By Kim Rossi
Back to school is here. For me, it's my last year with a school aged child. Next year Bella will be in a transition program for 18 - 21 year olds. She has had 15 years of speech, OT, PT, ABA and other therapies. She's tired of the non-stop structure and having to "earn" even the smallest reward like a trained seal at the old SeaWorld (before David Kirby let them have it.) Of all the therapies she has received, PT has done the most and yielded the most success in terms of her ability to move. Speech? Nothing. OT? A bit of help. She doesn't hold a pen. She doesn't write or draw like her sisters. She's her own person. Beautiful. Quiet. Engaged in her own way with the world. Aware of everything going on around her. Everything. She's smart and understands all that she hears.
ABA and discrete trial have given her a few skills. But they have also made her and her sisters wholly prompt dependent. This was never so obvious as when her older sisters started a day program for disabled adults. The adult world is NOT prompt based. Not yet anyway. My behaviorist from DDS told our school district many years ago that the ABA model was not workable in the real world. I'm not saying that ABA is wrong or detrimental. Just that it has its place and then needs to be tapered off, and more independent skills imparted in its place. But how? And by whom? I'm dog tired, how about you?
Adult programs are learning that they need to adapt many parts of their work for the new autism population. The pay scale is typically very low - with an hourly rate less than what school based 1:1 paraprofessionals make in our area of Connecticut. That's a problem. And it will grow. As the need for programs explodes.
Kim Rossi is Managing Editor for Age of Autism.
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By Kim Rossi