I love getting updates on children who have gone through my course. Michelle C. has joined me on the podcast before when her daughter Elena was first diagnosed with autism two years ago. I talk a lot about Elena’s case and she’s been featured in several chapters of my book, Turn Autism Around. This episode is airing on Elena’s 4th birthday as we discuss her truly amazing progress.
Early diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Michelle first started noticing delays and differences in Elena’s development when she was 18 months old. Language delays and self-injurious behavior became serious symptoms that led to an early diagnosis by her pediatric neurologist at 23 months. Before Elena could even begin therapies, COVID shut down the world in March 2020. An early diagnosis can secure opportunities for therapy and insurance coverage, although this unfortunately didn’t benefit Michelle’s family, she was able to get to work at home right away.
Benefits of ABA Therapy
With a new diagnosis, Michelle knew ABA therapy was important for Elena’s development. With therapy facilities being shut down left and right due to COVID, the internet led her to my Toddler and Preschooler Course. This course provides parents and professionals with the opportunity to learn and teach their child using proven ABA strategies. Michelle got right to work, finding that the table time aspect of the course provided her with a valuable connection to her daughter. Michelle finished the course in less than 60 days and saw language improvement of 2 words to 500, used consistently with function. This changed both Elena and Michelle’s lives in a big way!
Michelle is a wonderful example of the power of captaining your own ship. The progress she has seen with Elena has made a big impact on her and she now is able to effectively advocate for both of her daughters. Michelle is a valued adviser on our on team, reading and responding to comments across our platforms to help parents. I am so thankful for her willingness to share her and Elena’s story!
Michelle C. on Turn Around Autism
Michelle is a Michigan mother of 2 girls, 2 and 3 (almost 4 years of age). Her oldest was diagnosed with autism at 23 months of age by a pediatric neurologist. After 2 years of using Mary’s strategies at home, that same neurologist is talking about reversing that diagnosis. She was a secondary school teacher for about 7 years and her husband is a police officer.
- Can autism improve over time?
- Can an autism diagnosis be removed?
- Can children’s language skills improve with ABA?
- How can online courses improve autism symptoms?
- Transitioning from ABA therapy to typical school.
- Can you receive special education services when autism symptoms have been reduced or resolved?
- Why is an early diagnosis of autism important?
- Sign-up For Mary Barbera’s Workshop
- New Case Study
- Autism Success Story with Michelle C.
- Dr. Rick Kubina: Fluency and Precision Teaching
- Why Teaching Carrier Phrases is a Bad Idea
- Why Teaching Kids Manners Like “Please” and “Thank You” Should Be Avoided Early On
- Mistakes to Avoid when Increasing Language Skills in Children with Autism
- Lessons about Turning Autism Around: An Interview with a Mom of 2 Young Boys with Autism
Michelle C. – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript
Transcript for Podcast Episode: 164
Autism Case Study with Michelle C: From 2 Words to 500 Words with ABA Online Course
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Michelle C
Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast, episode number one hundred and sixty four. Today we are broadcasting and the date is February 22nd, 2022. So it's two twenty two twenty two, which is a very cool date for a couple of reasons. First of all, we are celebrating Elena's fourth birthday and her mom, Michelle, is on the show today to give us an update. Michelle was previously on episode number 78 when Elena was two after she made very amazing progress after her mom took my online courses. So Michelle is on the show. She's a mom of two living in Michigan. Elena turns four today. She also has a younger daughter who's two. Elena was diagnosed right before the world shut down in 2020 with COVID, and Michelle rolled up our sleeves. She is formerly a high school teacher married to a police officer. So today is Elena's fourth birthday, and it's also the publication date of a white paper. A case study on Elena and her progress, both in terms of her language sample that her mom took pre and post course coupled with standardized speech assessment. And that's all featured in the case study. So this podcast is just an update from Michelle about Elena's journey and her miraculous progress. And Elena is now for today, and she is fully conversational and doing great. So let's get to this great update from Michelle.
Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, Autism Mom, Behavior Analyst, and bestselling author, Dr. Mary Barbera.
Mary: OK, Michelle, it is so great to have you back on the show.
Michelle: Thanks so much for joining us. Thank you for having me here today.
