Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ABA Therapy, and stabbing myself in the eyes.

My son Neil, is 3, he's been in the twp's preschool disabled program since February (started on his 3rd bday), has been receiving private Occupational Therapy/Speech Therapy 1 hour a week (each) since February as well.

He started receiving Early Intervention in our home 2 hours a week last September, which ended when he turned 3 in Feb and started school.

He is in these programs primarily for a speech delay. He does talk now, and since we began everything his speech, socialization, motor planning has drastically improved. He still needs assistance in speech and OT and like any kid he's got his good and bad days - but all in all, having only 4 months of these services we have seen an amazing improvement.

So, we went for his IEP and they suggested next year he receives the same preschool program, and suggest adding ABA Therapy for 2.5 hours a day (lunch is included in this time) This would bring his day from a typical 8:45-11:45, to a longer 8:45-2:45. This seems like a tremendous amount of time to spend in school, working. We agreed to it initially, and now having spoken w/ his private therapists, his pediatrician, and other valued opinions - we are second guessing ABA. We agree with them, and they all say the same thing - why so soon? He's only been in school for 4 months, and he's got another 2 years of school before Kindergarden - why do we need to push him hard, so soon?

For what it's worth, my son has not been diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum. I think, being in NJ where we have the highest rate of kids that are "on the spectrum" and of them, 4 our ot 5 are boys - I think that is what the school is assuming. The therapists that spend 1 on 1 time with him refer to him as a "mystery kid" and do not think he is on the spectrum.

For those of you who don't know what ABA is exactly, well, first, welcome to my world haha. Here is what I've learned about it from books, internet research, and other therapists. It stands for "Applied Behavioral Analysis" and generally, it is a lot of repetition - rewarding, and "programming". It is compared to the way you train a dog. You want your dog to sit? You tell it to sit over and over and over, and each time it does, you give it a treat. Same thing with ABA kids - you want them to say Hello? You prompt them to say it over and over, and each time they do they get an M&M. It is very by the books, very structured, very routine. I can see how this would work for some kids, kids that you can't "reach" in other means -but Neil? We are reaching him already. And frankly, in the real world we don't get "verbal prompts" and we don't get an M&M each time we do something we are supposed to. I am afraid of turning my smiling, laughing, creative and independent little boy into a robot.

Part of me thinks, hey, if the school is suggesting it - he must need it. Then I did research, parents in other districts FIGHT for ABA. We happen to have a fantastic district, and they just offered it to us. I....... Well, frankly I'm having a hard time finding unbiased parental opinions on this matter since the kids that are getting it had to fight for it, ya know?

I never knew parenthood would include having to make so many of these heavy, life changing decisions..... at least not so many of them, so fast. It sucks!