Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued
Felicity arranged to have the Cattell Anxiety Scale (CAS) and the Pain Analog Measure (PAM) administered to Sadie twice a day at set times, but where the times could be varied so she was not being asked to do them while she was throwing a tantrum or (supposed to be) in a wet pack. This continued for a week, and Felicity was pleased to note that Sadie accepted this extra task with amazing grace. He then arranged for anxiety-relief conditioning to be done with her in the usual way (to the Right hand) twice a day. The only variation from the usual procedure (as described at the beginning of this chapter) was that she was asked to use the verbal signal, ‘Right’, as the cue to have the shock turned off.
The anxiety-relief conditioning to ‘Right’ was continued for twenty sessions (two weeks). By this time the voltage tolerance was increasing steadily over the runs in each session, indicating that the conditioning had worked and the ‘Right’ signal was calming her down. At that point, he discontinued the anxiety-relief conditioning for a week, but continued the ongoing testing.
Next, Felicity arranged for the anxiety-relief conditioning to be started again, but this time with the ring electrodes attached to the two remaining digits of her left hand, and using the verbal signal of ‘Left’. This too was continued for twenty sessions (two more weeks). By this time the voltage tolerance was increasing steadily over the runs of each session, indicating that the conditioning had worked and the ‘Left’ signal was calming her down. Meanwhile, he had the ward staff record the time, duration and intensity of each of her tantrums.
Now, what was all this about? First of all, a couple of notes are needed about the tests which were being administered twice a day throughout this period of time. The Cattell Anxiety Scale is a 40 question test which yields five sub-test scores on different aspects of anxiety, namely, (A) anxiety about feeling disorganized inside, (B) anxiety about losing control, (C) anxiety about what other people might think or feel about one, (D) anxiety of the kind experienced as guilt feelings and (E) anxiety about the pressure of uncomfortable feelings growing within one, such as anger. Felicity wanted to see whether any of these variables might be related to the timing and frequency of Sadie’s tantrums. He was particularly interested in what might happen to the B, D and E scores.
And the results were quite interesting. The A and C scores remained the same throughout. The D score changed a little, but it was unrelated to anything Felicity could find which was going on in her life. The B score, and more particularly the E score, went up and down, rising quickly just before a tantrum, and falling slowly off after each tantrum. This was what Felicity had expected – that is, her anger drive and her anxious effort to control it both increased as she was getting ready for a tantrum, and then subsided after the tantrum. Moreover, there was a slight reduction in the overall level of anxiety, and particularly in the E and B scores, during each of the two periods of anxiety-relief conditioning. And each successive reduction in anxiety, once established, was retained during the rest of the time she was undergoing testing.

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