ABA Therapy: Applied Behavioral Analysis (recommended treatment for children with autism)
It’s been a month now since we began in-home ABA therapy for our three year-old son diagnosed with high-functioning autism.
To say it has been challenging would be a gross understatement.
I’ve been uncomfortable for most of these weeks. I don’t know much about ABA therapy, so I started this process by taking a step back to merely watch it in action, still asking questions, but getting generally vague responses from Big C’s line therapists. I wasn’t hearing from his lead therapist much, except at weekly team meetings she attended bi-monthly, and after two weeks in, one of the therapists Big C started with was replaced with someone new.
My frustration began to mount with the intensity of Big C’s. He was adjusting well with the concept of working at the table for rewards and had moments where he even seemed to enjoy it, but nearly every session ended with tearful tantrums lasting sometimes as long as 45 minutes and him crying, “I just want my Mommy!”
Enough is enough. Last week, I decided I was done with trusting the therapists. I demanded more concrete answers to my questions. I demanded shorter sessions for my son. I demanded more work on functional skills. I demanded a therapist attend Big C’s social skills class. I demanded more session time built around socialization and play. I demanded the right to videotape sessions. I demanded parent training. I demanded more guidance on effective discipline. I demanded more open communication among all of the therapists and myself. I demanded better for my son.
And I got it.
And that feels damn good.
ABA therapy still may not be the best option for my son. The verdict’s still out and, to be far to the process, it’s just too early to tell. But there’s no way I’m going to take a backseat and “let it happen,” ignorantly assuming the therapists know my son better than me. Ironically, it was Big C’s newest therapist that reminded me to reclaim my gut. She reminded me I am my son’s advocate, his voice in this complex and overwhelming process.
Most importantly, she reminded me of the end goal: to help Big C reach his greatest potential. I’m not going to call autism a disorder because, on some level, it’s offensive, implying that which makes him unique is deficient in some way. I will say though that some of the characteristics of autism cause my son great distress, and I want to alleviate as much of that as I can.
For that reason, we will continue to try ABA therapy, with the strength and conviction to abandon it for something else if it doesn’t work. Meanwhile, we will explore other therapies and research methods to alleviate the pain he feels.
It’s empowering to have my confidence, my gut, back. Really, who I have most to thank is that dorky, purple glasses-clad little girl I once was, eager to learn and always full of questions. I should have known better to try and silence her. She may have once been annoying to her peers and a bit of a teacher’s pet, but she is alive and well in me, and by God, she will save my son.