Stephen King once said, “Talent is cheaper than salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” The kids we are supporting in this community are some of the most talented kids I’ve ever met and they are working hard to achieve the weekly goals we set for them. Some of the tasks we are teaching, like communication and play skills, take more work for our kids than for kids without autism, but with their hard work and the dedication of our families, we are certain they will succeed.
Today we had a great session with A. It was one of the most challenging sessions yet for him and his father, but we know that the strategies practiced today will be helpful in the long term. A has learned that he can get the things he wants by screaming, kicking and throwing objects and one of our goals is to stop reinforcing these behaviors and reinforce him for asking for the things he wants. This is something important for his father as well as these behaviors can cause him headaches and even lead to physical injuries. In the session today, we worked on teaching A’s father not to let him use these behaviors to escape from tasks, and instead to ignore these behaviors and find opportunities to prompt him to complete the requests made of him and to reinforce when he does so. As we do this, it is also important that we teach A to ask for a break so that he can communicate his needs.
We also gave the teacher who participated in A’s session the opportunity to work with him on the questions we were teaching him to answer. After watching his father work with him on community safety questions like “What is your name?” “How old are you?,” “Where do you live?” and “What is your address?” the teacher learned quickly and was able to jump in and work with A.
As A learns that kicking and screaming will no longer allow him to escape from tasks he doesn’t want to do, we explained to A’s dad that these behaviors might get worse before they get better. Since this is what has worked for A before, he may try to do more of it than he used to so that he can get what he wants. Once he sees that this doesn’t work anymore, he will start using his new replacement behavior (asking for a break) during situations like these. We know that today was a challenging one for both A and his father, but A’s father found the day valuable and knows that anything is possible if he persists and stays dedicated to his son’s progress.
For me, the most beautiful thing about working in this village in northern Jordan is all the love they have to share. Today, one of the families in the community was celebrating their daughter’s first birthday, and invited us to join. As we joined them in this wonderful celebration, we were reminded that no matter how daunting the future seems or how challenging things get, you can still enjoy the special things you have in the present moment. We hope that our families will always remember to enjoy the present as they work toward their futures.