Elena’s Diagnosis in 2020:
Mary: So it's exciting because this is episode number 164 and it's going to air for the first time on February 22nd. Twenty twenty two. And that is your daughter, Elena's fourth birthday? Yes. Which is exciting. I didn't know that, and we are also publishing a white paper about Elena and and you, well, mostly Elena, but your story that you told and your work in helping Elena. So you were first on podcast number 78, and that was when Elena was two. And you know, I give out that no episode a lot and it is. I would definitely recommend that anybody listening to this go back and listen to that episode too. And but will catch people up in terms of what was your fall into the autism world like when did that happen?
Michelle: Well, I started noticing her social skills were just really not comparable to those of her peers at family gatherings, at playdates, and I kind of chalked it up to, you know, she's alone with me or my husband at home, and she doesn't have a sibling. She doesn't have anyone to talk to. So I think that's..
Mary: What age was she when you began
Michelle: She was about 18 months when I started to think, I didn't think autism, but I thought something was different about her. She toe walked at 18 months. She only had three words, and I believe the recommendation by the CDC is that, you know, your child should have a minimum of about six to 10 words at that time, reliably and used functionally. And she really she had maybe like three and then. It just she regressed even further when my second daughter was born in 2019. So Elena, I was about 22 months when my second daughter was born and she took an even steeper decline self-injurious behavior. During her tantrums, she would scratch herself to the point of bleeding. It was really terrifying for me because I'm a gentle mother and I didn't know how to help her, and it was just so horrible to watch her do that to herself. And it looked like she truly looks like she couldn't stop and that she couldn't help it. And it was the most heartbreaking thing. And I just I ended up getting her evaluated when she was twenty three months of age by a pediatric neurologist, and he said I would absolutely place her on the spectrum and that I should....He recommended ABA therapy as soon as possible.
Mary: Yeah. So that was February of 2020. Yes. And right before her second birthday, and we all know what happened in March of 2020 and the world shut down with COVID. And so what were you thinking at that point?
Michelle: It was difficult enough a situation where, you know, she was diagnosed. I mean, that is difficult enough for any mother or parent or caregiver to deal with. But I spent the entire month of February on the phone trying to set up services for her and one by one, every each. Each one of those institutions shut down her services, and I just was just so crushed and so devastated, and I wanted to get her help as soon as possible. I wanted her to be safe and happy even more than, of course, I wanted to hear her voice. But her behaviors were so severe that I, I just wanted to get her help, and I didn't know how. I don't know how to teach her. And I was kind of just crushed and I was. I would stay up very late each night and I was kind of looking through Facebook one day and found your course. Found one of your ads.
Mary: You weren't even at the time, getting any Zoom therapy or any help?
Michelle: No, I had nothing. Everything was shut down.
Introducing the Toddler Preschooler Course to Elena
Mary: Yeah. OK, so you found my course on Facebook and you joined the course. Did you join right away or did you think about it or?
Michelle: I just joined a workshop right away and then I thought about it for a couple of days, you know, and I I was like, I have to do this. I have to try it because at first I thought it was kind of too good to be true. So I because everything that you presented, it was just too good. So everything just sounded. So, you know, so perfect. And I thought, I'm not sure if this is, you know, going to work for my daughter. And I said, But I have to try something. I have to do something. And, you know, it was something that I could do at home now. And that's what I had to do because it was only her and I and the baby, you had a baby and a baby. Yeah, baby. I really did. Yeah, I really did. I, you know, I would. I would play with both of them. But of course, my worries and my focus, they were always on Elena. And of course, I cared for my other child. But, you know, I was just so worried about Elena. That's why I I said, you know, I have to do this. I have to try, right?
Mary: So part of my course is right away. I suggest that parents or professionals who take that, we're going to talk about the toddler preschooler course, for instance, for the course you started with. And that's the course that really has been revised several times. It's very step by step. I think it's even been revised since you took the course to be more step by step. But part of the step by step is, you know, before you get started with these techniques, you set a timer in your case, you set the timer for an hour. You don't even have to do a whole hour. You set the timer for an hour and you got two words mom and doggy or mommy and doggie or whatever. Yeah. And you documented those. And so were you. Were you hopeful that you were going to have an explosion of language at that point?
Michelle: Honestly, no, I was I. Because the words that she used, she used mom and dog, but they weren't reliable words in that she didn't use them functionally. Like if I said, Who am I? She wouldn't say Mommy if I said, Where is mommy? She wouldn't point to me in the room. She didn't know how to point. She didn't look up at me. She didn't look at the dog. When she said, dog, she just had this pop out word that really had no functional use at all. And honestly, when I started your course, I thought, you know, maybe I can get her to sign, sign for or, say, five, 10, maybe 15 words that can just help her express her wants and needs, and that was honestly my my highest ambition at the time because I really, truly did not think it was going to be within her within her capabilities at the time to have what she has now.
