Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Catherine - Interview 16

Age at interview: 54

Brief outline: Catherine and her husband have two teenaged daughters, both of whom have been diagnosed with autism. Catherine has homeschooled her daughters using an ABA programme for several years.

Background: N/A

Audio & video

Catherine and her husband have two daughters, both with autism on the severe end of the spectrum.  Catherine’s older daughter was slow to reach all milestones and had difficulties from age one.  She still has no speech but is learning to communicate using British Sign Language. Her sister’s early development appeared more normal but by 12-15 months it was clear that social and language milestones were very delayed.  She had frequent tantrums.  She started to have seizures at age 11.  With intensive one to one teaching (see below) she has developed some speech. 

Nine years ago, at ages 8 and 5, the girls started to be educated mainly at home, in programmes designed to teach language and related skills using an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) approach.  This involves breaking down tasks into very small steps and generalising learned skills in different environments with different people. The girls have 25 hours of schooling each and are taught by a team of teachers with Catherine’s support.

For Catherine, one of the strengths of ABA is that success is measurable and sustainable.  She stresses the importance of using trained, competent teachers capable of creating a positive learning environment where the child is happy to co-operate.  The girls have remained involved with the local school and attend for brief periods each week at a level that is appropriate for them.

Catherine feels strongly that health professionals should offer parents constructive advice for helping their children’s development and not present a bleak future for children with autistic spectrum disorders. 

Catherine’s older daughter enjoys listening to music and going for long walks.  Her younger sister likes shopping and videos.  Both girls love physical play and car trips.


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