Thursday, July 17, 2008, 12:37 PM
An article I wrote once for a local nature mag that got my daughter a segment on their TV show.
Three Generations Fish
Written By Wendi Bardill
Father, Daughter and, Grand daughter... A day in nature with the Soft slithering of the Norris Dam Waters. A day of togetherness, relaxation, and fishing. A slow process that teaches focus and patience to all that find the lure of the waters' siren song irresistible. Being a family with a special needs child, the teaching of focus and patience is an ongoing battle. Lack of Focus is rampant in Aspergers Syndrome. Even with Medication, the long waiting for the fish to bite can tax the nerves and patience of even a "normal" person. But a child with Aspergers, at times it can be near impossible to just stand or sit there and stare at the bobber floating on the water. Nothing to do having to be still and talk softly. NOt something easy either for a child anyways without the special condition to keep noise levels down some and just watch and wait quietly and still. With our family, however, it has in a way brought my father and daughter and I closer.
My father had spoken with me after my daughters' medication dose size had to be increased. He was wondering what the medication was supposed to help her with and what affect they were hoping it would have on her. When I told him it was to help keep her calm and help her focus better in school and on any task, he said he may have some suggestions and would get back with me. Two weeks later he approached me, wondering if I thought she might like fishing since she talked to him alot when we would go out about the Fishermen she saw on TV on the Tennessee Wildside Television program that TWRA delivers on PBS. I said that she might and we have all been fishing ever since. My boyfriend James My father and I all help her with the worms and reminding her to watch the bobber and focus on fishing. They say slow and steady wins the race... if there is an ounce of truth to that with the slow progress made with her concentration and focus with fishing she will perhaps beat at least the Focus troubles of Aspergers before she is out of elementary school.
Sometimes the fact that you don't always catch a fish does not even seem to enter her mind she merely has fun sitting or standing there with us and getting help from her grandfather and spending time with him. Other times she gets a little down about not catching a fish but it is usually short lived as Grandfather asks where she wants to go for lunch. I really think that after her great grandfather passed away and how she did not always get to spend time with him, or him really be able to hear her all the time, she seems to seek to stay close to her grandfather. Wanting his help over anyone elses when fishing and talking to him while we fish. It has given me many a photo opportunity to get momento photos of the two together for her when she is grown.
It really is good that her grandfather is such a patient person. He is very good with her and loves teaching her and she seems more eager and attentive to taking instruction from him than anyone else about fishing. Even if I told her the same thing ten minutes earlier to no avail if he tells her she does or does not do what was asked of her or she was asked to stop doing. They get along great and with his requests of "Do good in school this week if you want to go fishing this weekend, she does manage to bring home good daily reports from school. However when she does not he will tell her that he knows she can do better and that her teachers are just there to help her by teaching her things that she will need all through life. She has even stated that she wants to become a vet and attend the college her Grandfather works for, He has told her that she has to do very good in school for a Job like that so she seems to try more for him and herself than anyone else to do good in school and fishing.
There is something to be said for the calming affect that something like Fishing and nature does for the soul. Though for now and with her condition she is too young for that affect to really phase her, I do hope that in time as she sees how it calms and relaxes those around her. That perhaps the soothing sound of the river flowing past her and the calm relaxing time with family on the banks watching the waters slowly lazily ripple by and the bobber float and dance as the fish nibble the worm, that she will be able in time to truly be able to calm. Her own soul and mind maybe just maybe will be able to find a way to recognize and overcome some of the affects and symptoms of her Aspergers Syndrome. Or at least find a way around them a mental strength that can help her in later years dealing with a world of people that may not always understand and may not always be able to handle and relate to her and her condition.
It seems to take a special kind of person to handle raising or helping raise an Aspergers Child, and a special kind of soul in that child to just roll so well with the punches life throws and the stumbling blocks that Aspergers can cause. Having to "battle" each day with the inability to focus or the inability to tear away from one project for another, or the seeking to figure out what is real and what is imaginary, or the emotional ups and downs of trying as hard as you can an not quite doing what you set out to do no matter how hard you try. Most people can let failure like that simply roll off them but in many cases the Aspergers Child can not let go of that "I failed" "I messed up" I did bad...wrong...etc" So finding something like fishing that you can show the child that no one catches a fish every time they try is also a good lesson for the child to better be able to handle the inevitable failures in life that we all go through.
