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Wednesday, November 25, 2009


So after having 10 people sit around in a circle to discuss one little four year old, we have an IEP for half a year. And the school district is threatening to force us to go to a different school if we want summer school. Because taking an autistic boy and putting him in a strange environment with new teachers for three weeks in the middle of the summer is productive. Yeah.

Anyway, they're thinking he's going to outgrow his AAC and need something more advanced soon. It's clearly appropriate for him. He navigates it like a pro. However, he's also created new problems by having a voice. Just as with spoken words, sometimes he's communicating wants and needs, and sometimes he's just making noises for internal reasons not relevant to the discussion.

The preschool directer thinks they pretty much have this one under control, and I tend to agree. Rather than saying something like, "No talker!" or "Talker down!" like the school district suggested, the teacher just says, "But we're not talking about X right now. Let's talk about Y." Just like any other kid babbling about something unrelated to the lesson. Sometimes when the lesson is over a skill he's already mastered, they just turn down the volume on his AAC and let him explore as much as he wants. This? This is why I am not taking him to a school district preschool.

Our next IEP will be for transitioning to kindergarten. I have to admit I'm concerned about this. I have faith in the school he'll be attending, but I can't control all the variables there either. What if he gets a horrible teacher? How much are they going to underestimate his abilities? How bad is it going to get next year when he's stuck in this new routine?

I'm glad he's doing so well with reading, because I feel like that's something that shows proof that he's educable. And it saddens me that he needs that. I feel like when it comes to special ed, some kids are taught, and some kids are warehoused.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Conventional Wisdom

Yeah, I'm a slacker. I learned more at the autism conference I recently attended than what testing goes on inside a DAN! office.

ABA is on the decline.  Several speakers with a background and education in ABA spoke of the shortcomings, including a certified and practicing behaviorist. Mainly that while it's effective in some cases, it's often pushed as a panacea and the only therapy anyone should use. One professor said that kids who had the sometimes recommended level of 40 hours a week of intensive ABA were simply overwhelmed by it.

I tend to agree. I have concerns about the true effectiveness of ABA beyond teaching a discrete behavior. Yet I, like many others, tend to hold it up as an example of an evidence based practice, because it's certainly better than admitting that there's very little evidence based practice in the education system, period. This would certainly be a better place to throw research money than disproving the vaccine-autism connection again.

The problem is that many states are starting to role out mandated autism coverage laws. What gets covered? ABA. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA. That means there are situations where a family would be told that they can get ABA or nothing. Let's hear it for teenagers that demand a reward for every action. Let's hear it for kids being taught that food is a reward. ABA in theory isn't that, but in practice it quite often is.

That said, we're in the process of hiring a behaviorist for potty training. Using the toilet seems like a behavior where rewards and positive supports would be effective. I really hope it works. He's going to kindergarten next year. And while it's not surprising that he's not potty trained, he's got enough social barriers as it is. He doesn't need a poopy diaper incident to follow him around his school career.

Another point:

The phrase "genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger" is in some ways an invocation of Bettelheim. We didn't cause autism in our genetically predisposed children, though sometimes prenatal stress seems to make the difference. And that's an environment we already do our best to control.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hamthrax Vax

So we got the kids their H1N1 vaccine. They didn't sprout extra limbs, get the flu, or develop strange neurological symptoms. I did notice my son had autism after the vax, though.  

You'd think preventing a potentially deadly illness with a treatment with low risks would be a no-brainer. But it is not. Thanks, mercury militia. The chance of having a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine is roughly the same as the chance of being struck by lightning in a given year. And yet, I had parents asking me if we noticed "any symptoms."  I saw someone else asking if it was normal to have a sore arm the next day or if it was a sign of a bad reaction.

One told me that she was foregoing vaccination, since she'd driven H1N1 away by giving her son some homeopathic remedy at a 30C dilution. For those not familiar with the dilution required - that dilution is so extreme there is no trace of the original solution. Yes, she knew it was nothing but water. She said it was an "energy" thing.  Well, I'll take knocking on wood and crossing my fingers. Just as effective, but a lot cheaper. And whenever someone in my family doesn't get sick, I'll credit my finger crossing, and when they do get sick, I'll claim I forgot to cross my fingers or didn't do it soon enough. 

Anyway, nuttiness.