Hide and seek is Caroline's idea of FUN
therapy... and it elicits great eye contact
and social engagement. Plus, it can be
played even when she's having a day when
she's not capable of doing more structured
August 18, 2011
In Sickness and in Health ...getting the most out of therapy
When Caroline has a cold, she's irritable. What's that, your neurotypical kid is too?
Well go figure, no one likes being sick. The stuffy head and inability to concentrate
are enough to put you over the edge -- making anyone crabby, uncooperative and
feeling like shutting the rest of the world out for a while.
Is it just me, or do those behaviors also sound a lot like a child with autism, sensory
processing disorder and ADD?
It's not such a stretch then to understand why many people, myself included, believe
that autism and related 'conditions' are not disorders in and of themselves but rather
used to describe how a child presents when they're plagued with a variety of
underlying medical issues.
The medical issues cause brain and gut inflammation which, in turn cause behaviors,
making the question that naturally follows:
How can therapy alone help these behaviors?
What if, when you have a migrane, instead of allowing you to sit in a dark, quiet
room, with an ice pack, taking your remedy of choice to relieve it, we decided, let's
just teach this person how to get along in the world WITH the headache?! Brilliant!
Here's what we'll do, we'll put you in an environment with lots of light and sound and
perhaps do some flash cards and poke and prod at you until you finally break down,
succumb and participate. Of course it won't be because you want to and certainly
not as fully as if you didn't have a migrane, but you did accomplish a few small things
-- and we'll be able to list them on our report for the 'session.'
You will go home, broken down and hating the experience, migrane still raging, but
no matter because you did 14 flash cards and an puzzle!
Sounds absurd doesn't it? So, if our children have underlying medical issues making
them irritable, why are some therapists deciding that the "cry it out" method,
older-child-style, is a best practice?
I imagine it's because they truly don't understand the medical side of autism. They
are most certainly well intentioned and often very caring and educated people. Much
like the pediatricians who read what's handed down by their superiors and go on
proposing vaccinations for the very same kids who were previously harmed by them.
In both of these instances it's only you as the parent who's able to stand up for you
child and enforce your own best practices.
A warrior parent's best practices
Playing by your rules, your child will not be forced beyond their will to participate in
therapy until you investigate possible medical issues and treat them. And the
therapy you choose will be a nurturing, play based method, a style that's inviting to
your child and something in which they will WANT to participate.
If your child can't sit at a table and participate in speech therapy without screaming,
then they're not ready to learn.... and bringing them every week, kicking and
screaming to a therapist who says "it's behavioral" is not what your child needs.
I know because I made mistakes. I believed several well intentioned therapists and
forced Caroline to sit and participate when she was getting practically nothing out if
it, except to learn that she hated therapy and people who placed demands on her.
Once we began healing her gut and removing methyl mercury from her brain, she
naturally came around and now loves therapy. This was not a coincidence. I'm
reminded of it every time she's sick with a cold the EXACT same previous bad
behaviors return. The crying, screaming, unwillingness to participate, acting as if the
world will end if she has to sit at the table.
One of our therapists believes that when a child is at their worst it's the perfect time
to teach that bad behaviors aren't rewarded - inevitably turning Caroline's screaming
into a raging sobbing fit. I fought her every time, but not until recently did she ever
truly get it.
She followed my lead and began to understand that even if we gave her a break
when feeling sick, she wouldn't forever turn on bad behavior in hopes of hitting a
'free pass from therapy' jackpot.
And sure enough, when Caroline was facing a particularly bad day (die off wise) and
we granted her request to play hide-and-seek nearly an entire session, she returned
the following week, happy and ready to participate in challenging tasks. She did not
assume she could cry and we would play hide-and-seek. She felt better and was
ready to get back to work. Score 1 for mother's intuition.
Just like typical children, often times children with 'autism' or related disorders act
poorly because they're facing underlying medical irritations. In both cases, if you fix
the issues, whether it's a headache, a cold or a leaky gut, the behavior will generally
come around. It occurs to me that this blog could just as well have been written
about a child being overtired and it's also worth mentioning that in addition to the
host of other medical issues, many children on the spectrum are not getting enough
sleep. We know what that does to even the most typical child.
Seat belting a child who's suffering from other issues into a chair might get 14 flash
cards done, but it won't make them feel better or teach them that being engaged is
fun OR bring about any of the behaviors that are really important in this world.
If you feel there's more to your child's bad behaviors than defiance and testing
boundaries, then there's a good chance outside factors are involved. Seek medical
help. If you don't know where to start, ask me or someone else who's been through
it. There are many resources at this site including the "getting started" page and also
an incredible online group of parents called "Autism is Medical." You can join the
group and will have all the help you need and more!
And if your therapist, who has a lot of letters behind their name, says, "I hear
screaming all the time, it doesn't bother me... it's just behavioral" (which I've heard
more times than I can count) then you should wonder if they're aware of the medical
side of autism and similar disorders, because surely if they were, they'd have more
compassion for the children who might very well be in physical pain, who they're
forcing to participate. The kids are often screaming because it's too much to bear --
much like you would if we were training you how to get by in the world with a migrane.
So although it does take a lot of work to get there, the answer is simple...
having a healthy child -- that's how you get the most out of therapy.