Friday, July 25, 2008

One Step Up, Two Steps Back

I guess it's not that bad, it's more three steps up and one back or something like that. Oh wait, let ME take a step back. Grace has recently made some significant improvements in her behavior regarding patience and her ability to 'hold it together' when things don't exactly go her way. But last night my wife Linda sat me down and was very upset about the fact that Grace has been very echoic lately and not answering questions, but instead just repeating words back to us.

A month ago, she had, for the first time, SHOWN my wife where she had gotten hurt and had begun answering questions in more than one word answers and had not needed to be prompted. For those with kids not on the spectrum, you probably watched milestones like this just whiz by, like markers on a highway; for us though, these are milestones are more vertical in nature, like hitting the 10,000 ft marker on the side of a mountain. So, the fact that she had slid back to on these skills was quite disheartening.

It turns out that the teachers and aids, who have been doing a wonderful job at working her behavioral issues, had underestimated her abilities from a language perspective. Instead of pushing her for answers to questions, they had been prompting her so she had become 'prompt dependent'. For those on the planet Earth, that means that when the held up a ball, instead of saying "What color is this ball?" and waited for and even pushed for "The ball is blue", They would say 'Gracie, what color is the ball? Blue. What color is the Ball?" and then grace would answer one word: "Blue". This method is great when you are trying to get words out and building up the child's question and response, but if they're already past that, it brings them back to a simpler time.

Big todoo anyway, notes flying back and forth, they are going to quickly 'fade the prompt' and get her on track. Part of the issue with this school is that Grace is a little too high-functioning from a language and play area; her real issues are with socialization and transitions. Sometimes if you are not explicit with the teachers, they kinda revert to 'simpler time' and somewhat expect the child to be lower functioning than they are. We are still happy with the school but we are just frustrated that we are halfway through the 6 week session, and she'll be hard-pressed to get her 'non-prompted' abilities back by the end of the session. It's all about not regressing in the summer sessions, after all.

It just goes to show you how easy it is to not be coordinated between the schools, your therapists and your child's needs and abilities. It also shows how nutzo some of us parents get with the details. I'm not sure whether some 'normal' parents go nutzo on the details or maybe within the autism parents' circles some let it slide and some are nutzo. I guess I'm just glad that we caught it and we can do something about it...


Jannalou said...

I've used that kind of prompting with kids in ABA programs in the past, but it is very important to (1) fade the prompts as quickly as possible; and (2) only use the prompts when necessary! It's kind of like the beginning of a "Lovaas-style" program, when you introduce a new skill and prompt immediately, then start fading the prompts as soon as the student shows any indication of being able to complete the task independently.

Also, I've found that the best way to prompt is to simply ask the question, wait a few seconds to see if you're going to get an answer, and if you don't, offer the prompt. Then ask again and see if the prompt "stuck". (This is more of a "Verbal Behaviour" approach, but in my experience you sometimes have to wait up to 10 seconds to allow for processing time, and they usually only give up to 3 seconds.)

Maddy said...

Thanks for the timely reminder. I always have 'fade' in my schedule for a new campaign but somehow or other I forget all about it.

Glad to hear that she's making such tremendous progress.

Chaoticidealism said...

Sometimes you lose skills while you work on new ones... it's not uncommon. You just haven't got enough brain for them all at the same time.