(Q&A with ABA Therapist Rosalind Greenberg below)
At 17 months, my son started showing signs of unsettling behavior. The tantrums were long and exhaustive, he started biting and scratching and he was extremely hyperactive. I didn’t think much of any of this as I knew the “terrible twos” were approaching, he wasn’t able to communicate abundantly yet, and I guess I just thought my son just had it a little worse than other toddlers.
The Daycare where Luke attended at the time suggested getting him evaluated and reluctantly, I agreed as I was tired of hearing how disruptive he had become. I had been challenged myself with Luke at home but also rationalized that kids are always worse with their parents than outside the home.
Luke was evaluated at around 21 months and cognitively there were no issues. The OT therapist (Occupational Therapy) also told me there were no major issues, but he would recommend some OT just to keep him grounded and focused, great, it can only help I thought. He didn’t qualify for speech because I was told his receptive language was developing at the standard rate even though his expressive language skills were a bit lacking, okay I could live with that. Then came the eye-opener, the behavioral evaluation.
Like most toddlers, Luke had good and bad days. On the day of his behavioral evaluation, he had a complete meltdown, throwing things, crying, not listening, not making eye-contact, very little communication, so when I finally spoke to this evaluator, she told me there could be signs of Luke being on the Autism Spectrum. As any parent, I was in complete denial and quite angry and upset over this news.
Based on his behavioral evaluation, Luke was granted ABA services (applied behavioral analysis) and we came to find later that fortunately, Luke was not on the Autism Spectrum. While that was a huge relief to me, it also made me worry about what was really going on with him.
Luke is now three years old and there still isn’t a clear diagnosis of what’s going on with him, but we all agree it’s something, perhaps ADHD although it’s difficult to diagnose ADHD at such a young age.
At age three, the Department of Education gets involved, and they bring in their own standardized test measurements. They almost didn’t grant him services as he did fairly well on his evaluations this time around, the DOE has to find a big area of deficit or weakness to provide services and if that isn’t strong, they give it to other kids who may be more in need. All the help he had gotten in the previous 10 months had no doubt helped. Luke received a lot of one-on-one attention so when he would have a melt-down, he had someone there to re-direct him, calm him down and it was working.
After much pleading and cajoling at the meeting to see if Luke would get continued services, the DOE granted Luke an IEP (individualized education plan) but with minimal behavioral assistance. He received continued OT but this time Speech was added as we started to realize, his communication was a big source of his frustration. I was concerned about the reduced hours, he went from 20 hours of behavioral therapy a week to only 10 now, and my fears proved true, the reduced hours were hindering Luke and he was starting to regress and act out again.
I’ve been working with the DOE to figure out the best solution for him and it’s been challenging and emotional. I think as a parent, you just want your child to be well-adjusted, learn and be an overall good kid. Of course, all kids have behavioral issues, they are just little humans full of energy and impulsivity. They don’t understand the rules of society or classrooms or standards that we sometimes place on them. I will continue to do whatever it takes to help my son as that’s what parents do, but there are many lessons to be learned, even as I move forward to figuring out what the problem is and getting him the right help.
Here some of what I have learned 1) put aside your preconceived ideas about special education and get your child help, however and whatever that may be 2) any help is better than no help and will only be beneficial 3) Talk to as many people as possible, parent, teachers, psychologists, etc. 4) get yourself some help as you will surely need it whether that’s talking to a therapist, or medication or an extra set of hands so you have some relief, trust me on this one.
For more lessons, I spoke with Rosalind Greenberg (Licensed Master Social Worker that specializes in ABA therapy and Luke’s best buddy) for professional advice: