Tag Archives: Behavioral therapy


Today I celebrate another year on this earth and I am greedily going to ask for a present from each of you.  If you could send this blog to one person and encourage them to subscribe I would be most grateful.  I would love to add ten new subscribers today.  I think we can do it.  Thanks in advance.



We enter his class and it is in a word:chaos.  The tiny classroom is literally crammed with people.  All the parents jockeying for the best place to take pictures of the kids on their “spot” on the rug.  Everyone seems to be talking at once and it is extremely warm. The volume is loud-even for me.  Ryan seems o.k. with it, only a little startled.  His aide, Kathy, spots us and tries to say hello over the din.  He pays no attention to her as I take him to his cubby and help him put away his back pack.  He looks only mildly anxious.  Until the singing starts.  When the music is queued, it is at such an unusually loud level, everyone jumps a little.  Ryan, decides to scream.  Like he’s never screamed before.  But, because the music is near deafening and many other children are crying, he doesn’t stand out that much.  Except when he pushes over a few kids, and stiff arms a few parents out of the way to escape the classroom.

I stand in complete shock, mouth open, frozen, unable to process the situation. His aide too, is stuck in what looks like horror.  It takes me a two-Mississippi-count to realize he is gone.  When my wits come back to me, I run out the door after him.  This is not what I expected at all and am totally unprepared for him to react this way.  I mean I wrote a story. I grab him as he is running down the hall and pull him into a hearty embrace.  This is absolutely the opposite of what he wants, but I have no clue what to do.  I hold him with all I have.  He is crying and wiggling trying to get away from that craziness.   I can’t believe I didn’t prepare for this.  All these years of behavioral training should have assisted me in this crisis.  Yet, I am completely at a loss.  As is his aide.  Because it takes her a minute to find us and we both chuckle uncomfortably.

“Wow that was unexpected.” She says trying to find humor.  Normally I am the first to throw out sarcasm, but the fight Ryan is putting up has me preoccupied.

We wait until mercifully the music stops and parents start to file out.   Ryan finally stops trying to escape my grip, but everything about him says he wants no part of this and we try to go in.  We have to literally pull him inside while he is screaming.  One girl is sobbing uncontrollably on the rug as her mother is trying to disentangle herself.  Looking at her, I don’t feel as bad, but still so unsure about it all.  Luckily his aide has the presence of mind to kneel down and talk to him as I am still somewhat shell shocked.  She somehow gets him to let go of me and bribes him to sit down.  The teacher literally shoos me out of the class and shuts the door.  In my face.

And then I am standing in the hallway. Alone.  Even the mother of the sobbing child is gone.  I am left there wondering if he is o.k., should I leave?  I wish Dan were here.  Why didn’t we have a better plan, a contingency plan?   Why didn’t I go over this in more detail with Dr. Hunter? Because she can’t.  This is no longer her realm.  We are in this with the school from now on…

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Kindergarten: the most magical year of school for a child. Its school, but it is fun. Really fun. I, naturally, do not remember much about kindergarten. But I remember Jenna’s. And it is the most precious year. The beginning that almost whispers a promise of what school could be—if you stayed in fairyland forever. But the best part about it to me now is, we are taking my sweet boy there! To kindergarten!! I hadn’t let myself believe it would happen “on time” for him. I always figured he would start late due to his delays. Yet here we are with all the other five-year olds. I am more excited for him than I have ever been for school. This is a huge testament to the last three years of work. Not just work for his therapists, or for us following each protocol as instructed, but for him.
So many people say to me “wow, you are doing so much for him.” It’s a truth I am aware of, but you can lead a horse to water and he still may not drink. We put all the tools in front of him but he didn’t have to do it. And there were times we thought he wouldn’t. We were told by Dr. Hunter, one of his “good indicators” is his desire for approval. He likes it when he gets rewarded. Many autistic children don’t care, and seem to be fine existing in their mind only. But, as his mother, I know he wanted to come back to us. He didn’t want to go to the dark place away from the world. He wanted to be here—with us. For moments like this—at least I try to convince myself of that.
We have prepped for weeks with pictures of his “new” school. His new teacher. New classroom. I created a ‘social story’, to explain to him what would happen. Social stories are used with autistic kids to reinforce a new situation. It’s a simplistic book that has pictures and outlines each step of a new place or activity. The first page says “My new school” with a picture of the school from the front. The next page says: “My new teacher” with her picture. The next page: “my new classroom”, “my friend, Kathy, will help me in class,” etc.  We read it a few times a day to him so when the day comes it won’t be so foreign. He seems to be rolling with it and I am on cloud nine.
The first day finally comes. So much excitement–mostly by me. We are up, dressed and take our “first day of school” pictures on the front step of both kids. Each equipped with shiny new back packs and outfits. We shaved Ryan’s hair into a “faux-hawk” just to give him enough of a rebel image. In case the kids picked on him. He looks adorable and completely normal.