Mary: Yeah. And you're a teacher by training your high school teacher. Did your education background help you with all this?
Michelle: I think it helped me with patience with it and yes, I do. You know, I am inclined to teach as it is and inclined to prompt because I am a high school teacher or just a teacher in general. So I think it did help me.
Mary: I think it helped. Also, you did the homework. You set the timer. You got an Excel sheet. You were organized. You had your videos. You had, you know. So these are all recommended. But you know, it's hard because people are overwhelmed when they start. But I do think that, you know, having an education background certainly didn't hurt the situation. But as you, you're part of our online community. Still, we have people from every country and, you know, they speak different languages as their primary language, and we have people that, you know, it really is simple enough that anybody with any kind of background can follow wouldn't you agree.
Michelle: Oh, I would agree. This is something that anybody can do a mother or a grandmother, father or any of any caregiver at all. Any teacher can do this.
Mary: Yeah. So a big part of the program is table time and getting early learning materials. And did that? Did she just fly through everything and start, you know, talking?
Elena’s Language Development
Michelle: She did not start talking right away, but what she did like was table time in general. She loved your materials and we would come to the table together and she would just be smiling. And she liked the novelty of sitting down at a table and attending to something with me because we were so engaged with each other. And I think that was the first time she really felt like. And it's the first time I felt like we were connecting. So it's just so much more than that language, it was, you know, a connection that I started feeling with my daughter. And it was just the most wonderful feeling. So she didn't start talking right away, but she enjoyed table time. And I thought in my head, I'm like, even if I can't get her to sign or mand for five to 10 things, at least she this is something we can enjoy together as mother and daughter.
Mary: So I'm sure the days were long. Your husband was a police officer working and COVID shutdown. You weren't even taking her out to the grocery store. It was. It was totally. And your kids and long days, right?
Michelle: Yeah. And that was it. You know, I was fortunate in that I had some family members that were willing to come over sometimes so that I could do table time with my daughter. But honestly, it was just I would put Isla down. Isla's my younger daughter. I would put her down for a nap and then I would immediately go through Elena and then, you know, bring her to the table and we would learn together. It was. It was like running, running around like a chicken with my head cut off. But well, we made it happen.
Mary: And then so, you know, just really briefly to kind of give the conclusion when right after the course is that and this is in episode 78 is that you started posting in the Facebook group like my daughter went from two words to five hundred words in under 60 days, and I'm like, What? And I said, You know, can I talk to you? Because I mean, I know my materials and things work, but I mean, that is a very drastic change. And so you got on a call with me and I said, You know what? Let's just record this and pretend it's a podcast if you're OK with it. You were always so gracious with giving permission for four, you know, that sort of thing. And so that turned into a podcast. But during that podcast or shortly after, you also told me that you had the Excel sheets to show and it was five hundred words that you documented on your Excel sheet, but you also had a one hour time sample like you did with the baseline. So you went she went from two words to one hundred eighty words and phrases in one hour. What was so impressive was they weren't just single words. They were contractions, prepositions, and pronouns. I mean, it was amazing and you did the 60 day course and you got it done in thirty three days. And she made all of this improvement in thirty three days, which was amazing, right? And then the other thing Michelle told me, I'm not positive, but was in 78 or afterwards, but that you had standardized speech assessments right before her diagnosis and immediately following your course conclusion. And so you were willing. I mean, you sent me all of her reports, you sent me videos and pictures and. And really, the case study that we were publishing on this day on February 22nd, 2022 is a compilation of quickly. I mean, it's not, it's brief. It's a brief case study, but to show that your two words that you found on baseline really went with her standardized speech assessment was when she was twenty two or twenty three months of age in that, you know, some of her scores were at a zero or a three month base of basil on the Rossetti. She had an average of nine months to 12 months skills in expressive language at that point, which was the two or three words you could get. And then right after you took the course when she was talking in little phrases with contractions and prepositions and hundreds of words and phrases per day, she was scoring at another standardized speech assessment up to a thirty month old, and she was only twenty six months old. So my BCBA mentor, Dr. Rick Kubina, who's on another podcast, we can link that in the show, notes he agreed to help me write that case study up. And you provided, you know, all the documentation and you checked the case study for, you know, factual errors or anything like that. You gave us permission. It's a white paper. So we've been able to use a few pictures to illustrate. And I think more people, more researchers should really be pairing parent reports with standardized speech assessments and standardized assessments. Because, you know, it seems like every child in early intervention gets standardized scores. Yet we don't really use them to show progress.
