Fuck You, Fuck You, and Fuck You. Who’s next?

*Thanks to Lei Wiley-Mydske for letting me use her kick-ass narwhal graphic for this. Lei fucking rocks. You should check out her library. https://neurodiversitylibrary.org/

*CW: ABA, ABA apologists, general fuckery by ABA cultists moonlighting as cyber-bullies

My last two posts seem to have ruffled a few feathers. Well, more like a fuckload of feathers. I’ve gotten everything from condescending comments (most of which didn’t make it past moderation) to full on hate mail complete with threats. All because I, like so many autistics before me, dared to call ABA abusive. And just like the others before me, I was met with abuse by the same people trying so desperately to convince everyone that they don’t abuse autistic people.

Here’s the thing, though. You don’t get to make that call. We do. So you need to sit the fuck down, shut the fuck up, and listen to us because you don’t get to decide what’s in our “best interest.” We are saying ABA is abusive and all the able-splaining, gaslighting, and threats in the world won’t change our minds. Nor will it keep us silent.

So here’s the deal: This is my blog and I will write whatever the fuck I want. Don’t like it? Too bad. Discuss that in your own space, not in mine. I will not allow my space to become a platform for ableist ABA cultists to promote their shitty ideas and practices. So I will no longer be allowing comments of any kind on my posts.

But don’t fret, you’ll still get a chance to show everyone what a shitty human being you are! I am going to be creating a Wall of Shame page just for you! Instead of me responding individually to every single asshole that comes along (which I have neither the time nor desire to do) I’ve decided to make a fun audience participation activity in which ABA survivors, and other members of the ND community can respond to your bullshit, as well as bullshit they’ve encountered elsewhere and have your shitty comment along with their response added to the Wall of Shame page.

Please note that comments and responses to comments that have already been posted may be transferred to the Wall of Shame, since I will be removing all comments from posts. I assume that those of you who posted or attempted to post comments in a public thread are OK with your name being connected to that comment since it would have been/was if you posted a comment. Those of you who did not post in a public way will either have your names blacked out or be assigned a number or pseudonym.

This will not only allow your behavior to speak for itself, and potentially show your clients exactly what kind of scumbags they’re dealing with, but it will also allow autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people to respond to your nonsense without giving you the opportunity to harass them. My community gets the final word here. My space, my rules. So brace yourself for that upcoming project and until then, fuck off.

I Abused Children And SO DO YOU: A Response To An ABA Apologist

This was written in response to this article which was written in response to my first article:
http://www.singingthroughtherain.net/2017/04/aba-not-abuse.html

You can read my first article here:
https://madasbirdsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/i-abused-children-for-a-living/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

*CW: ABA/Autistic Conversion Therapy, abuse, torture (including graphic images and video of), mention of “awareness,” “recovery,” Autism Speaks, filicide, and links to all of this and other material that many people may find triggering. Please proceed with caution…

*CN: This is a very long read so settle in for a while (or save for later)…

Dear Condescending ‘Autism Mom,’

I’m assuming that’s what you call yourself since your views seem to be right in line with those who prefer that title. I also think it’s fair to make assumptions since you’ve made plenty about me.

Still, I wanted to sincerely thank you for writing your article, “True ABA Therapy Is Not Abuse: A Response.” You see, despite the fact that my article contained language that might be considered shocking to some, while yours resorted to fluff words and double-speak, we were in fact describing the exact same thing. So your article actually did a better job of proving my point than mine did. Thanks!

My choice of language was intentional. For one, I’m a direct person and prefer to keep things real. But the main reason is that I wanted to explicitly point out how abusive ABA therapy is even in the absense of aversives, even when only “positive reinforcement” is used, and yes, even when the child appears to be having fun. That was the entire purpose of the article.

Yet you along with many others seem to have missed the point entirely. I was not a child-hating, poorly trained ABA therapist. Nor are your kids’ therapists Mary Poppins incarnate. Literally the only difference between what I described and what you described is perspective. And they say WE lack “Theory of Mind!”