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A hearty thanks to all who continue to read and share.  We are at over 2000 views since I started the blog in October! I think that is awesome.  Keep it going!


“One more and you can be all done.”  I hear Adam’s voice booming and echoing off the walls from upstairs.  When he first started with us I used to think, “why do you have to talk so loudhes not deaf!” But I learned that it was just his way of getting Ryan’s attention, which for a long time meant speaking over his cries.  Adam has been our team leader since the beginning.  I remember the awkward first meeting and how I picked each of them apart.  Hindsight really is 20/20.  If I could have only known the changes this young man could bring out in my son…

“He’s all set.” Adam says as he puts down Ryan’s treat box.  “He did great today! Isn’t that right buddy?” He says as he grabs Ryan and tosses him around.  Ryan’s smile is so big and his giggle so deep it makes my heart literally warm-I feel like ET and it could actually be glowing through my shirt.

Jenna comes down the stairs next with a clipboard in her hand.  She shares my love of office products, and I must have taught her what my mom taught me “carry a clipboard and people think you are in charge—even if you’re not”.  I use a clip board almost daily.  Adam has included Jenna on another session.  Dr. Hunters new office manager (whom doesn’t seem to annoy me as much as the first, but I am a big enough person to realize it wasn’t entirely her fault, I was just vulnerable at the time) made Jenna her own star chart to earn candy and games for helping during the sessions.  We were starting to notice some jealousy as to why all these fun young people who brought cool toys were only coming for Ryan.

“Mommy, he missed six on his matching. Not very good.”  She says with a frown on her face. She takes this job very seriously.  Adam looks away and tries to stifle a smile. I do my best to keep a serious face too.

“Well sweetie, he’s trying.  Thank you for helping.  How many stickers did you earn?” I ask.

“All of them!” She says with light in her eyes.

“Okay! What prize did you choose?” I say feeling a little like the hygienist at our dentist. They are all about the prizes.  They are throwing things at Jenna at every turn.  They practically hand her a prize for coming in the door.  By the time we leave, we have so much ‘Oriental Trading’ crap I could make my own catalog.

“M & M’s.  That’s what Ryan got so I took the same.”

My heart ignites again and I feel that surge of blessings for my little cherub.  Early on I realized how much Jenna has helped Ryan.  We took for granted his “good indicators” Dr. Hunter spoke about.  But as my knowledge of autism has grown I know that having a sibling is one of the best natural teachers a kid with autism can have.  And Jenna is far superior to other siblings I have met.  For one, she is stubborn and doesn’t give up on him.  She will get him to play if it’s the last thing she does.  Thankfully she doesn’t yet realize that he is “different” at least in a negative way.

“Would you like something else? You earned it, you were a great helper again.” Adam says with a smile.  He jabs sweetly at her tummy.  She pulls away giggling.

“No thanks.” She sets her clipboard down and walks away from us.  We both stare for a second“No thanks.” She sets her clipboard down and walks away from us.  We both stare for a second.


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This post is a little longer than most, but it is hard to cut the words out and tell the story.  This was such an amazing day–yet I don’t feel like I conveyed how emotional it truly was. When I read i,t I cry, but I was there…any thoughts on how to word it better?


Every mother waits for her baby to say ‘Mama’.   I had those first words of joy with my first-born, noted it in her baby book and moved on. With Ryan it was different, yet again.  I started worrying when he was a baby that I wouldn’t enjoy his milestones like I did hers.  I worried they would be overlooked in my hectic, two-child, working life.  I worried about seemingly silly things like not taking enough pictures of him.

