If anyone had told me in 1999, when I first looked into ABA that we would still be at ‘it’ nearly 14 years later, I would have run away very fast!! But here we are officially calling an end to our Programmes in 2014.
Of course what we have been doing for many years is very different from the early days of matching, sorting, language promotion and backward chaining. These techniques are still in use but unrecognisable when applied to scuba diving, GCSE courses, catching a train/bus independently, using a bank account and driving a top of the range rally car. But as much as we have moved on, as much as they have progressed and we are very proud of them – the boys are not cured and ABA will always be at the inner core of our relationship with our boys.
Tim and Simon are twins with very different personalities and ways of presenting their autism. When first diagnosed at 2 years old I was dealing with screaming, self injuring, biting, scratching kicking, lumps of ectoplasm that avoided eye contact, couldn’t point, didn’t know their names and would whine for hours on end. One had no definable words and the other would say a word like ‘orange’ or ‘tractor’ once and then we wouldn’t hear it again for months.
We embraced the world of ABA and our first workshop is the stuff of our case manager’s nightmares. My husband and I plus 12 possible people willing to learn how to be ‘therapists’ ranging from Sixth formers to pensioners from a wide variety of backgrounds and experience. Since then we have probably employed half of Ludlow – mostly through word of mouth and many have gone on from us to become Doctors, Speech Therapists, Occupational therapists, Paediatric nurses, shared carers and foster carers of children with disabilities, teachers, volunteers with Homestart charity and many other vaguely related things.
I won’t bore you with the practicalities of running the two programs at once – workshops were marathons! A lot of the time I just don’t remember as I was always running on empty – the boys didn’t believe in regular sleep patterns. What I will say is that given the time again – I would change nothing about how we decided to educate and care for our boys. Yes there were tears – bucket loads. But there was also a lot of fun and laughter and little miracles almost every day, we just had to recognise them for what they were.
Our most recent triumph was our major holiday this year. Simon had his last GCSE math’s exam in the morning, then we dashed across to Heathrow airport with many changes to our planned route due to accidents and road works (this would have been impossible just a few years ago). The first flight to Lisbon was delayed, meaning we landed very late in Lisbon, got a taxi to our hotel, then got a taxi back to the airport for another delayed flight to the Azores. This all passed with very little anxiety. On holiday we did many whale watching trips, Simon did loads of scuba diving and swimming sessions with wild dolphins up to 3 km from the coast. Simon climbed the volcano (twice the height of Snowdon) and Tim did paragliding and off road driving. They helped to keep the holiday house clean and did some cooking and shopping duties. At the end of the holiday we gave up the rented car with no fuss, got a taxi to the airport and undertook the 2 return flights (both were delayed) on the same day and drove back to Ludlow in the early hours of the morning with just a stop for KFC. There were a couple of moments from Tim, when he got anxious but nothing to worry about. This, with two boys who would probably both have ended up in 52 week a year residential institutions if we had not done ABA.
Over the past 18 months the boys have had a lot to deal with. We lost my father who both boys adored, I had to travel regularly to Bristol to care for my mother with cancer, and then I was diagnosed and treated very aggressively for breast cancer. For this and a number of other reasons we decided that year 11 for Tim would not be appropriate so took the decision for him to attend a special 6th form college – he enjoys the variety of activities and he continues with his French at home – we hope to enter him for his foundation certificate. Simon is going to retake some of his GCSE exams at Hereford 6th form to improve his grades and to concentrate on his independence skills – He would like to be a safari park keeper.
Achievements include: both of them being able to Swim, Ride a bike, Ski, basic cooking, household jobs
Tim enjoys paragliding especially on skis, driving – the larger the better, navigating – he is a walking sat nav, cooking, using a sewing machine and cutting the grass with the ride on mower. Certificates include entry level 3 – French, GCSE equivalent ICT – Pass.
Simon still loves prehistoric creatures and did a presentation to nearly 70 infant school children and staff on palaeontology for his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze. He was a Cub and then a Scout for many years doing loads of badges and holding the standard on Remembrance Day. He is an open water qualified scuba diver and has had a bash at 7 GCSE’s this year.
When asked about ABA recently Simon said
“I remember lots of people who came to play lots of games – I had fun!”
Thank you PEACH and particularly Kim – without you I would not have the brilliant boys I have now.
Case manager Kim says:
Congratulations to Simon and Timothy who have just moved on from being supported by Peach for over 14 years!
Both boys will now be attending sixth form colleges, one specialist and the other mainstream. It has been a pleasure to work with the boys and the dedicated and skilled team around them. It has been an absolute pleasure to observe them grow into charming young men and to have shared all the key times in their development.
It certainly has not been easy for their parents to provide two teams for two very different boys, to work closely with schools and to ensure that the boys are active members of their community but the mammoth task has always been undertaken with awe-inspiring energy and humour.
Moreover, it has been a delight to see how acquired skills have been generalised across activities such as scuba diving, off-road driving and abseiling (gulp!).
Well done to Simon, Tim, their parents and their teams. I wish you all the very best for the future.