Michelle: Now I agree with you. It was unbelievable the amount of progress that she made. It really feels like whiplash. I still feel the whiplash because she's fully conversational now.
Mary: Yeah, OK. So I mean, I know, I know that. So let's talk about OK, right after you took the course and then it was, you know, the spring and summer of 2020, she got these great speeches, Usman's autism assessment. She was diagnosed with autism by the pediatric neurologist. But then the more you live in the state of Michigan, the Michigan early intervention people needed to give her diagnosis too. Is that right or?
Michelle: Yes. An autism specialist like an actual autism diagnostic center in Michigan had to give her a diagnosis, so she actually didn't receive that diagnosis until August of 2020. But the pediatric neurologist gave us that diagnosis too, you know, to help us for insurance purposes, too. So I was able to sign her up for services that were canceled due to COVID. But I was able to sign her up for services because of his diagnosis, so I needed the actual diagnosis. But he said he was very comfortable at the time diagnosing our problem.
Mary: Injurious behavior, her language was way delayed.
Michelle: Yeah, this was not something I had to beg for. This was something that he clearly agreed with at the time.
Mary: So right. OK, so she did enter an ABA school or clinic or what was her?
Entering ABA Therapy After Rapid Progress
Michelle: Well, after I finished, I think it was after I finished your course. So in June of 2020, she was finally able to go to in clinic ABA therapy, where because of your course, I was able to very much helicopter parent her programing, which I do not regret because they started off the programs that they suggested for her in the beginning were not things that I agreed with, a lot of which were wanting her to use carrier phrases. I want to please and thank you and those things which were not important to me at the time, especially after taking a course. So I was able to advocate for her.
Mary: And I do have a video blog on why I don't like carrier phrases we can link in the show notes manners, why they are not. Because what happens is you take a child who's just talking. And now her language came in. So naturally with contractions, prepositions, pronouns, you will make her sound more rote and more autistic if you try to mess with language and you have to do that so carefully. I also did a solo show based on the work on a lecture by Dr. Vincent Carbone. I don't even know if you have listened to that, Michelle, but it's episode 94. We can link in the show notes, and it's all about how kids can't do multiple word length of utterance until kids are naturally talking and two and three word phrases, and it's so important. So I'm glad that you were there to advocate or helicopter parent or whatever you want to call it.
Michelle: Yes, it was a little of both. But yeah, I agree with you. So at the clinic, they wanted to do all of those things, and I said she doesn't even know what I want means she doesn't use pronouns at all. You know, she should just manding for items, and that's all I care about. And she tacts things, and those were her first big. The explosive amount of language that she acquired from, you know, the materials from your class were mostly mands and tacts that she learned how to ask for things and with like one or two word sentences. And she would, and she was doing the right thing. I mean, she was starting to describe exactly what she wanted. She was starting to say not just cookie, but chocolate chip cookie, you know, and she was starting to just say those things. And that was exactly what I wanted per your course. And it was just so wonderful the way it was developing, so naturally. And they wanted to force through this. I want these and please and thank you and manners. And I just wanted to say, and that's what I really wanted to mention, was now that she's almost four, she does those things naturally. She uses manners and she says, I want something specific. She's speaking and I counted just for fun. Yesterday, she said something on her way down the stairs, and it was just such a long sentence. And I counted off the words, I repeated it back to myself and it was a nine word sentence. You know, back about something and it was just, you know, I didn't teach her to say carrier phrases. It just came naturally by teaching her the way that you promote in your course. Yeah.
Mary: And you did move from the toddler class and you added the Verbal Behavior Bundle, which gets into how to program from the VB-mapp and how to do all those intermediate types of programs, too. Was that also helpful in terms of adding that?
Michelle: Oh, very helpful. Yeah, because it was just the assessments that you spoke about including the VB-mapp and the verbal behavior bundle. Those were used at the clinic that she went to. And so I was able to look at the baby map and fully understand what I was looking at. And I was like, Well, wait a second. There's a gap in her level, too, you know, she's got all of this. I said, What? What is this gap in the tacting? You know, what did she fail? And they were like, Oh, you know, I, they had to go, but I didn't think they would expect me to know what that was. So it's just so empowering to know exactly what your child is learning and what they're not learning, and to be able to address it immediately instead of. Yeah. I Hope someone in a clinic can fix it.