As a young adult I wanted to see baby pictures of myself.  My mom got down the dusty albums and we started thumbing through them.  The first album was all professional 8×10 ‘Olan Mills’ type of pictures with my older sister at each month or holiday in her life.  Page after page of her in glossy form, from infant to toddler.  We open the second album; I start to thumb through my life expecting the same milestones as my sisters.  I turn two pages and then it stops.  There are exactly five pictures of me.  That’s it.  Five. Then three with me and my sister over various years.  The rest of the album is empty.  I look at my mother in a panic and ask where are the rest? And why were there so many of Tonya? Afraid perhaps they fell out or were misplaced.  She looks at me casually and says in a matter of fact way,

“Tonya was the first born. I had more time and money to get her pictures taken. By the time you came along, your dad and I were ready to split up, I worked three jobs and getting your picture taken just wasn’t a priority.”

It sounded logical, but the reality still hurt my feelings.  Not a priority. I made a vow that Ryan’s life moments would not be placed second just because of his birth timeline.  However, it slowly started to happen.  I took him less and less to get photographed, and eventually the pictures started to include both of them. Baby books? Well those got sidelined too.  Then he was diagnosed and simultaneously those kinds of things weren’t important. Not a priority. Irony you are a bitch, but chronicling his life changed to bringing him back.

I hear Brie bringing Ryan downstairs as his session is drawing to a close.  It has been over five months of therapy.  I did not hear what they were working on upstairs because I had turned down the baby monitor.  (We gave up on the cheap-green-screen-video monitor and went with an old fashioned audio monitor to listen to the sessions.) I usually have it on while I am in the kitchen working, but I had some phone calls to make.  So, I’m curious why she’s bringing him down.   Brie is coaxing him into the kitchen where I am standing.  She has a huge smile on her face and leans down close to him points at me and says,

“Ryan, who’s that?”

He looks shyly at me while holding her hand and a small voice I have never heard says “Mom-mom”.

I feel the room tilt a little as my heart stops beating for a second.  And I suck in a huge breath.

“Oh my god!” I yell and lunge forward for him, scaring him a little, but it’s like an electrical current has taken off in my body.  I grab him and swing him around starting to cry shamelessly while he giggles.  He said Mom-mom.  He said mom-mom!  I honestly feel I can fly at that moment.  Hearing him say my name truly sounds and feels like music playing straight to my heart.

As Christmas is a few weeks away, Jenna had recently made her wish list to Santa.  I secretly asked him to let Ryan say ‘Mama’.  That was all I wanted for Christmas.   I realize that God has not only given me my Christmas wish, in some small way he has also given me a way to appreciate Ryan’s milestones.  To revel in them in a way I would not have had he been “typical”.    I of course would have preferred to not have to go through all this…but I am thankful for the gifts.  I still haven’t worked on his baby books, but there are other priorities now.

I turn to Brie, who normally so poised looks a little teary eyed as well, and say softly.

“Thank you.”


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I am awakened by his whining.  The sun is out and I look at the clock. 5:50. Oh my god! We did it! HE did it!

I fly out of bed so fast, I make Dan jump up.  I don’t even stop to tell him what has happened.  I run to Ryan’s room fling open the gate and scoop him up in one swift move.  I smother him with kisses and tell him what a great job he did.  I don’t know if he understands me, but take him wrapping his body around me as confirmation.

We did it! We followed through.

He feels cold, so I take him into my room and smother him in my embrace under the blankets.  He lets me cuddle him and I feel so happy.

Happiness—no joy—joy that makes you feel as if you actually have wings, seems so rare these days, but it is really something I could get used to.

I feel a sensation to my soul, not just the warmth of happiness but something stronger.   I have a realization that moment.  When he was first diagnosed the grief I felt was not just for the loss of dreams for him, but the loss of hope.  I felt it drop out of my heart and thud to the ground with the force of an anvil.

What the professionals and doctors should have told us is: “don’t give up hope, just suspend it for awhile”.  Someone should have said “You have to believe.  In yourself, in your child, in…love.” But they didn’t.  Maybe they couldn’t… Dr. Hunter gave me her own words of encouragement…and I cling to them daily, I just didn’t realize how I had given up hope.

