Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a topic that I have been wanting to share since I created this trivial blog. This particular post is not about what’s ABA, its methods, and the research behind it. There are plenty of places to get that information. I want to talk about what ABA does to your Autistic child, yourself, siblings, grandparents, teachers, and everyone else who comes into contact with your Ausome kid. I want to tell you what they don’t during your initial meeting with the ABA consultant.
So if I may I will share our insights and experiences since we started ABA about 4 years ago. I haven’t tackled this issue because I am unsure how to present it. So for right now, I will list memories, the good and the bad, tips, and anything else that relates to ABA. You, the reader can make the pro and cons list on your own, since we may not agree what is a pro and con. Remember what applied to us, may not apply to you. Autism is a spectrum disorder, so naturally there is a spectrum of families and experiences. Also, please check back every once in a while, as I will continue to update.
- ABA is more than therapy, IT IS A LIFESTYLE! We do in home therapy and it can if you let it will affect everything in your life.
- ABA began for us when the owner and consultant of the ABA therapy company we chose came over to our apartment. He explained what ABA is and how they can help. However, I picked up the notion that the consultant was also there to evaluate my son to see if he was a good fit for the program. It made me question if ABA is successful because they work with children who they perceive will benefit from therapy. Is ABA success attributed to excluding autistic children who may not perform well? I am so not a conspiracy theorist, but this left me with an uneasy feeling.
- When we first started, I was excited that we were doing something for our child. We were not going to take this lying down! It gave a sense of relief knowing I was taking the right steps toward curing my child.
- The first interaction with a therapist occurred shortly after the initial meeting. Two junior consultants came with some supplies. As they were setting up, my son was in the middle of it. He spoke some words and was in a good mood. Then, they sat him at the little to table to work and he shut down.
- We had to purchase some supplies for the therapy, like puzzles. I went overboard. I wanted therapy to have a special designated space for my son. I decorated his area much to the annoyance of his team. I just wanted it to be colorful because Autism can be scary.
- For the first therapy session, parents/ caregivers brace themselves. Hearing your child scream for the entire two-hour session is absolutely torture. I walked out of the room and went into my bedroom and cried. Parents, you have to be really prepared to let go. Yes, I wanted to run back into the room and rescue my baby, but I didn’t. Therapy won’t work if your child knows that you will intervene. These kids are testing the therapists. The screaming will eventually stop. Yes, it hurts but it’s for the best. However, if you do feel the child is being harmed, by all means intervene. I think a parent can tell when their child screams out of frustration or when they are screaming in pain. Parents, you know your child best.
- Why all the screaming? The first targets for your child is that he or she needs to learn to sit in a chair. My child screamed because he was being asked to sit in a chair without a meltdown. My child was able to physically sit in the chair but had to learn to sit when asked to and for how he was asked to.
- Sometimes, I feel that I am not allowed to parent my own child. Everyone has an opinion about your kiddo. I always take their opinion into consideration, but sometimes I will go against their advice.
- They can really screw up your kids’ hair. My son hate haircuts. The haircut was not even my suggestion as I loved his long brown hair. But the therapists were adamant his hair was becoming an issue with him focusing and wanted to work towards him being able to cut his hair at a salon. Also, the therapists are not stylists and did serious damage on his hair. He had a bald spot right when he took school pictures! A year later, my son still hates getting a haircut. I wanted him to start school with a good, clean look. It took me two days and bruises on my knees to accomplish this without the help of the therapists.
- Our current schedule is 5 days a week totaling about 22 hours. Our highest was 40 hours until insurance cracked down on us.
- Because of our current schedule, we mostly get done at 6 pm most days and 7 pm on Tuesdays. My son receives his therapy directly after a full day of school. I like that he is engaged in something and not just hiding under Olaf in his bed, but its a long day for my kiddo.
- Your child and you will be burned out from all the therapy. Honestly, I think the therapist do too.