Mary: Sounds like you became the captain of the ship!
Michelle: Thanks to you, forever grateful.
Mary: And how did the clinic feel about you becoming the captain of the ship?
Michelle: You know they tolerated it. Her BCBA was actually a really wonderful person, and I hope I didn't annoy her too much, but she really was very kind to us. She very much cared for Elena. And, you know, when she graduated from ABA therapy, they kind of kicked us out because she was at the same level as those of her age. So they kind of made us graduate, which I was fine with because she was starting nursery school.
From ABA Therapy to Typical School
Mary: What month was that?
Michelle: Or I'm trying to think so. It was in twenty twenty one. September of twenty twenty one. She graduated from ABA Therapy. She was three and a half years old.
Mary: OK, so she went to the ABA clinic for about a year.
Michelle: About a year. Yes, you know, and they were very good at this clinic . At the beginning, I think they were a little taken aback, but they became very good at working with me to program exactly what I wanted for her. And it made such a huge difference. The fact that I was able to do that because of your course and because of what I learned there.
Mary: Yeah. So did she go full time to that clinic or part time?
Michelle: Or she went five days a week for three hours a day, so she went in the morning from nine to 12 every weekday. So it was kind of like her going to preschool. And I actually think it really helped prepare her for nursery school, which she goes to now.
Mary: How was that transition to a typically developing school?
Michelle: So the transition was a little scary for her because it was a very different setting. She didn't have a one-on-one. She still doesn't. But ABA therapy is very much you have a behavior tech and your behavior tech is with you the whole time. So however, her programming toward the end was very much school and classroom based. They had a classroom in the ABA clinic that they used to teach our classroom norms, like raising your hand, waiting your turn, transitions from activity to activity. And she was a little scared, I think because it was a class of 16 kids, they were very different. These are neurotypical children, so they were very different from her friends at her, at the clinic. So I think she didn't know how to feel, but she walked in there. No crying, but I could see the trepidation, you know, in her face. But she handles fear now and social anxiety and such a healthy way and such a mature way for a four year old or an almost four year old. She was scared, but she walked in and, you know, she came home and she said, Mommy, I think I need a nap. And she was just so overwhelmed. But now she's very excited to go to school every day. She just needed to get used to it. Yeah, it went much better than I could ever have hoped.
Mary: Did you disclose to the school that she has autism?
Michelle: I did. And they were, and they said, OK. And they were. So the school I contacted the special ED department to because I thought when I signed her up, I said, I don't, you know, I thought in my head, I don't know what she's going to need. So I contacted the special ED department and they said that they looked at they had her come in and they did like a small evaluation on her. And they said she doesn't qualify for services at all, that she is because she doesn't have an intellectual disability. So her behaviors were not, were not severe, they said, you know, send her in. You know, I would place her in a typically developing nursery school, three year old nursery school classroom. So I did. And so far, I mean, I even had my first set of parent teacher conferences where I sat on the other side of the table for the very first time in my life as a parent. And that was so terrifying. I was so scared. But she said her teacher said that Elaina is initiating conversations with peers, asking other kids to play, you know, wanting them to look at her and follow her. And I just like I just teared up in front of this woman. Oh. And, you know, it was just so wonderful to hear that she is seeking those relationships with other people.
Elena’s Current Struggles
Mary: So what? What kind of things, if any, does she still struggle with?
Michelle: So one thing she does and this is totally unrelated to social, the social stuff we have been talking about. But So when she is in pain, she doesn't express it or show it right away when she hurts herself badly, like when she was when she had just turned three. She reached over a pan and she burnt her wrist a little bit. And I didn't know it right away because she didn't scream or or say anything, and I looked up. I saw her wrist just like a few minutes after and it was I had to take her to the hospital. It was a second degree burn. And they patched it up and we took care of it. But it was like, and my mouth is getting dry from fear, just thinking about it. Because that's the only stressful part for me is if she's not going to respond when she's in pain, you know, like how, you know, how am I supposed to make sure she's OK? You know, so. So that's something I'm still struggling with a little bit. Elena, tell me when you're hurt, you know, tell me when it's not OK. I mean, when she bumps her elbows, she'll tell me, Oh, I broke my elbow, you know? And she's perfectly capable of vocalizing. That's it's just that when that happens, she didn't say anything. Yeah, it was. It was unreal.
