[Saturday, April 4, 2015]
When Keras brought home Smokey,
the first thing he did was hide under the bed.
Marmalade flowed off of the cat tree
and followed him under there.
"What's wrong with the new kitty?"
asked Katherine. "Is he scared?"
"Yes, moving is always a little scary,
even if it's a nice place," Keras said.
"Marmalade will help him calm down."
"What's he good at?" Alex wondered,
cocking thon's head. "Does he know yet?"
"Well, the folks at Purr Little Things
say that Smokey loves being brushed
and will lie still for hours," said Keras.
"We think he'll make a great therapy cat
for people who need to learn how to use
a brush and comb, but beyond that, we're
not sure yet. We'll figure it out together."
"Does he need a mentor?" Calderon asked.
"I have a mentor in my Sowilo group."
"He sure does," Keras said, pointing.
"Did you see Marmalade go under the bed
with Smokey? Animal mentors work a lot
like human mentors. Marmalade will help
Smokey learn what's safe or not."
"Does Smokey need his own
food bowls and litter box, or
can he share them?" Alex said.
"They could share, but it's easier
to have their own," Keras said.
"You can rinse the bowls with me
while Calderon and Katherine
set up the new litter box."
That took longer than if
Keras had simply done it
himself, but the whole point
was to help his children learn
how to do things for themselves.
Alex wheeled under the sink, and
Keras helped thon rinse the bowls,
comparing that task to washing dishes.
When they put down the new bowls
and backed away, Marmalade came out
to investigate, and Keras redirected him
to his own place. Soon Smokey
crept out and began to eat.
"He's beautiful," Katherine said.
"He's all dark and fluffy!"
When Keras moved on
to vacuum the floor, though,
Smokey scrambled underneath
the couch and hid, yowling.
"He's a real scaredy-cat,"
Calderon said, pointing.
"Everyone is scared of something,"
Keras said. "What matters is that
we have people to comfort us."
Even as they watched, Marmalade
slid under the couch with Smokey.
* * *
Smokey -- He is a neutered male cat in training as an animal therapist. He lives at Pacific Ridge Community Farm on the edge of Rain City, which is staffed about half-and-half by people with special needs and their caregivers in a model called lifesharing. He is black with long fluffy fur. He belongs to Keras. Smokey is a rescue cat, which leaves him terrified of loud noises like a vacuum cleaner. He loves grooming, though, and will lie around being brushed for hours. This makes him very useful in teaching people how to handle a brush and comb.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cat, Good (+2) Loves Being Brushed, Good (+2) Nonverbal Communication
Poor (-2) Afraid of Loud Noises
* * *
In local-America, children often avoid doing chores for various reasons. This is not good for either children or family. There are some age-based tips on motivating children to do chores, but the real way is to do housework together beginning when they start to walk. If you miss that stage when kids want to mimic everything they see a bigger person doing, then it gets much harder to motivate them to do anything at all.
Here is a poster with an age-appropriate list of chores for children. (For a text list, this one gives just kitchen skills.) Now ignore the ages. Start at the toddler end. As soon as the child masters a skill in the first block, look for a next step in the following block. That is, once they can set a table, teach them to sort silverware or clear the table; when they can do those, move to emptying the dishwasher or peeling carrots. Immediately reward mastery with a new and more interesting challenge. Kids love crowing, "I did it myself!" And then they won't wind up in college staring at the toaster oven wondering how to work it.
Building independence is an essential life skill for everyone, but especially for disabled children. Here are some practical steps to help children with physical disabilities. More detailed suggestions cater to children who use a wheelchair and children with muscle weakness.