We were typical parents of a child with autism, struggling to control some of our daughter Jessica’s more challenging behaviours. At about 7 years of age, she became aggressive and directed much of this aggression towards children younger than herself. Playgrounds had to be carefully chosen for outings, as this was a common venue for her inappropriate, upsetting and sudden outbursts.
The arrival of her younger sister to our family, seven years her junior, exacerbated the situation. Now around-the-clock, stress-filled vigilance became a necessity. It was at this stage that we were referred to Dr Sue Bettison. Sue had us implement a carefully constructed `time-out’ strategy, in which we would remove Jessica to a `time out room’, where she would remain for three minutes, each and every time she even attempted to push or hit another child. We were warned that “things are going to get worse before they get better” and Sue was right about that. However, Sue constantly reassured us that if we persisted with her strategy and applied it in a consistent manner, that we would eventually modify Jessica’s behaviour.
Sue’s intervention was in hindsight, a turning point for our family. We found that the `time outs’ became less and less necessary and our younger daughter was able to feel more comfortable and relaxed around her older sibling for the first time. In fact now, several years later, they are great mates.
`Consistency’ in the application of behavioral strategies was always key to their success. This was a message Sue would constantly reinforce with us. It was tough for us sometimes, Sue understood that, but she also knew that if parents failed to be consistent, they sent mixed messages to a child and there would be no lasting success.
Sue became our wise sage; our mentor. We turned to her whenever new challenges arose. We were always confident in her expertise and in the knowledge that if we carried out her instructions, we would achieve the desired result.
An unexpected onset of nightly bedwetting when Jessica was 10 years old, again saw us turn to Sue for advice. She had us use a urine sensitive rubber pad, placed under Jessica’s bedsheet which would ring a bell loudly, when accidents occurred. Again, our responses to these accidents had to be consistent and we followed her instructions to the letter. The bed wetting ceased after several weeks – never to occur again!
We will be forever grateful to Sue, not only for providing us with successful strategies, but also for instilling knowledge about autism. Her intervention put us on the correct path that enabled us to take control of our situation and provide our family with a happy, stable and understanding environment.
Mother of Jessica