Remember how I'm a worrier and a planner?
I have been worrying about Colin and school since he was two years old. Even then, I knew that he would struggle in a regular classroom setting. After two years of worrying, he recently started ABA therapy. He has been on the waiting list for months, and he just got started last week. Finding this ABA center has been an answer to my prayers.
If you are interested in learning about ABA, Autism Speaks gives a good summary of the therapy, so I will direct you to their site. Basically, behavior analysis is the science behind learning. ABA therapy uses these principles to teach (or stop) behaviors. It is a researched-backed therapy approach for those on the spectrum. You might not know this, but it is successfully used for anyone, not just kids on the spectrum. You just usually hear it being used with kids on the spectrum.
Some families don't choose to do ABA, and I understand. It can be daunting, and you have to do what is best for your family. For us, we feel like Colin needs the structure, repetition, individualization, and consistency. He also needs that one-to-one ratio right now.
You may have heard some controversial things said about ABA therapy:
ABA turns kids into little robots.
ABA kids are so therapatized and rote.
ABA is mean and cruel.
After hearing those things, you might be wondering, "Why would you put your kid in a therapy if it's like that?"
So, why ABA?
First of all, we did our research. We found an amazing ABA center. I'm sure there are "bad ABA places," so you have to find a good one. I have watched videos of kids who went through this program. They made amazing progress in just a few years. Watching those videos gives me such hope (and makes me cry). During his initial evaluation, I realized, "Wow, these people just get him." They had literally all of his favorite things ready for him: straws, light up toys, spinny toys, balls, squishy things - all of the things. They also have an amazing sensory room. We left saying, "They are already Colin Experts!"
ABA is science, really. Research shows that ABA works....and who am I to argue with science?
Kids like Colin, they learn differently. He also needs to be taught so many foundational learning skills, and ABA will provide that instruction.
To address the "mean and cruel" thoughts.....here's the thing. His BCBA's want to help. They are not "trying to be mean." They are trying to teach him. They are trying to help him. Does that sometimes mean that they will withhold something he really wants? Yes. Does that mean that he doesn't always get his way? Yes. I would venture to say that this happens to every single one of us at some point in our lives.
Therapy can be hard for him. He gets mad. He cries. It is work, and it is exhausting work. It is also hard for Mommy to see him get upset in therapy.....
but you know what? I watch my baby struggle every.single.day. Every day tasks that are easy for other kids, they are hard for him. He will be four years old in a month, and communication is still such a huge hurdle for him. Following directions, sitting and waiting, reading social cues, following socially accepted protocols, being in large crowds, these are all difficult for him.
So if this therapy will help him learn new things, then we do it. Will there be tears? Yes. Will it be hard and exhausting? Yes. Will he get mad and frustrated? Certainly...but we will do it anyway.
Why, you ask?
Because I will do whatever it takes to help my son. If he needs 40 hours of intense, direct, one-on-one (expensive) therapy every week, then that is what we do. He is smart. He can learn, but his learning style is different. He needs things broken down into tiny steps. He needs consistency. He also needs lots of understanding.
I don't know how long he will need ABA therapy. Months? Years? That is one of those things that I can't think about for too long, or I end up feeling stressed and worried. For now, he's getting ABA.
I am not trying to "fix him" or "cure him." As I've written before, he isn't broken. I don't see ABA as a "cure all," but I do hope that it helps him make progress. I just want to help him. I want to give him every opportunity to have his best life. I want to help him learn new things. I want to make his life easier in any way that I can. I want him to realize all of his potential. I don't want to hold him back because we didn't teach in a way that he could learn. I am excited to see where ABA takes him!
I hope to look back at this post in a few years and say:
Wow. Those were hard days. It took a lot of time and effort (and prayers, and money, and tears, and driving, and coffee...), but it was all worth it. Look how far he has come! I know that we have done everything we can to help him. Colin has been worth it.