As a Behaviour Analyst and the parent of a child with Autism, I often find myself on two sides of the fence. The side that is giving advice about treatment, and the side that is receiving advice about treatment.
I would like to think that I can be sympathetic to both sides, but sometimes I run into a situation where my sympathy wears a little thin.
Take a phone call that I received the other day. A man called to say that his son had just been diagnosed with Autism (boy is a teenager) and that he didn’t know what to with him. “Ok”, I said – “what is going on?” Him – “Well, it is his attitude!” “Ok”, I said, “Specifically what is going on?” “Give me an example.” Him- “Well he just won’t listen!” “Ok”, I said, “What motivates your child?” Him- “Nothing, nothing motivates him-all he wants to do is play video games!” “Ok”, I said, (maybe a little less sympathetically) “So your son is motivated by playing video games.” Him – “Ya, but what good is that? What damn good is playing video games?” Me – “Well, I am suggesting that maybe you could restrict his access to video games until he does what you ask him to do – then when he does what he is asked – he is rewarded by access to his video games.” Him – “Ha! that isn’t going to work, he won’t listen to me!”
You get the idea. This conversation (and I use that term loosely) went on for another five minutes where I learned that the child has been to a psychiatrist, pyschologist, and doctor – who according to the parent told him that “there was nothing he (the doctor) could do with him” (the boy).
Since I was in a conversation that was going completely nowhere, I had to admit to the parent that it was unlikely that I would be able to help. The parent heartily agreed, and we hung up.
I felt really bad. (For the kid). And frankly for the parent too, as he had given up on his child.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been the parent who rolls their eyes at the suggestion of some treatments for my child (sorry brushing therapy and weighted vests sigh!). But have at least offered to let them try if they are willing to take data and do a reversal design to confirm that the treatment is working. Is science too much to ask? 🙂
But in all seriousness, without trying interventions that my help our kids, we are denying them the opportunity to make changes that could really improve their quality of life. Sometimes these interventions seem daunting, an incredible amount of work for parents and caregivers who are already over- tired, over -stressed, and over – done.
All I can say, is experience has taught me that doing nothing will acheive exactly that effect – nothing will change. Our kid’s behaviour won’t improve, their communication and self help skills won’t improve, and things might degenerate and get a whole lot worse as the child grows.
Sometimes, we as parents have to be more optimistic about what our kids can acheive.
There is a good book on this by V. Marc Durand PhD. (Available on Amazon)