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  • Sarah Swindell

Behind Closed Doors

Updated: Dec 15, 2018

2002

Dawson, shortly before is autism diagnosis.

Of all the things we were doing to help Dawson in those early years, this was the one thing I wasn’t sure about. It was the only thing at the time that was proven to help, and I didn’t want to give up. It would mean we were giving up on him, and I wasn’t ready do that.


His first ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapist was a kind and loving young man in his early twenties. He had an autistic younger brother and was recently trained in ABA, also known as the Lovass method, named after the doctor who developed it.

I thought of him as our guardian angel. He was going to be the one to pull us from this nightmare, and get our son back to the way he was before autism had stolen him away. I was sure of it.


Greg and I had no clue what we were agreeing to put Dawson through, and the amount of stress we would endure doing it. We did ABA for almost 13 years, and while it did get easier for him, I hated what we put him through as a baby. I think we were wrong starting so young, but at the time it was our only hope. We were told the sooner we started, the better his chances were for positive results, maybe even eventually losing the diagnosis all together.


Over the years, we have had many therapists come into our lives. They became part of our family in a way, as they were there for the best, and worst of times. They would hug me as I cried from exhaustion or frustration, or enjoy a celebratory glass of Pinot Grigio with me after a successful session or tiny break through.


They all will never truly understand how their love and commitment to helping Dawson, has profoundly impacted me. It is one of the many hidden gifts of having a special child, that only a few get the pleasure of experiencing.


ABA has helped countless children that are newly diagnosed with autism. I do still believe in this treatment plan, even though it was not the best plan for Dawson in the beginning. It was not until he was older, that we thankfully found some new therapists that were not nearly as hard on him, and started seeing positive results.


Here is a small part of a larger writing that will be in the book. This is dedicated to all the autism warrior families that know EXACTLY what I am talking about. You all are hero's, and so is your precious child.


The screaming and crying we were hearing behind the closed doors, was almost more than we could bear. Dawson was only 18 months old, and it sounded like he was being tortured by a total stranger in our own home, and we were allowing it happen. We were actually paying someone to torture our son.


Greg and I would hold each other and tell ourselves over and over this is the right thing. This is for his own good and will all be worth the suffering in the end. But the screams and shear terror we were listening to on the other side of that door, made us question what we were doing more than once. It made me question what kind of mother would allow this to happen to her own child.


This would go on for two or three hours at a time, at least six days a week and sometimes two different sessions of three hours in one day. It took everything that was inside us to not burst in that room and demand it to all stop. Greg actually did that a few times when he couldn’t take it anymore, and I didn’t stop him.



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