We just got back from touring an autism treatment program for Buddy, and we’re very optimistic and excited. Ever since I became concerned about autism with Buddy I’ve had a hard time finding a place that seems to understand autism which has been a source of frustration (there’s nothing worse than being scared there’s a problem, having people tell you he’s behind but will grow out of it and not to worry), and I think we finally have.
Things I like about their program.
- 1:1 teacher/student ratio. At Buddy’s current school there are a lot of kids and not a lot of teachers, and a child with autism needs A LOT of engagement and really need to be shadowed constantly.
- 50% of the time is one on one, the rest is with the other students.
- There’s a playground across the street owned by the Boys & Girls Town that they have a contract to use, and Buddy can play there with them while being shadowed by a therapist who can help him learn to play with other children (this has been the hardest thing for me. Sometimes he plays very well with other children, sometimes he wants to but just can’t break the ice and it’s so hard to watch).
- No worksheets. Everything is natural, play based learning. We evolved to learn through play, not worksheets, and finding a place in my area that does not focus on worksheet drills and focuses on learning through play has been exceedingly difficult. Play IS the mechanism by which children learn.
- They have a gross motor therapy room with a ball pit. Buddy saw that and jumped right in and did not want to leave! So yeah, Buddy liked it there a lot! I explained that he is sensory seeking and they actually knew what I meant and understood the other autism lingo.
- They did not give me that condescending false hope that he will start talking and acting like a typically developing child in abut a month. Everything was realistic. I feel like they actually understand autism.
- Once a month they will either meet me or my husband in the home to check out concerns, progress, and to work on issues in the home to help Andy and I improve how we interact with him, and also to help Sissy learn how to interact with him. As a therapist I strongly believe that when one person in the family has a problem, the whole family has that problem, and the actions that each person in that family performs or fails to perform either makes the problem better or worse. So even though Sissy is not yet two, she’s affected by having a sibling with autism and also needs support. So I like that the whole family is going to be included.
- It’s more hours during the week than what he currently has, and it’s year round. So not more of this getting him in a schedule and it getting messed up by summer or Christmas break.
So Andy and I are very happy with what we saw and Buddy really liked playing there. We think this will be a good place for him and that he can grow and thrive there. They did not promise me a miracle, everything was realistic, and they accepted his autism behaviors as autism behaviors and not being defiant or manipulative.
Of course, until we meet our very high deductible, we’re going to be paying through the nose for this. This is one of those instance where I want to emphasize that a person’s financial resources matter. Person A with a child like Buddy who can afford the therapy will get it and see their child progress. Person B with a child like Buddy who can’t would have to settle for what the school offers, and considering all of the labeling of his behavior in pre-school, frankly that would put that kid on the path to juvenile delinquency. The thing is I have worked with people less fortunate and seen how their children are punished by the school system for having autism. But that’s the subject of another blog.
For now we’re just overjoyed to get Buddy into this program and out of the schools. End of February!