Surprisingly, we don't "do" anything especially aimed at remediating what I used to think of as his "deficits." We are, in fact, very close to giving up on speech therapy. Our focus has shifted from remediating to educating.
This is partly because I came to feel that a lot of approaches or programs set us up for failure. Well-meaning therapists trying to "get" Oliver to do something just kind of freaked him out and it ended up looking like the poor kid was really much more impacted by autism than he is in environments where he feels less anxious. Unfortunately his fear stems from those early days when I shamefully let adults "do" things to him in the name of therapy. The result is Oliver's abiding distrust of adults who try to get him to do things. At home and in the community where he is well known and loved, Oliver is happy and thrives. So we go with what works.
We even abandoned RDI because, although I spent years training in the approach, it no longer worked for us. I didn't want to spend all of my time figuring out what "skill" we should be working on. I just wanted to enjoy my boy and, most importantly, spend my time being in the moment with my family. So I kept all the important things I learned from RDI about being a good guide to my kids and threw out all the programmatic stuff that was layered on top. And I read parenting books that made sense to me, like Alfie Kohn's book Punished by Rewards, which gives one great food for thought about how a child naturally learns and develops through intrinsic motivation and how parents and educators inadvertantly subvert this to the child's detriment. So much of autism "therapy"focuses on how to"motivate" the autistic child, which I think is an incredibly harmful way to approach education. But when our educational system doesn't even trust typical kids to develop their own motivation for learning and for growing into good, solid people, then imagining this to be possible for autistic children who supposedly lack any kind of motivation, well, that seems beyond the pale! But I have come to believe in it so much for both of my kids.
So yes, we're taking it easy at the moment and I let Oliver spend quite a lot of time doing what he wants, even if I sometimes wish he would make different choices. And yet? Oliver is thriving! The kid takes my breath away. Daily I see him accomplishing things that would undoubtedly be somewhere on the long list of "skills" that any therapeutic approach might have told me that I would have to teach the boy. Examples? Showering, dressing, searching for a lost item, figuring out how something works, getting someone's attention, making sure that his partner understands his intention before proceeding with a joint activity, even his language is increasing as his writing becomes part of our everyday life .... Well, the list goes on and on. And none of it was even on my radar as something I should be working on at the present time because mostly I'm just focused on other things: like gardening and executing my mom's estate and planning our next vacation. It's a year of deep breathing for me and since I let so much fall away while caring for my mom before her death, I'm being slow and careful in what I pick up again.
I have a lot of regrets about things that I did in the past in the name of "progress" for Oliver. I wish I had never agreed to some of the things I did or allowed when Oliver was still such a little guy. Those months when our school district implemented an intensive, in-home program, the speech therapist who employed the "verbal barrage"technique, the whacky diet. ... I was always so afraid to just let Oliver be his autistic self. Now, I find myself embracing it. I see that "progress" (or what we would call growth, maturity and learning for any other child) is just part of being human, autistic and otherwise.
So for now, I'm content to sit back a little bit and see how things unfold. ... Maybe I'm also making a little bit of progress.
|Oliver just Being Oliver|