Mary: When I think, you know, without autism, you know, people have different pain tolerances, maybe. And yeah, yeah. So she is essentially caught up. You haven't had standardized scores lately, except for the ABA clinic. I guess she was scoring in the VB-mapp range of where she was supposed to be.
Michelle: And oh yeah, her baby map was almost completely filled up. Oh yeah, she was only three years old, and she's fully potty trained now. I would have addressed that as an issue a few months ago, but now it's not an issue. So it's just I'm just so proud of her. I I can't believe how far she's come. She's been. And of course, she's my kid, so I'm biased. She's been such a pleasure to teach and I cannot thank you enough for creating the courses that you've created and for doing the work that you do. I wish I could. I wish I could stand up on top of a mountain and just hold up a banner with your courses because they are just so helpful. I couldn't have done this. I couldn't have brought Elena where she is today without your courses.
Can You Reverse an Autism Diagnosis?
Mary: Well, thank you. And with people like you parents who are telling their stories, I mean, this is a lot to, you know, disclose your story. And she's basically, you know, in a typical setting and you have told me that even the doctor, you know, and the people at the clinic, they're like, she doesn't really qualify for an autism diagnosis. I mean, yeah, I know early on when back in the late 1990s when Lucas was diagnosed, I asked the Dr. Can this get all better or can you reverse the diagnosis? And he said, Well, in his years, he hasn't seen it much and only for kids with mild autism. And that might be a possibility. But you know, don't worry about that. But for you, that's like a really real situation at this point. Have you had any conversations with the physician or with anybody about what to do at this point?
Michelle: I have had a conversation with her pediatric neurologist. This was relatively recently. It wasn't this year, 2022, but it was in twenty one. We had a Zoom conference meeting and he said even back in September of twenty one, he said, you know, when she was still three and a half, you know, he said, I, you know, he said it's possible, you know, by the time she's seven and eight, you know, maybe we can talk about reversing, you know, this diagnosis. To me, honestly and truthfully, it's not important to me. I just want to let her grow up and I just want to support her in any way that I can. And if she is on the spectrum, that's OK. You know, it's there's nothing, there's nothing I wouldn't do for her. And I don't care what the label is, you know, whatever support she needs, I'm going to make sure she gets it. And I know how to do that now because of your courses.
Pairing and Repairing Important Activities and Skills
Mary: And you learned how to advocate no matter what, no matter if she has dyslexia or she or your other daughter. You know, if either one has any kind of learning challenges or medical issues, you know how to advocate. You know how to. OK, let's just ask, let's not freak out. OK, let's make a plan. Let's try to catch her up. You know, I think it's a great thing that you said about not caring about the label and you know. Because I mean, it could be, you know, she could be a little socially awkward or shy or have anxiety, or she can have a little of that if she were not with autism too. Absolutely. Put one foot in front of the other, you know, your goal is just to have her be the best version of herself that she can be. And that changes as she grows and as she ages. And yes, there's but there's no doubt that she has had a tremendous turnaround. And yes, you know, is, is your hard work in rolling up your sleeves and making it happen? And I think sharing her story really helps not only through the case study, which we will link in. The show notes it's going to be published today, February 22nd, 2022. So people can actually reference it, you know. And I'm really thankful that Dr. Rick Kubina, my mentor for two decades, has put his name on it and he's looked at the data and he's helped me write it up because, you know, it isn't about me making course sales. It is about me helping moms like you, Michelle, to really turn things around. Whatever turning things around looks like, you've had a complete turnaround. But it doesn't matter. And the other thing is, you have also told your story to me and I've told it in the book and you've given me permission. Elena is in Chapter eight, chapter nine, and really what I want to talk about quickly is she's also in Chapter 13 because as Elena was making these transformations, I was actually writing the book and Michelle in our community came shortly after Podcast 78 and said, Elena is freaking out, taking a bath and she won't get in the van. She's screaming. And I chimed in, Not that I'm in the Facebook groups that much, but you know, I knew Michelle by that point. And I was like, OK, let's let's tackle this. And I asked you if she had been held down at a medical appointment because that is usually what triggers something big to happen with procedures like, you know, you have a bad ear check where you are holding down and then you go for family pictures and the child is freaking out inside. What does that have to do with anything? But it is very common. And so lo and behold, a week before. Right when the tantrum started in the bath, she was held down for an MRI, right?