I have always believed hope has a strong connection to love–via faith.   Holding on to faith and allowing it to anchor you to hope can get you through anything.  I watched my mother battle cancer for ten years, and without hope she would have died within a year of diagnosis.  Just like what they told herYou have a year and half to live.  She told them to screw themselves—(not in such nice words either) she wasn’t looking for a death sentence and found new doctors.  Because she believed…really believed that she would beat the disease.  I know that is what kept her alive well beyond when she should have lived.

Hope.  Just the word alone seems to carry…magic.  I realize now why I was so sad when we were told his diagnosis.  The professionals had so few optimistic words as the disorder was still so new to those diagnosed so young.  They didn’t know what to tell us.  One of the staff at the county facility told me “This is not a sprint, but a marathon.”  I had no idea what she meant, but now I know.  In her own way she was trying to buoy my hope.

Letting go of hope takes you to a dark and awful place.  To lose such a wonderful tie to faith is like a death-a death I have been grieving for months.  Right now with my little boy sleeping through the night after one try; I have scooped hope up again and will not let it fall.  Because if I can conquer the things in this disorder that I feared, like the darkness of his sleep, anything is possible.


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“So what else did you find?” My sister, Tonya, asks me.

Our last conversation I had told her about my continual research on sleep.  I feel myself at a cross roads, not being able to deal with our sleep situation any longer.  I need to understand more about it and how to fix it.

I cradle the phone in my neck trying to fold laundry while we chat.

“I found some information that sort of surprised me, but makes so much sense. Sleep is a behavior.  It’s something we teach our bodies to do.  Every person sleeps for approximately four hours.  Then they wake, most people roll over and return to sleep. Some can’t, because they have trained their brains and bodies to wake up.” I let out a big breath after emoting all this information.

“Makes sense.” She says simply.

After all this time of being told again and again by Dr. Hunter and our therapists that he will be fine if we leave him alone, I finally get it, at least I am ready to get it.

“So, what are you going to do?”  Tonya asks me.

“Well, since sleep is a behavior, then what I gather is he has taught himself it’s time to get up.  He is used to getting up with me. I used to let him have a snack and play.  Now he’s just used to being up.  It’s a routine I have allowed him to make.” I say,chiding myself.

Sometimes awareness comes with heartbreaking ease.  I think I knew it all the time, but didn’t see it.  I allowed his screams to prey on my fears of the dark and then transferring what I think is his fear to him.   I am still worried about leaving him to cry in the dark, but  it is time to change his behavior and mine.  If I keep focused on the fact it’s a behavior and not fear, I might be able to go through with it.

“I hate when Dr. Hunter is right.” I say with a wry smile on my face.

“You are doing such a great job, Lee. I don’t know how you do all this…” She trails off as if she wants to say more.  I thank her softly and sit in silence and wonder if I can do this last hanging chad.

This is the “big one” for all of us.  To sleep all night would be bliss.  You expect this when you have an infant.  Your body even prepares you in the last months of pregnancy for no sleep.  But having a two year old with “sleep issues” is so confusing to your body. And makes one very cranky.

I know it’s time; I just have to muster the courage to follow through.  That’s the key in this behavioral programming…follow through.

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This feedback I am receiving from this ‘blog to book’ is amazing.  I am so appreciative for all your words–anyway you get them to me is fine, here, email, facebook, or smoke signals.  And please keep sharing.  Thank you.


We are waiting for Lisa to come.  Ryan has already had one session this morning with DJ. Another amazing session where Ryan does almost everything he says.  We are pretty solid into a routine of two sessions a day.  I am getting used to having them in my house and actually plan tasks around when they are here.  Just like Dr. Hunter said.

I am preparing his “reinforcer box” with cookies, m & m’s and goldfish.  Ryan walks up to me and hands me his sippy cup.  I take it from him as an “auto-mom” response, but remember I am supposed to prompt him to use the PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System).  I point to the piece of cardboard on the fridge that has pictures of food and toys velcroed on it.  He looks at them, finds the picture of milk and hands it to me.  I then say “do you want more milk?” as I make the hand signs for “want”, “more” and “milk”.  He looks at me and mimics the signs and I tell him enthusiastically “good job!”  He smiles his sideways sly smile and turns his eyes down.  I instinctively hug him.  It is a miracle to finally be able to communicate with him.

