The plea for help from a grandfather came as a message on Instagram. It was in the middle of a
Live for parents and doctors and educators in Brazil, translated by an amazing neurogenticist
that I had become close friends with. His two-year-old autistic granddaughter wanted nothing
to do with him. His presence brought screams and tears and transparent display of aversion.
What could he do? He did his best to engage her, play with her, comfort her, only for her to
walk away in tears and he, in despair. I asked what she liked. A favorite toy? A snack?
Lollipops! That’s it then, I said. Just enter the home holding up one or two lollipops. Sit on the
same couch, but far enough away to not invade her space. Don’t attempt to play, engage, or
interact. Smile routinely, holding up those wonderful lollipops. Do this for every visit, every
encounter. Eventually, visit without the lollipops.
The result was quick. By the end of the following week, an emotional grandfather reported that
he was now able to see his granddaughter, interact with her, play with her, without an
exhibition of her horror. And the wonderful thing was, while the first few visits involved her
attention to those giant lollipops, her joy quickly transferred to the very presence of her
grandfather, outside the view of those lollipops.
One of the fathers, a viewer, caught on to this strategy. He drew erasable cartoons all over the
shower and now bath time no longer included tears and screams. I was sent a picture of the
animatedly drawn shower, along with a translated text.
These are just one of the strategies used in ABA. It’s called, pairing. You pair a mutual or
aversive item with an item that is rewarding. There are several strategies used for all the
challenges our families and our little ones affected with autism face every day. And as you can
see, the strategies can be used in any part of the world where families desperately need help.
This blog will give snapshots of real life encounters we experience out there in the field, some
of the strategies used, some of the challenges, and some of the triumphs. It will also involve
some heartfelt encounters with parents trying to cope with the uncertainties of the future,
fighting a sense of powerlessness, but holding on to hope and faith and love. Of course, all
identities will be kept in anonymity.
Come join us in this journey every month, one entry blog at a time.