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!