Monday, October 16, 2006

The High Cost of Complacency

The incident at the doctor's office that I last related was just the tip of the iceburg. By Tuesday afternoon I began to sense that something was deeply affecting our little guy. When I searched my brain for possible causes I remembered that the first negative behavior scenario was on Saturday morning just as his therapist started a picture schedule. I recognized that trouble was brewing and so asked the young woman working with Oliver to make all the activities very quick. But small (and big) tantrums, flopping behaviors, screaming and biting continued with more than regular frequency through the weekend and on into Tuesday, including the disasterous visit to the doctor's office. Putting two and two together, as any parent -- and certainly any parent of a child with autism -- would do, I began to wonder if perhaps Oliver was reacting to the teaching style of his newest therapist; if therapy had become more work than fun. A quick call to Mary, our lead therapist, confirmed that she was not surprised by my concerns.

So we took stock and as a team figured out how to regroup. We decided to take the work aspects of therapy down a notch or two, up the fun quotient and work on re-building relationships. The staff member who had been a bit too concerned with data and finishing required tasks was paired with another therapist for a few days for additional training. And we -- I -- learned some valuable lessons about the high cost of complacency. There are so many moving parts to making a program for Oliver that works and sometimes I get overly focused on the logistics of it all and don't take the time to sit and actually watch a therapy session and to continually question approaches and methodology. I was aware of this particular therapists rather task-oriented approach about two weeks ago but didn't stop to consider the impact until it became obvious that Oliver was experiencing some rather extreme anxiety. But, if something good can come out of something bad, I believe that this series of events has also hightlighted for me my own focus on tasks at the expense of fun -- and not just as it relates to parenting Oliver.

So, onto a new approach and thank you to Oliver -- again -- for pointing the way!

This lovely fall weather has cooperated nicely with our new fun-fun-fun approach to life in the little green house. We've been spending our share of time outdoors, greedily taking in the crisp, sharp air. I would post some pictures to prove it but blogger is apparently all blogged out and won't let me add my photos. So you'll just have to imagine Sammy "milking" the wooden cow for the moment. ...


  1. oh! how i'd love to see you all milking the wooden cow!

    you are such a dedicated and tuned in mom! how great that you zeroed in on this so quickly and turned it around. yes, much is said about us as guides but it really does seem to be our kids who show us the way, over and over again.

  2. gretchen9:48 PM

    Glad to hear you're taking some effective action! I'm so impressed by how you and some of my other blogging friends don't wallow in the bad times, but take the bull by the horns and get to the root of it! I am going to try to learn by your example.

    And the beautiful outdoors seems to be doing us all a world of good!

  3. We've had the same happen in our ABA program---seemingly unexplained child being unhappy---signalling a need to up "fun"/reinforcement. We've also often noted that we have been increasing demands while not increasing reinforcement---asking Charlie to do more, but not providing more motivation. Good thinking Mom!