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Thursday, February 19, 2009

What is ABA?

I wanted to write about what ABA is, from my flawed and less than totally knowledgable perspective, and why I am not really pulling out all the holds to get Janey involved with it. It's short for Applied Behavioral Analysis. In the pure form, it consists of something called Discrete Trials. It works on teaching a child a piece of knowledge in a very small form---for example, if you wanted them to learn the shape circle, you would put a circle on a table and ask them to pick up the circle. If they did, fine, if they didn't, you would help them do it. You do this something like 10 times and record how well they do. Then you move on to another shape or another skill. The next day or whatever, you ask them the circle question again, and again record how they are doing, so you can see progress. You work your way up to things like giving them 10 shapes to choose from, or having them say the name, or them finding the big circle vs. the small one, etc.

It sounds pretty good, and of course most all parents and educators use versions of that. My problem with it is more the formality and the insistance on a certain routine, and the narrow focus. It's not a natural way to learn, I don't think. I also know with Janey's personality, we would spend many many hours with her rebelling, crying, running away, throwing things around, while the worker patiently just kept bringing her back and asking her the questions. I think it would involve a great deal of wasted time. And I don't think the knowledge would transfer. Janey DOES know a lot of things like what a circle is or what colors are---it's bringing out the knowledge in a natural way that is her issue. It's why I something think her problem is partly more one of word retrival than really of classic autism.

This all could be a bit of sour grapes as I can't seem to get things going with the schools for ABA. This is partly the cost. I have looked up lots of sites about ABA and many of those are run by autism moms who will stop at nothing to help their child (as if we all wouldn't) and who have what seems like unlimited funds to do so, or who live in rich school distracts. ABA costs a LOT to be done by trained people, and it takes a lot of time, and there is a shortage of people who can do it. It all adds up to much like so much in the US---we have graet health care, but access is the issue, and I am sure there are other parents like me who simply can't access the top notch help.

But I also feel that natural learning works better for Janey. And I think many kids with autism or related disorders get better as time goes on ON THEIR OWN, and it's hard to say whether many, many hours of drills helped or not. Sometimes I think they actually push the child into a peg---define the autism for them and make them more rigid. I am a bit of a rebel about the whole thing. I am still not sure Janey is really autistic. Maybe it's just a defense mechanism, but I don't know. I have seen William's progression. I have seen Janey make some giant steps. I have no idea how much more she can do.

Just a bit of morning thoughts and ranting!

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