Tag Archives: ASD

Myth #2

5 Aug

Another theme I keep reading about from those who hate ABA is that it produces overly compliant people who are subject to all kinds of victimization because they have not been taught to say “no”. It “strips” people of their voice by insisting on compliance.

First, I’d like to say that where I work it is almost 100% guaranteed that my learners will have a refusal language goal. (The main exception to this is when the child already has a refusal language repertoire). In other words, one of the first things we work on with most of our learners is saying “no” or “stop” or “all done”. And when first targeting this goal, these requests are put on a Fixed Ratio 1 schedule of reinforcement (ie: they are reinforced every time).

Now, once this skill emerges we shift the reinforcement to something more variable. The child no longer gets to be “all done” every time they ask for it. Maybe instead they have to do 1 more task, then all done. And after that maybe they have to complete 2 more tasks, then all done, etc etc. The idea being that yes, it is important for a person to know they have a right to refuse things, especially the older they get. But, it is also important for them to know that sometimes you don’t get your way…and that’s okay.

I’ve read a lot of posts with people arguing that kids in ABA should ALWAYS have the right to refuse something.

saywhat

Now, before you start getting riled up that I’m opposing this idea…hear me out…

Do I think all people (autistic or not) deserve the right to refuse things that harm them? Absolutely.  And do I believe that some people have genuinely been injured (emotionally, physically, sexually) as a result of over-compliance? Absolutely.

But, do I think that kids in ABA should be able to say “no” to something just because they don’t like it, and it should be reinforced every time? No. I’m sorry, but no.

Typical kids don’t get to refuse things they don’t like, why would autistic kids have it any different?

Typical kids go to school, sit in their chairs, do their math worksheet, line up when the bell rings, etc. Typical kids have to make their bed,  wash their hands before dinner, eat their vegetables, share with their siblings, put away their toys, etc. They follow rules and when they choose not to, they face the repercussions.

That’s how the world works for adults, too…We all have to do things we don’t want to do! And, when we make the choice to NOT do those things, we face the ramifications.

If we taught autistic kids that saying “no” or “all done” ALWAYS got them what they wanted…would that really be beneficial to them? I challenge you to really ponder this.

I would say NO. A loud, resounding, NO! This is actually extremely detrimental to them.

If we instill the belief that THEY make all the rules, that they call all the shots, these kids will be in for a rude awakening when they enter a society where teachers, bosses, law enforcement, and government officials actually make the rules. Sure, the autistic person can always choose not to follow the rules…they can choose to refuse the rules…but they will face consequences.

Just think about how far-reaching this is.

Their diets, their self-hygiene, their education, their lifestyle, their housing, their ability to earn a living, their ability to form relationships.

What if they refuse to eat? What if they refuse to wait for the cross walk sign to change before walking into the street? What if they refuse to leave a place at closing time? What if they refuse to pay for something before walking out of the store with it? What if they refuse to keep their hands to themselves? What if they refuse to wear clothes? I could go on and on with examples!!

There are REAL LIFE consequences for refusing to comply… incarceration, financial penalties, health issues, and even death!

Teaching people to say “No” is an important skill and is vital for ensuring one’s self-defense and dignity. BUT, teaching people to comply with things they don’t necessarily like is equally vital. The balance is teaching when it’s okay to refuse and when the consequences of refusing outweigh the benefit. When I hear parents  say that being forced to do something the kid doesn’t want to do (ie: finish a task) is “abusive” and “strips” the child’s dignity or ability to be heard….I have to disagree. Teaching a child to do things he or she doesn’t want to do (ie: completing a task) is imperative for success in all aspects of life. While we want to make sure we are not creating blind compliance that may lead to being abused or taken advantage of, we also want to make sure our kids are prepared for a world that doesn’t revolve around them and their every desire. Teaching a person to accept this reality is one of the most loving things I can think of, because it sets realistic expectations and helps them navigate through this world we live in; a world with rules and regulations.

Myth #1

4 Aug

Like I mentioned in my last post, I want to try to dispel some misconceptions people have about ABA.

