Don’t Worry, He’ll Catch Up

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Warning: This post has anti-biomedical treatment portions. If you’re going to try and tell me in a comment the merits of such, they’re not going to be published. You will have missed the whole point of this post if that’s your response.

“Don’t worry. He’ll catch up.” is usually a parent’s (of an Autistic son) most hated phrases. Many people are told this by doctors, and family, and friends for far too long before their kids are diagnosed.

Then why do they insist on believing that once they do have a diagnosis?

Okay. I know what you’re going to say. Most parents don’t go around “believing” this once their kids are diagnosed.

And there, you would be wrong. They may hate the phrase, they may hate the thought, but they still go on acting like ‘he’ will.

What are the first things that parents now are told to do? ABA, Speech, OT, PT, diets, supplements, intensive early intervention, right?

Let’s dissect these a little more. (List coming. Many of you seem to like my list format, and since it helps me organize my thoughts, I might as well continue to utilize it.)

  1. ABA – The ABCs of Behavior is one of the first places people start.. Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence.. Using this to create a behavior plan to modify a child’s behavior. Is that right?
    Okay. Obviously you can set up a behavior plan that doesn’t just modify behavior but the environment.. But in general, most people will be told to force their child into situations, like in this blog post, to change their behaviors.. And then ignore the child.
  2. Speech – Now, I specifically phrased it this way. I am NOT talking about using an SLP to help your child come up with a reliable communication system. I’m talking about trying to actively, continually produce speech.
    I remember being told that there were only three reasons that a child wouldn’t speak. 1, Because they were mentally retarded (doctor’s phrase, not mine). 2, Because they were deaf. or 3, Because they had a form of autism. A neurologist told me this when Daniel was diagnosed.
    I know kids, not just autistic kids, who weren’t diagnosed with apraxia or dyspraxia until they were nearly in elementary school because therapists and parents were so focused on getting speech out that they didn’t bother to see what else was going on with the child.
  3. OT, PT – Some people will say sensory, to which I cheer. Others will just talk about fine and gross motor skills. We need to make these kids get the ‘correct grip’ and we need to get these kids able to write. We did this.. We continued to do this.. Especially with Daniel, until 1st grade when we finally ‘gave up.’
  4. Diets, Supplements – Most people will say ‘try the diet.’ Even if there’s no reason, try the diet. Others will say “YOU HAVE TO DO THE DIET! YOU HAVE TO HEAL THE GUT!” You must do the diet before anything else will work, others will say. This is where you must start. You must get rid of their pain and discomfort before you can do anything else because ‘they won’t be receptive’ or able to ‘focus’ if you don’t heal the damage.

Okay. So most people are going to see nothing wrong with the above (well, except for 4, which many people will see as wrong).. But that’s my point exactly.

Parents lose time over and over with the above plan of action. It’s essentially expecting the child to ‘catch up’ while you work on what you are told is important.

YES, behaviors are important. But remember, they are a function, and most times are communication. Are you going to continue to ignore that communication and try to change it?

Speech, same thing. Is it most important to work on creating speech or giving your child a communication system? I need to find the millions of links that show that you actually increase chances for speech by giving alternative methods of communication. There are going to be SLPs and educators who say “but it’ll give him something that he’s dependent on.” Remember, two things, there is no guarantee of speech AND currently, your child’s only form of communication is behaviors! Would you rather them be dependent on an alternative communication system or be unable to communicate with you? Really, think about it.

OT, PT: Same thing as Speech. You can work on these goals, but remember, there is a point when you need to look at what your child NEEDS. In Daniel’s case, we decided typing gave him the best chance for success long term. We still work on writing, but no longer on grip. One of his main forms of doing his language arts is by typing now.

Diets, Supplements: Oh sure.. Try them… But not at the risk of everything else… Okay.. not really. Does your child even show signs that their stomach is hurting? Is it constantly? Have you seriously not noticed it until your child was diagnosed with Autism? I don’t know about you, but I would have been asking the pediatrician WAY back if there was something I was worried about.

This whole “Oh yeah.. my son has had chronic constipation since he was a baby..” I’m pretty sure I would have mentioned that to the pediatrician. It’s not like you don’t have like 6-8 visits from birth to age 2. If you had and they dismissed it, change pediatricians! If it’s been going on that long, yes, go find out if there’s an allergy or intolerance to see if there’s a diet that can help.. But PLEASE! Do not do this while neglecting everything else!

Parents: Stop expecting your child to catch up while you work on your goals. Work on what THEY need for success.

Allies: Stop telling me to wait because the parents will come to realize it. This is how you end up with people who aren’t discovered to be intelligent until their teens. These kids, teens, adults had chances, and more chances, and more chances to be listened to, but because we waited for the parents to ‘catch up,’ they lost all of those chances, and suffered because of it.

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