 

ABA survivors have written extensively about being subjected to ABA therapy that utilized torturous aversives (which IS “True ABA,” by the way) and some have even touched on the fact that not all of what’s labeled ABA these days is actually ABA. However, I haven’t found any writing by survivors on ABA in the form it usually takes today (the way you described it and the way it was perpetrated by me.) This is most likely because these kids aren’t adults yet and haven’t gotten around to telling their stories, NOT because it isn’t abusive. So I wanted to share my opinion on this “lighter” form of ABA from the perspective of an (unidentified at the time) Autistic former ABA therapist.

Due to the assumptions you made and the misinformation you are now spreading, I thought it necessary to respond to your response. So here we are. Obviously, there is only so much I can fit into one piece and I don’t actually expect you to learn anything since you have already demonstrated your willful ignorance and refusal to listen to the people actually affected by your beloved ‘therapy.’

 

For those who ARE willing to listen to #ActuallyAutistic people I have peppered this article with links to the work of prominent Autistic advocates/activists and I hope you will not only learn from the small samplings I have included, but follow their blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, read their books, attend their conferences & presentations, etc. because contrary to popular opinion, the best way to learn about autism is by LISTENING to autistic people.

 

This is, after all, how I came to realize that ABA is abusive. By listening to Autistic voices, taking their concerns to heart, and seeing things from their point of view instead of getting defensive. This was pretty easy for me because like many of the former ABA therapists and parents who reached out to me, although I didn’t see the abuse inherent in it at the time, I did have the feeling that something wasn’t right. It took listening to autistic people and learning about autism from autistic people themselves, to understand why it never “felt right” and how harmful it really is. Learning about Autistic culture and history, the history of ABA therapy, disability rights, ableism, the neurodiversity paradigm, and the social model of disability further solidified my understanding of how unethical ABA (not a particular company, therapist, or technique, but ABA therapy at its core) is.

Discovering this hard truth, that I had been part of an industry that has potentially harmed countless autistics made me want to do something about it. It made me want to make sure that the next generation of autistics (and the generations that follow) would be accepted as they are, supported, accomodated, and cherished. That parents would stop subjecting their children to this archaic and completely unnecessary ‘therapy.’

 

I reached out to a prominent Autistic advocate who, in addition to all the other projects and organizations she was involved in, was doing a local advocacy project in her area to educate people about autism from an autistic perspective. She helped me start a similar project in my area. We became good friends and through her I have met so many other awesome Autistic people including many other prominent activists (none of whom support ABA by the way.) You see, despite being large, the Autistic community is a pretty close knit community. We all pretty much know each other, we’re familiar with each other’s work, and we have each other’s backs. We have to. The so-called “autism community” aka parents and professionals community doesn’t have our backs. Hell, they won’t even listen to us. They actively work AGAINST our interests. But I digress…

 

So without further ado I will now dissect, “True ABA Therapy Is Not Abuse: A Response.” Hey, the least I can do is return the favor, right?

 

I knew I was in for a ride when I read the cute little intro which had me literally laughing out loud at the ignorance and arrogance of someone who would write an article for the sole purpose of accusing ME of not knowing what I’m talking about while simultaneously not knowing what the hell they’re talking about and being completely out of touch with Autistic culture, autistic history, autistic rights issues, current events, etc.

I can’t think of a better display of the typical self-righteous behavior exhibited by the “autism community” than a presumably allistic (non-autistic) person with no experience in ABA other than having “gone through ABA therapy with my children first hand” ‘splaining ABA therapy and autism to an #ActuallyAutistic former ABA therapist. Also, that’s not what “first hand” means.

“I am a mom to two special needs kids and both of them are currently in ABA therapy…”

What this tells me is that you don’t know any Autistic adults (or even Disabled adults for that matter) because if you did, you’d know how offensive it is to use the term “special needs,” let alone refer to your own children as being “special needs kids.” But that doesn’t surprise me considering that you’ve chosen to subject your kids to an ableist ‘therapy’ which is solely supported by parents and the medical community, yet is universally condemned by the very people it claims to help.

