Though I call him “my husband”, we were not legally married. I was very much opposed to a Japanese law that required a married couple to take the same family name. I didn’t want to change it. I really didn’t. I didn’t like (or hate) the Japanese traditional patriarch system. I will write about it in a separate occasion about that.
What was important was that we were not legally married. My husband was on J-1 visa and I was on F-1 (student) visa. I finished my schooling so I was on “practical training” status. If I quit the job, I would have to leave the US. Marrying him to keep the visa even didn’t come to my mind. I just finished my Ph.D. and was pretty much hopeful about my future as a scientist. So this was a practical side of the problem. My mentor was very understanding so even if I chose to have ABA for K, I could take turn and work at night, which I did a lot during when K was a little baby.
The more critical was the emotional side. I gave a lot of thoughts then concluded that I can’t tolerate someone else in my apartment for 25 hours a week. Two hours a week of ST was hard enough. I came back home an hour before the visit and vacuumed the apartment. I wasn’t good at all for keeping house clean, and I was too wimp to show my messy apartment. The SLP is a wonderful person and I still feel a lot of pressure and stress to have her twice a week. I was terrified of the idea to have 5-8 students taking turn to visit my apartment and provide ABA to K.
Then I met the opposition from the caseworker and SLP. At that time, I was totally ignorant about the philosophical battle between pro-ABA and anti-ABA. Nor about the funding source of that therapy. All I thought was who cared most about K and my family. The answer was obvious to me. The developmental pediatrician appeared very cold and even happy that K was autistic. The caseworker and SLP were sorry, told me to love K as is.
So I (my husband didn’t care about having anyone at home and indifferent about this issue) decided that ABA was not for K.
I wouldn’t learn that that was a mistake I couldn’t recover for the next 5 years or so.
I really didn’t have to understand the “system” to get the service I thought would help K. The caseworker at ALTA did all the arrangements for payment. I filled some paperwork but all I had to do was to confirm the time of actual therapies. Since we needed to take K to a therapy center about 20 minutes from our apartment, my husband and I shared responsibilities. Mostly, I did PT and ST, and my husband took care of OT. They were all well trained and compassionate people.
The therapy center was so full of therapy equipment so there was no open room for speech therapy session. So SLP came to my apartment to do speech therapy for twice a week. She had a large built and long dress fit her so well. She had a very cheerful attitude and became friend with K immediately. Most of the time, K sat on my lap and SLP face me, doing a lot of play. The first goal was pre-verbal skills, especially joint attention that K was really delayed. I learned a LOT, really a LOT from her. How to gain attention of K, lots of hand-song play, traditional songs, and educational toys. How ignorant I was as a mother! I did bought some toys for K, but I mostly looked at the age level on the toy. I didn’t give much consideration if it was educational or to increase specific skills. I thought if I provided toys and play with him, he would learn. Pretty wrong, huh? After a while, my husband and I spent lot of money on those “educational toys” in a fancy local toy store, as though if we provide these toys to K, K would start talking! Until then only toy store I went was Toysrus!
OT was a quiet, but consistent and reliable person. She introduced me to bean pool, which K LOVED, and we didn’t even imagine that K couldn’t ride a swing. I didn’t even imagine that 2 year old should ride a swing. She explained a lot mostly to my husband about sensory issues K has and what kinds of activities would help him “organize” his sensory system. We remained with her until we moved to Mid-west when K was four, and stayed in touch for several years thereafter.
PT happened to be a Japanese so we did therapy and chat in Japanese. She was petite but athletic and cheery. She told me one of the most valuable parenting skill: no facial expression. When the child behaves, sometimes we want to yell, scold or even laugh. According to her, all of them, especially laughing, would be reinforcing. Even if it was very difficult for a parent to have real scolding face when she/he wanted to laugh, it was possible to erase all facial expression and that would be the most effective way to reduce the behavior. That worked like a magic! At least until he was 6 or so. And this technique certainly still works with S, my 11 years old gifted daughter! She can sense that I’m dead serious when I erase all facial expression.
Both my husband and I loved all of them.
To be continued.