Tag Archives: ABA

From Joe (Emma’s Therapist for the Past Five Years)

Joe, Emma’s therapist, who came to us five months after we received her diagnosis, was initially trained in ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis).  As Emma regressed using ABA, Joe was the first to agree with us that we should find another methodology which might work better.  When we found Stanley Greenspan (who died April 27th, 2010 – next post will be a tribute to him) Joe was an eager participant in learning how to do Stanley Greenspan’s DIR (developmental, individual-difference, relationship-based) therapy with Emma.  Joe has since become the “Zen Master” of DIR.  He is brilliant at it and watching him work with Emma is a profound experience.  The following is a post by Joe.

“I was watching ABC’s Nightline last night, which aired a story about a pro-surfer who has autism. Watching his intensified focus on the waves certainly reminded me of Emma’s physical grace and all of her athletic talents – skiing in particular. They described the teenaged surfer as someone who’s “mastered the seas but still struggles on land.” On the water he feels relaxed, but on land he must face the pressure and anxiety of social interactions. Like Emma, the surfer has no physical indication of any disorder so his inability to respond appropriately to social interactions (or simply say hello) is often interpreted as rudeness. This is one of the dozens of catch 22’s of autism – wanting her to be seen and treated just like anyone else but also expecting others to be understanding/non-discriminatory once they find out she’s autistic.

The surfer’s story ended by crediting his autism for opening this door for his talents to shine: a door which may have otherwise remained shut.  While Emma’s autism has come with its vast array of difficulties and challenges, it has also opened similar doors for her talents to shine. While I feel many of Emma’s abilities are innate, I believe a stage needed to be set in order for them to be unveiled. So I end this story by crediting Emma’s parents, Ariane and Richard, for all of their endless efforts to open every door and set every stage possible for her. As for her athletic talents, giving her the opportunity to swing herself at 18 months, getting her into gymnastics at 2 years old, and strapping her into skis at 3 years old is just a fraction of all of the sensory input she was constantly provided with at such an early age. While Emma continues to shine in the spotlight, I credit her director and choreographer, Ariane and Richard, for making it happen.”

The Beginning (Cont’d)

Some of the books I read:

Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family’s Triumph over Autism by Catherine Maurice

*Nobody, Nowhere by Donna Williams

*Emergence:  Labeled Autistic by Temple Grandin

*A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage by Beth Kephart

*An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks

Maverick Mind by Cheri Florance

A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Answers to the Most Common Questions by Charles A. Hart

The World of the Autistic Child: Understanding and Treating Autistic Spectrum Disorders by Bryna Siegel

Handbook of autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders by Donald J. Cohen & Anne M. Donnellan, ed.

Biological Treatments for Autism and PDD by William Shaw, Bernard Rimland, Pamela Scott, Karyn Seroussi, Lisa Lewis & Bruce Semon

Special Diets for Special Kids by Lisa Lewis

*Sensory Integration and the Child by Jean Ayres

Teach Me Language: A language manual for children with autism, Asperger’s syndrome and related developmental disorders by Sabrina K. Freeman, Lorelei Dake & Isaac Tamir, illustrator

*Engaging Autism by Stanley Greenspan

*The Child with Special Needs by Stanley Greenspan

*Denotes books that were very helpful and continue to be

When I wasn’t reading books on autism and canvassing the internet reading the endless array of therapies being offered, each with it’s own little morsel of hope attached –  perhaps this will be the thing that she responds to – I was scheduling Emma’s early intervention therapists.  There were often 7 therapists in a single day, coming and going.

I look back on that period and wonder what it must have been like for Emma.  How odd it must have seemed to her, but she took it all in stride.  There were a few exceptions, the days when I would sit outside her bedroom door during her therapy, leaning my head against the wall listening to her scream as she tried to leave the room, but the therapist would patiently tell her she could not until they had finished and I would cry, fighting the urge to let her out – all that separated us was the four inch wall of her bedroom.  I remember feeling that everything I thought I knew as a mother – all my maternal instincts were useless.