Archive for the ‘personal’ Tag

Useful Things I Learned from Being an ABA Therapist   Leave a comment

Before I start, I want to be absolutely clear that this post is not meant to condone ABA as an autism treatment. It is merely an attempt to find a tiny bit of good in my past career. (The biggest good was getting to know the children I worked with, and many of the families were delightful people doing what the “experts” had told them to do.)

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is still a hot-button issue in many parts of the autism community. I used to do ABA, primarily Lovaas-style. The type of ABA I did is heavy on table time and progresses through a specific set of programs designed to teach everything from speech to academic skills to self-help skills. It was touted as being scientifically validated and able to “recover” autistic children, or at least make them indistinguishable from their peers.

There are all kinds of problems with that, and with the ABA industry as a whole, but other people have written about that far more eloquently than I ever could. So today I want to talk about the useful things I took away from my time as an ABA therapist. Because there are some helpful techniques and attitudes I learned.

If the student isn’t learning, it isn’t their fault. My first ABA consultant taught us that if the child wasn’t learning what we were trying to teach, there was something wrong with our approach. Maybe we weren’t consistent enough from one therapist to another. Maybe we needed to present the material differently or change the way we requested the behaviour. Whatever it was, we were the ones who needed to adjust.

Breaking tasks down into steps and chaining behaviours. As someone who has ADHD and the accompanying executive dysfunction, it can be helpful to break down a large task into smaller steps. That way I can focus on one small piece at a time instead of getting overwhelmed trying to figure out where to start. Chaining tasks is also a really helpful concept that has helped me change my routines (and develop them in the first place).

I know my A-B-C’s. Not my alphabet (though I do know that as well), but a way of figuring out how to help my two-year-old, non-autistic child behave appropriately. When he does something I would rather he not do, I look at the antecedent, or what happened before he did the thing, I look at his specific behaviour, and I look at the consequence, or what happened afterward (i.e., what he got out of it). This is most beneficial when I remember my developmental psychology, since that tells me that a toddler doesn’t yet have the executive functioning to control his impulses (and as an ADHDer with impulse control problems, I understand this intimately). Understanding the reasons why he does something helps me find other ways for him to get whatever it is he needs, in a more acceptable fashion. It also usually comes back on me: a lot of his behaviour happens because I didn’t put something out of his reach, or I wasn’t supervising closely enough, or I was ignoring his attempts to get my attention.

I don’t over-react to things. One of the things I learned as an ABA therapist was to keep my cool at all times and to be neutral when correcting responses. This translates to my kid having a mom who responds to things like refusing to come for a diaper change by asking if he can come on his own or if he needs help. This gives him power in the situation that is appropriate for his developmental level but still gets the job done.

Some of the teaching methods can also be useful, but it depends a lot on the person and the thing you are trying to teach.

But there you are, a list of the positive practical applications of ABA techniques. Note that understanding child development is important (it wasn’t needed when I was working), as well as respect for the individual’s particular needs and desires (again, not necessary in my work). As with so many things, intent and attitude matter.

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The importance of sleep   Leave a comment

Like I wrote last Thursday, I went to see my ADHD doctor to talk about medication.

He listened to me, looked back over his notes from my previous appointments (I’ve been seeing him somewhat regularly since 2010), and asked me how my sleep was.

That’s an important question.

Over at the ADHD blog, people write in asking why their symptoms might be worse, and how to know if they need a higher dose of medication. I always say the same thing:

Check to make sure that these things are in order, because if even one is out of whack you will have problems:

  • Stress – Increased stress makes symptoms worse.
  • Sleep – If you’re not in bed for at least seven hours per night, you are probably short on sleep, and lack of sleep gives non-ADHDers the symptoms of ADHD.
  • Diet  – Diet doesn’t cause ADHD, though some allergies might cause similar symptoms for some people, but eating a healthy diet that’s high in protein is really good for the ADHD brain.
  • Exercise – Regular exercise is also really good for the ADHD brain and makes it easier to focus for a little while.

