I can’t believe it has been 6 months since Mara started ABA. She has made more progress than we could have imagined! She continues to get 20 hours/week of ABA in addition to 5 hours/week of speech and OT.
I looked back at the post I wrote after we had been in ABA for 2 weeks. When we started on this journey several parents told me that we would someday look back and wonder how we had come so far. I am starting to see what they were talking about. I can’t believe this is the same kid we had 6 months ago. She has learned so much and is communicating SO much more! As a result she is a happier girl and we are all a happier family. She still has significant challenges, but the progress she has made makes us believe that anything is possible.
The biggest change is that she frequently answers questions and makes requests. She will nearly always label items when asked. We simply ask, “what is it?” and she answers correctly. She also answers when we ask, “What do you want?” We sometimes have to prompt her with the answer, but she is starting to do this independently more and more. This has made life so much easier. There are also a couple of wonderful words she has learned. The first one…Mara! When you ask her her name, she answers! I love to hear her say her own name. Then there is the most awesome word I have ever heard her say…Yes! She has said, “no” since she was 2, but she has finally started to answer “yes” to questions and really mean it! You don’t realize what an important word that is until you have a kid who doesn’t say it. She did it for the first time in OT. April asked, “Do you want a lollipop?” and Mara shook her head and said, “Yes!” I squealed when I heard her say it. She’s said it many, many times since. I love it!!
This is definitely the biggest area of growth. A year ago if I asked Mara to pick something up and throw it away, I would get no response. Now she follows directions all the time! It’s unbelievable. One of the programs she does in ABA is receptive ID. Given a field of 3 things, she is told “give me x.” This has given us a glimpse into what she really knows. Her vocabulary is huge! She knows so much more than she has ever let on.
Mara’s social skills are still severely impaired. She enjoys playing and laughing with adults, but not with kids. She has gotten very good at saying hi to other kids when I tell her to. She sees her friend Nate at speech and when I say, “Mara, say ‘Hi Nate'” she will repeat me. We are starting to see a little bit of a spark when playing with Reese. If I facilitate a game on our tablet I can get her to take turns with Reese. She even spontaneously said, “my turn” the other day. Hopefully this is an area we will see some growth in soon.
In the post I wrote after 2 weeks of ABA, I said, “Our biggest issue right now is keeping her pants on! The girl hates pants. Shirts are fine, but she would love to be naked on the bottom half 100% of the time.” I had to laugh when I reread that piece because we have made ZERO progress in this area. Miss Mara still loves to be naked. We have enforced a rule that panties must be worn indoors at all times. Shoes must be worn outdoors at all times (she started injuring her toes by dragging them on the sidewalk). This rule is so difficult to enforce. I help her put her pants on, walk away and she literally has them off again 2 seconds later. Perhaps we will just move to a nudist colony. Mara also loves to stand on her head. The pressure she gets must feel good. She can nearly do a headstand completely independently. She has also developed a new love for climbing. We have a date with one of her therapists to try a rock gym to see if we can find her a more appropriate venue for climbing than up the bookshelf in her bedroom.
We are almost there! She still doesn’t come out and say, “I have to go potty,” but she gives me clues. On a couple of occasions I have asked her if she has to go and she says, “yes” or just runs to the bathroom. Twice she has gone into the bathroom and gone by herself! Most of her BMs happen in the toilet now. The key has been Starburst. She definitely knows the drill. The routine is: go potty, wipe, flush, get dressed, wash hands, get a Starburst. She’ll go through the whole routine and then go back to the toilet immediately in order to get another one.
It’s been a crazy couple of months, but I wanted to post an update. I plan to get a couple more posts out soon.