Harness Buddies

Over the weekend, we braved the stares of the masses as we tried out our new bear and dog Harness Buddies at the Aquarium.

I found them on amazon several months ago, quickly ordered two, and then promptly did not use them. While I could say that I pride myself on not caring what others think, I have been hesitant to deal with the arched eyebrows of strangers, or even (god forbid) a comment or two. But in the end, faced with the enormity of taking two 2-year-olds to a crowded aquarium whose basic instinct is to each run in the opposite direction of the other, I caved.

This is what happened: I had John, hubbie had Sam, and we were off! I was certain that I had the harder challenge — J. is a wanderer and he lacks a sense of danger. If we are at the playground, for example, he will routinely escape from me, choosing to gaze up at the tall lamp posts outside rather than go down the slide. S. is the opposite — always aware of where we are, always seeking our approval and attention.

So I was quite surprised when John reached for my hand. He preferred to race up and down the aquarium levels with me — didn’t much care for the freedom of taking off solo. In contrast, the picture of my 6’5″ hubbie being pulled along by Sam was priceless and remarkable for his obliviousness to us both. Did we stop to look at any fish? Yes, but not often. They were both much more interested in the ambience: the dark lit up eerily by the blue and purple strobe lights; the surprise of a diver in the tank, blowing bubbles out his mask while feeding the fish; their own reflections in the tank windows.

The truth is, there were a lot of stares. But much like a shark moving deliberately through the sea (think “Jaws”), I looked straight ahead and dared comments. I had my whole script at the ready, I wanted to use some of my gems: Oh, do you have twins? Do they have autism? but I didn’t get the chance. The only plaintive plea: “Where can I get one?”


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  • I think they look cute in their animal harnesses and it is so much better to give them that little taste of freedom and independence than being stuck in a stroller, like I did to my two year old wanderer often. I should have had one of these, or maybe I still should. Could you imagine the stares and comments I would get with a four year old in one of those?

    Glad you had a nice day at the aquarium!

  • I just wanted to pop in and say hello. I am a mother of a three year old son and two year old twin daughters. Your boys are beautiful!
    I also work as a support teacher for the Center of Child Development in the Vancouver BC area. Hope you dont mind me reading your blog. Feel free to visit mine as well,

  • Hi there. I saw these at the SF Zoo and they were so cute. There is nothing wrong with these harnesses at all!
    I saw your post on another mom’s blog, Liz McCarthy, and I wanted to read about your twins. I also have twin boys, age 4.5 now. They were both exactly as you describe your boys at age 2, but they are now doing so well, talking up a storm and really close to the norm for their age. They still attend Early Intervention day class out here in Marin County, but they also are FINALLY alright at regular preschool as well. We too went through many helpers and many, many schools, as one of my sons escaped every preschool he could, and the other was not talking much until about age 3, after 10 months of speech therapy and special classes.

    The one thing I wonder that concerns me a little in your situation is that you have gotten a diagnosis already at age 2. Normally, most doctors will not diagnose until age 3 or 4. In the case of Early Intervention, they will give the “label” of autistic-like behaviors, but not officially diagnose until they are certain. I just wonder if with early intervention, your twins will not be simililar to my boys at age 4.5. My Aidan was the little boy who would spin wheels for hours, and flapped his hands, and turned light switches on and off for a whole year. Now, all of this behavior is gone, and it has been replaced by words and he is a joy who loves to help me around the house and listen to directions…. It is an amazing transformation. His teachers love him too… It is a wonderful feeling to be at this point… but I think both my kids were turned away from more than 5 daycare places, and every time… that feeling of… “Oh, they are never going to be normal”….

    My mother in law is a Speech Pathologist and was a Special Ed Director for years. She encouraged us to make sure the boys did NOT GET DIAGNOSED or get a label on their records because she explained that all teachers have access to your childs records and they will see your children differently even if they have “caught up to level” when they are older. In some ways, a diagnosis can be helpful when you need to get services, but they can always put young kids into Early Intervention under the label “Language Delayed”.

    Looking back to when my sons were age 2, I wish I had NOT been so stressed out about what was going on and had trusted the Early Intervention teams we have here, and believed more in my sons. I wish I had not ever mentioned the word autism to anyone, ever… My neighbors or friends or family… because the truth is, now, anyone can see that these boys are in no way autistic, but did have language delays.

    I hope you have some surprises in store for you, just like I did. I undertand your pain of how you feel right now, and I hope you will learn to trust in your happy kids… If they are happy watching Elmo and jump and smile as in those photos, they are doing great! There is no doubt, little, active twin boys have to be the hardest of all… and with language delays… oh, it is soooo frustrating!

    BUT, just wait until they are 5 and they are hugging each other and holding each other’s hands and talking to each other, like best buddies. It will come. I think the Early Intervention programs can really help give them structure and give them the jump start they need. I hope you have a good program like ours where you are!


  • Colleen, I wanted to respond to your post earlier but as you know, two can keep you busy. Thank you for your comments. I’m so glad to hear stories like yours and I do hope that we will also have a happy outcome as they get older.

    About the autism diagnosis – I am happy to have it because it means more services for my boys. Sadly, it means I have to fight our insurance company for coverage if I want to supplement with private therapy, but that is a whole other post! I have to believe that with more children being diagnosed that any sort of “stigma” that might follow them will fade. I would rather that future educators be aware of their current diagnoses and be prepared to deal with their special needs vs. not.

    The autism diagnoses before age two: well, I disagree and think that many more doctors are more apt to give the diagnosis before 3 these days than not. In our case, EI diagnosed them at 22 months in order for us to qualify for their asd classroom, and a developmental pediatrician concurred with the diagnoses two months later.


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