Since we began ABA/VB program at home three years ago, Joshua’s life and our life as a family has been transformed. Unfortunately, ABA is not written in his statement. Therefore, the strategies we have at home which works for Joshua are not implemented at school.
For the past six years, going back to school on a Monday morning has always been difficult for Joshua. He generally has a miserable Sunday afternoon worrying about going back to school the following morning. A return to school after summer break has also been very difficult whereby it would take him about 4 to 5 weeks to settle into the school routine. When he then returns for the second half of the term, he goes through another upheaval due to change of school routine in reparation for the festive season. Generally, the spring and summer terms are relatively better for him.
For the past few years, going away on holiday has also been particularly difficult even when the holiday destination is one of Joshua’s favourite.
We began using the HBOT at the beginning of July 2014 and by the time we went on holiday in Mid-August, we have done about 30 hours. Much to most children with ASD and parents’ nightmare, we had a 4 hour delay at the airport and were told that some of us could stay at the nearest hotel to the airport overnight. This uncertainty and sudden change would normally trigger Joshua’s challenging behaviour whereby he becomes anxious and extremely rude. Much to my astonishment, he was very relaxed and playful throughout the waiting time. When we finally boarded the plane, a very young child screamed for about 15 minutes before he fell asleep. This would normally be another trigger point for an already stressed out Joshua. When I explained to him that the baby could be suffering from tummy ache, Joshua said ‘Oh! I feel sorry for the baby!’ and stayed calm. Overall, we had one of the best holiday ever where Joshua managed to make few friends on the day we arrived and had a wonderful time throughout our stay.
When we returned from holiday, we continued using the oxygen chamber for the rest of the summer break. During this time, Josh was negative about going back to school as usual. Few days before going back to school we begun using social stories which we have done in the past few years with very little impact. This year, as soon as we begun going through the social stories the negative comments subsided. We also set up a daily school target for him with motivating reward. Again, we have tried to implement similar strategies in the past few years but failed due to strategies not being followed through at school. Much to my delight, Joshua responded well and met his targets at least 3 days out of five and some weeks four days out of five. The return to school after the summer break has been the most successful this year. Josh still has some outbursts/challenging behaviour but they are minor ones and short lived.
I have just come back to work after spending the half term break with Joshua which was a stress free and fun week. The highlight of our week was when I told him that we will be going to central London to see a Lego Sculpture exhibition. As we began our journey, walking towards the tube station, Josh begun to whine, saying that he would rather stay at home to watch his favourite TV shows. When I told him ‘mum is feeling sad and upset’ he went quiet for few minutes and completely calmed himself. We had a wonderful afternoon and I had to drag him out of the exhibition in the end. Yesterday and this morning he has not once complained about going back to school. Instead he is looking forward to seeing his friends, which is a first in 6 years of his school life.
We have so far done about 85 – 95 hours of HBOT. During this time we have noticed that Joshua’s angry outbursts are becoming less intense. We are seeing more of the happy and cheeky Joshua and less of the angry Joshua. We are now moving on from teaching the basic managing emotions stage to teaching him acceptable and unacceptable manners through the use of social stories. The daily reports written in his home-school book have more positives than negative days. For the first time in 6 years Joshua has not hit a child at school for the whole of the first half term. Normally, there will be at least two or three of such incidents. In class rooms he wants to work independently like the rest of his peers. At lunch time, he no longer wants to isolate and engage himself in his obsessive interest. He has begun to join into various games that his friends play including football which I thought would be a very complex game both in terms of social skills and motor planning.
In the past three years, Joshua had social skills therapy, speech and language, OT and Physiotherapy. I can only attribute Joshua’s significant improvement in social skills to two interventions we have used for the past six months; HBOT and Physiotherapy.