Autism Reality

ABA Helping Nick a 4 Year Old Autistic Boy

The Times-Tribune of Scranton PA has a good article about autism and how autistic children are helped with Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. Parents who actually use ABA therapy to help their children are probably aware that ABA is practiced with a positive reward system, with tasks broken down into constituent elements and successful task completion rewarded. But parents who are still trying to sort out rhetoric from reality when deciding how to help their children cease negative, injurious behavior and develop positive skills and behaviors might be dissuaded by the fears and prejudices of those who are emotionally opposed to ABA or who themselves have had no actual experience with it in helping their child grow and develop. The political ideology of the anti-cure, anti-treatment, movement will also be intimidating to some parents, some of whom may not be aware of the hundreds of professional studies supporting the effectiveness of ABA in treating and educating autistic children. The Times-Tribune article is written in straight forward non-technical language and parents trying to decide what is the right thing to do for their children should be encouraged to read it.

The article tells the story of 4 year old Nick who is learning at the Friendship House’s Northeast Regional Center for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders which treats autistic children and youths from 18 months to 20 years. Children receive 30 hours a week of rigorous therapy based on up to date research but the essence of the therapy is ABA delivered with positive reinforcement to encourage success.

The center’s approach relies primarily on the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), in which the standard learning methods for a child are broken up into “the tiniest possible bites,” said the center’s clinical director, Chris Remick.

“I think it’s one of the now proven ways of improving treatment of children with autism,” said Thomas Challman, M.D., a neurodevelopmental pediatrican at Geisinger Health System in Danville specializing in autism. “It’s got a good scientific basis.”

The article describes how ABA is used with 4 year old Nick:

Every couple of minutes, Ms. Bienick lays down a new set of index cards containing things — colors, numbers, family members — Nick has to identify entirely by pointing, given that he doesn’t speak. From there, he completes a puzzle, practices the hand movements to the kiddie favorite “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and matches sounds with their corresponding objects.

Each time Nick gets something right, Ms. Bienick offers an ample dose of encouragement.

“Awesome, Nick, give me five!”

“Good job, Nick!”

“Very good!”

When the demonstration ends, Nick, 4, goes over to a computerized device and presses a button with a cup above it. Ms. Bienick promptly gives him a drink.“

The children also engage in group play and interaction. Positive reinforcement, not aversives or abusive treatment, is a key ingredient:

Positive reinforcement on behalf of the teacher, or direct service provider (DSP), is another crucial component of ABA methodology, Ms. Remick said.

“If it’s not motivating, they’re not going to do it,” she said.“

Some of the more ludicrous critiques about the use of ABA therapy which circulate on the internet are based on decades old aversive methodology no longer in general use. Parents should listen to other parents who, like them, are charged morally and legally, with doing the best they can for their children, and to the actual ABA clinicians who practice ABA therapy not the ideologues who bear no responsibility or accountability for the consequences of their efforts to dissuade parents from using proven ABA therapy to help their autistic children.

Or, they could do as the anti-ABA ideologues say and listen to autistics themselves. Not the high functioning internet guru anti-cure autistics. They should listen to 4 year old Nick.

March 14, 2007 Posted by | Applied Behavior Analysis, autism disorder, autism education, autism treatment, evidence based treatment | Leave a comment

A Mother Describes Some Unpleasant Autism Realities

CAUTION: The attached article from the Daily Record in the UK describes in graphic detail some of the realities of living with, loving, caring for and actually raising a severely autistic child. The realities described in the article are not the sweetness and light version of autism popular on many internet blog sites. They are realities similar to those described by the parents of the Autism Every Day video who were vilified because they described them publicly. I love my son with all my heart but I can confirm as the father of a severely autistic child that I have experienced and seen much of what is described in this article. For those who are offended by unpleasant truths about autism, skip this article.

13 March 2007


He bites, kicks and punches. He has torn down the curtains, broken a tumble dryer, flooded the house, binned all his clothes and wrecked doors and a bed. He slashed a sofa and ate the foam. Ian is just SIX
By Natalie Walker

DESPERATE mum Linda McIntyre told yesterday how she feels she has been abandoned with her acutely autistic son.

Single mum Linda, 42, is near breaking point trying to cope with six-year-old Ian, who suffers almost constant violent mood swings because of his condition.

She says the lack of support – coupled with cruel comments from strangers who do not know about Ian’s condition – has left her at the end of her tether.

Ian was diagnosed as autistic at 18 months but Linda says social workers and education chiefs have turned their backs on him.

Since he started school last August, she has been asked to take him home 25 times and is now caring for him round the clock.

