April is your month my love! It is Autism Awareness Month and I wanted to write to you about my thoughts on ABA therapy and how we are doing things differently around here. You are a free bird. You explore your world and I am there to be sure that you are safe. That is my job. I believe that people who have been diagnosed as having autism are highly intelligent introverts. I have been thinking a lot about an alternative, any alternative, to intensive therapy that makes you so uncomfortable that you begin to stim. When you stim you typically rock on the recliner or jump on your trampoline. Occasionally you will pace or spin anything in sight. Stimming is your way of self soothing. If you are in pain, overwhelmed, anxious, or uncomfortable stimming helps you to cope. Therapists want me to direct you to something that society thinks is more socially acceptable when you start to stim. This makes no sense to me. I am supposed to force you to do something that society says is “normal” and you become so uncomfortable that you try to self soothe by stimming and I am supposed to stop you from doing that too! People wonder why meltdowns erupt like Mount Etna. Some questions popped into my head that I think need answers. Is ABA therapy really effective or are we forcing children with ASD to live in constant discomfort? Are children with ASD highly intelligent introverts and should we instead focus on their strengths instead of pushing them to change what we perceive to be weaknesses? Would catering to their strengths in turn build confidence and self esteem resulting in less repetitive behaviors due to a lessened need for self soothing?
I have gone in the complete opposite direction with you. I don’t let autism be your crutch. In fact your autism gives you an advantage since I am convinced you use parts of your brain that we “normal” people only can dream of using. By nature I am an introvert so I understand your need to be alone in your thoughts. I have directed your therapy towards things that you enjoy. I do not force you to do anything that makes you anxious or overwhelmed. I have allowed you to have Oliver time. If you aren’t interested in hanging out I get that. I have allowed you to grow and develop in your time on your terms. If you need to stim I don’t interrupt that and sometimes it may last hours of you rocking or spinning but you are happy and personally I think all of your quirks are fascinating. All day I watch you. I observe you and everyday you amaze me. So I have chosen not to go the ABA route but instead focus on your strengths. The result? An easy child who smiles almost all day. A child who has become more and more social, making eye contact, kissing me, hugging me, rolling a ball back and forth with me, and a child who is trying out different sounds. A child who sleeps and enjoys every day. I hear horror stories of children who never sleep and have all day meltdowns. I believe it is because we are expected to change you and mold you into someone you are not. My method is working.
Oliver I feel compelled to change the methods of ABA therapy. I know that children with ASD, SPD, ODD, GAD, among other diagnoses would thrive if we would just allow them to be who they are and support them and love them. You have come out of your shell. You have stopped spinning plates and lids. You are slowing eliminating meltdowns and you are becoming someone I admire. Someone with strength and endurance, a person with interests and a child who shows me love everyday. Medication scares me and I know that some children require medication but the side effects are horrifying. I am hoping that as you get older you continue to make your way comfortably without the need for medication. I am so thankful that you have such a sweet demeanor and such a loving soul.
So together we will show the world that ASD is not a disability at all. It is simply part of who you are. Who 1 in 88 are. Its intriguing and if we nuture it I believe that our world will be a much better place. A much more pleasant place. I believe that your intelligence is going to help you soar Oliver. I love your ASD. I love your SPD…. I love your soul!!!!!