As you know, K started a new school about a month ago. After a long search, we found someplace I felt she would be comfortable. Tiny classes. The ability to take breaks, or do work outside of the classroom, whenever she needed. Understanding. People seeing her as a kid who wants to do well, and not as a kid who is trying to make life difficult.
She has been happy, and I have been happy.
But, I started to hear this nagging voice in my head. Can K really succeed at this school? There's no ABA. I mean, how can she succeed without ABA? There aren't incentives to change behavior. How will she do well without incentives? I felt like maybe it was impossible for K to succeed, have a future, without these things. She has autism! How else will she learn?
Then I realized something. For years K has had all those things. ABA, incentives, behavior plans. People structuring her day with rules and routines, barely allowing to make a choice on her own. Not respecting when she needed space. Forcing her to stay someplace, or do something, even when she couldn't handle it, because that is what's "expected". And guess, what? Things never got better. This is K's third program this year! Third! That doesn't exactly scream success. Not by a long shot.
I think we are so conditioned to think our kids need this therapy or that, we forget to stop and see if anything is helping. Or, if anything is hurting. And that's not to say that every kid is the same. It's about taking a look at your child, and seeing what is right for them. If things have been bad for a long time, or your child is such a ball of anxiety they can barely function, it's time to figure out why.
I had a kid this year who was so consumed by anxiety, she never wanted to leave the house. Somehow, in my mind, I felt that she just needed more. More ABA. More structure. More therapy. Because obviously she wasn't getting enough if all she wanted to do was sit in her room, alone.
Now I realize it was too much. The pressure to change. Act differently. Make "better" choices. It took its toll on my girl. The fact that she fought me on therapy didn't mean she needed more, it meant I needed to back off, and let her voice be heard. That no one's opinion is more important than that of my own child. Sure, she's an autistic 9yo, but she's also her own person, and I need to respect her as such.
This realization will also help me going forward with Ben. I won't make the same mistakes twice. I will be much more aware of what works, what doesn't, and what he truly needs. I don't care what the "gold standard" is anymore. I care about what makes my kids happy, and successful in their own right, not compared to their typical peers.
So, no, K's new school doesn't use ABA. She doesn't have a bunch of different sticker charts driving her behavior. Things aren't taken away when she doesn't meat the standard for "typical" that day. She is allowed to be herself, even when things aren't going perfectly. She isn't restrained, or put in a room alone. She is loved and cared for, viewed as a whole person, and not as someone who constantly says and does the wrong thing.
It's hard to break away from everything you've been told is "right", when it comes to autism. Taking the time to look back, and realize nothing has been "right" in a long time, gave me the strength to let go of everything I thought needed to happen, and see that my girl is happier than she's ever been. Sure, we still have more trying times, but now I am more open to seeing that maybe those times are caused by us trying to force K to be someone she is not.
She is K. She is autistic. She will always be autistic. It's time to just let her be. Maybe that's what she's needed all along.