We are an ABA family. This is the main therapy we are using to combat Noe's autism. ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) has a basis in behavioral psychology. It's main components are simple: 1) reward good behavior, ignore unwanted behavior 2) learn new skills by breaking them up into smaller parts 3) be consistent: with your directions, with your expectations, with your rewards and consequences. However, the simple suddenly becomes complex when you are working to change the behaviors of a child with autism. It is also very data driven. In an ABA session, performance is meticulously recorded. This helps establish real, rather than antecdotal progress, and helps deconstruct problem behaviors or lack of progress.
In a typical ABA session, Noe will work on his programs at his small table with his therapist. Programs might include - practicing imitatation or following directions "hands on head", "turn off the light", and working on academic skills such as cutting with scissors or matching associated objects (sock and shoe, bike and bike helmet). Another chunk of time is devoted to setting up situations for Noe to practice his language skills. Our ABA sessions also include a lot of "play therapy." Where play is fun and comes naturally to most kids, we have had to teach Noe how to play. For Noe, play is work.
Noe has 12-15 hours of ABA therapy a week. His progress from the therapy is real, although it ebbs and flows. For the past few months, however, we have noticed a considerable improvement in his language and overall progress. It feels like we are finally starting to see the fruits of our labors.
This coming year, I will be attending various seminars on ABA with the goal of weaning ourselves off the expensive consultant that manages our ABA program. We will continue to hire therapists, but the direction and management of his therapy will fall on me. The prospect is both frightening and exciting to me. Frightening that I will have this awesome responsibility, exciting that I will better be able to teach him and guide his progress, and that we will no longer be weighed down by consultant fees.