When we started, we thought if we got nothing out of ABA but potty training, it would be worth it. We got a lot more than that. Roo learned to tie his shoes. To take turns. To sequence ideas. To stay on topic. To play games. To be a friend.
I can't say ABA did it all, but Friday when I picked him up from school, a little girl with pigtails abandoned her place in the jump rope line to race over and give him a hug before he left. Today we carried on a long and meaningful conversation about why he cannot quit going to his math tutor. And this afternoon he played a great monkey game with me while we got assessed for the next chapter -- AKA social skills classes. Ah, yes. We won't be slowly galavanting home every day all of a sudden. But during the holiday season, we plan to live a little freer, enjoy our newfound ease.
I remember right before we started I told the members of my autism Meet Up group that we had just been approved for 15 hours a week of ABA. "Oh!" several moms remarked. "Well! We will miss you! See you in a couple years!" I am looking forward to seeing them again. They were right. We stopped going to meetups because ABA took all our nights, and we saved weekends for chores, family time, tutoring, and horseback riding. This week, we ate dinner in a restaurant! Like regular families! Friday night I even took the kids to the holiday parade. Ah, to be a bird released from its cage...
I did not love ABA, but I have to say I feel really happy we did it. We struggled significantly more than the family on Parenthood, to be sure, and I longed for the privacy to eat dinner in my pjs once in a while, but ABA gave us some worthwhile tools, strategies and structure. For Roo, the programs did not look like the DTT programs I expected from my limited knowledge of ABA. Mostly, his ABA focused on play therapy. And while he didn't conquer every challenge, he took it as far as he could in the realm of playing with his sister, his therapist, and me every day. Now we're ready to try it with four kids in a social skills class. But get this... social skills is once a week. And. (Are you ready?!) I. Can. Drop. Him. Off.
Peaches has waited almost her whole life for some undivided mommy attention, and as Roo's behavior improved, hers fell apart completely. If she qualified for play therapy too, believe me I'd sign her little self right up pronto, but since her only diagnosis is stubbornness, I'm going to try to work some one-on-one magic with her my own ABA-trained self. I think this could be a good new chapter.