Dear Mary, July 13, 2012

Dear Mary is a bimonthly column whereby readers may submit questions to [email protected] and receive answers related to autism.  Mary Rosswurm is executive director of Little Star Center and also the mother of a son who has been diagnosed with autism.  She understands…

Dear Mary,

My son’s doctor recommended ABA therapy for him. He is four years old and doesn’t like loud places, lights on or other kids. I would like a home program for him.

Jeana, Indianapolis


Hi Jeana,

The reasons you described (dislike of loud places, lights or other children) strongly suggest why your son needs a center-based program and not a home-based program. A robust center-based program offers access to other children, a variety of staff, the speech therapist, occupational therapist, outings, group activities and multiple layers of supervisors. Since your son is four, the goal is to get him prepared for kindergarten, and it will be essential that he can tolerate noise, lights and other people. Addressing these concerns require clinical expertise and closely monitored programming.

While I know that as a mom you want to make your child comfortable — and he may be more comfortable at home with one familiar person working with him each day — that is not real life. He needs to be able to be around new people, in novel situations. Let’s face it – the world is bright, loud and full of kids. As he gets older, he will become more and more isolated if we don’t begin to get him used to these things.

For example, two years ago I was terrified of the iPhone – I had my old flip phone and I didn’t want to learn about this new kind of phone. It seemed very complicated to me and I didn’t see why I needed access to my email or the Internet constantly. I really resisted it until finally my supervisor insisted that I get one. Period, end of story.

So, at first I HATED it. I dropped calls all the time and couldn’t figure out how to turn the stupid thing off while I was on a plane that was heading for take off. I couldn’t work the tiny key pad (that wasn’t even real keys) and every time I tried to hit the “M” key, I would hit the “backspace” instead. I hated it and I was miserable. BUT…the more I used it, the better I got and I learned new things about it everyday. My co-workers would gently encourage me to try new features like the GPS or face-time.

Now two years later, I can’t imagine how I lived without it. I am comfortable with it. It simply was a new skill that I needed to learn, which is exactly what these obstacles are for your son – things he needs to learn to tolerate. It will take time, he may be upset at first, but he will get comfortable and be able to be around these things that he finds annoying right now. Don’t lose sight of the big picture – where do you want him to be when he is 8, 12, 15 and 30? Not home alone, but out with people in different places.

I would encourage you to look at a center-based program for your son and stretch his comfort zone!


Executive Director, Little Star Center