Early Days 4 – Autism and data collection [translation – ammunition]

I have a tendency to exaggerate. I think it’s the Irish genes, or maybe just our version of the Irish genes. Everything is ‘the most, the best, the superlative,’ or it is ‘the pits, most dire and worst,’ with not a lot of grey in between. As a result of this trait, when we first sought out expert help, I could tell that my version of events was open to question. Because you’re involved in the situation, it is difficult to be objective, especially since quite often, you are also that catalyst that sparks the meltdown in the first place.

I would sit in the experts office, with my two angelic boys on the floor, whilst I moaned [in code] about the meltdowns. They provided me with helpful strategies, all of which I had already tried and failed at abysmally. I could tell that my status as subjective, over protective and involved mum, was part of the problem. They just didn’t really take me seriously, as evidenced and reinforced by my perfect, if disengaged children.

Any text book that you read on the subject of autism [especially ABA ones] advises that if you want to bring about ‘improvements’ then first of all you need a ‘baseline’ from which to measure change. With this in mind, I laboured long and hard to try and come up with a workable system. I went for the lowest common denominator. I would pick a random hour of the day, every day, and count the number of meltdowns that they had, as well as the intensity, duration and recovery time. One form, one pencil and a few to boxes to tick. [translation = check] How hard could it be?

Well, much harder than I thought, of course, but over the following six weeks, I accumulated ‘data.’ It may not have been ‘hard’ data and was subject to a mass of flaws, but it was good enough for my purposes. I was not exaggerating, ergo my sanity was still within my grasp.

With my slips of paper in my hot little hand, I was then able to tackle the ABA guru. His initial scepticism dispersed. He had more tactics, as I knew he would, some old ones that were worth trying again, as well as a couple of new ones that I hadn’t come across before.

The meltdown crisis phase wasn’t over, but I felt more in control knowing that ‘things could only get better,’ as well as being in possession of another couple of techniques. In times of trouble, we do tend to percolate back to this base point, when the words disappear and frustrations reach their zenith, but there are always new tactics coming along, they are always growing and I know that we’re on the up.

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