Of all of the things I hear people talk about that changed their lives and helped their children with Autism grow, therapy seems to be the number one thing people attribute growth and change to in their children behaviorally and socially. The three therapies we utilized are Speech, Occupational, and Physical. After an evaluation of my children and their strengths/weaknesses, in home therapies were approved, and we were on our way.
Our speech therapy was the first one we got enrolled in. The boys were very young, and this therapy was mostly board games and tea parties. We were learning taking turns and using inside voices. Both of these are very important lessons, and they caught on quickly. A few months in, they were telling me they did not like being treated like babies, and a sense of dread came over my house on Monday and Wednesday.
The occupational therapy dealt with fine motor skills. This could mean they were putting beads on a string or playing with building blocks. The boys usually looked forward to this therapy, and they were pretty happy to play when the therapist came, 2 days a week as well.
Physical therapy was a different story all together. Some days, we walked to play in the park. Some days, we kicked a ball. It depended on the day, and the mood of the therapist. Two days a week were once again filled with dread.
Having a constant stream of therapists in a home for an hour each with two children who could only hold themselves together long enough to get through school soon became a daily battle for some kind of peace. In complete meltdown mode, therapists and social workers witnessed the destruction of my home from the living room to their bedroom almost daily, taking out lamps, running into walls, screaming, and these children needed help. It was over-stimulation, it was every bad video of a true meltdown on an eternal loop beginning, at one point, from the time we got up until they went to school and from the time they came home until they finally fell asleep banging their heads on a wall.
Now, I am not about to tell you the therapy was the beginning of the meltdowns. I had been in the middle of the storm for years, ducking as baseballs and lamps and clothing flew at my head. I had sat on many floors many nights holding a child either screaming or laughing hysterically and flapping those hands, rocking back and forth, ignoring their name, and never looking me in the eye. We were tired.
I cannot really explain what it is like to see a child go into a rage throwing a lamp or a plate of food and all you can really do is feel defeated. This therapy was supposed to help. This therapy was supposed to be for them.
What I was realizing was I was losing any control I had. With Autism, any step forward usually comes with a step back. I remember just wanting to feel some peace. At one point, I called to cancel Speech and she asked why. I said I am going to Wal-Mart. The woman showed up there. For therapy. She showed up in the most confusing and most stimulating place you can take a person with Autism, for therapy. You have a child who has a disability that amplifies all of their senses, and right now I am talking about Matthew, and you decide you want to do therapy, which causes meltdowns, in Wal-Mart?
Still quite overwhelmed, still hearing therapy is the only way, we continued. The kids came home. They screamed. They rocked. They threw things and hit each other, and still the therapists came.
I remember the day we stopped.
I think it was Matthew who came in first and saw the therapist. We were in the living room. I had a lamp, the stand up kind, and the top of it was glass. I also had a Wii in an entertainment center with a T.V. As soon as he saw that therapist, he went straight to the lamp and he threw it across the room, and it shattered. He kept going, screaming, and he went for the Wii, pulled it down, and started to go for the T.V. He tore down his bed room door, and sat on his bed to rock back and forth. While all of this was happening, Sam was also melting down, and there was absolutely nothing I could do.
The only thing I could do was stop.
I did just that.
They do therapies in school.
A home is a sanctuary.
If it isn’t, it should be.