If you have a child on the autism spectrum, you’ve probably harbored feelings of doubt and concern, sadness and loss. Your child isn’t progressing as you’d hoped. This isn’t what you thought parenting and family life would be like.
How do I know? Both my sons were diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders. One has autism. The other has learning disabilities and sensory processing issues. My experiences and failures as a parent and the challenges of navigating and deciding among treatment options, schools and professionals (many of whom didn’t understand my children as well as I did) were my real introduction into autism.
If you’re just beginning this journey, you likely have many more questions than answers. How much therapy is enough? What are the right therapies? Will my child ever reach his potential?
When you got the diagnosis of autism, you may have been told that your child would need many hours of therapy, that the first six years were critical, and that this is a lifelong condition. Professionals likely recommended treatment approaches that – while popular and accepted as “best practices” – are expensive, time consuming and leave some large and obvious gaps.
For example, several years ago, my son was taught a widely used social skills curriculum at school. He could recite the material word for word, but couldn’t apply it. “I know what I am supposed to say,” he said to me. “But what should I really say if I want to make a friend?”
He was smart enough to recognize that he was being taught a script designed to make him appear normal, and that this was not only ineffective, it was actually interfering with his genuine attempts to make friends. By this time, he and I had started the RDI home program, and his trust in me had grown to the point where he confided in me daily. Fast-forward a few years. Today, my son is a funny, caring young man who is valued as an attentive listener and good friend.