So these are all about as good as they’ve ever been, except my sleep… well, with a seven-month-old baby, I’m sure you can imagine what that looks like.

I’m now tracking my sleep for the next few weeks, and trying to get more (good luck), and I’ll go back to see him at the end of that time. Maybe I’ll post my results here, too.

Either way, my ADHD is big these days, as are my anxiety and depression (though not as bad as they have been in the past).

What’s big for you today?

Posted October 24, 2015 by karalianne in General Disability Discussion

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What’s in a Label?   Leave a comment

I have a cold, but here is me reading my poem. It’s just a first draft but the poem is supposed to be spoken word, so I recorded it. The words of the poem are reproduced after the Soundcloud widget for the benefit of anyone who needs them.

I hope you like it. I hope you learn something. I hope you feel validated. I hope it speaks to you.

What’s in a Label?

I. Identity

This one time someone said
“I don’t believe in labels”
when I told them I have ADHD.
     I said nothing.
     But I wanted to.
I wanted to ask how they describe themselves.
Sexual orientation, gender, hair colour, career, height, weight,
Name.

II. Condescension

This one time my doctor said
“you’ve gone this long without treatment, you can wait a little longer”
when I came in with the file that held my testing results.
     I said nothing.
     But I wanted to.
I wanted to ask if he’d ever been at the end of his ability to cope.
If he’d ever called his mother crying because he’d just spent four hours organizing his books
instead of cleaning his apartment.

III. Disbelief

This one time a relative said
“ADHD is made up by the drug companies to get children addicted to drugs”
when I was driving them somewhere.
     I said nothing.
     But I wanted to.
I wanted to point out
that appropriate treatment in childhood lessens the likelihood of drug abuse.
And that I was taking those self-same drugs so I could function like other people.

This other time someone said
“everyone loses things or is late or gets absorbed in activities”
when I mentioned I had ADHD.
     And this time
     I said something.
I said that everyone does those things,
but not every day.
Not multiple times a day
     every day
     for their entire life.
I invite you to live with my brain for just a day
and then try and tell me ADHD doesn’t exist.

IV. Jokes

Too many times I hear
“Look, a squirrel!” or “Wanna go ride bikes?”
like it’s a punch line to a hilarious joke about my attention span.
     I often say nothing.
     But I want to.
I want to point out that most ADHDers can hyperfocus on stuff longer than non-ADHDers
depending on the circumstances, the topic, the activity…
we just can’t always choose what we focus on.

And then there are people who say
“I had an ADD moment”
when they forgot something for a moment or did something silly.
     I usually say nothing.
     But I want to.
I want to point out that ADHD is a neurological disorder
and if you don’t have that neurology
it’s impossible for you to have “an ADD moment.”

My disorder is not for you to joke about.
You know how when you’re a kid and someone picks on your kid brother
     and you yell at them that
     “nobody’s allowed to hurt my brother except me!”
You know how that is?
That’s what ADHD is like.
My kid brother.
Leave it alone.

V. Excuses

Sometimes I hear people complaining about ADHD
“they just use it as an excuse to be lazy!”
and other things like that.
     I’m learning to say something.
     Because it needs to be said.
It needs to be said that ADHD is a disorder,
that it’s distressing and difficult and invisible and it can look like so many moral failings,
but that’s not what it is and you
are
hurting
us
when you say things like that.

VI. Disability

So many people try to cushion ADHD
“it’s a difference not a disability”
they say, and feel proud for enhancing our self-esteem.
     I speak about this more and more.
     Because it needs to be said.
It needs to be said that disability is not a bad word, not an insult,
not demeaning:
it’s just a word.
And saying that ADHD is just a difference
hurts our ability to get accommodations
and can damage our self-esteem,
not help it.