Here are some links to writing by some Autistic Rights Advocates on why euphemisms like “special needs” are so offensive:

My Needs Are Not “Special” -by Michelle Sutton
https://michellesuttonwrites.com/2016/05/26/my-needs-are-not-special/

#SayTheWord, Not “Special Needs” -by Erin Human
https://erinhuman.com/2016/02/16/stop-saying-special-needs/

 

 

“Both children started ABA therapy at age two. My son has been in ABA therapy for just about five years now and my daughter has been in ABA therapy for one year.

ABA therapy has drastically changed our lives for the better. Even now, as I look back and read the original paperwork that outlined my son’s diagnosis, I am blown away at how far he’s come…”

This leads me to believe that you have fully bought into the whole tragedy narrative pushed by the medical community, the educational community, the parent community, and yes, the ABA industry itself. I bet it’s what steered you toward ABA to begin with.

But the thing is, you were sold a lie. I mean, did you actually believe that your son wouldn’t have learned anything in those 3 years if it weren’t for ABA? That your children are incapable of learning without it? How sad. The Autistic community is full of parents raising their children without ABA and our kids are thriving, happy, and proud. They are learning all the time and we encourage them to learn in ways that work best for them.

But don’t take my word for it…

Training by Repitition Actually Prevents Learning For Those With Autism -by Shilo Rea, Carnegie Mellon University
http://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2015/october/repetition-and-autism.html

Behavior Modification Therapy Does Work -by Michelle Sutton
https://michellesuttonwrites.com/2017/04/07/behaviour-modification-therapy-does-work/

Awesomely Autistic, Awesomely Distinguishable -by Amy Sequenzia
https://autismwomensnetwork.org/awesomely-autistic-awesomely-distinguishable/

10 ‘Autism Interventions’ For Families Embracing The Neurodiversity Paradigm -by Briannon Lee

http://respectfullyconnected.com/2015/11/10-neurodiversity-friendly/

Behavior Plan For Parents of Newly Diagnosed Autistic Children – byLei Wiley-Mydske
http://autistictimestwo.blogspot.com/2015/12/behavior-plan-for-parents-of-newly.html

“That’s why when I came across the article, ‘I Abused Children for a Living,’ I was shocked at what was written and during Autism Awareness Month no less!”

Well if you found that shocking, then you’d better hold onto your fucking pearls because I’m about to tell you what us Autistics think of your “awareness” campaigns, which I might add, you would already know if you had any fucking clue about Autistic culture. I mean, this is basic 101 stuff here.

 What Good Does Autism Awareness Do? It Doesn’t – Amy Sequenzia

https://ollibean.com/good-autism-awareness-do-doesnt/

 ASAN Condemns White House Autism Proclamation – ASAN

http://autisticadvocacy.org/2017/04/asan-condemns-white-house-autism-proclamation/

 Awareness vs. Acceptance – A Heart Made Fullmetal

https://fullmetalheart.com/index.php/2017/04/04/awareness-vs-acceptance/

 Your Awareness Wants Me Dead – A Heart Made Fullmetal

https://fullmetalheart.com/index.php/2016/04/07/your-awareness-wants-me-dead/

 A Is For Autism Acceptance – Unstrange Mind

http://unstrangemind.com/a-is-for-autism-acceptance/

And here is a masterpost about the hate group (and biggest pusher of “awareness”) Autism Speaks curated by The Caffeinated Autistic
https://thecaffeinatedautistic.wordpress.com/new-autism-speaks-masterpost-updated-62014/

 Autism Speaks is so vile, that Autistic activists took action & formed a counter organization called Boycott Autism Speaks to educate people about this heinous hate group and to encourage people to boycott the organization and their supporters. I’m linking to the “Why Boycott” page instead of the home page so you can scroll down and see just how many disability rights organizations co-signed the letter to AS supporters. http://www.boycottautismspeaks.com/why-boycott-1.html

Autism Speaks’ walks are regularly protested by #ActuallyAutistic people who want no part of their “awareness.” They were actually driven out of a large city near me by these protests and I hope to accomplish the same in my city.