I decide to steal a little cuddle time and sit down with him while he drinks his milk.  He climbs up on the couch and I pull him to my lap.  He usually sits with his back to me, but he puts down his milk and squirms around and looks me straight in the eye.  This isn’t unusual for him to look at me—I don’t have to make him look at me like I do other people, with a prompt like “look in eyes”.  But it is the way he is so concentrated on me—he looks so deeply into my eyes, I feel like I’m being hypnotized.  I can’t move from his gaze.  I feel him giving me a message that does not come from pictures or sign language.

As I sit with him in my lap, lost in his gaze, I begin to understand his message.   I begin to feel I am being washed over with gratefulness.  I realize he is thanking me for “helping” him.  I interpret this to mean he is happy to find a way out of the dark place his mind was taking him too.  It feels like he is telling me he likes the therapists and enjoys learning.  I am in shock.   After so many days of listening to him cry during most of the sessions, not being able to interrupt, to think he is thanking me seems absurd.   As if he feels my doubt, he touches my face so I continue to look at him.  I hold his tiny hand pressed to my face and he smiles and sends another warm wave of appreciation with his mind.  I am so transfixed; I am not sure how much time has passed while he communicates with me.  I am reveling in this chance to “speak” with him just staring into the deep pools of his eyes.  It takes all I have to move away when the doorbell rings.

I carry him to the door with me, holding him closely, not wanting to let go.  I am in a semi-trance, wondering if he did just “thank” me.  Is that what he just told me? Am I crazy for wishing so badly for him to communicate that I felt something that wasn’t there?  As I open the door and let Lisa in, he does something he has never done.  He takes her hand and begins to walk upstairs with her.  It is usually a small battle to get him in the room, and most times he cries as I leave.  Yet, today, he is doing it on his own.  He turns back to smile at me as if to say, “It’s o.k., I’m o.k.”  Lisa looks at him and me with her eyes slightly raised as if to question but only smiles and walks with him.

I do not tell her just happened, or anyone for that matter, for fear of sounding crazy.  But I carry it in my heart; next to Dr. Hunter’s words…He has all the signs…All the while, trying to push out the ugly word that has become the center of our lives.  For now I am thrilled he found his own way to communicate with me.  And he reaffirmed that the therapy is working.  I believe in my heart he likes it…once again Dr. Hunter was right.


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I wake up shivering.  I am on the floor in the hallway looking into Ryan’s room.  The house is serenely quiet.  My arm has gone numb from holding his hand through the baby gate and the pain is searing all the way to my eyes.  He is asleep on his side, his hand still clutching mine.  I don’t know what time it is, or how long I’ve been here, but all I want is my bed.  How can I untangle his grip and not wake him up?

On a “normal” night, he falls asleep on the couch around 7:30.  We allow him to do this rather than fight him into bed.  We take him up once he’s really asleep.  But at midnight or 1:00 a.m. every night he wakes up and comes into our room.   One of us brings him back and then lays by the gate in hopes he will go back to sleep.  It works most nights.   During the week it’s my job to lay there, so Dan can go to work.  On the weekends it’s him, so I can go to work.  It’s our system, far from perfect.  You need to leave him so he can get to sleep on his own.  Dr. Hunter’s words reprimanding me in my head.  However, this is one piece of advice I have ignored.

After engaging in all the things that feel uncomfortable to me in order to “change” his behaviors: ignoring bad behaviors so they will become ‘extinct’; constantly learning the changing  ‘program’s; following through on the program; taking data on the programs; essentially doing exactly as they say all in the name of therapeutic rehabilitation, no matter how unnatural it felt.  But, this is one I cannot bear to do: lock him in his room and leave him alone in the dark.

The only way I can describe my stubbornness is the actual darkness.  I feel like he’s already in a closed-in, shadowy space in his mind all day, and at night it must be so dark it’s like blindness.  It seems so scary for such a little guy.   I cannot bear to do this to him.  I even tried leaving a bright night light on…that only kept him awake.