One thing I keep reading, by parents who hate ABA and also those with autism who hate ABA, is this idea that ABA is for “autistic people”, and it treats them like machines, or like animals.

No, no, no. This could not be further from the truth. ABA is all around us! The principles of behavior are what make ALL of us operate.

If you have ever scratched an itch- you just employed negative reinforcement.

If you have ever been paid to do a job- you just received positive reinforcement.

If you have ever stretched your muscles- that was automatic reinforcement.

If you have ever gotten a speeding ticket- that’s positive punishment.

If you have ever been grounded or put on time out- that’s negative punishment.

Do you see what I mean?? The principles of behavior are constantly around us. All of our behavior is shaped by our environment. Everybody’s is!

When you’re driving in the rain, you turn the windshield wipers on.

When it’s hot and sunny, you put sunscreen on.

When it’s too loud, you cover your ears.

When you don’t feel well, you take medicine.

When you want to go on the internet, you turn your computer on.

Our behavior is a direct result of our environment. And, our environment includes our bodies as well.

The difference between what I’m talking about here and what people with autism experience is just a matter of intensity and structure. Okay, so not all of us have 2 hour sessions, 5 days a week, specifically carved out for ABA. But, the principles are the same. We are operating under the same concepts, constantly.

ABA is not something robotic or mechanical; at least it shouldn’t be. ABA sessions should be utilizing the person’s natural environment to have them come into contact with new contingencies. (ie: If I ask for “more”, I will get more cookie. If I scream and cry for more, I will not get more cookie). It can also be contriving their environment in order to come into contact with new contingencies. (ie: If the cookie jar is too high up I can ask for “help” and get help. If I bang on the cabinets over and over, I will not get help).

For those that hate the principles of behavior analysis….I challenge you to live a day without them. (Spoiler alert: It can’t be done.)

Perhaps it’s the just methods of a particular practitioner that you hate, in which case, I suggest you find a provider who better meets your needs. There are good clinicians out there. As Priority ABA says on their website, “When done correctly, ABA will maximize a child’s ability to express their own personality and preferences by teaching them the skills they need to communicate, play, and otherwise enjoy life.”

10 second phone call

25 Jul

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This week I had the best phone call I’ve had all year… And it was only 10 seconds long.

This is how it went:

Me: Hello?
Dylan: Hi, this is Dylan. How are you?
Me: Oh hi Dylan! I’m good, how are you?!
Dylan: I’m good. I just called to say hi.
Me: Oh okay. Im glad you called. I miss you. I hope you have a great day!
Dylan: Talk to you soon. Bye.
Me: Okay, I love you! Bye!

My sister is working with Dylan to teach him how to call people. Our conversation was entirely scripted. But! The goal is to prompt him through phone calls a few times, then fade the prompts and let him try it independently.

Some may wonder why this is important to me or why I think it’s so great, being that it was completely prompted. Well… For one, he willingly did it. Two, he’s learning the abstract concept that a person can be represented by a phone. He can talk to someone even though he can’t see them. Three, he is learning several important skills: how to dial numbers, the etiquette for greeting someone, asking questions, waiting for the response, and saying goodbyes.

The ability to make phone calls, which is so simple for most of us, does not come naturally to Dylan or other kids like him. It must be broken down and taught. And, it’s a skill that we can teach progressively to open up new doors for him.

Along with learning how to call family members we can teach him how to place food orders over the phone, how to make emergency calls, how to make phone plans with friends, how to set appointments, etc. The possibilities are endless!

I’m looking forward to my phone call from him next week. 🙂

1 year

23 Jul

Today marks my 1 year anniversary here at The Autism Onion! I made my first post a year ago, and began my Onion journey!

In the past 365 days my site has gotten just over 11,500 views.

*falls to the floor*

And, The Autism Onion has been viewed in 62 countries!

*falls to the floor again*

For those of you Mega-Bloggers, I know this is piddly. I get it, some blogs get those kinds of views every day.

But, for me and my little blog…this is incredible.  I have been able to connect with and share my story with so many people. It’s amazing.

Thank you for reading my blog. And, here’s to another year of The Autism Onion!

