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?'