When we relocated last year we were blessed to find an autism behavior specialist who agreed to work with Rachel. At first, though, I was nervous. The therapy discipline in which Ms. Brenda was trained was one that had been the subject of a lot of controversial discussions among friends in the autism community.

Still, I felt a sense of peace that this was the right move for us, and each time I spoke with Ms. Brenda I liked her more.

At first, therapy was stressful. Ms. Brenda came to our house and Rachel did not like discipline being imposed on her in her home setting.

She screamed for the entire hour the first few weeks. I hid downstairs and tried to drown out the sounds.

Fast forward eight months and I have a different child. Rachel loves therapy, and she has become settled enough that it is easy for me to participate without disrupting too much, although I get into trouble for cueing Rachel too quickly. Ms. Brenda says Momma needs to let Rachel figure things out and stop babying her …

Hmm.

One morning, Rachel didn’t want to comply. Instead of listening to Ms. Brenda, she made little vocal noises and tried to play with the piano in the corner.

Her behavior bothered me, of course, but it also exposed some of my parenting weaknesses. My first instinct would be to bribe her to come back over or cajole her into paying attention to my activities. Not Ms. Brenda. She gave Rachel a command to come back over and work. Rachel screamed her defiance.

My stress rate shot up. Thankfully, my dog was next to me on the couch, so I bent over and put my head on his side to keep calm knowing Rachel feeds off my emotions.

Brenda didn’t get emotional at all. She leaned forward and turned off Rachel’s toy. She pulled out an activity Rachel liked, so Rachel was enticed to return to the work area. Interesting, though, Ms. Brenda switched the activity when Rachel sat down. First Rachel had to follow a few commands (matching cards). Ms. Brenda praised her for her hard work then gave Rachel the preferred work activity.

Sometimes I shy away from this kind of structure and discipline because it is easier to let Rachel do what she wants. But in the end it doesn’t help anyone. Rachel needs structure and she needs a mother who is willing to take the harder road to make boundaries. I use my dog to help me de-stress during those difficult times, take a deep breath, and re-engage just like Ms. Brenda does because I keep my eye on the long-term.

May you have strength for the long-term goals, my friends!

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8 Comments

  1. Thank you. I need encouragement to be a better parent with our autistic son. I exhaust easily from disciplining him. Then I see the long road ahead. I need to gird up out of love for him in order to discipline and teach him now so he can be more disciplined in the future. Your story is exactly what I needed today. Thank you and praise God.

    1. Aww! Your words brought tears to my heart. Sometimes the best encouragement the Lord gives me is encouraging others. Hang in there, sweet friend!

  2. Keep on striving to train and teach your daughter. I know someone who was autistic that has come a really long way and was able to stop some of the things she did because of parents who worked hard helping her overcome herself. Today she is a wonderful lady and though she is still autistic you wouldn’t know it on the occasional meeting or activity.

    1. Thanks for that encouragement. Those kinds of stories uplift me and give me strength to continue striving forward!

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Discipline is so hard especailly with all the communication issues that accompany autism. Do you feel comfortable revealing the name of the controversial therapy that your daughter is getting?

    1. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). We have also used Relationship Development Intervention (RDI). Both are wonderful! I think God has placed us in the hands of the therapists at just the time we needed them.

  4. Nell Kirk says:

    Rachel is showing more compliant behavior. She now plays near us (in the same room with a toy of her choosing) when we are having a family game of Old Maid, Go Fish, or Uno. She is interacting more and will hug you when she leaves. Both ABA and RDI have been good for her.

  5. Thank you for this encouraging story. I too face a child with Autism and I too struggle with my son. Here recently its been so bad that I have cried almost daily at the end of the day just to do this all over the next day. But yes motherhood has taught me a lot of different things and I have to remember God gave me this blessing.