Choosing a Therapy for My Son Jordan: ABA or Son Rise
FROM ALISON: I have been watching the video clip of Raun K Kaufman and Scott Fraize and seeing the subsequent discussion on Son Rise v’s ABA appearing on Bears facebook wall and the YOUtube forum. Whatever therapy we choose for our child, it is a choice that we take for them, so it is imperative to make it in an informed way. This is my story of how I decided to do Son Rise.
I remember very clearly the day that I took my 2 year old son Jordan to the hospital to find out why he didn’t speak or respond to anything I said to him. I thought he was deaf so I was completely shocked when the paediatric team’s assessment of him was that he had autism. I drove home completely numb not knowing what to do next because they delivered the bombshell and then sent me on my way with only an information leaflet from the National Autistic Society. Reading this, I found that they said that Jordan might never talk, never have friends, never be potty trained, never have a job, never get married etc. I decided that I didn’t want to believe what they said, and so after a while, after I got over the shock, I started to look for ways to help him. I spent nights scouring the internet looking for answers. I found so many options all claiming to help, but clearly I couldn’t do all of them, so I had to choose.
So I bought books, I now have a bookcase full of books on autism including one called ‘Teaching developmentally disabled children The ME book’ by O Ivar Lovaas. This book teaches a method of therapy called Applied Behaviour Analysis – ABA and claimed a high percentage of success using its methods, so I read on….
This is what I read for the first lesson:
page 45 “for certain children learning to sit correctly in a chair is their first learning experience. It can be a very gratifying experience for everyone. Work to get this kind of control before you go on to other programs” The technique for this first lesson is as follows:
“Step 1 choose a chair that is suitable for the child’s size. Place the chair directly behind the child.
Step 2 give the child the command sit down and then help the child (push him or otherwise prompt him by physically placing him) in the chair.
Step 3 Reward the child with praise or food when he is seated.”
So what happens if the child doesn’t stay in the chair that he was pushed into?
“Step 6 If he gets up before you want him to, forcefully (perhaps with aversives) place him back in the seat so that he will become apprehensive about getting out of the chair without your permission to do so”
It was clear to me that no matter how successful this therapy was, that I didn’t want it for myself or my child. The end result did not justify the means in my opinion, I was never going to force my son into a chair.
Some of the aversives that the ME book suggests include slapping the child, slapping the table in front of the child, or shouting ‘no’ which according to pg 51 should sound like ‘hells fury’. The picture at the top left of this blog is of my son shortly before he received his diagnosis, I cannot imagine looking into his eyes and doing ‘hells fury’ for anything let alone just choosing to get out of a chair. I would not want to use these techniques to train a dog let alone my son who was already overwhelmed by his surroundings and lost to me.
The book goes on to describe how behaviours like rocking and hand flapping (which I believe are curative to a child) are to be suppressed during teaching time which is between 6 – 8 hours per day, every day.
I have noticed that many of the websites about ABA kind of skirt over these issues and emphasize all the things that can be taught using ABA, but make no mistake about it, these things are very much a part of the teaching techniques and Lovass writings especially the ME book are recommended reading.
So I chose Son Rise for Jordan because it is loving and respectful, giving meaning and honour to his choices of activity because I believe that they are purposeful and useful to him. Jordan has flourished in his Son Rise Program and is now a very loving affectionate boy who operates daily on a very sophisticated level. So I will continue his Son Rise program until the day when he no longer needs it.