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I have really, really gone back and forth about whether or not to post about this. As my children get older I believe it is more and more important that I protect their privacy online and only share stories about them with permission. But this? ABA therapy for my teen? I have searched and searched the internet and found very little helpful information on what to expect so I am going to post some basics here to hopefully help other families.
Autism Diagnosis as a Teen
My son had a very late autism diagnosis. He was fourteen when diagnosed with level 3 (severe autism). You might wonder how something like that could have been missed for so many years. It’s not that it was missed as much as camouflaged. My son diagnosed with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder at age 2 1/2. This used to be information we kept private but as he’s grown older we have realized it is often helpful to have a label to explain behaviors and this one is important. Many of the delays and behaviors of autism and FASD are similar but as our son has grown we have found many behaviors that are much better explained by autism than FASD.
We are still figuring this all out, but to help others ( and for the sake of posterity) here is what we are currently doing to help our son.
Teaching About Finances to Kids with ASD
This post has been updated to reflect the debit card we use now, Greenlight. We are currently using it with our 11 and 16-year-old.
We have a few jobs for my son to do to earn money around the house. The problem is money gets lost and misplaced. Most of the things our son wants to buy are purchased online (he loves to browse Amazon).
We are now using Greenlight to help him manage his money. Greenlight combines a debit card with a mobile app I have on my phone. With it, I am easily able to transfer money from my account to his (no need to keep cash on hand). Greenlight costs just $4.99 a month and you can have up to 5 kids with debit cards.
I can add chores to my son’s and account pay him with the push of a button when he finishes. Greenlight makes it easy to put money aside to save (so kids can see it adding up!) and even invest. I get an alert on my phone every time one of my children makes a purchase.
For my son with autism, we really have to take the long view and look at the big picture. Hopefully, someday, he will be paying his own bills with a debit card, but for now, we are using it to help him learn to manage his spending money.
ABA therapy in Our Home
We have finally, finally started ABA therapy! ABA therapy is exactly why I worked so hard to get him evaluated for autism. It took over two years but we are finally there and my son is receiving ABA therapy here at home.
Our current schedule includes an ABA therapist coming out to the house twice a day, Monday through Friday. He comes out at 7 am to help my son get out of bed and moving for school and comes at 5:30 in the evening to continue with the therapy. We are very new to this (just a couple of weeks in) so a lot of the work the therapist does is just getting my son to comply with his requests then rewarding him. Right now the requests include things like answering simple questions (what is your favorite sport, etc). Many times my son answers by writing but as he gets more used to the therapist he is answering more verbally.
Lately, the therapist has even been helping my son with school work. This might not seem like a big deal but my son has never done homework. Ever. It has always been written into his IEP that he completes any schoolwork at home. This feels really big to us!
Swedish Fish are a big motivator during ABA therapy for our son.
What ABA Therapy for a Teen Looks Like
For us, ABA therapy in a teen looks like this. The therapist gives my son a job (they started with asking simple questions and now have him reading a book for 15 minutes). When he complies with a certain number of jobs (it varies so my son does not latch on to a number as the “right” number) he gets rewarded. At this point, the rewards are his favorite treats (junk food we don’t keep in the house). We are a month in now and while progress is slow, my son is complying with the requests of the therapist. I have hope for the first time in a very long time.
Giving Him a Space of His Own
Everyone shares a room in our house. Everyone except our son with autism. We figured out years ago that (no matter how crowded we were) our son needed his own space to retreat to. He gets overwhelmed with input and sensory stuff going on around him. Having his own room gives him a chance to get away from everything and everyone and decompress. He a build a fort, hide under his blankets, hide in his closet, or just enjoy some alone time.
We are still really, really new to the world of autism. Here is a list of great resources I’ve found, but I would really love your input if you have any resources you can recommend.
Other Autism Resources
Don’t forget the weighted blanket! We own half a dozen and I sleep with a 20-pound weighted blanket. You can see a detailed review of three different brands here.
I have a Pinterest board dedicated to autism articles. This is a personal reference guide for me but may be helpful to you.
Meet Penny has a category on at-home therapy for her daughter with autism.
If you have a picky eater I recommend my post Resources for Picky Eaters. It is chock full of resources and methods we used to get my son (not the one with autism) to transition from being tube fed to eating 100% orally.
If your child sensory issues you might want to read my post How to Pack a Sensory-Friendly Travel Bag