Linda, from Balornock, Glasgow, said: “It’s one thing after another and I don’t know how much more I can take. I keep thinking of that mum who killed herself and her autistic son by jumping off a bridge. I know why she did it.”

Mum-of-five Alison Davies, 40, of Stockport, Cheshire, leapt to her death with her son Ryan, 12, from the Humber Bridge last year.

Her friends said she had been let down by social services.

Linda said last night: “I just don’t want to get to that stage. But without some more help and support I only fear the worst.

“And it would help if people who see mums and dads with kids who are playing up would think twice before judging.

“It is likely that child has a disability like autism, so they should think before they say anything.”

Mum-of-two Linda says she has no social life and it is more than a year since she had a night out. She added: “I am at breaking point and I feel like I have nowhere to turn.

“I just wish the people who are so quick to judge me and Ian would spend a day in our shoes.

“They’d never cope. But it would let them realise that Ian is not a bad boy, he is ill.

“That is why he kicks and bites and screams. He can’t help it.

“If I could wave a magic wand and make it all go away, I would. But I can’t.

“I love my son to bits and will fight to defend and protect him like any mother would.”

In recent weeks, life has become even worse for Linda, whose daughter Melanie, 20, lives in Preston, Lancashire, with her boyfriend.

She was called to Ian’s special needs school to be told he had been playing with a guillotine.

Since then, she has refused to let Ian go back to Glasgow’s Gadburn Primary School as she fears for his safety.

She said: “Every day, there are new challenges to face and every day is like climbing a huge mountain.

“Ian has no sense of fear and you have to keep an eye on him all the time. He’d jump out of a window or cut himself or throw himself off something for fun. He has no idea it could kill him.”

Ian has also started copying behaviour he has seen at school, biting, kicking and punching people, including Linda and her disabled uncle.

He has torn down two sets of curtains, broken the door of the tumble-dryer, flooded the kitchen and bathroom floors and thrown almost all his clothes in the bin.

The six-year-old has also broken a bed, bashed in the living room door, slashed open a sofa and tried to eat the foam from it and covered sheets and carpets with make-up.

His mum has had to tie ropes to all the doors and windows of their three-bedroomed home to stop him hurting himself.

On top of this, she has to change his clothes up to nine times a day because he is incontinent. Sometimes, he goes to the toilet on the floor.

And Linda can’t remember the last time she had a proper night’s rest as she can spend up to five hours trying to get Ian to go to sleep.

She said: “Things are now so bad that there are days when I do think the worst. I used to be able to go out with Ian but not since he started school and picked up bad habits.

“I don’t drive, so we have to get the bus. But the last time we were on one, Ian started pulling people’s hair.

“I can’t even go out shopping with him because he hits total strangers.

“The other day, he punched an older lady in the stomach. Her husband went absolutely crazy at me.

“And when we were in the supermarket the other day, Ian started banging his head off the floor and started this high-pitched scream.

“Within seconds, there was a huge crowd around us. Someone chirped out that I was a terrible mum and should not let my son do this.

“It is only when I screamed out that he had autism that they stopped staring and walked off, feeling guilty. This happens all the time we are out.”

In the last four years, Linda has only had two days of respite care offered to her, when a couple took Ian to their home to give her a break.

She has been begging for meetings with social work and education officers since last December to try to get more help. And she is furious his school keeps sending him home.

Social workers have also refused to give her cash to repair broken locks and her tumble-dryer.

Linda said: “They say they are not essentials. But they should try living with an incontinent child.”

The mum noticed Ian’s behaviour changing since his MMR jab, she says.

She added: “Until then, I had a loving wee boy. And then it was like one day he went into his own world. He wouldn’t hug me or speak or even look at me. It was heart-breaking.

“To this date, I have never been able to prove it was the MMR but I am convinced it is to blame.”

The National Autistic Society say they get thousands of calls a year from carers suffering from depression and feeling the strain of looking after someone with autism.

A study by the charity discovered only 15 per cent of parents received any support from social services.

And it highlighted how a third of families waited more than a year before their children received support at school.

There are about 45,000 autistic children living in Scotland and experts believe the condition is becoming more common, affecting 50 in every 10,000 children compared with five in 10,000 some 20 years ago.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “Ian’s school has been working closely with Mrs McIntyre over the past few months to address Ian’s additional support needs.

“A multi-agency meeting has been arranged for next Tuesday which will give further consideration to the supports required in both the school and home setting.”

The National Autistic Society helpline is on 0845 070 4004.

March 14, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism disorder, autism every day | 3 Comments