Two years ago, this month we were lucky to meet Max and his family. He was non-vocal, had physical disabilities, and was diagnosed later than usual. To many, the deck was stacked against him. We quickly learned that no matter how much that deck is stacked, we should always bet on Max.
Max had sessions every day. He worked hard. Harder than most kids we know. He made progress, sometimes slow, but progress nevertheless. The progress was and continues to be never more evident than when he is outside of his sessions. His family informs us whenever something big happens for him. Those are the stories that motivate us to keep going. It makes everything we do worth it. It is our most potent reinforcer. We have two years of these stories, so it was hard to pick our favorites. Here are just a few that made us so proud to be on Max’s team.
Julie: During Max’s first session I tried to get him to play with some toys, to no avail. His mom, seemingly defeated, mentioned that he liked his swing. So outside we went. Very quickly I realized that he not only liked the swing, he loved the swing. This was the most potent reinforcer I found all day, so I used it! I wanted Max to look at me. Just a glance. So, I held that swing until he looked right in my eyes. When he did, I gave him the biggest push on that swing. I stopped the swing, and he looked again, this time for longer! By the end of the session, Max was looking at me consistently. A few weeks later at his birthday party, mom told me that his family remarked on how much more “engaged” he was and was looking at them. That was one of my proudest moments with Max.
Max’s first time on a “big boy” swing
Anelise: One of my favorite memories of Max was Halloween. We both got dressed up and went trick or treating around his neighborhood with his family. It was incredible to see how eager he was to ring each doorbell and use his new communication device to say, “Trick or Treat.” A lot of what we had been working on was his waiting and requesting using his tablet, so seeing that translate over to a holiday tradition was so rewarding. Max’s excitement was evident-he ran from one house to the next and when it was time to go home, he wanted to keep going. Those are the memories that last a lifetime not only for the family but for the client and it was awesome to be a part of that.
Max flying like Superman on Halloween
Kendall: My favorite thing about Max is how he is socially with me, especially how we joke with each other. This is when you can see his personality really come out. When he’s jumping in the bounce house and it’s time for him to come out, he smiles and won’t come out until I get in there with him and bounce, all while laughing the entire time like he one-upped me! One Halloween I dressed up and was wearing a mustache. When I walked into his house, he wouldn’t talk to me because he didn’t recognize me. When I took my mustache off, he laughed and gave me a big hug. He knew I was playing a joke and he was able to understand and enjoy why it was so funny.
Julie, Kendall, and Max at the ARC 5K in 2017
We often hear people who work in other fields say, “I have a thankless job.” We are very lucky to have a thank FULL job. Parents often thank us for the work we do, and we are grateful. However, today we want to turn that thanks around to our friend, Max. We are thankful that you have taught us that no matter what difficulties present themselves, that with hard work and a smile, you will always persevere.
Written humbly and with thanks,
Julie Bazinet, M.Ed., BCBA, LABA