I really thought I was decided. And yet, here I am agonizing again. What do I do? Which way do I go? Parenting is truly one of the hardest jobs in the world. Being in charge of another person’s life because they are too young or they may not have the ability to do so for themselves is a huge responsibility.
Yes, I can weigh the pros and cons. I am pretty good at that and I am also pretty skilled at rationalizing. But do you ever hear that voice in your head warning you how incredibly significant of a decision you are about to make? That voice that doesn’t say you’re right or wrong but just tells you to be careful. I have them all the time.
When it comes to Aiden, I’m never 100% certain except for the fact that I love him. I love him with all my heart and there’s nothing in this world that I wouldn’t do for him so he can be alright. I will give anything so that he can thrive in a world that expects so much of every person but where I know he doesn’t have the ability to even comprehend some of these expectations.
Last week, I made up my mind. We will forego ABA. We already have behavioral goals established and incorporated within our homeschool curriculum. We will keep building up on it as we have been the last 3 years. He has improved so much and he’s had milestone after milestone. So putting him in a setting like an ABA therapy doesn’t really impact our goals for him. And yes, we don’t have the education, title, or credentials to be able to call it “therapy” but what we do for and with Aiden at home is working.
It’s working for us and it’s working for Aiden. And I know that it is because I am witnessing Aiden cope, live, and learn every day while laughing and giggling. He is a happy kid. And on days when he isn’t up to working on anything, we tell him it is okay. We don’t force him for output(s) because a clock is ticking. He doesn’t have to do anything when he is clearly not up to it. I concluded that ABA therapy for Aiden would be too rigid. And I just don’t want him to be in a rigid setting. Not anymore. We’ve been there (sort of) and it was detrimental to him. The voice in my head whispers I could be wrong. But my gut has resolved that I am prepared to be wrong if only to take a chance at being right.
While I decided against ABA, I thought for sure I wanted Speech and Occupational Therapy for him. I mean, that was a no-brainer. He can definitely use the help with speech development and I was sure “whatever” OT does will help him just as well. I read that OT helps to improve everyday skills so that individuals can become more independent. According to Autism Speaks, “For people with autism, OT programs often focus on play skills, learning strategies, and self-care. OT strategies can also help to manage sensory issues.”
We had the Speech and Occupational Therapy assessments the other day. OT was in person while Speech was virtual.
Aiden worked really hard with the OT exercises. He did very well (in my opinion) despite not following some of the instructions. There was one exercise where it needed him to put pennies in circles on a board and then pick one penny at a time with his left hand, turn it over to his right hand, and then put it in a box. Well, Aiden put every penny in the right circle, picked up the penny with either left or right hand and then put them in the box. Halfway through the exercise, he picks up multiple pennies at a time and puts them in the box.
Another exercise was to put all the blocks with holes in the middle in one string. At the end, he had to remove the blocks from the string the same direction he put them in. The other end was a knot. Well, Aiden untied the knot and took all the blocks out of the string that way. In both activities, I thought Aiden did very well. He may not have followed the instruction to a “T” but he put all the pennies to and back where they needed to be. He may not have taken the blocks out of the string in the desired direction but he problem-solved and untied the knot on the other end so he can the blocks out that way. Smart boy!
The virtual Speech assessment felt disconnected. She wasn’t able to to establish rapport with Aiden so the whole time, Aiden wouldn’t even look at her. It may have very well been because it was virtual. Maybe it would have turned out differently if she was in person with him. Compared to the Occupational Therapist, she wasn’t as “nice”. She was fairly straightforward and a lot of times, it felt like she was trying too hard to understand but she didn’t. If that makes sense. I caught her multiple times really restraining herself from using clinical jargons. It still came out though a handful times which “felt” condescending. Not so much what was said, just how it was said.
The day ended with Aiden being very exhausted. He looked unhappy. And I could tell that the day’s activities overwhelmed him. We’ve been there before and we are finally at a good place. It isn’t perfect but it’s a place where he is comfortable and he isn’t melting down often.
The question for me now is – what can a speech or an occupational therapist do for Aiden that with full commitment and capacity of time, us – his parents can’t do? And am I wrong for being comfortable with my son’s abilities while the world looks at him as severely deficient?