Sunday, April 9, 2017

Autism Awareness Month

Hello all I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend! My weekends are a time to relax and recuperate for the next work week and I also enjoy being lazy. My job takes up so much of my time and energy during the week I have little or no time to write on the blog, but I wanted to write about something today that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve spoken about my job before but for those who don’t follow the blog; I currently work for an agency that assists with services for adults and children with disabilities. I have met so many amazing and beautiful people in the span of my career and this is why the topic today is so close to my heart. April being Autism Awareness month I wanted to speak about Autism Spectrum Disorder in children.

I wrote a whole blog post about Autism Spectrum disorder symptoms and diagnosis but then I erased it all and I decided to write from the heart. If you want to know about symptoms and diagnosis you can visit Autism Speaks. Today I want to write about the Hope I have experienced working with children with Autism.

So here it goes, I landed my first real job fresh out of college. I applied at so many places and I hoped to just get a call back. When I did get a call back I interviewed and to my luck I got the job. I was like OMG I’m a true adult now and I’m gonna be so awesome at my new job. I must admit I knew nothing about applied behavior analysis and what it all entailed but I was just happy to be on board. I showed up to work for the first day and I was excited to learn I’d be working with really young children from 3 years old to 5 years. It seemed easy enough right? Well to my surprise a 3 year old can have a strong will and a sort of grit to them. Needless to say I was more than tired after my first week of work spending all day with 3 year olds and running after my own 10 month old at home. After my first week of on the job training trying to understand ABA therapy: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, extinction, and punishment which was a lot to take in, I was on my own as an individual trainer. We would rotate children in the class room and every week I’d have a different little one to train. I was honestly skeptical at first thinking this stuff is never gonna work. I mean really how many times can I hold up a pieces of candy and ask a kid to stack blocks before I physically have to take their hands and stack the blocks for them. It seemed like they would never get it, How could they?

Training goals seem easy enough but when someone is holding your favorite snack in front of you and asking you to perform a task you cannot understand; you’re going to at some point get frustrated. When I say I was beat up by 3 year olds I am not over exaggerating. Days seemed long and tiring and I don’t know if I was more tired or they were. And then one day out of nowhere a small window would open up and then it happened. We would move from the first step to the next and on to a new goal and new training. This small being this little child who never looked me in my eyes, never smiled at me, never even acknowledged me would one day just get it. I remember working a training goal of speaking the word Marshmallow; we would start with holding the marshmallow up and then repeating “Say Ma ma ma, Marsh, Marsh, Marshmallow”. Then again repeat the command “say Ma Ma Ma” all while holding the fluffy white snack in the air. And then one of my little ones said it! I held the marshmallow in the air spoke the command and had time to say one “ma” before he yelled out “Marshmallow”…. He said it in a way like Dammit give me the Marshmallow already! I jump so quickly out of my seat I startled him (which is not the correct way to give a positive reinforcement). I then handed him the whole bag of Marshmallows I was so excited (also not correct but oh well). He smiled I mean he smiled like the clouds had opened up and God had shine down on him. Not a big achievement right? Well yes!! Because you see this little boy was 4 years old and had never spoken a word. Never. Marshmallow could have well been his first word; his first spoken word at four years old and I was there to see it, to hear it, or better yet to teach him it. Little by little these kids they were getting it.

They were soaking it all in while learning through Applied Behavior Analysis. I was learning as well; learning about reinforcements and most importantly patience and persistence. If you worked the training right and held on with hope one day they would get it and show you hey listen I’m here! I’m here and I’m listening and I may not look at you or hug you but I can hear you and I Can learn. I am not disabled I’m more then capable to do what you are asking it will just take time and patience. When I left this job I cried, and I mean a lot. I had taken away so many wonderful moments that at one point I had seen these kids as my own. My own little amazing beings. A year later I checked in on that little boy and was so happy to learn that he was speaking whole sentences with humor (who would have known he was so funny). lol His parents were so grateful for the school and the ABA training he had received because they were able to hear their child’s voice. So much so that now they wish he’d be quiet once and a while. Ha ha.

Small achievements like this for a child living with Autism is like scaling a mountain. I was happy to have teaching ABA to children with Autism as my first job. It taught me more than I could have ever imagined. My hopes is that parents who have a small child diagnosed with Autism will see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that I feel how tired and worried you are, but keep the hope. Stay persistent and most importantly have patience.

For Assistance with services in the Texas area: Call 2-1-1 or visit for statewide programs & services. Or Call ECI: 1-800-628-5115 for info about birth to 3 years.  

Thanks for stopping by Lovelies...

My outfit details: Top |  Jeans |  Booties |  Belt |  Earrings

Photos by: De Anna Pittari 

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