Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Children's Hospital Intake Assessment

We finally got in to talk to someone at Children's Hospital's Autism Center. It was a short meeting, we scheduled the proper assessments for December. She also gave us a big book about Intensive Behavior Intervention (a style of or evolved from ABA?) and said that they encourage parents to get their kids into "center-based programs" (autism schools) as early as possible. We're hesitant about this. As I've said many times before, we love Joseph's school and his teachers are awesome and he loves them, and he's making so much progress there. But what if he could be making better progress in an autism school?

Kristy feels the same way, that she likes where he is and doesn't want to move him. I suspect that our judgement is based on emotional attachment though, and that's not necessarily the way we should be approaching it. What I really want is for Joseph to be in school like he is now for half the day, then spend the other half doing this IBI therapy. I don't think I have the patience, or more importantly the energy, to do the IBI with him myself for the 20-30 hours a week that would be necessary.

A friend of ours also let us know about a scholarship for St. Andrew's, where her 6 year old goes. She said she was told that so few people apply for it that sometimes it goes unclaimed and she suggested that Maria might do well there. We're hesitant about that either.

I think I just hate change, and we're just finally getting used to how everything has been since September, and now we're talking about changing the schools the kids are going to and it's making me very anxious. I feel like taking them out of the schools they're in now would be a criticism of the wonderful people who have been helping both of them. I feel like we're getting conflicting advice, his teacher at school says ABA is limiting and only reliably produces the same results in the same setting, the psychologist at Children's says a classroom curriculum not designed for autism specifically is not optimal and will produce slower progress at this early stage. Plus Kristy has misgivings about the use of "isolation" at Haugland, which is at the top of our list because of proximity to home, but we haven't talked to them about it to have them explain what it is and how they use it.

I think the best plan of action at this point is to continue to research our options and wait until the actual assessment is complete. I've been feeling a lot closer to God in the last few weeks since Maria and I have been going to Mass almost every morning, and I feel like he's listening to my prayers. So I'll ask him his opinion too. :)


  1. I posted a comment via blackberry, but it's not here, so hopefully this doesn't end up being duplicated. Hmph.

    Last year, Jordan was, while still technically in public school, in an autism-specific program. Which was great, except...he got to a point where he really needed some interaction with typical peers. Instead of learning (through modeling) the "correct" way to act, he was instead picking up negative behaviors from the other autistic kids in his class (snarling at me like a dog when he's upset comes to mind). Would the special autism school still allow opportunities for exposure to typical peers? Just another thing to consider (which, yeah, I know, just what you wanted, right?)

    I can tell you that God will work it all out. And that you guys know your child better than anyone, no matter how well-intentioned their advice. Trust yourselves. And good luck!

  2. This is something I've also considered. When I visited Haugland, one of my concerns was how he would deal with other kids' behavior, whether it would bother him or even rub off on him like it did with Jordan. How old is Jordan? The doctor seemed to suggest that the autism school could be temporary, until Joseph had the skills necessary to function in a typical classroom. But we'll have a better idea of what we can expect after the complete assessment is done.

    What type of school setting is Jordan in now?

  3. We have visited The Learning Spectrum and Step by Step. I loved both schools, though I favor Step by Step, even though a very close friend of mine would be Sophia's teacher at The Learning Spectrum. Both schools use ABA, but focus more on generalizing than the traditional "I'm going to train you like a dog" format that Children's prescribes.

    I'm not familiar with Haugland, other than to know that it was founded by one of the co-founders of Step by Step. The Learning Spectrum uses peer models, so there are "normal functioning" children at the school as well. Both schools are focused on transitioning students to mainstream school.

    We're torn as well, even though Sophia isn't in any school yet. The public school she has been placed in is in Northland, which is not close to us in any way, whereas there is an elementary school with a special needs program right across the street from us, so we're actually using that as a motivator. If we have to drive, shouldn't she get the BEST services available to her? So yeah...I know what you mean!!

  4. Waiting until after the evaluation seems prudent and low risk. You need not take-on the feelings of any school personnel visa-vi you taking your son to another school. As professionals they deal with student movement all the time.

    Here is a post of mine from almost 2 years ago:

    And this one, too:

    I believe prayer helps. Barbara

  5. i will ask a question more or less

    basically i prefer a classroom setting with ABA trained TA's assisting and perhaps child specific activities to help him improve.

    The specific issues in this case would be
    1/ how aggressive is your son?
    2/ does he have a TA (are they ABA trained)
    3/ is he functionally beyond speech and behaviour issues at an acceptable level in the class or is he way behind?

    my son functions extremely well in a school setting with an ABA trained TA even tho he is non verbal and does have some aggression issues

    however i also know other parents whose children are functionally unable to adapt to a classroom setting even tho their child does have access to a TA so the question really goes down to whether he has the tools he needs to function in a public school and whether he could function given those tools

    the end goal of most autistic parents is to prepare their children as best they can to function self sufficiently in the real world the question is how do we succeed and how do we maximize the opportunity

  6. Carl, Joseph is slightly aggressive. He tries to take toys from other children if he wants them. He sometimes hits, bites and scratches, but mostly us when he's tantruming.

    He doesn't currently have is own TA. There are two or three aides in the classroom.

    He is way behind on speech and behavior issues, thought he's been making progress in this area too in his current classroom. He's almost 4, and doesn't talk much (a year ago he didn't talk at all).

    Right now he is making progress and functioning in public school. I'm confident that he is ok there for now. But I'm questioning whether one of our 5 centers here in Columbus would be BETTER for him, or if there are drawbacks.

  7. technically i would put joseph on approximately the same level as my son based on your description.

    personally with a TA of his own and i am assuming in the states they actually do have resource teams within the schools so would be developping programs aimed specifically at him.
    if he has access to these thing i would suggest public school may give him a better ability to function on his own after he leaves school.

    without these things i would suggest he would get better service from the center.

    To me the drawback of center based schooling is the lack of interaction with other children that are not autistic. he could learn a great lot in that setting but the practicality of dealing with the general public would in my mind get lost in the translation.

    in my personal opinion if he has access to the services in a public school setting he is likely better off
    if not then he is better off in the center

    but this is just my opinion