Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Behavior Therapy

Last week, Hubs was on a hunting trip and Princess P had 3 snow days...and I watched way too much Netflix.  Yes, I'm still hooked on 'Parenthood' and I was up late one night thinking about why this show has sucked me in so much.  And then it hit me.  In the first episode, Christina and Adam's son is diagnosed with Aspergers, a high functioning form of autism.  They are quick to get help and hire Gabby, a behavior therapist.  Gabby is what got me.  You see, my college degree is in Applied Behavioral Science and I dreamed of working individually with special needs families.  It was something I was passionate about and it held a special place in my heart.  But now, when I tell people what my degree is in, I get puzzled looks.  No one knows what it means or knows anyone that uses that degree.  I love that this show so beautifully portrays what I studied and longed to do.  It makes me want to shout, "See!  This is what I wanted to do!  This is what my career was supposed to look like!"  But it didn't.  Hubs and I moved states away the day I finished college and I was never able to get into the system.  You know how jobs have to know the right people to get a job, and unfortunately, I didn't know anyone.


Maybe someday I'll have that career I worked so hard for, but for today, I'm a parent and it takes behavior therapy to a whole new level.  After that first episode, I researched a little more about aspergers.  I've worked with lots of autistic kids, but none with aspergers and I was curious what differentiates them.  WebMD was the most helpful source I found and it states these as symptoms:

  • Problems with social skills: Children with Asperger's syndrome generally have difficulty interacting with others and often are awkward in social situations. They generally do not make friends easily. They have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversation.
  • Eccentric or repetitive behaviors: Children with this condition may develop odd, repetitive movements, such as hand wringing or finger twisting.
  • Unusual preoccupations or rituals: A child with Asperger's syndrome may develop rituals that he or she refuses to alter, such as getting dressed in a specific order.
  • Communication difficulties: People with Asperger's syndrome may not make eye contact when speaking with someone. They may have trouble using facial expressions and gestures, and understanding body language. They also tend to have problems understanding language in context and are very literal in their use of language.
  • Limited range of interests: A child with Asperger's syndrome may develop an intense, almost obsessive, interest in a few areas, such as sports schedules, weather, or maps.
  • Coordination problems: The movements of children with Asperger's syndrome may seem clumsy or awkward.
  • Skilled or talented: Many children with Asperger's syndrome are exceptionally talented or skilled in a particular area, such as music or math.

When I was "in the field", these symptoms were just facts, but now they are flat out scary!  What if Bubby's love for pj's is really an obsession?  What if his quiet nature and few words to others are really a withdrawn symptom?  Yikes!  Sometimes as moms it's hard to know when a behavior is a quirk and they're just being a kid or if it's really an atypical behavior.

My unsolicited advice would be to ask your pediatrician or if your child is in school, their teacher if you have any concerns.  They're going to know your child and may even see them in a different light than our sometimes foggy-I-love-you-so-much mommy eyes see.

As for my Bubby, poor kid was put through the ringer the next day in mommy's behavior therapy.  I tested my areas of concerns and was greatly relieved when he passed.  I have a feeling this is just warm up for the things to come considering I caught Charlie drawing all over Hubs' sermon notes and ripping up library books this evening.  Oh, there's never a dull moment.

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