In-home ABA therapy continues for 11 hours each week, spread over 4 different days. As the weeks go by, the exchanges become more demanding. Of all the lingo and catch-phrases that go along with this, the one I’ve come to dread and despise most is “hold the demand.”
If I were to translate “hold the demand” to more understandable verbage, I guess it would be “push someone’s button’s until they blow a fucking gasket.” At least that’s what it means in my house, for my son.
This approach can be used in any context, whether working on homework, chores, play, or routine requests for compliance. Here’s a fun example of “hold the demand” at work, while playing with my son.
Connor: “Let’s play driving the cars on the track.”
Me: “Okay, I choose the motorcycle.”
Connor: “No, you be this racecar.”
Me: “I’d like to be the motorcycle.”
Connor: “But I really want you to be this racecar.”
Me: “I get to choose which one I’d like to be, I choose the motorcycle.”
Connor: (yelling) “But I want you to be a car!! I don’t want you to be the motorcycle. I don’t like the motorcycle!!”
Connor: “FINE! Here, be the stupid motorcycle!”
Wasn’t that fun? The best part is, you can turn every interaction into a hostile and combative setting with “hold the demand.” We’ve managed to transform the nightly bedtime story from a peaceful, relaxing time to bond, into an uncomfortable, angry battle of wills.
Here’s how we did it. My kindergartener is having a challenge with reading (imagine that, a kid on the spectrum having trouble with reading) and writing. When we read a book together, we will pause over a word, every page or two, and point to it, asking him to say the word. This pisses him off to no end. He clearly separates homework time from bedtime story time, and has told me that he’d prefer if I just read him stories forever. So I wait for him to say the word that I’m pointing too, and he whines and complains that it’s too hard and he doesn’t know it. Finally, in the interest of getting the show on the road, he will say it (or yell it, or throw the book and be forced to pick it up and say the word anyway).
Next time I do it, same thing. This continues until we finally, thankfully, make it to the end of the book. And as easy as that, he doesn’t look forward to bedtime story anymore. YAY us, we’ve managed to ruin the one high point of each day.
But rest assured, because these outbursts are known as “extinction bursts.” Before a behavior goes away, you will see a “burst” of behavior. At my house, we have been “bursting” every night this week, so I’m wondering when the actual “extinction” will occur.
Lucky for us, we have ABA tonight for three hours. I will be sure to ask whether there is any actual extinction on the horizon, if I’m able to do so between all the holding of demands and bursts of extinction. But if we can walk away from all this anger and yelling and bursting with just one thing, my son able to play with other kids and make friends, then I guess all the extinction bursting will be worth it.