Oh, and here’s a clip of Alison Singer (former VP of Autism Speaks) talking about how she contemplated MURDERING her autistic daughter IN FRONT OF HER DAUGHTER in a video to promote, you guessed it…Awareness

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7NTfZzS9b8

Think this sentiment is just the fucked up thoughts of one “bad apple?” It’s not. The sentiment as well as the action that so often follows it is so common that the Disability community has set aside a special day every year to mourn our own. Disabled people who were murdered by their own parents and caregivers. This is what “awareness” get us.

http://disability-memorial.org/

 Some autistic people even avoid leaving the house in April to avoid being triggered by the onslaught of puzzle pieces and blue lights and the correspondiing message of hate that these things symbolize.

We’ve even started our own counter-campaigns to promote acceptance and fight against the negative messages that your “awareness” perpeptuates. Like Autism Acceptance Day. http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/ In this interview, Paula C. Durbin-Westby talks about why she started Autism Acceptance Day/Month/Decade. http://www.assistiveware.com/interview-founder-autism-acceptance-month which was quickly adopted by the largest advocacy organization run by and for autistics (Autistic Self Advocacy Network) http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/

There is the Walk in Red campaign http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/

And Tone it Down Taupe http://toneitdowntaupe.tumblr.com/ which offers scholarships for tablets for autistic adults

There is an ENORMOUS amount of information out there on awareness, acceptance, Autism Speaks (and other equally harmful organizations) but I cannot fit it all into this one article and like I said, this is just to get you started.

“I am not sure when this person was an ABA therapist, but nowadays, there is A LOT of training that goes into being both a BCBA and a “Behavioral Technician” or what is now just called, “therapist.” If you are apart of a company that hires your therapist off the street, with no experience whatsoever, RUN. This is not a company you want to be with and the company is probably not up-to-date on what the legal requirements are for this job.”

I was a Behavior Technician less than 10 years ago and the requirements at the company I worked for (which by the way is one of the oldest, most respected companies in the industry) have not changed. In fact, it’s not the only large, well respected company that doesn’t require experience. Some examples:

Center for Autism and Related Disorders (high school diploma or equivalent)
http://centerforautismjobs.com/behavior-technician-job-bronx-ny/?

Applied Behavior Consultants (note how the degree is listed as “preferred,” not as a requirement)
http://www.appliedbehaviorconsultants.com/Professionals/Employment

Also, note how large these organizations are. These are not small “Ma & Pa” businesses that are “not up-to-date on what the legal requirements are for this job” and have somehow managed to fly under the radar while breaking the law as you suggest.

One thing that has changed is that a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) credential became available in 2015 (which is not required to get hired as a BT since most of the companies offer on-the-job training that results in an RBT credential.) https://bacb.com/rbt-requirements/

The training for the credential, by the way, is EXACTLY like the training I received before the credential was available and doesn’t involve learning anything about autism, only ABA techniques. https://bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/161019-RBT-task-list-english.pdf

In retrospect, it’s actually probably a good thing that they don’t teach their techs about autism since they have a very warped idea of what autism even is. If the ABA industry had any idea what autism is, the ABA industry wouldn’t exist to begin with. Because autism is not “behaviors.” In fact, if you ask #ActuallyAutistic people what autism is, you’ll get a very different answer than you’ll get from the medical community. This is because we’re going by our actual experiences as opposed to some allistic (non-autistic) professional’s subjective observation of outward behaviors and biased interpretation of such.

For example, Nick Walker’s “What Is Autism” is the most widely accepted description of autism among #ActuallyAutistic people.

http://neurocosmopolitanism.com/what-is-autism/

Autistic Families International (an organization run BY and FOR autistics) describes autism similarly.

https://autisticfamilies.org/what-is-autism/

You responded to my statement about ABA considering an autistic person “nothing more than the unruly embodiment of behaviors to be reinforced, shaped, or extinguished, a list of ‘excesses’ and ‘deficits’ to be tallied and managed. A defiant child to be made compliant.” by saying,

“This is absolutely false of true ABA. Yes, there is training that goes into the therapy for a child with autism, but every parent trains their child as they grow up. We potty train our children, we train our children not to touch things that could burn them or hurt them…It is our job to help them learn about the world around them and it is no different for the child with autism.”