Yet, I can repeatedly put him in time out for hitting me, or refuse to give him what he wants until he hands me the correct picture.  I do these things because I’ve seen them work with the therapist.  I know it makes a difference.   He cries when I do these things, but this is different.  The scream he makes when I leave him in his room is unbearable in the middle of the dark night.  A scream that sounds different than the others.  Like he is being physically harmed.  His fear practically travels on the shrill sound waves.  I can’t leave him.  Wont do it. Not ready.

At least I have graduated from sitting in his room all night.  Or at my worst, giving up and taking him downstairs only for him to begin playing and asking for a snack—with the correct picture.  Oh irony is twisted.

Most nights we don’t go back to bed until 4:00.  My fear of his darkness is the only reason I didn’t do then or now as we were instructed.   All the “training” with the behavior modification leaves me very few shreds of my feels like a nurturing motherhood left.   I feel like this is my way to give him tenderness.  Wrong or right–in the behavior sense, I cling to this with all I have.  No matter the little sleep I’m getting, or how I feel like I’m losing all touch on reality and dread the night time–I only have this left to give him.  Let him do as he wants for a few hours, no therapy, no programs, no over-correcting, just me and him in the silence of the night, having cheerios and playing trains. Many nights I was so frustrated, I would sit across from him and cry; asking him why he won’t sleep.  He looks at me with his big brown eyes and blinks with no answer.  How could he answer? He can’t speak.

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Lucky #13

Since it’s Monday, and it’s the 13th post I thought I would give a few more than 500 words. Aside from the fact, I couldn’t cut it off. This was a critical moment in our lives when I saw first hand how the therapy worked.  Please send out to anyone you know.  Getting the story out is still my goal.  Thanks.


Staring intently into the tiny video monitor at the kitchen table I have to lean in to see better.  I can only see part of the room, but luckily, that is the part DJ is sitting in. The quality of the video is supremely poor; they look green, literally–I feel like I’m watching a secret mission through night vision goggles.

Ryan is lying on the floor crying hysterically clutching his blanket.  I do not hear him through the monitor; his screams are echoing from upstairs—the audio is poor too, as we didn’t know what level of monitor to purchase.  Dan’s sensibleness said to get the medium quality monitor—“medium” translating to the cheaper one.  It is apparent to me now the price of quality.

Thirty minutes later I am still sitting, watching—for any sign of…I don’t know.  Ryan has cried the whole time.  How exhausting for him, for DJ, and I realize for me too.  My eyes and limbs feel heavy.  Sitting with anticipation for that long with no reward is draining, but I don’t want to move for fear of missing that critical moment—whatever it may be.   I still have many doubts about this therapy.  We approached it with the attitude that ‘if it doesn’t work, we will find something else’.  But I still hold Dr. Hunter’s words close to my heart.

Ryan is still on the floor and DJ sitting in the kiddie chair with a note book in his lap.  He looks so calm to be in the middle of this screaming tornado.  I am about to lose my mind if one more minute goes by with this crying.  I spend so much of my time trying to keep his tantrums at a minimum.  I would literally juggle poodles if it would make him stop crying.  It is always so hard to know what sets him off.  It took me almost three weeks to figure out why he would occasionally cry on our route home.   One day the light was stacked up so I went straight.  He started crying, I craned my neck in the rear view mirror to see what made him cry.  It took a few more episodes of this for me to realize he didn’t like it when I went a different way home.  Routinea classic sign of the disorder.

I so want to go up there and put a stop to the crying. I want to pull him into my lap and cradle him like a baby.   Do not interrupt a session.  It is important you let them establish rapport. Emilee’s words swirl in my already dizzy head.  The poor kid has to be exhausted—I know I am from just watching and listening.

I keep looking at the ominously empty chair across from DJ at the table. It seems like hours have passed by while Ryan screams and I stare at this tiny screen.  My ass and tail bone are beginning to go numb from the hard wood chair and I am developing a major headache from the green screen.  Just wait.

Finally DJ speaks—I hardly hear it above Ryan’ howls.

“Ryan…sit in the chair.”

