tears! of joy and pride and awesomeness and hope rolling down my face as I read this. Well done to your little man and kudos to the zoo for making these small changes that led to big (huge) gains for your family. Best thing I have read in a long time. Thankyou for sharing this x