Yesterday, I attended the first of three parent training sessions required by the Regional Center of which Emily is a client.
The training basically familiarizes you with Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), its history, techniques, purpose, and how to apply techniques at home (along with having an ABA therapist come in, of course).
To be honest, I was dreading attending, because the paperwork I received in the mail was quite… serious, I guess is the best word; serious in tone, overwhelming in general.
However, it was very enjoyable. I think the fact that it’s a group environment makes it less intimidating. Hearing other parents discuss their child’s strengths and challenges is wonderful, as well. There’s a sense of camaraderie that is just so comforting.
My homework for this week is to observe Emily doing her main “problem” behavior six times and log the details. Since it’s just a baseline to chart progress with, I’m not supposed to apply any techniques learned in class yet. This is, as they put it, a way to find out what she was like “yesterday.”
I chose echolalia as the behavior to focus on. For those unfamiliar, echolalia is basically a “parrot” type behavior, where one repeats things they’ve heard. It can be immediate, such as repeating all or part of a question one was asked (instead of answering it), or delayed/scripted, such as reciting memorized dialog from a TV show. The echoing is usually “performed,” as I call it, meaning it is said in the same way (inflection, volume, even accent) as the person or character who said it first.
Now, Emily pretty much echoes or recites scripts all day long (even in her sleep once in a while), both spoken and sung/hummed. I’m focusing on the times when it’s a problem, because, in all honesty, it doesn’t usually bother me to have her jabbering away (the singing and humming bothers me even less).
Emily doesn’t say much in the way of so-called “useful” language, so if it weren’t for the echolalia and scripts, she’d hardly make a sound. I’ll take an acted out scene from Thomas the Tank Engine over never (or hardly ever) hearing her cute little voice, thank you very much.
However, there are times it becomes a problem. For instance, I’m trying to explain why something she did was dangerous and she’s too busy repeating a sentence from Leap Frog’s Numbers, Ahoy! to acknowledge in any way that she is hearing me.
A less serious (albeit frustrating) situation would be trying to get Emily to tell you what she wants to eat, but she just keeps repeating back what you’ve asked. Such as “which jelly would you like, red or purple?” (said just like me, usually). Yeah. Cute the first 50 times or so. 😉
Oh, and the infamous incident at her pediatrician’s office, when he asked her a question (“how old are you?,” I think it was) and she responded proudly, “ice cubes!”
This exchange happened right after he’d asked us if she’d ever been evaluated for Autism, so the timing was comically perfect, actually.
So, you get the idea of times when it interferes and becomes a “problem behavior,” but a good 80% of the time, it’s just… an Emily thing.
Here’s to tracking ice cubes! 😉