Country and City
The Art of Keeping Calm

More on the After Effects of Years and Years of ABA

A walk in the slush

Happily, the call I got at 5.30am Tuesday from Charlie's school was for a 'delayed opening' rather than an all-out snow day. School started at 10.45am; after Jim and I had shoveled and scraped away the icy snow and slush, Jim drove Charlie off at a quarter after 9am. They were very early (even with the delayed opening) so they got bagels and drove around here and there and a relieved Charlie went into school.

If you've still got a snow day where you are, total sympathy, plus. I'd like to say that unexpected days off are easier for Charlie now than in the past. I think he knows what 'snow day' means and, after last winter's series (a rather epic-feeling one, at that) of snow days, Jim and I have a very good idea of how to plot out the day to help Charlie get through it. Nonetheless, slogging through a day when you're unexpectedly thrown together and when you often can't do much outside for long periods can be challenging.

We did use to take Charlie sledding. I do think he enjoyed the thrill of going faaaaasssttttt!! down a hill. But sledding always ended up being one of those activities in which Jim and I put in about 92% of the physical effort: dragging the sled up the hill, getting Charlie to sit on it, getting Charlie to place his hands and feet in the right spot, worrying about Charlie falling off the sled with resulting 'upsetment,' worrying about Charlie pitching off the sled into the snow with more 'upsetment,' worrying about Charlie colliding with another sledder/s due to his being unable to steer the slide. Not to mention the soggy, cold, wet trek back to our car.

I'm feeling in need of some hot chocolate at the thought of it. Except, Charlie never showed an interest in such, hot liquids not being to his (sensory) liking.

I guess I sound like a killjoy!  Jim did often sit behind Charlie to help with the steering. But thinking about our something more like misadventures in sledding reminds me that often, as parents of kids with disabilities, we have to put out 92% plus effort. And then, quite often, all the things about some activity that parents of typical/not-disabled kids speak glowingly about ('sledding was so much fun, we've got to do it again soon as the next snow day!'), are things that have the whiff of 'ordeal we barely got through in one piece' about them for us. Which is not to say I'm not glad that we did try things like sledding.

But I am rather glad we can say we did them, and have, as Charlie has gotten older, focused more and more on the things that he is inclined to do such as, you guessed it, bike-riding. Riding bikes has indeed become a 'sport that knows no season' around here. The yellow jackets and super super warm gloves have made a huge difference. Jim and I have also become quite adept at loading the bikes on and off the rack on our car very quickly. In full belief of 'division of labors,' it's become my job to put the bikes safely away in the shed in our back yard after rides: Jim is doing all the bike riding with Charlie  (not to mention the driving). Yes, we do want Charlie eventually to help out putting away the bikes, but at this time we're pleased enough that he rides uncomplainingly in quite cold temperatures.

Of course, icy slush and snow make bike-riding conditions treacherous so I don't know when Jim and Charlie will be back on their bikes (but you know us.....). Yesterday Charlie and I did a walk around the neighborhood instead. He has definitely been far less interested in walking than bike-riding and this walk occurred in the evening, after Charlie had said 'no walk, no walk' earlier.  We definitely take the 'just biding our time' strategy now: Charlie is 13 going on 14 and he needs to assert himself. 

Too-- due perhaps to years and years of taking an ABA 'do this---then you'll have this' approach---we used always to insist that Charlie do something we wanted him to do, before something that (we opined) he wanted, like a ride in the car or some such. In the past year, we have been doing the opposite and while, on the one hand, we stand to be charged with 'just letting him do whatever he wants,' the result has often been that Charlie doesn't seem to feel that he constantly has to do X to get Y, and just comes around to asking for X (the walk, last night) on his own. 

I only hope he doesn't ask to go sledding, as the sled got 'recycled' in the last town-wide clean-out-your-basement pick-up last fall.

But, if Charlie really wanted to, we could get a new sled (Target is never far away). A growing-up boy would need a bigger one than we used to have, anyway.

And maybe he might want some hot chocolate, too.




Whenever I see pictures of people having fun in the snow at Mount Parnassos I have pangs of guilt thinking that Dimitri is missing out. But at the same time know it would be 92% plus effort, and a good chance that Dimitri won't like it (his few experiences with snow he didn't like it too much, although at the same time I know many of these things require practice to get used to - dilemma!).

Charlie's choice of biking and your honing in on that is the correct approach I would guess. Don't many parents enroll their children in a variety of activities in the beginning, only to narrow that down as the childs preferences emerge? (sometimes I think there is a lot of pressure to "include" into popular activities, but if it's not for you - it's not for you).

Dimitri doesn't like warm drinks either, I sometimes wonder if, when older, he will like such things as tea or coffee (or, good grief, beer!!)


I pushed mine down the hill - 12' drop off the back yard - Xmas eve and he steered into the pear tree.

Banged his knee... was ok... but gave his Mother a heart attack. He's been back at it since. Luckily he can now bring his sled up and down, get on, push off etc all by himself.

Except he gets side tracked with snow eating... sigh... :)


Not that "typical parenting" is always rainbows and unicorns but it is definitely easier. Sledding for my kids was a joy, marshmallows included. Reading your blog makes me grateful for my good fortune. We all love our children, no matter what their level of functioning.

Barbara Boucher, OT, PhD, PT

Maybe some warm chocolate, eh? (People drink warm beer?)

Sounds like you and Jim gave sledding the ol' college try. Looks like you and Jim, perhaps due to years and years of using an ABA approach, are open to it if Charlie wants to try it again. ;) (I mean, not only Charlie was affected by ABA.)


I think it's great that Charlie is processing the world for himself in his own good time without being led to do it. Don't listen to any unkind person who says that you "just" let him do what he wants.

Our children have so much to teach us about how they see and hear and feel the world--especially as they begin to know who they are as teens.

I just came across the bibliography for a body of research out of the University of Montreal by psychiatrist, Laurent Mottron et al. about how people with Autism process the world and how children develop with this kind of processing.

Kristina, have you seen this research? It looks very promising in terms of validating what we as parents witness as our children's real lives and devising educational strategies that respect who they really are.


Sledding -- we went sledding on Sunday, intrepid mama taking both daughters on her own. Guess which kid melted down and started insisting that we go home, not 15 minutes after we got there? Uh-huh, the "neurotypical" one.

Always an adventure!

Kristina Chew

'letting go' has become so key to life with Charlie----very counter to ABA which is so, ah, structured/controlling in an OCD kind of way.

not that I regret Charlie doing all those years of ABA; there's just a lot I would watch out for now, as far as asking myself 'is our insistence on this being _just so_ perhaps counter-productive'?

we tried sledding for a couple of years in a row. Charlie did smile at some moments but the last few adventures were mostly driven by us. --- yes, @JoyMama, it's always an un(expected) adventure!

@Sarah, I like D.r Mottron's work much, especially his work with intelligence testing using the Raven's Progressive Matrices. I used to be more wary of saying this, but we really do think, as in know, that Charlie is very smart, though traditional IQ testing suggests, um, otherwise.


Do you know of any good educational innovations out there based on our teens' thinking and planning process rather than the neurotypical mind? I attempt to create mind-friendly learning activities for Mars in homeschool and would love to meet others on the same path.

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