When Therapy Hurts

Today my sons aba session brought me to my knees. I walked in from my work session of ABA and as I walked in the door I saw my sons technician right away and I knew. They were about 15 minutes in and her face said it all. “hi, its not going well” she said with a pale exasperated look on her face. My gaze turned to my son who adorned an almost pained look on his face. “He has already tried to bite me 5 times. he hasn’t gotten me yet”. I took a deep breath and set down my backpack that holds all the ABA therapy supplies for work and walked into the kitchen and the look on my moms face matched the feeling in my soul. She couldn’t wait to leave… I wished I could leave…

As the door closed behind my mom his screams began again at any small request for compliance. I rounded the corner into the dining room and found the technician on the phone “I am texting the BCBA” she said. “Aiden are you hungry?” she asked. “yes” he said as I set the pizza and cherry tomatoes before him. He would not sit at the table and went to get up and as we tried to keep him at the table he let out a loud scream and requested to go on the trampoline. We allowed him. I stood in the kitchen pretending to cook (my dinner had been cooking in the crockpot since before i had left for work) as my mind raced. I wanted so much to protect him. I wanted so much for his sessions to run the way I run mine at work. I wanted his feelings to be verified. I was hearing his screams being met with “do this” and the faint sound of a knock on the table met with his growing hands in compliance as his face still held that pained frustrated look.

These are the days that its hard. Its ten P.M. and I am running on approximately three hours of sleep. I sit writing emails to BCBAs, while my husband sits in the chair working and me hiding away. There is an old episode of The Office playing on the tv before me but my headphones are on. I just cant relate. Intermittently I hear my husband laughing at a funny part once in a while and I wish I had the ability to let my guard down. But not now. Not today.

What am I doing? Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing more damage than good? As I write to his therapist “can you please send me the graph of his current progress” I am realizing more and more that what my question really is is a cry for some sort of validation in his treatment plan. Where are we going with all these questions we continue to script? Whats the point if he doesn’t understand the purpose? The concept behind the questions? Whats the point if he can name the 3 animals on your list? Life is not a script. Life is a balancing act of transitions and normalacy. Life is adapting to your environment. Is that whats going on? Am I at a point where I should be adapting and I’m fighting it? My gut is telling me to pull the plug… But then what? He’s 11 and the answers seem farther away than they have ever been.

The thing about Autism therapies is that if you choose that ABA is not right for your family or your child you really have no other options. sure you can get a half hour of speech a week, a half hour of physical therapy and occupational therapy but how much can you really accomplish in a half hour once a week?? ABA is the only thing that gives you hours of intensive therapy. Its a monopoly really. In some sense its like ABA or nothing. Now, I am not downplaying how great ABA can be if its what i call “Loose ABA” but so many times its taken to the extreme and dissects our kids to the point of insanity. “your error correction is amazing!” “Great probing you didnt prompt once” You added “come here” thats an extra prompt mark it wrong”.  Everyday I find myself tilting my head more and more in confusion. If we keep pounding him with this stuff what is his real reward?? More and harder programming… Its not like in school where you get the reward of a good grade… Its not like there is some sort of honor roll to strive for. You master a program and you don’t get a certificate you get another more intensitve program in its place. there are no graduating grades, no measure of upward… just a flat line you keep treading.  ABA is incomplete. I feel like we are consistently asking Aiden to learn a subject he hates with no relief of having time to go to the class he loves. I mean what got me through math class in high school was knowing the next hour was writers workshop…. its the equivelant of him going from math, to math, to math to math for six straight hours. I don’t know. I guess ABA has lost its spark. In his case at least. And in mine as well. I’m so over it.

We are losing him when they are here. he is getting harder in life in general but when they are here he has no happy. and its up to me to fix it. I’m scared. That’s the best I got right now. fear. Can i do this on my own? Lord knows my trust in these therapies are near obsolete. I

2 thoughts on “When Therapy Hurts

  1. You are so strong and a wonderful parent. Our Health Service doesn’t provide ABA. You can get it but it’s difficult to secure. I know speaking with one consultant she was not keen on it as it good when it was done with sensitivity and correctly undertaken. But she thought it often wasn’t great and just too intensive.


  2. Well put. It has to be the right fit with everyone contributing to the programming. I’m happy to know there is a voice out there that isn’t afraid to share true concerns!


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