On June 5 2017, I turned three years old and I was about to start a new journey. After months of painstakingly trying to get me the right help, my mom and dad found the perfect place: the ABA House in Dordrecht (ABA 'Huis' in Dutch), a daycare/(pre)school for kids with special needs just like me. I go there every day from 9 AM to 3 PM and have five fantastic classmates and three very kind and patient teachers. I felt at ease from the start and the toys they have there are beyond AMAZING!
Now ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. It is the leading methodology in treating children with autism spectrum disorder and has been used for over 40 years. We know that ABA has stumbled upon some criticism along the way, but we'd like to believe that the successes and benefits outweigh the potential downsides.
At three years of age, I still wasn't talking and had only sporadically said some words like 'one', 'two, 'three' or 'apple', but never used them in a functional or truly meaningful way. I still wasn't responding to my name and I wasn't imitating or interacting one might expect from a three year old. I could only make very brief and mostly accidental eye contact with people around me, including mommy and daddy. I didn't eat -or even want to touch- any fruits. I could't sit on a chair for longer than a few seconds and I had never used my finger to point something out.
There was -as you can see- a lot of work to do.
In this article, we will look into my progress at the ABA House -and at home- these past months.
I have said up to ten words by now, a major step forward! Although I don't use them with the right intent as of yet, I am more prone to imitate when I hear something funny like George from Peppa Pig saying 'Dinosaur' all the time. Other words in my repertoire are 'iPad', 'Cola', 'No' and 'Car'. Cool huh?
One time I've clearly used a word to indicate something. Daddy and I were playing a game on my iPad, which I love because I always get to choose the level we play on Flappy Back (one of the many Flappy Bird clones out there) and just before I pressed the icon of level 6 I said 'Six!'.
It made my dad clap and cheer, jump up and down, and he still brags about it until this day.
At the ABA House my teachers are prompting me to use words every day. Slowly I seem to become a bit more vocally aware. There's still a long way to go and everybody's excited to see how I will do a year from now.
INTERACTION AND EYE CONTACT
Although I still don't respond to my name and have yet to point my finger at something, I have become much more responseful in playful situations. I now imitate occasionally and am making huge leaps forward when it comes to making eye contact! As short as two months ago, eye contact was rare, superficial and purposeless. Nowadays however, it is intensifying to longer and much more meaningful forms. When daddy comes home, I actually see him by engaging into eye contact! When mommy sings a song I do not just stare at her mouth anymore: I look into her beautiful eyes, because I now know that's where the singing really comes from.
Let's get it straight out in the open: I do not like fruits! It's gooey, mushy, sticky and just feels too funny and weird. I don't want to touch, don't want to eat it: seriously get that stuff away from me. There you have it. BUT... I do eat better and more varied than ever before! At the ABA House they are trying to learn me how to eat on my own, which has had some effect. It even surprised my parents big time. My favorite food is bread with peanut butter or Nutella (great stuff!), noodles, chicken nuggets and various blended vegetables.
SITTING AND BEHAVIOR
My personal record is currently 17 minutes. That's right: 17 minutes of sitting on my chair without having the urge to run off and play. When my mom and dad found out, they couldn't believe it! They were convinced I wasn't ready to remain seated for such a timespan and so they stopped expecting this from me. The successes at the ABA House help mommy and daddy to continually adjust their view of my potential.
Overall; I've become a lot more accustomed to corrections. When I attempt to climb the piano in the living room, mommy or daddy will say: 'No!' and I will refrain from doing so. By now I associate the word 'no' with ending the chosen and desired activity, which usually involves climbing or jumping. This makes things a lot more manageable for mommy and daddy.
So that's a brief overview of the progress I've made since the Summer. Pretty cool huh?
And do you know what's the coolest thing of all? I get to go to school with a private taxi, joined by other schoolmates every day! Scary or uneasy for me? No way! I love the ride!
But sometimes mommy likes to pick me up and this is the first thing she sees when school's out. Happy and thriving, confident and developing. In my own way and in my own pace. Thank you all for the continuing support! I'm going to make it!