Leave Room for Mom in Autism Behavioral Therapy

mom walking with daughter with autism

Behavioral therapy came into my life as a mom of a child with autism, and it felt like someone just tore whatever confidence I had as a mom into pieces.

It’s easy to assume that your natural way of doing things with your child will not work and that you now have this monumental task of learning to be a “therapist”.

But I never wanted to be a therapist. I just wanted to be a mom.

This is My Experience as a Mom Learning to Navigate the World of Behavioral Therapy for Autism

In a matter of a few weeks, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with behavioral lingo--reinforcers, pairing, instructional control, stimuli--and none of it sounds like you just being a mom.

If you are lucky enough to create a good partnership with a behaviorist, you can start to shift this mentality and see the beauty and opportunity in these techniques.

I feel like I have that kind of good partnership with my AnswersNow clinician, Brian. I message him on my own terms, and I get to determine what I would like to discuss.

I have gotten into the habit of messaging my AnswersNow clinician at the end of the day, and it has become a good reflective exercise for me. It is also reassuring because I know I will get a thoughtful response from Brian--not a rushed response that allows him to “check off a box.”

This is one of the great benefits of using the AnswersNow app.

Behavioral therapy has not taken away from my ability to be a mom.

In fact, it has allowed me to enjoy those special times with my son when we are just connecting as a mom and her son.

Behavioral therapy has given me the tools to problem-solve complex situations, to understand how my son’s body is communicating with me when he exhibits behaviors, to know how to help him manage stress in a way that feels kind and loving but also provides him with the consistency and expertise that he needs.

Now I am more willing to take risks when going out in the community because I feel confident we can work together, me, my husband, and my son, towards a good outcome.

By understanding how to communicate with my son and help him transition from overwhelming situations, I feel more relaxed and at ease. This is the case even when plans don’t work out and we have to make adjustments.

My son is now an adolescent, and aggressive behaviors, unfortunately, still happen from time to time.

By spending time creating well-thought-out behavioral plans, my husband and I can function in unison when managing problem behaviors. We don’t waste time overthinking in the moment or questioning our judgment.

We do have a plan in place, though, and if we see that changes have to be made, we know that the heat of the moment is not the right time to make those changes.

We know what we can tackle, but we also allow ourselves the freedom to not enter into a complicated situation if we don’t feel like we have the right energy or time to do it.

We don’t feel like we have to prove ourselves. We can just be parents.

At the end of a busy day, when all the therapists have come and gone, when work has gotten done and we are just at home, we can take our hats off for a little while and just enjoy each other’s company.

Sometimes Luis is tired from a really busy day. I sit next to him and he puts his feet on my lap. I know I could use this chance to prompt for more, rub, massage….I don’t have to.

I know that there is room for me to just to be his mom. To rub his feet lovingly and connect with him. To show him my unconditional love and my conviction that he is perfect just the way he is.

I love that I can fit AnswersNow into my schedule, that I can message my clinician when I have had time to relax and collect my thoughts. Using the app has allowed me to take back my time. It lets me reach out for support when it’s most convenient for me and my family.

I now know that there is time for everything in our days. Even for me to just be a mom.

Mariela Adams