Fishing bringing a family closer and teaching a special child to slowly learn better focus almost makes a parent even on the worst of days think that nothing is impossible. I find myself so often in the more trying moments of dealing with the little quirks and at times seeming total lack of comprehension and understanding on her part, thinking back on the fishing trips and her slowly learning something that simple that will help her in so many other aspects of her life, All through her life. Those of us with no "Conditions" like Aspergers or Autism or the countless other"conditions that plague so many... We really have no clue what true determination is. To look into the eyes of an Aspergers child that wants so desperately to do something and get it right can really make you think. It can really make you look at your own life and realize that forgotten trip to the post office is nothing... that misspelled number on a check may yes be an annoyance but its nothing, really and truly nothing. I admit that even without any such condition that the waiting and staring at the bobber in fishing sometimes can grind on my last nerve. What do I do when that or something like that happens... I look at my daughter and I see her staring intently at her bobber or watch her watching her grandfather fish and that stress and annoyed feeling fades.
I freely admit that an Aspergers child can fill your life with more stress than if they had not been born with it I have learned that over the years with my daughter, but She also bring the most pride and happiness when she do something as simple as color a picture all inside the lines or catch a fish and remind us that we should release the little ones back into he water to grow up or to catch and release as the "Expert Fisherman" says to do on her favorite Wildlife show. The little things that seem to become sealed in their minds is fascinating at times. Remembering something a teacher told them 2 years ago but unable to tell you what you just asked them to do is something that is sometimes very frustrating for a parent but again Fishing with the family she will sit and talk with us and remind us of things we have said to her or to each other and ask questions about things that happened long ago.
There is a fascination, at least with my daughter of wanting to learn history, She would live sleep eat and breath museums if we had the money to go to everyone she saw or read about. Fishing, Going places with family, History and animals hold her mind almost constantly. Talking of wanting to go to the Zoo or some museum and then going fishing afterwards not realizing that the adults may be tired after walking all over the zoo and or where ever we found for her to learn history. There is never a dull moment with her at home out traveling or "in the wilds" She tries so hard to get her grandfather to laugh and smile while they fish and talk, or calling to him every five minutes in a museum or the zoo to come look at something. He also seems to get a real treat and true joy out of getting to share it all even though he seems quite tired when its all over. No matter what on the way home they will sometimes talk and plan what we are all going to do next week if schedules will allow it.
Children naturally have tons of energy to spare if they are doing something they like but the Aspergers Child seems to have reserves that normal kids could only dream of on energy to go and do. That is why at least in the case of my daughter that fishing has been the most trying and at times the most rewarding and helpful. Learning how to with the aid of her medication contain an control that energy and know when to have little bursts of energy "escape" to keep herself at a calmer state. We all need those little "pressure valves" and watching an Aspergers child really "buckle down" and find his or her pressure valve release is a heart warming experience and for our family I doubt it could have been don without My fathers insight and careful deliberated thought on using something he could teach her that he had learned as a child to in turn help her for life in here and now and in the long run slowly and steadily.
I too have found an escape from my lack of patience for extended times of fishing something that my father taught me when I was just a little older than my daughter... Photography. I try when we are out with him to get pictures of the two of them together. Pictures of him teaching her and helping her and her listening so attentively to him. Pictures that she will be able to treasure and that on the "bad days" I can look at and remind myself that the bad days will not last forever. They also remind her that she can listen and learn and do better if she does listen to instructions. so the Photos not only document the events but aid us both long after the trip is forgotten or just past. I doubt she will ever forget her fishing trips with her Grandfather ever, and it gives him the expected bragging grandparent stories to tell friends and coworkers. If she fully understands what her condition is at this young age I don't know but in time I am sure she will understand and be able to recognize and remember the focus she has to have in fishing for other aspects of her life in general. Especially in school and when she is old enough to get a job.
I do not know if fishing would work for all Aspergers children just that it seems to work for mine. It however is something I would highly recommend for parents of Aspergers Syndrome Children to check into for their child.