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Posts Tagged ‘Rosie O’Donnell’

by Shannon Penrod

Four years ago my son, who was 2 1/2 at the time, was diagnosed with Autism.  I remember being devastated by the diagnosis but feeling almost immediate relief.  I naively believed that if we knew what to call it we could find a way to fix it.  Like so many other parents I turned to the internet looking for answers, what I found didn’t comfort me it simply added to my confusion.  I wanted, needed a happy ending.  I wasn’t finding it.

Then one day I watched The View with Rosie O’Donnell, you remember back in the days when The View was worth watching, and they did an entire hour on Autism.  During the hour Rosie interviewed a boy who had “recovered” from Autism!  I didn’t know what to make of the word “recovered” but it didn’t matter, the boy was everything I prayed for my son.  He was intelligent, kind and he could hold a conversation.  I wept…and then I googled his mother.  I wish I could remember her name, but it went bye-bye on a sea of information about the treatment the boy had received.  The boy had intensive ABA therapy following the Lovaas method.  Now I was googling Lovaas.  What I found was confusing, there were articles saying he had helped children to recover, but there were other articles that said he was a quack, that his study had never been replicated, that he hit children!  This reinforced what our Developmental pediatrician had said to me, “Promise you won’t do ABA with this child, it will turn him into a robot!”  I was so confused!  The little boy on The View hadn’t seemed like a robot. 

I prayed for an answer.  I don’t usually talk about my spiritual life and leanings but I got down on my knees and asked God to help me to know about this ABA thing, maybe show me a family with a little boy who had gone through it.  The next day, my job sent me to a house with a little boy who was 2 years into an ABA program and flourishing.  The parents sent me home with reading material and I delved into the work of Ivar Lovaas. 

What I learned blew my mind.  In the 1960’s Lovaas took the concepts of Applied Behavioral Analysis and applied them to a group of children with Autism.  The results were stunning.  All of the children showed marked improvement and over half of them improved to the point where they were able lead their lives like nuero-typical children.  They didn’t require aides in school and they went on to lead productive lives with no major difficulties.  After months of research with no hope I was thrilled with a number like 50%.  I was excited, I was hopeful, I was on board.  I became a Lovaas groupie.  He was my Autism Superhero.

Whenever someone would say that Lovaas believed in corporal punishment I would rail and tell them to read the research. ABA is about providing reward, not punishment.  Lovaas is the one who clarified that punishment DOESN’T work!  When people would say that his studies had not been replicated I would stamp my feet and tell them their information was old…Lovaas’ studies have been replicated many times now.  When people would use the terms ABA and DTT indiscriminately as if they meant the same thing I would re-educate them.  DTT is an element of ABA, it is not the same thing.  It is like saying a steering wheel and a car are the same, they aren’t.  And most importantly, I fought for my child to get ABA in our home.  It was a battle that took a lot out of me, but it gave me back my son.  There are no regrets here.

Each year the ABA movement grows.  As more and more children improve, Drs., Teachers, Politicians and Parents are beginning to accept that ABA is the “gold standard” of treatment for children with Autism.

Earlier this week Ivar Lovaas died.  It is the death of a Superhero for my family.  The good news is that his work lives on through his students and through their students.  Five days a week we are visited by Superheroes and Superheroes in training.  They come to our house and work with our son.  In the beginning it was to get him to speak two words together.  Now they work with him on understanding and feeling empathy.  And by the way, there is nothing robotic about my child.  Tell him a fart joke and he giggles like any other 7 year old boy in the world.  This is a truly lucious thing.

The world will miss Ivar Lovaas, but his legacy is great.  Thank you Dr. Lovaas for giving us hope and more importantly for giving our children back to us.

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