StockSnap_4876CF9B9C.jpgExpecting More in ABA and Why This Should Matter to Parents

It is frustrating  when vocational programs for learners with autism that focus a majority of their goals and time on  laundry and cooking.  I’m just guessing, but there are a more than a handful of people in this world who do not know how to cook or do laundry, but they lead successful and independent lives.  The skill these successful neurotypicals possess is to see a need and make a call to friends or a service to get the job done.  Problem solving at it’s best.  So why is it completely necessary for learners with autism to learn to sort, wash, and fold?

Adolescent programs for learners with autism are necessary.  Except that when enrollment begins at age 8 for an adolescent program, it leads to many questions.  The major one centering around expectations.  If treatment is a pipeline for adult dependence and more laundry, then let’s stop the Autism Waivers, ABA funding; save your money.

With programming focusing on a daily skill of laundry, cooking, and showering…it leads me to wonder what the pipeline to therapy really is.  Shouldn’t therapy and intensive treatment be a change agent?  Yes there is a path for everyone and college, vocational-trade, and job coach support.  However, shouldn’t the underlying precept of a therapy program be to engineer and teach the learner to communicate, problem solve, reason, and think.

I’d rather leave the actual focus of vocational goals up to the families.  Culturally speaking, not all families focus on laundry, cooking, and the like.  Some of them are busy shuttling kids to Kumon, Swim, and Violin.  Not all neurotypical children have an interest in cooking and laundry and they voice their opinions of such.  So, why don’t learners with autism get a choice?  Why should they become master laundry sorters, folders, measurers of detergent, and quesadilla makers regardless of their ability?  Are these vocational goals and adolescent programs starting at the age of eight more reflective of low expectations of the therapist and the center?

Parent’s let’s talk…

Let’s level the playing field here:

  • If  your neurotypical child’s kindergarten teacher brought laundry from home and had all the student’s sort it, measure the detergent, wash the clothes. Would this work for you?
  • If your neurotypical 8 year old child were placed in P.E, recess, and lunch with 16 year olds? You would find that odd and question why they were put in the same peer group, right?

If it’s not good for the gander, it’s not good for the goose.

Daily Living Skills are necessary.  The focus should step into the modern era and open our eyes to what neurotypicals bring from a skill set level to social relationships, employment, and college.  This is what our focus should be in the Daily Living Category.  More than this, parents must be consumers who have not lost their expectations for what the therapy they pay for should produce nor their expectations for their child’s achievement.  Let’s move from being in awe about Dr. Temple Grandin and her accomplishments, but ask the deeper question “How Do We Get There?  How Do We Accomplish This?”

I’d rather my child learn how to:

  1. Be sensitive to his or her own body odor and act accordingly
  2. Know when he needs a haircut and call to schedule himself
  3. Know how to navigate from point A to point B using google maps
  4. Ask for directions when lost
  5. Know how to use ATM, Debit cards, and monitor if money is lost or stolen and what to do when that happens
  6. Know how to use a locker at the gym
  7. Balance healthy food choices and snacks
  8. Call to order or use the web to purchase food, groceries
  9. Know how to create a schedule, use a schedule
  10. Know how to text message  (written or voice command) and listen to a text.
  11. Know how to “google” something to find out the answer
  12. Know when to understand when his/her clothes fit and coordinate himself/herself based upon the occasion.
  13. How to call Uber or a cab.
  14. How to tell if someone looks safe (tricky topic)
  15. Know how to pick a partner and ask someone on a date.

The list goes on.  And I’ve yet to mention doing laundry.  The point?  Laundry can be taught at home.  Give the parents the task analysis if you must…but they don’t need that. Focus on real life in therapy so that our kids have a fighting chance to make it in the college dorms, apartments, and to use their money, and make safe choices.  All of these things are not taught in the treatment room or in the make shift adolescent room in the therapy center, this is real life and needs the real world experience.

And if you are thinking about insurance and what they will/won’t cover..the list above is either in the category of Problem Solving, Communication, Reasoning, Daily Living-Hygiene, Daily Living-Spatial Reasoning and Transportation, Cognition (number matching- calling on the phone)…so yes this can be done.

Time to Stretch….and Thrive.  The world is waiting, let’s prepare our learners with autism better.

~Landria Seals Green, MA., CCC-SLP, BCBA


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