I recently did a post with my own Letterman-esque “Top 10 List” of essential strategies that should be in every home that has a child with Autism. So when a friend sent me this article: Top 10 Reasons Why kids with Autism deserve ABA by Mary Beth Walsh, I immediately loved it!
I love the practical advice and humor in the article, as well as the basis of the argument for ABA: these kiddos deserve quality, effective treatment. These kiddos deserve the opportunity to improve and to learn.
As an ABA enthusiast, I don’t try to sell people on ABA like I’m some used car salesman in a bad suit. I know what ABA can do. I know that even with environmental barriers, weak staff, and resistant parents, kiddos can still make progress. I know that there are still kiddos with Autism out there receiving ineffective "fad" treatments, or no treatment at all...their lives could change with the implementation of quality ABA.
Instead of feeling like I need to push ABA on people, I help families understand that ABA strategies are really just effective parenting. That’s it.
Much of what I explain to families consists of techniques and strategies the families have already tried, or at a minimum have heard of. The problem usually lies in the implementation, the consistency, or the intensity, which is where I come in to help.
Below is the Top 10 List from Mary Beth Walsh, with my own comments added:
Children with Autism deserve ABA because……..
- There is more scientific evidence demonstrating ABA works than there is for any other intervention or treatment – Still don’t believe ABA therapy is effective? Read this. Or this. Or this. Or this.
- Because they are human - I agree with the author that the pendulum of public perception toward Autism used to be firmly set in the area of mentally retarded, incapable of learning, hopeless, etc. Now that pendulum has swung towards viewing Autism as no big deal, just a little “unique”, or socially awkward. Neither assumptions are respectful of the vast and varied ways that Autism can present in children, and how Autism impacts the life of not just the child, but the whole family.
- Because it will help their parents be the best parents they can be for them – Lots of the strategies I recommend to parents can sound counter-intuitive. It may sound illogical, or downright odd to not pick up and comfort a crying child. I get that. But here's whats important to understand: normal parenting strategies may NOT be effective with children with Autism. What your parents did with you, or what you do with your other children, may be ineffective or potentially worsen the behavior of your child with Autism.
- It will help teach them how to sleep through the night and use the bathroom – The skills that parents learn from active involvement in their child's ABA therapy can generalize to countless other important skills. You learn how to shape behavior. You learn how to create interventions. You learn how to assess if a treatment method is working or not. Or to put it simply, you learn the best methods to help your child use the toilet or sleep through the night :-)
- It is the best defense against the tyranny of low expectations – Low expectations can come from the school, the family, or other professionals. Unfortunately I have had several experiences of interacting with people in my clients’ life who basically told me the child would never talk…never improve…..never stop engaging in aggression. Low expectations for kiddos with Autism steals them of a future they could achieve, and does a disservice to the child.
- Because it can teach them the skills necessary to make friends – Yes, teaching communication is important. Yes, teaching toileting skills is important. And so is helping kiddos with Autism smile at peers, play with toys, date, have sleepovers, and enjoy being a child. Everyone deserves to have companionship and friendship.
- Because it enables their parents and teachers to capitalize on their strengths and preferences – We all have our carrot tied to the stick that keeps us doing the things that we do. There is a reason why you answer your phone, kiss your spouse, lecture your children, etc. ABA helps parents understand that for every skill they want to teach their child, step #1 is to ask yourself: “What motivation does he/she have to do what I want him/her to do?”
- Because it can teach parents how to respond in the moment – There is no way that I can spend every minute of the day working with my clients. They see me a few hours each week, and when I am not there I need the parents to generalize skills, implement strategies, and be consistent. Quality ABA programs teach parents what to do when the ABA therapists and supervisors wave goodbye and drive off after each session.
- Because some day their parents are going to die – It’s what no parent wants to think about, and especially the parent of a child with Autism. Parents learn over time how to modify the environment to make things easier for their child. It’s a natural process of parenting that gets heightened when the child has special needs. But eventually the child will grow up and become an adult who must interact with society. As part of any quality ABA program, the long term benefit of behavior change must be discussed and planned for…..as unpleasant as that conversation may be.
- Because it can prepare them to be their own best advocates – You may wonder how to teach self-advocacy skills to a child with Autism. It isn’t that difficult. Self advocacy is really just about teaching someone how to stand up for what they want, and decline what they don’t want. Self advocacy gives power to kiddos with Autism, and how often do you think individuals with disabilities get to feel powerful?