This week, I’m in conversation with Martha Gabler, who originally joined me on the Thursday Throng in October 2013 with her book about autism titled, Chaos to Calm: discovering solutions to the everyday problems of living with autism.
Martha’s son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 and as a result she spent many years trying to find a way of managing family life with a severely non-verbal child. She came across the TAG (teaching with acoustical guidance) teach methodology as a positive reinforcement way of dealing a child who has language and other behavioural challenges. It transformed her life, her son’s life and her family life.
Martha was inspired to share her experience with other parents who were similarly affected. However, she also talks about the pushback and negative reactions she has had from other people about ‘training’ a child. Over the years she has had remarkable success with decreasing the behaviours that are challenging in social and public situations, whilst increasing the behaviours that help a child to communicate and skills that mean family life is now easier.
We talked about the nature of change in human beings and how change happens and one of the things I’ve noticed in my own life and work is that we all learn through some sort of reinforcement – preferably it’s positive, but we also learn by negative reinforcement. It sounds to me that TAG teach challenges assumptions about how we as humans learn and grow, and that this is where at least some of the negativity comes from.
As a writer Martha has evolved from writing for parents, to writing for course and later for writing to create change at a state and even national level. as a result she has become a lobbyist for the autism community as well as her own son. One of the facts that shocked me when we talked about lobbying was the steep upward curve in numbers of autism cases. When her son was born, the number of children in the US with born with autism 1 in 500 and just seven years later in 2015 it was 1 in 45. This is a smoking gun and we cannot begin to imagine what the outcome of this might be on healthcare, support, education and economic factors.
Martha runs a popular website https://autismchaostocalm.com/ with many useful hints and tips for parents, as well as resources to download and use.
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