Autistic Girl's Parents Respond to Some of Our Viewers' Most Pressing Questions

We were so happy about this and as much as I didn't want to go out, we ran to McDonald's as a way to reinforce her efforts. At McDonald's and other restaurants like that, she would grab other people's french fries. We then had to create a "french fry" program, where we got boxes from McDonald's and filled them with fries and set up situations by which we could teach her not to take other people's fries. Now she can walk by people and not grab at their food. We also had to do that with bags of chips from convenience stores, etc. If she ran away and grabbed the chips, we would take her out of the store and start all over again.

We did this a lot but I can tell you that, last week, I took her with me to pick up some things from the drugstore and I talked to her before we went in and I told her she could have one small bag of chips. We went and she picked out one bag. Then she turned around and grabbed a chocolate bar. I told her that was not part of the deal. She put it down. We went to the pharmacy section to wait and she sat down and ate the chips one at a time. She was indistinguishable from the other kids there. I kept waiting for something "bad" to happen but it never did. I then gave her a ton of verbal praise but at a level of a 13 year old. I find that a lot of people talk to our kids like they are babies, and I know now from Carly that she hates that.

We have also done regular psychoeducational assessments. We did one right before her fifth birthday, then at age 9 and 11. We used these so that we would have a longitudinal study of her progress — using the same psychologist for these tests for consistency since we have had about four ABA different service providers over the years. This way, we could track her progress and it showed a steady gain in IQ and intellectual skills.

McKenzie: Describe how Carly types or writes on the computer. How slow or laborious is it?

Carly's Parents: Carly is not always keen to write on her computer. As she has told us, she's not always "on" and she's not "a trained animal." She is a very headstrong teenager. Generally, she types quite slowly using only her index finger of her right hand. When she is very motivated, she can move quite quickly. She says it is very difficult for her to sit still long and focus. It takes enormous energy. It is not unusual for it to take her thirty minutes to have a short conversation.

We use various "reward" strategies to give her incentive to sit and focus. One example is a token board where she collects tokens for each portion of work she completes. After she collects a set number of tokens, she gets to take a break, play with a toy, have some potato chips (she loves potato chips) or watch Ellen DeGeneres, who is her favorite celebrity. Then, there are times when we use no reinforcers at all and obviously the goal is to fade them completely at all time. She is becoming more proficient, and we're hopeful that in time typing will become easier. Some days are faster than others — her mood will often dictate that.

McKenzie: Did Carly ever use facilitated communication or has she always typed independently?

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