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One family’s choice between two kinds of autism education

A week ago, I linked to a parent who explained why she prefers one educational method (Floortime) over another (Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA) for her autistic son. This week, as promised, she describes her family’s experiences with each of the two techniques.


Although I can’t say that my son enjoyed the sessions (do you enjoy being forced to stretch yourself and perform outside of your comfort level?), this gifted therapist gave him so much support that it was almost impossible for him NOT to respond favorably. Every tiny success brought choruses of congratulations, and testimonials like Wow, you are doing such an incredible job—I am sooooo proud of you! I imagined that the 20th congratulatory chorus might not have the oomph of the first. But remarkably, each endorsement was even more heartfelt and genuine than the last; undimmed enthusiasm, thus no diminishing returns.


I learned that sometimes, it’s therapeutic NOT to intervene; that my son needed to know that we loved and accepted him and all the things that made him happy, regardless of whether they were socially acceptable or if they contributed to his cognitive development. Gradually, this therapist introduced toys that would help my son learn, like animal flashcards. Her slow and gentle pace yielded incredible results. Within 3 months, my son, who was previously unable to identify a single animal, could recognize animals and animal sounds, with an ease that was slightly above average for his age level. Honestly, this slow-and-steady pace is much easier to endorse after the fact. When we were living it, many sessions prompted me to second-guess my confidence in this approach and wonder, is this therapist actually doing anything?

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.