Michelle: Yes. And it was. The MRI actually wasn't bad, but we were getting these when she was diagnosed. We were concerned about some of her stemming habits. She would really tense up. So we thought it was possible seizure activity. So we scheduled an MRI and an EEG. And those actually weren't what turned her off from the bath. It was her audiology appointment. I took her for a hearing test too. You know, she got her diagnosis of autism, and there's just so many things that could be wrapped around that. So we wanted to check off all the boxes medically and make sure there wasn't any seizure activity. She didn't have any hearing issues, those kinds of things. So we took her for her hearing test and the MRI wasn't that bad because there's anesthesia and, you know, she doesn't have to be really held down for that at all. It was, you know, it was relatively painless. And the EEG, she actually likes, she thought it was fun to have stickers on her head and she had a little backpack and she thought she was so cool and she acted like she was going to school. But the audiology appointment was what she really hated. She did not like the audiologist at all. He had me. I had to hold her down, restrain her so that he could, like, look in her ears and she did not like it. And I don't know if it was just a bad day, but it was very traumatic. Lots of crying, lots of screaming. And you know what he said to me goes, You know, I think she's on the spectrum. And I said, Yes, I thank you. I do know that. But yeah, so and then she was terrified of the bath after that.
Mary: Yeah. So what we did as the community is, we gave you some ideas about how to systematically repair the potty and this is in Chapter 13, which starts on page 199 of turn autism around and within a week. So on Page 210 is a list of the strategies Michelle used for repairing bath time. And you came back and reported that everything was great now. Yeah. And I was like, OK, can you tell us exactly what you did? So it says a few weeks later, after following the advice of our online community, Michelle had turned things completely around and Elena was asking for a bath. She won't even wait for me to fill the tub before climbing in and when we're all done, she says, play some more because she doesn't want to get out. And she was only two and a half at this point. I think.
Michelle: Only two and a half. Yeah.
Mary: So here are the strategies Michelle used for repairing bath time: play with favorite toys in the tub, with no water in it, with clothes on and then gradually with clothes off. Gather and consider purchasing new tub toys. Fill the tub with warm water and encourage a child to stand outside the tub and reach into the water to play with toys. Encourage the child to put feet in the water for a few seconds and help him or her within the following days to step safely out of the tub. Gradually, as child stands longer periods and plays with toys, pour water over feet and belly and sponge and encourage. Sitting in the tub may happen naturally as the child plays with toys. So very practical strategies in that chapter, and it was all because you posted. The group responded. I responded, We gave you some ideas and then you said everything was better. I asked you for a run down. I'm like, I'm putting that right in the book because this is not the first or even the tenth child I've known who has fussed with showers or baths and hair washing and everything can be paired or repaired. It's just a matter of, you know, really breaking things down like you did.
Michelle on the Turn Autism Around Podcast
Michelle: Oh, of course. And I just want to say also, I am not just some expert at implementing your strategies. It wasn't a perfect system by any means, but you just have to be patient and do your best and really try to follow your core strategy and it really does work. You know, you just have to be patient and there's going to be some problem behaviors and that's OK, you know? So I just wanted to throw that out there that I, you know, I was not perfect at in the beginning at all. I had to rewatch your things. It's like your shoe box VIDEO Like a bunch of times. I'm like, Wait, what am I supposed to do? You know, but now, of course, I'm well versed in it now. But you know, at the time, and when you're in that diagnostic stage where you know your child is first diagnosed and you're overwhelmed, and it was just so wonderful to be able to go back to your videos and be a part of the online Facebook community, it was just so, so helpful, and I felt so much more comfortable and confident having that extra support.
Mary: Yeah. And then, Michelle, you then turned into a volunteer Facebook adviser. And then in recent months, sometime in 2021, I asked you to start being a contractor and you're not working a ton, but you're in the Facebook groups. You're looking at comments on YouTube and responding to people and hopefully you'll be, you know, taking on more responsibilities like Kelsey from episode number three. We're going to link that in the show notes. That's a great episode. She's our community manager and likes just bringing people in that know the courses, know what's possible and can really support parents. So that's another role that you've taken on. And, you know, doing great at is that. Is that something that you know is fun for you or?