Yeah, sure, thats going to happen.  You expect him to get off the floor and then sit down? Good luck with that, kid.

After a few seconds, as DJ is patiently waiting, Ryan rolls over, gets up and sits in the chair.  I almost fall out of mine.  How in the hell did he get him to do that? My mouth is actually gaping open as I watch.  Even though, Ryan is still whining, he is sitting in the chair closely clutching his blanket.

“Good job, buddy, nice listening!” DJ screams at Ryan and hands him an M&M candy.  Ryan’s favorite.

I see DJ write something down in the binder as Ryan begins to cry again. Yet, he stays in his chair. DJ places a large yellow block on the table.

“Ryan, pick up the block.”

No response; only louder crying. Ryan doesn’t even look at the lonely yellow block on the table. DJ writes something in the book again.

“Ryan.” He pauses for effect, I think.  “Pick up the block.”

The crying is beginning to subside and I see Ryan look down at the table.  No way. Is he going to pick it up?  DJ waits and I hold my breath.  My face is so close to the monitor, I fear I might fall through like Caroline in the movie “PoltergeistDont go into the light  Focus.

Ryan head darts at DJ then back to the block.  He picks it up and quickly puts it into DJ’s hand.

“Great job! Great job! Take it.” He hands him another candy.  “Take a break, buddy.” DJ is again yelling with excitement.

Holy crap. What just happened? How the hell did that kid get him to do that?


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The first session is about to begin; I am completely panicked, jittery and my heart is thumping a quick beat in my chest.   I try to relax and calm myself down but part I am still not sure this will work.  I want this to be the ticket.  Could it be this easy? Could this be the trick to helping him?

I recall how upset our former speech pathologist was when I told her we were going to use Dr. Hunter.  Said she didn’t agree with the theories of the therapy.   Even though I get the gist of the ideals of the program, and I know it involves many different “interventions” I am still nervous.   Applied Behavior Analysis-(ABA) entails evaluating behavior through many steps and using specific interventions to change or alter behavior—that’s what I read, anyway.

What I can’t stop worrying about is how they are going to do it.  Dr. Hunter told me they may have to physically restrain him.   But they won’t harm him—“it’s to keep him safe from himself”.  But that’s my baby, how can I not worry?

Just changing his clothes is a workout.  Holding him still and getting clothes on and off: I like to call it my ‘wrestling an alligator’ session…. The bottom line is, he can’t stand to be changed. Change…Wow…that was an interesting-very literal thought.  And I remind myself that is why I am doing this.  Going out on a limb, launching into something I know so little about despite my efforts to understand, is for him.  To help him…

The knock at the door rouses me from my thoughts.  Domingo, our dog, jolts up with his ferocious bark.  After his initial joggle from the noise, Ryan returns to his milk—he’s used to it.  Domingo is relentless when someone comes to the door, so I have to push all 100 pounds of him into the garage, while balancing Ryan on my hip.

“I’m coming!” I yell over the din of the barking. I open the door to see shiny faced DJ smiling. “Who needs a doorbell? We never have to guess if someone is here.” I say trying to sound funny.  DJ continues to smile at Ryan ignoring my funny.

“Hey buddy.” He says to Ryan.  Ryan studies him for a second and turns away.

“Come on in.” I say. “Do you want me to take him up or do you want to…I can do it, or are you supposed t–I’m just not sure what the protocol is–it doesn’t matter–whatever you think is best…”  I look at him for a second and realize what an idiot I must look like.

“You can bring him up, it’s fine.” He says slowly and kindly.  Again with that smile.

“O.k.” I say out of breath as I jog up the stairs.  I suddenly want to hurry so I can watch—on the video monitor.  Man my sarcasm has got to take a rest.

I carry Ryan into his room and try to put him down.  He instantly starts crying and won’t let go of my neck.

“It’s o.k. buddy.” DJ says, “Mom is going downstairs.”

Ryan begins to scream and I just stare down at him.  I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do right now.  Even though I want to hug him and tell him its o.k, I turn away from every motherly instinct I have, remove his hands, practically push him away and rush out of the room.  I close the gate quickly with a huge lump in my throat and refuse to look back at his sad face.

His screams follow me down the hall.

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