Sunday, April 21, 2013

Autism Understanding & Acceptance 2013 Day 16

I chose this picture because it looks so much like he is having a conversation with Ms. Barb, his gift of a preschool teacher…

Before I leap into ABA, I thought it would be good to explain where Thomas was developmentally at this point. His speech was extremely limited. You could probably have referred to him as non-verbal (although I like the term “pre-verbal” myself).

His first word was “cookie”. I kid you not. Actually, it was more like two consonants: “Kh-Khee!”, all unvoiced – the vowels spoken like a whisper. It eventually lengthened to the actual word. Looking ahead to ABA days, talk about a reinforcer: I make those sounds and someone gives me a cookie! Then came “goldfish”, another beloved food item from this time. When first trying to say this word, it sounded like “go shit”. Again, no joke. I still tell the story to this day of Ms. Barb pulling me aside, and while amused, did tell me that she thought he was saying “go shit” in class (and it was not a request to go potty, either). (By the way, that developmental milestone had not been reached either. Diapers were a big part of our lives for 7 1/2 years.)

Note that I have not mentioned him saying “mama” or “dada”. He had not called us by name, could not say who we were when asked. I kept my chin up and said to myself and others, “Why would he need to ask for us? We are always there. Whereas cookies and Goldfish Crackers…not so much!” And it is true that food is a great inspiration for both sides of our family, so he gets it honestly. Of course this was masking the sting of not saying my name, but humor became a real balm during this time.

Holding a crayon, using scissors…all manner of fine motor skills significantly delayed. All required hand-over-hand prompting & guidance.

Also, imitation – or lack thereof – was a huge barrier. He just wasn’t imitating. Now, think about how toddlers & preschoolers learn. Imitation, right? They watch and they try, and eventually they do. If a child doesn’t know how to imitate, you can imagine the stifling effect that has on learning new skills. One of autism’s hallmarks is a deficit in understanding social rules & interactions. Talk about a deficit. He didn’t know how to learn.

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