Doing “nothing”

I wrote something on my personal Facebook page the other day about how sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing, that sometimes things have ways of working themselves out. Too many times, parents are urged to do something about their child being autistic. Your kid stims, so you employ an ABA therapist to stop it. Your kid holds their pencil the wrong way, they’re too sensitive to certain fabrics and textures, and you put them through occupational therapy. They can’t speak at age 2, so you put them through speech therapy. I am not saying all of these are bad. I’m not. It just seems to me like people tend to go overboard. What four year old actually needs 40 hours of ABA coupled with both OT and speech with perhaps a dash of physical therapy added in as necessary? What are we trying to accomplish here? Are we aiming to help our kids navigate the world the best way they can or are we pushing them to be less autistic?

So many times, I see this therapy or that get the credit for a delayed developmental milestone. My daughter’s language improved and my parents want to credit the ABA, while I want to say, well, perhaps, but maybe it was our instinct to label everything in the house and treat her like a person who understands what we’re saying – in other words, presuming competence. I’ve heard other people talk about their success with gfcf diets and how that caused their child to start talking. I am not saying that it has no impact, because it might. But when are we going to get it into our heads that autism is a developmental disability and as such, our growth and development is delayed but not stagnant, and sometimes, it just happens naturally?

My son had the same level of speech issues as my daughter, but we didn’t put him through tons of speech therapy like we did with her. He managed to begin speaking on his own and while he has a few issues with language, he can speak well, express his thoughts and be understood by most. My kids are different and I’m not saying that I think that the same thing would have definitely happened with my daughter. What I am saying is that maybe we need to chill out just a bit, let them be kids, and don’t worry so much about doing every therapy there is.

Our goal should always be to do what is best to help our child succeed. That doesn’t need to be some extreme 45 hours a week therapy or intensive program. Sometimes, it’s just meeting them where they are, understanding what exactly they need to handle the world, and pushing for them to have the accommodations they need.

Most of all, if you can, ask them! My son will tell you that he can think better when he’s on medication and he’s less frustrated. My daughter is not very verbal but can absolutely let you know when something is bad. She used to have OT, but doesn’t anymore because it was too much. And that’s fine. The one thing that would have prevented the harmful, curable style “reprogramming your brain” therapy that I went through in childhood/my early teen years was if someone had said, “how do you feel about this?”

Think about your intentions.

Ask the autistic person in your life how it makes them feel.

It matters.


7 thoughts on “Doing “nothing”

  1. I’ve written this sentiment before however I think you wrote it “better” lol…

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have it somehow condensed to five or six words, and tattooed on the arm of every person working with, or related to, someone with ASD?


  2. It is as if you plucked this from my brain ❤ I am guilty of being one of "those" parents who seemingly "does nothing." But I agree with you completely about the workload that is put on some children. I remember when my son turned 3 and ECI home intervention was ending, so the ball got rolling by his people to transition him into our neighborhood public school's jumpstart program. We are a homeschooling family, so our intent had always been to homeschool him, but we seriously considered going with this idea when it was suggested. But the more it was explained to me, the more I realized it was not what we wanted and would not be right for him. They made it very clear that the initial emphasis would be on making him "table-ready" because, according to them, no other learning could take place until that was achieved. But, they operated on the assumption that each child would be going through the school system for the duration of their education. When I pointed out that we ultimately intended to homeschool, so that I had no need for him to be "table-ready" and asked what then? Well, our social worker kinda scratched her head, said, "Well, that is what they are gong to focus on until they achieve it. Maybe you are right, maybe this transition is NOT right for your son and your circumstances. If you guys want to keep him home, I think you could and should do it."

    And we agreed! So, no, we do not do ABA (sorry, but my sons both show evidence of OCD, and I cannot stomach the idea of using operand-conditioning based "therapy" on anyone with OCD – it seems like taking gross advantage of an individual's Achilles heel to me) Add to this the very obvious fact that my children display a Kinesthetic learning style… oh boy – *forcing* him to sit at a table for an entire school day would genuinely have been torture for him. But you know, at home, we are able to "meet him where he is" as you put it 🙂 He learns a great deal, as he is capable of intense focus on items of interest to him. My homeschooler mentality has no issue at all with him spending an entire week studying the periodic table of elements, or an entire day watching a sign language video with great intensity, or jumping off the sofa for an hour straight while watching a musical show about the alphabet. He's 5 and he cannot speak reliably, but he knows all the elements, has known all his numbers since he was 2, has known the alphabet forwards and backwards (not kidding) since he was 3, knows how to sign the alphabet, can name all the planets and most stars. He is full of both energy and love. Don't get me wrong, he is delayed in many areas still. But I am resolute on removing outside pressures and demands and letting him learn things at his own pace. He didn't make eye contact when he was 2, he does all the time now. He spent most of his time alone before, and still needs privacy, but he seeks, gives, and reciprocates affection many times throughout the day. We take it when he offers it, but never force it on him. And although he cannot really talk – we know that he has the words trapped in him. We have heard him say many things, read books, sing songs. It's in there, it has a HARD time getting out (Apraxia), but by keeping stress levels low, he is working on getting it out. it will take time, and I hope to give him as much help as he wants and can handle, and all the time in the world.

    So, aside from the early intervention from the age of 2 to 3, we have done this "nothing." No PT or OT, no further speech therapy, no ABA. He is happy, he is smart, he is strong(!), and I am glad we are on this particular path we have chosen. I ask him all the time how he feels about everything, and I look forward to the day when he finds his own way of answering 🙂


  3. Hi there—

    Words cannot express enough how grateful I am to have found your blog. This is the view and stance that I have held and believed in regarding those with autism/autistics for the last 15 years working in the field with various magnificent people on the spectrum. And let me tell you, I’m not even autistic and I get looked at weird for just having this belief system as a professional where I’m supposed to be “helping” kids with autism. More like shaping, restructuring, programming, and conditioning. Rather than just allowing. I am the rebel with most that I work with. I am about to write my thesis and have been hunting for topics to write on and I believe this is what I want it to be about. I’ve worked with various methodologies, many types of programs, professionals of all kinds, and still, very few have this belief system and are doing what they can do truly honor those with autism. When no singular method proves to help autism, that just points in the direction even more so, (IMHO) that maybe the focus needs to shift from finding the answer and cure, to promoting individuality and the gifts that each have and allowing neurodiversity to take the front seat. If you don’t mind, I’d love some recommendations from you as to where I can go for more research on honoring those with autism, honoring the individual, exactly as one is. I’d love any of your insight and experiences as well. Would love to exchange some thoughts too. Feel free to contact me by email as well! Hope to hear from you soon. Not sure if you’ve seen it yet but check out the video link about Clay Marzo-world renowned surfer. Thanks, Earth!!


  4. I have read on another blog how autism means autistic people develop into a different direction and how we shouldn’t impose NT/allistic ideas of development on them. I’m not sure I agree but it’s certainly food for thought.

    I agree with you however. I think the intention of all this therapy is that a lot of people who wear white coats earn a lot of money. And if by chance they accidentally help your child then well that just kinda happened.


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