Well, yes and no. We teach our kids how to use the toilet and about safety and all the other things they need to know to get by in the world. But saying that it is no different for the “child with autism” is a bold faced lie. Do you know of anyone who puts their neurotypical child through 25-40 hours of ABA a week? Anyone who subjects their neurotypical child to DTT sessions? I don’t.

And though I know some parents who use reward systems (I personally don’t believe in them) I don’t know any parent of a neurotypical child who uses rewards/praise for each individual task or portion of a task that their child does for 8 hours straight. Occasional use of reward systems like sticker charts, allowances, etc. is not the same same as putting your child through ABA therapy. To pretend they are is to intentionally mislead people. And ABA is completely unnecessary to teach these things to an autistic child or any other neurodivergent child, just as ABA is completely unnecessary to teach these things to a neurotypical child. And contrary to popular belief, opting out of ABA doesn’t mean that you just let your kids run around and do whatever the hell they want. Black and white thinking much?

Here’s a link where you can learn more about your problematic language and why the vast majority of autistics prefer identity first language as opposed to, say, “child with autism”

https://www.identityfirstautistic.org/

Here’s a link to a community run by autistic adults and autistic parents of autistic children where you can get parenting advice from people with actual “first hand experience” of being autistic. And by “first hand,” I mean the traditional meaning as in they experience it themselves as opposed to your alternative definition

https://www.facebook.com/ParentingAutisticChildrenWithLoveAcceptance

I also recommend the Respectfully Connected Blog

http://respectfullyconnected.com/

And the following books by Autistics:

The Real Experts: Readings for Parents of Autistic Children – Edited by Michelle Sutton
https://autonomous-press.myshopify.com/products/the-real-experts-readings-for-parents-of-autistic-children-edited-by-michelle-sutton

What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew – AWN

https://www.amazon.com/What-Every-Autistic-Wishes-Parents/dp/0997504528

The ABCs of Autism Acceptance – by Sparrow R. Jones

https://autonomous-press.myshopify.com/collections/newest-releases/products/the-abcs-of-autism-acceptance-by-sparrow-rose-jones

Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking – Edited by Julia Bascom

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B07AUTI?ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_pO.kxb023K4XC&tag=kpembed-20&linkCode=kpe

As well as Amythest Schaber’s YouTube series, Ask An Autistic

https://www.youtube.com/user/neurowonderful

When I mentioned that my company trained us to use “planned ignoring,” when a child had a meltdown, you defended the practice by saying, “This part of ABA therapy has been extremely taken out of proportion. In ABA therapy there is ignoring of attention-seeking behaviors but never ignoring of the child himself There is a very big difference here.”

This is yet another example of how ABA sees autistic people as a set of behaviors to be fixed as opposed to whole people with valid needs. Viewing a meltdown as “attention-seeking behavior” is ableist as fuck. Taking it a step further and ignoring the child until their meltdown stops is emotional abuse. There is no way to ignore a child’s behavior without ignoring the child himself.

Then you go on…

“So what is this ‘planned ignoring?’ It looks a bit like this: You’re at the store with your child who has autism. Your finishing up and your child is having a hard time. The lights are bright, there are too many people, and the noises are overwhelming. Your child starts to have a meltdown. People are staring, your child is on the floor hitting himself and you don’t know what to do….”

So you seem to acknowledge that your child is having a hard time (as opposed to giving you a hard time.) You seem to be aware that it is the inaccessibility of the store and not “attention-seeking behavior” that has caused the meltdown. You see that your child is obviously in a great deal of pain (yes some sensory input can be physically painful) or discomfort, and yet you allow the ABA therapist to punish your child for something beyond his control……

“The ABA therapist now comes in with their “planned ignoring” technique. This means they are going to ignore the meltdown itself, and then prioritize protecting the child from hurting himself or others. During this time the ABA therapist does not show emotion- this doesn’t mean they don’t empathize, but in order to not enforce the behavior of the meltdown, they must remain neutral.”

