Sunday, October 11, 2009

First ABA Therapy

I thought I was ready. My sis told me that I must be prepared for him to cry and throw tantrums and I thought I was mentally prepared. Nothing breaks your heart more than seeing your child wail at the top of his lungs and looking directly at you through his tears, as if asking for help... I almost cried myself... The therapist actually caught me looking so distressed and advised me to calm down. She said that I must be strong and calm. If I am distressed, he will sense it and he himself will be distressed too. I guess she's right.. Kept telling myself throughout his whole session... "It's for his own good.. It's for his own good..."

Anyway, let me tell you a bit about his first therapy session (9 October 2009). The therapist just wanted to observe him and find out more about him during this first session. It was held at my sis' place but later the therapist told me that the place wasn't suitable as it's not child-friendly and most of his stuffs are at our place anyway so future sessions are to be held at our own place.

So back to the therapy session, the therapist told us that she will work on 'compliance' first. Compliance may be easy with other normal kids but with ASD kids, it will take a while for them to comply and listen to instructions. Compliance is very important because if there is no compliance, no learning takes place. The child will be oblivious of his surroundings and be absorbed in his own world. He will not be aware of his surroundings nor listen to those around him.

The therapist made him sit on the floor quietly. Being active, he was agitated and started wailing. The therapist was calm and waited for him to be quiet. He cried for quite a while and when he was quiet, he was rewarded and praised. Then he was given his fav toy, his iPod but he was allowed to play for only a while and the therapist took the iPod away from him. He must also learn turn-taking you see. He simply hated it when the therapist took his iPod away and will start wailing again. This was repeated several times and finally he was relieved of the 'torture' and allowed to come to us to be hugged. Of course, he wouldn't want to let us go...

The therapist told us that she noticed that Rayyan always get his own way. Everything goes by HIS rule because we don't want to upset him. That is true. She also said that he doesn't want to talk because he doesn't have to. The minute he lets out a sound, we already know what he wants and give it to him. That is true too... But now, things have to CHANGE. He must learn that he must follow our rule too, he must learn to comply. We must not give in to him anymore. He must also earn for what he wants, with words. For example, if he wants us to open his toy cupboard, we must make sure he looks into our eyes and we say the word, "Open". He must learn to copy the word and for a start, any sound will do, as long as he makes an effort. It may sound easy but let me tell you, it's NOT! He simply hates it when we ask him to say something and will cry or throw a tantrum. But like the therapist warned us, DON'T GIVE IN!

But looking at the bright side, the therapist told us that Rayyan is very affectionate, he loves to be hugged and tickled. Some ASD kids wouldn't even allow people near them, must less touch them. She also told us that he is not anti-social as we thought, he actually wants to socialise but he simply doesn't know how to and that's where we come in. To help him to learn...

I must say that I have mixed feelings after the therapy. Part of me felt that this is going to be good for him. Yes, it's harsh but in the long run, he will learn to deal with it and he will get better. But part of me question this whole process... "Why must he be forced to learn in this manner? Why must he be 'tortured' like this? I thought learning happens naturally, I thought children learn best through own discovery?" But I guess I know the answer... that applies to normal kids, kids without any behavioural problems nor learning disabilities. But my boy is special and like it or not, he must be treated differently....

"A child who should be soaking up knowledge every minute of the day may instead fill up her hours with meaningless, self-absorbed rituals; the more deeply she sinks into her own world, the more unwilling she may be to join yours. Attempts to reach her may increasingly be met with fierce resistance. Meanwhile, the crucial early-learning window is closing..."
-Nancy D. Wiseman, 'Could it be Autism?'

Saturday, October 10, 2009

ABA Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is based on the idea that by influencing a response associated with a behavior may
cause that behavior to be shaped and controlled. ABA is a mixture of psychological and educational techniques that
are utilized based upon the needs of each individual child. Applied Behavior Analysis is the use of behavioral methods
to measure behavior, teach functional skills, and evaluate progress.

I have read a couple of books on autism and most of the books recommended ABA Therapy as one of the most effective methods in helping ASD kids. Basically, ABA Therapy is a method used to correct the inappropriate behaviour of children with ASD. During the therapy sessions, reinforcers are used to motivate the children and reward them if they follow instructions.

Not everybody is for ABA Therapy. Those who refute this method say that the programme is too structured, kind of forced and not letting the kids develop naturally. Well, those who are for ABA Therapy feel that it is essential to have a structured programme in treating ASD kids, or else they will not comply to any instructions and their inappropriate behaviour will escalate.

Well, I am for ABA Therapy. I feel that a structured programme is important because we are, like it or not, living in a structured society. You have to conform to survive and that is my objective. I want to help Rayyan to acquire skills for his own survival.

So I surfed the net and was disappointed to find out that a diagnosis is required before therapists can work on the children. Rayyan is not diagnosed yet, thanks to the 'wonderful' support given by the government sector.

Another disappointment sets in when I realised the exorbitant fees that the therapists charge! Junior therapists set their rate at $70+ to $100 for each session (2 hours) and senior therapists at more than $200 for each session! It actually makes me wonder what an expensive 'illness' autism is. What about those low-income families? The children must be deprived of proper therapy and intervention...again, thanks to the 'wonderful' support given by the government sector.

Another thing is that it is so difficult to get therapists. Most of their schedules are packed to the max. What does this imply? There are more kids with ASD or more parents are coming forward to get proper intervention for their children? I really hope it's the latter.

Anyway, I am glad that my sis has relevant contacts and in the end, we managed to get Rayyan a therapist. She will work with Rayyan twice a week, Wednesday and Friday, 3-5pm. For the rest of the days when he doesn't have therapy, we (myself and hubby) have to work with him so that there is follow-up and he doesn't end up as a 'therapy kid' - one who follows instructions only during therapy. So Rayyan's first ABA Therapy appt was at 9th October 2009 (Friday), 3-5pm.

The Warning Sign?

I had a bad dream yesterday.... a total nightmare indeed... What happened was.. I placed Rayyan under therapy and while he was having his therapy session, I went out smoking.. It seemed that I was totally enjoying myself smoking away...

Then I went inside where he was having his therapy session and started flirting with the therapist (what's up with flirting with the therapist??!!!)... We were so busy flirting with each other that we didn't realise that Rayyan was not with us... We searched and searched the whole house and we still couldn't find him... and the next thing I know, I woke up with a cold sweat!

That horrible dream really sets me thinking...... Why did I have that dream? What was the message behind it?

And finally I told myself that it was a sign... a sign that I am not doing enough for my boy, a sign that I must be totally focused on helping him, a sign that I shouldn't be in denial anymore, a sign that if I do not do anything now, he will be lost, FOREVER......