Michelle: Yeah. To tell you the truth. You know, and I do love teaching. It's just that for the first time in my whole life, I feel like I'm doing a job where I'm really paying it forward, where I'm where I really feel like I'm doing something truly meaningful just because it hits so close to home for me. It was my own experience with my own daughter, and I want every parent who goes through an autism diagnosis with their child or even delays, you know, whether it's autism or not. I want every parent that went through what I went through and what you went through and what so many parents in our community went through. I want all of those parents to experience what I did with, you know, the success that you can achieve with your child and see that progress and just watch your child blossom now. Yeah. Well, I really enjoy it. It's definitely something I'm very grateful to be able to do.
Mary: Yeah, yeah. So, you know, as we grow bigger and parents and professionals who have had success, who've taken the course, you know, we are just we're growing. So we need people like you who can, you know, you said it yourself, like you want to stand on a mountain and start yelling, you know, we need more or people like you to, you know, tell their stories and you've certainly told your story now here. And it's so exciting that this is Elena's fourth birthday. She's doing so well, and you know, the sky's the limit. Yeah, I mean, I'm sure if I said, you know, what are your hopes for both your girls? I mean, the sky's the limit. I mean, and you don't know what life's going to throw your way.
Michelle: No, of course not. And it's just right before Elena's second birthday, you know, she was diagnosed a couple of weeks before her second birthday, and I was just so crushed and I was. My plans for that birthday party were very different from my plan, now she's helping me plan her fourth birthday party. She has very specific requests, which I am just all about doting on her because I wasn't sure a couple of years ago she would ever ask me for anything. So it's just when I was planning her second birthday. Ya know her social anxiety was so severe that it would send her into self-injurious behavior. It would send her into these scratching fits and screaming fits. And so I was very careful as to who I was inviting, when we were singing, you know what we were going to do? And she couldn't blow out her own candles, so. And I was actually afraid she would touch the fire, which yeah. So it was a very different experience. And now, you know, she's picking out flavors of cake. You know, she's picking out Paw Patrol characters that she wants, you know, like she wants specific balloons and different kinds of decorations that she has seen on Blippi. And it's just so, so wonderful. I cannot describe the joy that I am feeling as a mother because of your course and you know, it takes time and effort and, you know, but the work was just so enjoyable to me. I didn't. It didn't feel like work. It felt like I was, you know, raising my daughter correctly.
Mary: Yeah. And you know, we just have to move forward in a positive way for all our kids. And even if they don't make the amazing progress that your daughter makes. Every child, it just needs to reach their fullest potential. And that bar keeps changing. Right. And so we are just as ignorant, just need to keep going. So I love your story. I love to hear these updates about Elena. Thank you so much for telling us. Before I let you go. Part of my podcast goals are for parents and professionals to be less stressed and lead happier lives. So do you have any self-care tips or stress management tools that you used when Elena was two or even now?
Michelle: Yeah. So when Alana was two, and I think I said this in my last podcast, I highly recommend you just go to bed, stop googling solutions to your child's problems. Just go to sleep. You are no good for your child if you are exhausted. And I think my tip now with the progression that I've experienced, I think now it's important to, you know, really take care of yourself in all aspects of your life. I started actually since twenty twenty I lost 30 pounds, stuff like excess weight that I was, you know, I just my health took a huge backseat when Elena was diagnosed, I was only I was obsessed with helping her, and I wasn't taking care of myself, and I just feel so much better now that I am making time for myself and I highly recommend that every parent does the same, that they make some time for themselves, whether it's exercise or reading a book that is not autism related or taking a drive or getting your favorite coffee by yourself. I highly recommend that you take even just a few minutes a day to breathe, meditate, and do what you have to do to clear your head a little bit.
Mary: Yeah, because life is stressful and, you know, especially with COVID and but you managed to really make a difference and congratulations on the weight loss. That's huge too.
Michelle: Yeah, thank you. I definitely feel a lot better. It was definitely a health issue that I wanted to take care of.
Mary: Yeah, that's awesome. Well, thank you so much. I'm sure my listeners are going to love to hear this update and congratulations on all of your success. And we will link to the case study in the show notes as well. This is podcast number 164, so you can get all the show notes at MaryBarbara.com/164. Thanks again, Michelle. See you soon!
Michelle: Thank you so much for having me.
Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at MaryBarbera.com/Workshop, where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism. And you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again, go to MaryBarbera.com/Workshop for all the details, I hope to see you there.
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