By Kim Stagliano
I know that the Alice Cooper classic rock song "School's Out" is politically incorrect. I don't much care. I am the mother of one, two, three daughters with autism. I'm tired. And I'm often cranky.
Not today. I'm so happy I need to pinch myself to make sure I'm really me.
Check this out: Here's the report I got from my oldest daughter's new adult day program. My response is in crayon. Try finding a pen around here.
She attends Monday - Friday from 9:00 to 2:30pm at two programs that are part of a large organization in my county. Four years ago I said out loud, "Mia will NEVER go to a day program at such and such!" Dopey me. So, her core program is very autism specific. The staff is well trained. Kind. Young. Energetic. Underpaid. She is also attending a totally cool Art Cooperative program in a funky space that you or I would be happy to call home every day. This was the note I got after her first day of adding the art program. Pay attention to this line "No drops." One of Mia's behaviors is to drop to the floor onto her knees like a sack of cement and remain there when she is not happy with what's going on - especially during transition. In fact, another day program in the area - that shall not be named (yet.... ) all but turned Mia down because of this ooooooh so difficult behavior. Is dropping to the floor a disruptive pain in the you know what behavior? Yes. Is it the the worst of possible autism behaviors? Heck no.
ZERO DROPS is huge, giant, life changing. And it tells me that Mia feels good. Safe. Respected. In control. Honestly, I'm giddy.
I think Mia is thrilled to be done with the constant data tracking of ABA based school. She's sick to death of prompts and charts and rewards. Life is not prompt based. For any of us. Sure we need reminders and incentives. But the overdrive school models are not relevant to the real world.
Respecting her and meeting her where she is right now is what's making a difference. The team likes Mia. She's a nice young woman who sings off key with joy and who, when she makes eye contact with you, really connects with your soul. She shines. And her new program honors her.
I've told her team that I'm writing about Mia's journey.
SCHOOL'S OUT FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We can do this. Take heart. More soon.
Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor for Age of Autism.