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Three Words I Hate

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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!!”

Me:  (silent)

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.

Reading is fun.

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.


About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

10 responses »

  1. Hi there–found you via Bid Daddy–your comment there had me snorting my soda! Anyway, we’re working on some habit reversal at my house, we’re just ignoring the barking (Yay, me) at present, but I hope your bubble bursts soon or at least you get a 3 hour break at ABA.

  2. Those ABA types really need to give us parents more training sometimes too! I know what you are saying but have never heard “hold the demand” yet – you must be in an advanced course! You are a strong mom to keep it up. The bedtime stories would be too hard for me. Hope that extinction burst comes soon!

  3. That sounds hard, you are awesome for keeping it up. Hope the bubble bursts soon.

  4. That sounds AWESOME. I’m sad we don’t do ABA anymore so we could do it, too.

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  7. Marianne MIlton

    How many damn demands are you expected to “hold” in one day? Would you consider restoring bedtime stories to the high point of your days and skip the teaching component at bedtime? Sounds like you have plenty of other opportunities to “hold the demand”—and you have the right to just enjoy some nurturing time with your son without making it educational, right? Maybe make a big deal of starting a new level of book or a new book series, and just say “I’m going to do all the reading aloud on this series because I want you to practice your listening and looking skills—not your reading/speaking skills—for the rest of the summer.” You’re not caving into his demands: you’re changing the task. Could it work? Conflicts in bed (at bedtime) are just yucky. There’s plenty of room for conflicts over reading at the dining room table, right?


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