Monday, August 18, 2008

OK. Yeah. I'm still a little bitter. ...

Last year about this time, Oliver stopped receiving services through the school district and my sentiment was: good riddance. I remember very clearly when and where the battle lines were drawn in that particular fight and also the lesson it taught me about going with my gut. At issue was something commonly used as an aid for kids on the spectrum -- the visual schedule. Every day, a large part of the work that the in-home therapists did with Oliver revolved around getting him to use the (*%^&^!) visual schedule. Oliver, for his part, couldn't. Or wouldn't. That was the debate. Time after time I looked on as the therapists had to use full physical prompts to get Oliver to correctly use the schedule. It was awful and I regret to this day allowing it to happen in my very own home. Because, as I would say to anyone who would listen, Oliver never really had a problem with transitions so it seemed like a totally unnecessary compensation. Besides, I remember saying to our lead therapist, maybe he just doesn't WANT to do it and was simply being stubborn like any other four year old boy might if you asked them to repeatedly do something that is pretty much meaningless. That's when the therapist infamously told me: "There is nothing normal about your son. Any other four year old would have complied by now." Naturally, this is when I knew it was over between us. (It is also when I refused to allow any professional to use the word compliance in relation to my son. I don't want my kid to comply, I want him to cooperate!!) But I also remember that she went on to say that the schedule was also about sequencing and knowing what to expect. ... some people make lists, others have planners, kids with autism benefit from visual schedules, blah, blah, blah.

But, um, hey: four year olds don't make lists. Or use day planners. And my kid doesn't have a problem transitioning. I mean, yeah, he insists on putting the last piece of the puzzle in before moving on, but that's about it. Also: why can't we talk about teaching Oliver how to pick up cues from the environment so that he can figure out what is going to happen by watching what every one else is doing? Huh? Why can't we talk about that? Because that's what I'm really interested in. Let's teach him the actual skills that he needs to be successful rather than the compensations. Huh? How about that?

So, the school district sided with the therapist and I sided with Oliver and we all called it quits. I wish it had happened much sooner than it did but it took me awhile to grow a backbone.

Anyway, fast forward a year and let me tell you I never look back. Oliver takes his cues from the environment. He understands what is going on as the day unfolds. I don't prepare him more or less than I do Sami. We go on adventures -- some planned, some unplanned. Sometimes we change plans and sometimes our plans don't work out and all that is OK, too. Because that's the way life is. Oliver gets that.

Today, for example, we went to Grandma's house. There is no place and no thing on this great earth that makes Oliver more happy than to spend time at Grandma's house. Trouble was, she wasn't home. We knocked on the door. We waited a couple of minutes and I braced for some tears as I said: "Guess she isn't here. We'll have to come back."

"Come back," he replied. Then to my astonishment he turned and walked back to the car.

So, to that therapist I'd like to say: Put THAT on your schedule!

The boy has got it.


  1. Anonymous8:38 AM

    Popping out of lurking to say that I totally get this. Not the part about the school issues (I'm sorry for what you and Oliver went through), but the part about wanting therapy to be more real-life than about compensations.

    My daughter does not have a problem with transitions either. And she doesn't have trouble with changes in routine or schedule. Our first OT insisted on doing this big red timer thing and all my daughter wanted to do was play with it. It became a source of frustration for everyone till I suggested just trying things without the timer and, wouldn't you know it, everything was fine.

    I'm glad you've never looked back and I wish you well this year with the homeschooling.

    Sometimes the 'experts' just DON'T know what's best.

    PS: I have enjoyed your blog for a long time. Sorry I've not commented before.

  2. I'm so glad you followed your gut. Your boy is certainly thriving.

  3. NO!! Please. Tell me a therapist did NOT. SAY. THAT.

    One size fits all therapy fits no one.

    The end.

  4. Anonymous11:12 AM

    You're absolutely right. If Oliver didn't have a problem with transitions, why force the visual schedule on him? The therapist's stubborn insistence that everything be done HER way is not a good sign.
    Just as some people become police officers because the have to be in a position of power some people become educators because of their need for control. thankfully, not many are like this but enough are that they can be real trouble. And her statement that nothing is normal about Oliver? That is wrong and cruel. I hope you reported her to her supervisor.
    There are many ways to present a concept to a child. If the kid has no problem with transitions why force the visual schedule on him? Why not use the time more efficiently and work on something he needs help with?
    I used to be a special education teacher and I cringe when I hear about situations like this. My kids aren't on the spectrum but i know it can be rough to get a four-year-old to leave an activity he's enjoying (like swimming or playing in the park) and move on to something else. There are often tears and resistance. It's just the way little kids are.
    Oliver has a great champion in you. I love it that you're not bowing down to asshats like the therapist because they're the so-called experts.
    You're right; it should be about cooperation, not compliance.

  5. Man, a person reads a book, and thinks that "this" therapy applies to every situation. I do not know how many times I have said the same thing, no we do not have transition problems, and no my son does not throw temper tantrums. No one ever listens, and then one day they realize it for themselves.

    I think the fact that you stood up to her is awsome. You planted the seed in her little head. Even though she did not see it with your child, maybe she will hear it again from another mom, and she will start to get it. We just have to keep speaking up. You are such a good advocate for Oliver. We can't fix every educator, we can only work on them one at a time. Nothing about her approach was normal.

  6. You rock! Not just b/c you followed your gut and said #%(*& this stuff...but b/c you help others see that it's OK to trust our guts and that our kids will be fine, really, without silly-ridiculous amounts of "interventions." Sure, some may be needed but kids need to be kids and taught how to learn from the world around them in ways that work for the kids...NOT the therapists!

  7. Anonymous3:06 PM

    YES!! RIGHT ON! i SO applaud you in going with you gut!!!

    geez--just because temple grandin is a visual learning doesn't mean every friggin ASD kid needs a PICTURE schedule! that sort of thing drives me NUTS!

    fluffy can handle changes in plans in a heartbeat but that's not the whole ball of wax. it's far more dynamic than many of the autism professionals, sadly, seem to understand.