After an 18-month lapse in services and an autistic child in the throes of puberty, I was eager for a fresh start, behaviorally speaking. But my struggle to re-secure applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy for my daughter, Katie, hadn’t exactly worked out as planned.
The situation came to a head when, over two volatile therapy sessions, Katie kicked in the center panel on three out of four cabinet doors on the buffet in my breakfast nook. The third incident resulted in a bad break, with splintered wood flying in the air. I was so angry I wanted to hit both Katie and the therapist. Instead, I excused myself and went upstairs to cry. Then I called the supervisor, and voice shaking with unshed tears, told her I was done. From now on, therapy must occur in their offices.
For several weeks we had no ABA therapy, then the therapist left on a three-week vacation. By the time she returned, I was convinced ABA was making things worse, not better. Katie’s behavior, against all odds, was improving. Plus the skills I wanted Katie to learn, like using money and telling time, weren’t happening.
We had a meeting and put therapy on hold for a month. By the time the month was up, I’d lost all my sitters and a good chunk of my job. I told them I wasn’t sure how I could drive Katie to their facility in Concord, an hour away, on top of driving Katie to Menlo Park three times per week. We put therapy on hold for another month. Despite the lack of therapy, Katie’s behavior continued to improve.
By the time the second month had elapsed, I knew what I had to do. All behavior is communication, and Katie’s behavior was screaming, “No more ABA!” It was tough to let go of therapy I’d fought hard to secure, but it wasn’t working. We needed to move on, find treatments that worked. With therapists who treated my daughter like the teenager that she was.
Before we could leave, the Program Director needed to complete a progress report. It was a standard one that I’ve done countless times before. Some of the sections, such as verbal communication, were a breeze to complete because Katie could do almost none of the tasks. But in other areas, such as life skills, Katie could do much more. The Director kept saying, “Oh really? She can do that?”
After more than a year, the ABA team should have known this, and that was part of the problem. But the real issue was that ABA has never worked well for Katie. Certainly not anywhere near as well as the Rapid Prompting Method.
So we’re going to stick with what’s working and build on that. Katie needs a social skills group and horseback riding to start. Special Olympics track begins next month (go Rockets!). Maybe we’ll try some yoga. Or more hiking. Another mom started a specialized social group to practice using a letter board with peers. We’re going to try it all and see what Katie enjoys, what improves her skills. I can write goals, and I’ll hire sitters who can help.
Whatever happens, it will be better that watching Katie color on command.
What tough decisions have you made lately?
Until next time,