Prom Night

30 Apr

This story has been going around Facebook and I wanted to share it… (click to enlarge)

Prom

This picture has gone viral with thousands of “likes” and hundreds of thousands of “shares”. I think what people love about it is that it serves as a reminder that there are kind, loving people out there. There are people who want to bridge the social gaps between typical kids and their special needs peers. There are people who see beyond diagnoses and disabilities. There are people who love, unconditionally.

Good for that school for having a club to bring peers together. It’s clearly making an impact.

I only wish this dad would post a follow up letting us know how Jon felt about going to Prom 🙂

Happy Birthday Dyl!

14 Apr

Dylan’s birthday party was this weekend. He gets really excited about his birthday every year. He loves parties and piñatas and cakes and candles. This year he chose to have a bowling party, and he got to celebrate with friends and family. But the best part (as it is every year), was singing to him during cake time.

You see, what my brother loves most about his birthday is the Happy Birthday Song. I mean, he LOVES it. He squeals with delight, smiles from ear to ear, and the joy he gets from people singing it to him is unparalleled and extremely contagious. His excitement is ridiculously adorable, and it’s the highlight of all his parties. Here are some pictures from PhotoStro.com, which captured his priceless expressions. I dare you not to smile…

DylBdayPix

10 years ago

9 Apr

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 On this very day, 10 years ago, my littlest brother Dylan was born. I remember spending the day at the hospital with my siblings waiting for him to come. I was so excited when I finally got to hold him. I think I even skipped school the next day to be able to hang out at the hospital again. I was a Junior in high school at the time. And, I remember bringing his chocolate bar birth announcements to school with me and sharing with my friends.  I was so excited to have another baby brother!

My family and I had no idea the impact his little life would have on so many. But here we are, 10 years later, doing our part to share our experiences with those finding themselves on similar journeys. I know he will continue to inspire others, make them laugh, and maybe even change people’s perceptions. The effect he’s had on the world, unknowingly, in just one decade…incredible. I’m excited to see what the next 10 years bring us. But then again… can he just stay little, please?

Happy Birthday Little D!

Autism Awareness Month

4 Apr

I wrote this 2 years ago, in honor of World Autism Awareness Day, and ended up not sharing it…Until now.

“April 2, 2011- I thought long and hard about what to write for today. I came up with this… an honest look at what autism means to me.

Autism means heartache. It means fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of vaccines, fear of the future, fear of stagnation, fear of stigmatization, fear of failure, fear for safety, fear for when I’m gone. It means a family changed forever. It means loss. It means sadness, and anger, and hopelessness. It means worry, and panic and anxiety. Autism means pain beyond words. It means planning, and hoping and wondering and wishing. It means praying in tears for a cure, or even just for progress. It means a broken relationship. It means behaviors, and stims, and prompting, and teaching. It means uncertainty. It means waiting. It means denial, and repression. It means powerlessness, and inability. It means guilt. It means inadequacy, and unbearable hurt that I can’t take autism away. It means tough love, and pushing for more, and not giving up. It means the life I wish for my brother may never happen for him. It means the relationship I wish to have with my brother may never happen for me. Autism means making the best out of what you have. It means looking for the silver lining in everything. It means quirkiness. It means screaming and crying and tantrums and aggression. It means repetition and routine. It means triumph in every small victory. It means pride in every accomplishment, because they were so much harder to achieve. It means being aware. It means devastation. It means despair. It means frustration and hatred and boiling blood. Autism means sorrow and longing. It means different. It means embarrassment. It means never being satiated. It means advocacy and fighting and educating. It means a life-long battle. It means silliness. It means being perplexed and stuck. It means dichotomy. It means ambivalence. It means being misunderstood. Autism means caring, and compassion, and sympathy and empathy. It means a sweet smile. It means hugs and kisses worth more than a million bucks. It means redefining. Redefining success, redefining hope, redefining progress, redefining values, and strategies, and priorities. Autism means struggle. Struggle for the afflicted, struggle for their families. Autism means strength. Autism means weakness. Autism means faith. It means a new direction. It means helping. Autism means broken hearts. Autism means passion. It means finding joy and elation in every feat. It means never giving up. Autism means unconditional love.”

