The Manipulator.

Every week, there is a meeting for our ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) “team”.  There are so many versions of ABA that I do not know if this is standard procedure for all or more unique to us.  Our tutors, the case manager and the Assistant Director attend the weekly ABA meeting with my son and I.

During those meetings, which take, on average 1.5 hours, my son’s progress in mastering skills and his behaviors are discussed, together with notes and data the tutors and case manager take during school and therapy.  Sometimes, programs are run for the group to demonstrate how he is responding.  Decisions are made about how the programs can be improved, modified or changed to reflect my son’s individual needs.

Tootles has been attending these meetings for about two years now.  He knows the drill.  In the meetings are boxes of toys and games to keep him occupied while the adults talk around him.  He also has always has his iPad available to keep him busy.  But the funny thing about it, is that we all have known for quite some time that he listens to everything we say during these meetings, and absorbs it like a sponge.

A couple weeks ago, I expressed concern over the ear-piercing, screaming sirens he was mimicking.  The tutors also reported an increase in screaming siren behavior.  During the meeting, the Assistant Director asked all of us to take data, including me.  Tootles was busy on the floor, talking to himself, playing with toys.

Later that week, at home, he screamed.  I took notes.  He saw me taking notes over a few days.

A few days before the next meeting, he gave up the sirens.  He simply decided to switch his interest from sirens and police cars to race cars.  At the meeting, his data showed a decrease in instances of inappropriate behavior.  The idea of implementing additional programs or removal of reinforcement was set aside.  Hmmm…. problem resolved?

Next, we discussed his recent unilateral decision to go vegetarian on me.  His burgers and tacos – (who knows really what “meat” was actually in there) were crossed off of his list of approved food.  Instead, he decided that was going to survive on Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop Tarts, peaches, Orange Dream Machine Jamba Juice, Lunchable Nachos, plus various candy thrown in such as M&Ms he got for reinforcement and Circus Animal cookies.  If it was not for L’il Critter vitamins, I doubt he consumed anything of nutritional value, other than, possibly, the peaches.

Our food groups – there’s a chart for this right?

The day before the meeting, in a rare ABA session at our house, we did a food program.  He was required to eat a mini-lunchable with about two teaspoons of turkey bites (which he used to willingly eat), cheese and mini-Ritz crackers.  He devoured the cheese and ate the crackers but packed the turkey in his cheeks, stalling for a full hour before finally swallowing.

A good 40 minutes into the packing episode. Sandy the Squirrel’s got nothin’ on Tootles and his turkey…

We went to the next meeting – food was discussed.  We left.

On the way home, he asked for a taco.  Next day, he asked for McDonalds.

Where’s my “mother of the year” award?

Hmmm, again, problem resolved?

Who is running “programs” on whom?  And yes, one of the tutors is now taking him out to “play” while the meeting discussion takes place.  But not before the siren program was put on hold.

Oh yes, now that the sirens are on the down-low, guess what’s made a re-emergence?

Switching up the siren mimicking to sound effects during Need for Speed on the Wii


Well played, Tootles.  Well played.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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26 Responses to The Manipulator.

  1. Shortly after Daniel was diagnosed I attended a weekly workshop on how to work with Daniel. His mother had previously taken the workshop so I thought we were in pretty good shape as far as knowing how to support him and keep him learning. Very early on in the workshop the instructor dropped a bomb: our kids are very skilled at manipulating us. That comment opened my eyes. I was on to him. It is not that he is a nefarious supervillain or some mind control dictator. He is just doing what we all do: we want our way. It sounds like Toodles has a very sophisticated way of gaming the system which is yet more proof that he is a clever and resourceful boy.

  2. Lisa says:

    Tate and Tootles are very alike in this regard. I often say that Tate could have a Master’s Degree in Manipulation. I sometimes wonder if he does this just to watch me lose my marbles! Our meetings are monthly..and Tate is also in the room as his programs are discussed. He has also proven he can do the tasks/achieve the objectives right after we have worked hard to devise programs to address. Stinker! Maybe we’ll have him go play elsewhere…that’s a good idea.

    Long story short, I totally “get” this.

  3. Oh, the joys of having a smarty-pants kid. I feel for you. Its so funny that we make the assumption that because they don’t tell us what they understand, we think they are not understanding us. They totally know what is going on with just about anything you say in front of them. Tootles is quite the sneak, but in a good way 🙂

  4. Lizbeth says:

    He reminds me so much of mine, it’s scary. I kept telling people he was absorbing and understanding EVERYTHING being said around him…..people didn’t figure it out till he would remind them when their last period was (my sister) and how much they loved being outside (me) and how much they liked him (his old teacher)….most people figured it out the hard way. I just remember to have my phone conversations in the bathroom or pantry….

    • solodialogue says:

      Haha! Well, if your sister ever needed a reminder, there you go! Phone conversation? I remember those. Now, I just text, although he probably reads those too!

  5. Allie says:

    Sneaky boy!!!! He for sure knows what he’s doing. Good thing he’s so darn cute, right?

  6. Very interesting indeed…..hmmmm…… A thought, Trader Joe’s has a lot of the things your son likes but with no corn syrup and less junk…like natural pop tarts, donuts….that might help, taking him off the high corn syrup. I buy most of my food there now. Not advice, just letting you know that option is out there, for his taste buds. 🙂 Hugs, Sam

    • solodialogue says:

      Thanks Sam. I cannot tell you I’ve tried Trader Joes for that but I did get all the ingredients to make his Jamba Juice at home including the cup(!) and he drank 2 sips and walked away… 😦

      I will check it out this weekend and let you know!

  7. Kara says:

    Oh goodness. Those are some mad skills! Yep…sometimes we wonder who’s ABA’ing who.

  8. Tessa says:

    I’ll never forget…we were teaching Noah body parts, such as eye, nose, mouth, etc. to no avail. When asked to find Noah’s eye, he’d find his ear, etc. I was lamenting this fact to his doctor, and he walked right up to me and started touching the appropriate body parts in the order that I had stated. Oh yeah. They know how to work the system. LOL

  9. Oh man!! That picture of him with the turkey was just adorable!! We sometimes call The Don “hamster boy” when he does something similar. Your ABA teams sounds really awesome! I can’t wait to get back in the swing of things!

    • solodialogue says:

      Chipmunk cheeks, hamster, squirrel, it’s all the same! Tootles’ ABA team is a good one. I can’t wait for you to start writing about yours!! (the new one, anyway!!)

  10. Mom2MissK says:

    One of the conference sessions I attended last week was on different types of behaviors our kids exhibit… it was enlightening. I guess I just assumed that someone with social deficits would be unlikely to hone certain behaviors so well, but sue enough our kiddos are masters of manipulation and attention-seeking (among other things).

    I’m going to try and get all my conference notes typed up to share on the blog with y’all this week. Hopefully I don’t bore everyone to sleep!

    • solodialogue says:

      I just often assume Toots is not paying attention because he puts on the big show of “not paying attention”! Haha!

      I am excited to read all about the conference! Bored?! Silly girl! Hurry up already!! 😉

  11. Very, very interesting Tootles. I think he’s got the program down! Hang in there, momma – two can play at that game!

  12. eof737 says:

    Very smart… what can I say but that he figured them out. Ha!

  13. Pingback: Vacation? | Solodialogue

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