ABA therapy · autism · special needs parenting

So This is In-Home ABA

My first disclaimer that we have an older child with moderate autism co-occurring with Down syndrome and complex medical conditions. My second disclaimer is to look for the links. I don’t get paid for any of them or anything, I’m just trying to help you out if you don’t know the terminology. This post is part of a series about what to expect with in-home ABA.

We chose in-home ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) for a variety of reasons. The first is Ben’s age. At 13 there just aren’t many options, especially when you live in a rural area. We have two ABA options and both are in-home. The other advantages of in-home therapy are that we can work on family relationships which have suffered, and tackle the concerns that arise in Ben’s normal environment. The cons are that with up to 25 hours/week of therapy, we have an ABA tech in our space much of the time Ben is home. I haven’t mentioned it lately, but I’m introverted to the point of reclusive, with a large side of awkward.

Therapy started with a process called pairing. Ben’s ABA tech (she’s fabulous!) is a woman just a few years younger than me, which I think is a huge advantage. She spent a couple of weeks developing a rapport with Ben and getting familiar with our family and routine. I used this time to work on a rapport with her as well. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more. As the mother of children with developmental and medical needs, I am a professional parent. I see myself as 51% of any professional team that works with my boys, and as such, I conduct myself according to reasonable professional standards as far as communication, demeanor, and overall way of functioning. Though I don’t hold to it for the entirety of a professional relationship which takes place in the home, for at least the first visit I wear business casual attire as well.

The ABA technician is responsible for the nuts and bolts of day to day therapy, and the BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) is the guru who writes programs to address the specific behaviors of concern, and analyzes the outcomes and continuously tweaks the program. They spend a certain percentage of the therapy time with the ABA tech and recipient of the therapy and communicate with the recipient, family, and tech regarding all things related to the therapy. The success of the process depends upon the functioning of this team, which brings me right on back to my professional parent point above. Since I want this to work, I consider it my job and view myself as just as essential as the rest of the team.

After the period of pairing, demands ramp up, and so does the behavior, but there’s a plan for that.

We have programs in place for Ben to learn daily tasks like put on his own shirt, ask for items using more than one word, and wait (hallelujah on that one!). There’s a lot of timing. Timing of non-compliance, timing “waits”, and a visual timer to let him know when he needs to move on to the next activity. In fact, visuals are a big part of this. As someone who is predominantly auditory in functioning, the visuals are something I have never been great at incorporating on my own, but are so valuable for Ben, so this is a huge bonus.

We use a simple first/then board with most of Ben’s normal daily activities as simple thumbnail icons.

Used with the timer, this should help Ben navigate transitions, which can get pretty rocky.

Coming soon we’ll have a simple visual calendar for Ben to make the flow of his day more predictable.

Though it’s still early in the game, Ben is getting more demands placed on him by the technician, and that means lots of noise, non-compliance, and mini-meltdowns. (I think our tech thinks they’re actual meltdowns, I’ve warned her, but seeing is believing).

Change is uncomfortable for us all, and the discomfort I have with this gives me a sense of camaraderie with Ben. We’re all growing here, and since we’re off to a late start, it’s a bit jarring. We’re holding on tight for the ride, as usual. At least we have that part mastered.


family · Uncategorized

The Mshar Family Christmas Letter

2017 has brought many changes for the Mshar family, though much remains the same. Early in the year Mike and Lee decided that he should throw his Conservation Officer Hat into the ring for a promotion. He applied for and accepted a Sergeant position which means now he can officially tell people what to do (instead of just for fun like usual). The promotion meant moving up north into the exact middle of nowhere, also known as Lewiston.

Upon accepting the position, the house hunt began, and we found the perfect recluse special and made our move. The whole family arrived up north after Hannah graduated from high school and had the world’s tiniest grad party.

Speaking of Hannah, she’s taking online courses as an English major, with the intention of moving overseas to teach English as a foreign language, hopefully in Asia. Yes, I get the irony of her studying at home with the goal of moving overseas, but if you know Hannah, it actually makes sense. She’s even been letting Lee teach her homemaker skills with an exceptional ability to keep her eyerolls camouflaged. She spends her time hiking, x-country skiing, Netflix binging and jumping into projects with her parents.

Alex has adjusted well to his new home and school. He is working on developing his singing voice, which is something he faithfully practices every day. Though he sings with heart and gusto, he will be continuing his education in anything other than vocal music for the benefit of music listeners everywhere. He is fueled by coffee these days, and is growing his hair out with the lofty goal of being able to flip it back when he flicks his head just right.

Ben is still strengthening his determination and will, which is quite impressive. I expect any day now to see him actually moving objects with his mind by sheer force of desire, much like a Jedi. Our primary goal is to keep him using the good side of the force. He enjoys any rough and tumble activity, being in charge, sliding down the stairs on his butt or belly, and Hot Wheels Cars.

Lee has been busy pretending she’s in the book “Little House on the Prairie” and dabbling in any number of quaint homemaking hobbies like gardening, breadmaking and playing with the fires in the fireplaces. She prefers to do these things while texting her family, blogging and Facebooking, thus blowing the prairie image. Although Caroline Ingalls would have rocked the hoodie dress and leggings look that Lee loves.

Mike has completed roughly 1,683,270 projects since moving here. (Oops, add 3 more during this writing). He is in his glory any day that he can use his tractor, and has even mown about 3 miles of trails through 10 acres of woods while leaving the woods largely intact. He comes inside mostly to eat, sleep and watch football, which is why Lee spends so much time cooking (it’s a lure). We’re pretty sure he’s happy, he always seems to be smiling when he drives off on the tractor.

Abbi fearlessly protects the house from all feathered beasts as her sworn duty. Her duty is more serious these days as the feathered fiends are more numerous and many are quite large, but never fear, she has established her patrol area and singlehandedly manages her duties with aplomb. She takes Lee and Hannah out for hikes to ensure her perimeter is secure, and occasionally gets a serious hunt in with Mike. She has a data log on all small mammal activity as seen from the upstairs bedroom window from the comfort of the bed she’s forced to share with Mike and Lee.

Meg’s interests include laps, blankeys and pestering Abbi. She manages to carry the appeal of a puppy well into her second year, and though she’s spoiled rotten, she has been known to earn her tough and tiny trophy by taking hikes through the woods, roughly the equivalent of 20 Meg miles on her 3 inch legs. Her 12 pound weight earns her the status of Tweeny dog, AKA a miniature dachshund, but she seems quite unaware of her diminutive size as she protects her girls (Hannah and Lee) with the demeanor of a Doberman.

We added a perfectly wonderful grandchild, Brailyn, to our family in January, by our oldest child, Chelsea. In August Chelsea passed away. Our hearts are filled with a strange commingling of joy and grief over the gain and loss we have experienced, but we adore Brailyn who is a delightful, beautiful baby.

May you enjoy shalom (peace, good health, prosperity, rest and harmony) and invest in the shalom of others.

With Love, The Mshars

P.S. I know the paragraphs about the dogs are the longest.