Two years ago, my son Zack was diagnosed as severely autistic. He couldn't talk. He screeched, screamed, and howled. He didn't know how to play independently or with his sister or us. He'd pick up a toy, throw it over his shoulder, grab something else, and throw that by the wayside also. Most the family gatherings we attended we didn't enjoy, because we spent the entire time managing his behavior. I couldn't read to him, because he wouldn't sit still.
He was unhappy, most of the time. We were exhausted.
All of the time.
Before his diagnosis, he was evaluated as needing speech therapy. He also qualified for OT (Occupational Therapy) and Special Instruction. His OT and SI teacher were sorta lovey dovey, nice, soft-spoken, laid-back "We let the child choose what he or she likes to do, in order to affirm a safe environment for them" or some-such thing.
His speech therapist, however, told us right up front: "I just want you to know, he's not going to like a lot I'm going to make him do. He'll cry and complain, maybe even pitch a fit, and I'm going to make him sit at a table and complete all his tasks, no matter what. I'm not hurting him. I promise. Just making him work."
Abby and I are old school, for sure. That, and at that time I'd spent over 15 years in child services/special education/junior high/high school education. I'd seen, first hand, what results from the "let's be pals" approach. I basically told his Speech Therapist: "Have at it."
All due respect, he ran over his SI and OT teacher like they were rugs. Could care a less if they came or not. His Speech Therapist?
He did, in fact, whine a lot. Cry. Complain.
And then, wonders never cease....
And changed. Got better.
Now, it should be noted he still had his whiny days. And, as I've also noted before, after nearly three years of intervention, his actual autism has proven to be mild (downgraded now to moderate) compared to other cases I've seen. But still. His Speech Therapist made him sit down, work, and stay on task. Not "choose his own thing". And he got better.
Also? He absolutely ADORED his Speech Therapist. Would run to the window when she pulled into the driveway, and would wave goodbye. If she was supposed to show and didn't, he'd ask after her. She used discipline, kept him on task, made him work in spite of his whining and complaining....
And he loved her for it.
That realization, two years ago, taught me so much as a parent, and more than any Education class or seminar or workshop I've ever taken as a teacher.
And here he is today, sitting in one spot and playing independently, all by himself. At the same table our Speech Therapist loaned us, and eventually left with us for good.
Thank you. You started us along the path that gave us our son back.