VII. Reality

My daily to-do list has over 30 tasks on it,
     and that includes eating lunch
     because I forget to eat sometimes
     and because food is hard when it’s just me I’m feeding.
Most days I manage about 10 or so tasks.
     The other day I did over 20 and I was so excited that I’d accomplished so much
I nearly cried.
I have to write everything down or I forget the details.
I have to ask a lot of questions or I miss the point.
I have to take time to think about things or I don’t understand.
I have spent days locked into Facebook or Tumblr,
     refreshing the screen over and over
     even though I know there’s nothing new to look at
     and I need to do the dishes,
     or I want to read a book,
     or I need to start dinner.
I’m not lazy.
I put in more effort to work through the steps to the simplest tasks
     to remember what I came into the kitchen for
     to recall what I was talking about when I forget in the middle of a word
     to laugh at my mistakes when they’re funny,
     to apologize when they’re not.
I put in more effort for all of these things
than probably anyone else
(except other ADHDers).
My successes cost me more than they cost you.

ADHD is a part of who I am
     it is neutral
     it is annoying
     it is fun
     it is exciting
     it is devastating
     it is pervasive.
I don’t know who I would be without ADHD.
It colours my perceptions
     my interactions
     my life.
It’s not a gift —
     some days there is nothing good about life with ADHD.
It’s not just a difference —
     I’ve accommodated it as much as possible and it’s still disabling.
But it’s a part of me.

So what’s in a label?
A label in isolation doesn’t define me
but pull them all together
stuff them into a box
and that box is me.

Ninth Anniversary   Leave a comment

Nine years ago today I was diagnosed with ADHD. The test results said severe Combined Type, but I find that I resonate more with descriptions of what it’s like to be Inattentive Type, so I go with that one. (It’s also the one I get when I do quizzes in ADHD books.)

I was going to tell my diagnosis story, but I think instead I’ll tell you about my life now, nine years after diagnosis. Maybe next year I’ll talk about where I was, but this year I want to talk about where I am.

I am married. We’ll celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary this July, and in October it will be seven years since we met.

I am a housewife. I’m still working on being good at this role, but I’m getting there. Slowly. And it makes me glad.

I am a published author. I had a non-fiction article published in a local magazine (local to Calgary) in 2007 and a short story published in an anthology in 2013.

I am a copyeditor. I’m still working on advertising and getting more clients, but I do this part-time from home and I’m glad I can do it.

I am unmedicated. I have systems in place that help me manage my life, and they work pretty well most of the time. I’ve learned to accept the days when stuff doesn’t pan out and to tweak the system when it becomes obvious that there are bits that just aren’t working for me anymore. (If it becomes apparent that I can’t manage without medication anymore, I will go back to my doctor.)

I am content. Sometimes I’m not so content, but most of the time I like myself as I am, I like where I am in my life, and I am happy with things as they are.

I am disabled. Sure, I have more good days than bad lately, but I’m still severely impaired by ADHD. I struggle with all the same things I’ve always struggled with, from memory to organization to executive function to anxiety to depression to sleep to productivity to procrastination to frustration to perfectionism… the list goes on and on. I still have trouble with timeliness, and I have interesting social moments from time to time.

There’s probably more I could say about where I currently am in my life: things about my spiritual life and my relationships and so on. But these are the things that feel most relevant to my ADHD and the fact that it’s been nine years since I was diagnosed. These are all things that are different about me since my diagnosis (except that last one; I’ve always been disabled). These are all things that have changed because I got diagnosed and got appropriate treatment (which has included counseling, medication, and ADHD coaching at different times, sometimes overlapping).

Other things that have changed for the better: I’m more confident; I don’t feel like I’m barely managing to hold it together anymore; sometimes I actually feel like I have achieved success in my life; and I feel more certain of what I want out of life.

I always had ADHD; the only thing my diagnosis really did was make treatment accessible and give me a place to look for ideas that might help me deal more effectively with my difficulties.

Posted February 12, 2014 by karalianne in Identity

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