It was interesting for me to go back and read where I was at in 2011. I remembered writing about the gut-wrenching pain of autism, and just how many emotions a person can have about it. I didn’t remember my piece being quite so… What’s the right word?….depressing?? I can see that I’m in a different place, emotionally, now than I was back then. Not that the deep pain of autism has disappeared! No, I don’t suspect that it ever will. But I have seen so much progress in my brother that it’s allowed even more hope and excitement and pride to come in. (Those have been there all along, by the way.) All of the hardship and turmoil remains. I don’t think I’ll ever NOT be sad that I can’t have the type of relationship with my brother that I would like to have. But, I am just so overwhelmed with happiness and gratefulness for the relationship I do have with him. And I don’t think I’ll ever NOT be heartbroken that he may not have the life I wish he could have. But I’m determined (like the rest of my family) to make sure he has the best life he can.

He makes me smile unendingly. He makes me laugh, and beam, and he motivates me to do what I do. Autism is a beast. But it will never take away how remarkable my little brother is. And, let me just say, he’s pretty darn remarkable!

AngDyl

So tall…

1 Apr

My brother turns 10 soon.

 

I visited him yesterday for the first time since Christmas. Even though my mom and his dad live within minutes of me, I find that I get so busy with work and church and friends and my husband and everything else going on. Life gets in the way, and I’m not able to visit him as often as I’d like to. But I got to see him yesterday to drop off an Easter basket, and when I walked in, I was shocked….

 

He was so tall!!!

 

Somewhere between December 25th and March 31st, my little baby brother grew what seems like a mile. Okay, so it was probably 3 inches or so… but oh my gosh! He was huge!!

 

It made me sad. I know that’s typically a parental response… sadness that their little baby is growing up. But I felt it! My little brother, my Little D, was not little! And, I realized I can no longer carry him (not easily, anyway). I know I picked him up to get my goodbye hug on Christmas. I had no idea that would be the last time I’d be able to lift him.

 

Where did the time go? How did he get so big?

 

It was a loud reminder of the fact that he’s getting older, and he’s maturing. And, while it’s sad on the one hand, it’s also extremely exciting on the other hand. He has come such a long way. He amazes me everytime I see him. Literally. Everytime.

 

The way he gains people’s attention by calling their names…

The way he asks questions…

The way he asks for help…

The way he writes and spells….

Even the way he cooperats with calming techniques when he’s frustrated….

 

He’s so awesome. And even though he’s up to my chest now… He’ll forver be my Little D.

1 in 50

21 Mar

Yep, you heard right. The CDC announced yesterday it’s new findings that show 1 in 50 school-age children have autism.

Naturally, articles instantly popped up about how this doesn’t really mean anything, the numbers are the same as they’ve always been. We’re just more “aware”. This article was my favorite: (<— sarcasm)

“You will probably see a lot of headlines about the 1 in 50. Some organizations might even try to use those numbers to scare people, to talk about an “epidemic” or a “tsunami.” But if you look at the numbers and the report itself, you’ll see that overall, the numbers of people born with autism aren’t necessarily increasing dramatically. It’s just that we’re getting better and better at counting them.”- Forbes.com

“We’re betting better and better at counting them”…??? Seriously!?

Are we as a society more “aware”. Of course. Are there probably some percentage of kids who are misdiagnosed and don’t actually have autism? Sure, the same is true of ANY diagnosis. But does that account for the ever-increasing autistic population? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

People LOVE to deny an increase and tell us we’re overreacting to these numbers. If the numbers aren’t increasing…prove it. Show me 1 in 50 sixty-year-old adults with autism.  You can’t! Because they don’t exist!

THAT is the research I’d love to see. If people are so sure that we’re just getting better at recognizing autism, then let’s look at the adults around us and see how many of them currently qualify for an autism diagnosis. How many ADULTS (ages 30, 40, 50, 60+) have autism? Let’s compare those numbers to the numbers we see today.

And for those parents out there who say they agree with this Forbes article, and don’t think there’s a real increase in autism…ask yourself these 2 simple questions:

How many autistic kids do I know?  How many autistic adults (ages 30+) do I know?

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