Dr. James D. MacDonald's Website
Helping Parents Help Children. Programs for Parents, Therapists & Educators
I want to take some time to share what I have learned from Dr. MacDonald and his books. When I first brought Jonathan to the Discovery Center and even for a while after we started, I thought all Jon needed was someone to teach him to talk. When I was told we were going to start seeing Dr. MacDonald once a month I thought, OK this guy is bound to be able to teach Jon how to talk. (Still undiagnosed at this time.)
I began reading a book (Before Speech) and met Dr. MacDonald. After a little while it finally started to sink in -- my focus changed. I had to get Jon to see me -- not as a faceless person put there to meet his needs, but as a partner, a playmate, maybe to him as someone who had pushed her way into his world. I did this every day -- every chance I got. Jon resisted, ignored me, and pushed me away, honestly, more than once I thought this is silly, a waste of time, but I hadn't found a better option so I kept at it. I started to imitate him constantly -- (I still do). More than a few times I'm sure that people in stores and restaurants thought I was a crazy lady repeating back all of these little sounds and motions -- no matter how insignificant they seemed. On June 10th,1999, our 11th wedding anniversary, Jon was diagnosed with Autism. People are often devastated when they hear this, but we were not. We left the office with the information and with the same beautiful little boy we had brought to the office.
You can't let a name or a label change anything. We already had a plan set in motion and we just kept on going. Imitating, matching, waiting, pushing ourselves into his world and distracting Jon from repetitive and compulsive behaviors day in and day out became second nature to us and it has paid off in a big way; Jon now sees Me and even better, he sees people and watches what they do. Jon now lives in our world, he seeks me out to play with him or to look at books with him. He has figured out ways to communicatte his wants and needs. He plays with toys seeing a toy for the whole toy it is focusing less on one part of the toy.
I really don't see the sessions with Dr. MacDonald as therapy for Jon, but as a class for me. I have learned how important it is to stop aggressive and inappropriate behaviors immediately, that too is paying off. I want Jon to talk, but even more I want people to enjoy him, and for him to enjoy people. I want him to be social and happy, I want him to love and be loved. The language is coming;I know it will get better and better. But we have made progress and I am so grateful for all of it. THis program has changed our lives and it continues to do so every day.
Mrs. Leah D. Thornton
(Darlene and Jim)