When K was diagnosed, I called the social worker at ALTA regional center. She was on vacation, but I left a message. On our way to get-away trip, she called me. Apparently, whoever took the phone contacted the social worker on vacation and she immediately called me. At that time, I was driving on highway so I pulled off to speak.
I think that was a sort of pre-formatted consolation: I’m sorry for the diagnosis; regardless of the diagnosis, K is K, etc. Still, it was soothing. She said in a truly compassionate manner and I felt that she was saddened by the diagnosis.
After we were back from the runaway trip, she visited my apartment. She repeated the condolences and added that she was a bit surprised for the diagnosis. That gave me some hope. Even if K was autistic, it might be mild enough to trick the social worker!
When I told her about the recommendation by the developmental pediatrician, she appeared unhappy. She told me that she had arranged ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy for some of her clients, but K didn’t seem fit for that therapy. According to her, ABA was for the most severely affected children and K was not. She was much happier with Floortime (a.k.a., Greenspan, after the founder of this program) approach, which we had already started to some degree after the speech evaluation six months ago. The caseworker thought Floortime and regular ST, OT and PT will be good enough.
I had other thoughts, too. What the doctor recommended was in-home ABA. In-home ABA team usually consists of a psychologist (now mostly replaced by BCBA – Board Certified Behavior Analyst) or counselor and a few graduate students taking the leadership roles, plus several undergraduate students who receive training by the professional and graduate students. What was recommended to K was Discrete Trial Training (DTT).
DTT goes like this: a trainer says, “touch your nose”, and someone or the trainer let K touch his nose (called physical prompt). “Good job”, then immediately gives a tangible reward – most often a snack food. Record how he did. This constitutes one “trial”. Repeat until K can do just be being told to touch his nose and without a tangible reward. Once he masters to touch his nose, teach him to touch his mouth, eyes, head, etc….until K learns to behave “normal”.
And do it at least 25 hours, preferably 40 hours/week. What this meant was either my husband and I may have to quit the job to stay with K – leaving house to someone else was completely unthinkable. And this posed a serious problem.
To be continued.