- I felt and still feel that one parent takes therapy more seriously than the other. Just because your partner is physically present does not mean they are an active participant. If you have a partner that is also committed to your child as you are, consider yourself lucky and I’m happy you are not in it alone.
- My son’s therapy witnessed the collapse of my marriage. One therapist was present when my ex moved out. So yeah, they saw me at my worse. And I thank them for focusing on my child and not stopping the therapy.
- They will have opinions about you but they for the most part will not express them to you directly.
- The ABA line therapists in our experience have mostly been young adults just out of college who are unsure what they want to do and are usually preparing for the GRE or something. So with that being said, there is a bit of a high turnover rate. It’s really a mixed bag of people who just see this as a paycheck and those who are hoping to advance their career serving the Autistic community.
Ok, taking a break…See you soon.
- ABA IS NOT CHILDCARE NOR A BABYSITTER! For our therapy, someone needs to present with the kiddo.
- And honestly, don’t you want to present and active in the therapy?! I want to learn how to help my kid.
- You don’t have to super involved. A parent needs to learn when they should participate and when they need to back off. There are certain targets in which a parent needs to participate in. I think parents should give the child and therapist space to work but kinda hang out in the background. Observe, be a fly on the wall.
- Parents be an ACTIVE LISTENER! Listening to how the therapist communicates with your child is so important!!!!! I recently took my son to testing. The psychologist was giving my son directions which my son was not able to understand. However, the targets were very similar to those in ABA. I remembered the therapists’ verbal directions and prompts and used them to assist my son during the test. I was able to get more out him and the psycholgist was able to see more of what my son is capable of.
To be continued…
- ABA is really helpful in teaching children the self-help skills. Self-help skills are broken down into steps. Overtime, he has mastered the steps and they are all put together to complete the larger task. He learned to put on his own t-shirt, wash his hands, button his pants, put on and zipper a jacket. We are currently working on teaching him to brush his own teeth and wipe his own behind.
- The therapists and I have had some weird conversations. We’ve had to agree on how to put on underwear and a t-shirt. We’ve debated what’s a fruit or vegetable. We were always looking up the correct pronunciations of words and so on. The point is that we all had to be on the same page so they we can teach my son consistently.
- We once had part of the team meeting in the bathroom to discuss the steps on how to teach my son how to wipe.
- One thing that I love about my son having therapists is that they can sometimes really help in areas that we are currently struggling. For example, when my son starts to throw a tantrums around certain areas, the therapist will help desensitize him to whatever is setting him off. Once we continuously walked past a playground for like 45 minutes to teach my son to walk by without throwing a fit because we can’t stop and play.
- An ongoing target is that we are desensitizing him to public restrooms. Hand-dryers and loud toilets can be so overwhelming for autistic kids. So every time we go for walk with a therapist, we always make sure to hit up a local public restroom.
- Because we visit local businesses so frequently to work on targets, people recognize us and after a while they start to understand what’s going on. There have been times where I would introduce myself to managers to explain the situation. When we started the hand-dryers in public restrooms, my son would scream. Oh, he would scream so loud! Few times I had to say, “Please don’t call the cops, we are just trying to teach my son how to use public restrooms. ” However, businesses around us have been very welcoming, like Starbucks, Michael’s, the Gap, Target, Hair Cuttery, and Mariano’s. While these businesses have never given us a problem, not everyone inside these places are so understanding. We do get plenty of stares. One time, an older woman laughed at my son. Once in the bathroom, a woman told me my son is like that because of vaccines. People can be pretty ignorant, but these businesses have never turned us away and I am thankful for them.
- Having a therapist tag along has made venturing out in public less stressful, even when they are not there. I use their techniques so I can help my son and slowly we are becoming more confident about going out. Therapist can assists in going to the grocery store, going to get haircut, to the doctor, and so on. The therapist helping my son in public has really changed our life. I remember a time where I had to avoid certain areas. Crossing the street was scary because he would throw a tantrum in the middle of the street. Now, it’s gotten so much better and we can walk by a playground without a problem.