Whether or not the therapist empathizes makes no difference if the therapist intentionally does not show emotion until the child does what the therapist wants. This is psychological manipulation. Withholding attention/affection is a tactic used by abusers of all kinds to gain control over the victim. IT IS ABUSE.

Again, a meltdown is not a voluntary “behavior.” Your child is in distress due to circumstances beyond his control. He needs your patience, understanding, and support, not your power trip and manipulative head games. Ignoring this NEED, using it against him, or allowing others to do so makes you an abusive asshole.

“Once the above has taken place the therapist would either gently remove the child from the situation (taking them to the car) or they would help show the child how to cope right where they are. The therapist might sit on the floor with them and give them deep sensory input or show them how to cover their ears if the noises are bothering them. They may even do breathing techniques with the child. All of these strategies are called calm-down techniques and what is done with each child will depend on the personality of each child.”

None of this is actually ABA. I’m not saying your ABA therapist doesn’t do these things because many ABA companies add other elements to their programs such as sensory supports, OT, etc. but those things are not ABA just because an ABA therapist is the one doing it. Also, you don’t need to be an ABA therapist to offer supports, strategies and accomodations because THOSE THINGS ARE NOT ABA.

So then I spoke about ‘desensitizing’ children to painful or uncomfortable sensory experiences. Fortunately, I never had to personally take part in this because the one child I had who was subjected to it had it done in the afternoon and I was the morning person. I did witness it being done on a few occasions while I was waiting for the rest of the team to show up for our team meetings.

This little boy was considered a “picky eater” which of course, according to ABA is a “behavior.” And behaviors can be modified. Nevermind the fact that he may have had sensory issues with the smell, texture, or flavor of the food. Nevermind the fact that some autistics are so affected by certain smells that it can make them physically sick. It can feel as if you are literally eating garbage. Nevermind that multivitamins are a thing that’s available and that not eating oranges isn’t going to give him scurvy. Nope, he needs to be coerced into eating it. He needs to eat a bite of the yucky thing in order to earn the bite of the thing that’s going to get that awful taste out of his mouth. He knows that this torture won’t end until he complies because ABA therapists don’t give orders that they don’t follow through on. That would only reinforce the alleged ‘behavior.’

But your take on “desensitization” is this:

“If your child is having a painful or uncomfortable sensory experience wouldn’t you want to help them? If your clothes itch or your back needs to be scratched, do you let yourself scratch it? I’m assuming you do. It is the same thing when helping a child with autism with their sensory needs.”

Umm…what the actual fuck? Do you live in some kind of backward universe? Because I don’t know about you, but if my clothes itch, I change into some clothes that aren’t itchy. I don’t put on all the itchy clothes I can find and force myself to suffer through it. How is scratching an itchy back, and thus relieving the uncomfortable situation equal to being coerced into an even more itchy predicament and being forced not to scratch your back? That doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.

You go on to give an example of how your son is sensitive to noises and wouldn’t go into the room that the washer and dryer are in, and how the ABA therapist had him watch videos and look at the washer and dryer when they weren’t on to know that they were safe, and also that he was offered noise-reducing headphones.

Now I don’t know your son, so I don’t know whether it was just the noise or a phobia or lack of understanding, or some combination of those. I’m not going to presume to know anything about that because that’s different for everyone.

What I will say though, is that my daughter and I both have sensory issues with certain sounds and in both of our cases, knowing where the sound is coming from and that its is safe, etc. isn’t going to do a damn thing to make it less painful, less jarring, or less panic inducing. For example, I absolutely despise fireworks. I know they’re safe (from a distance anyway) but if you put me in the backyard on the 4th of July when fireworks are booming all over the neighborhood, I’m still going to be in a state of distress. That’s why I keep my happy-ass inside. I can listen to music to block out the sound. Those are accomodations. No ABA necessary.

For my daughter it’s the vacuum cleaner and the blender. She knows they’re safe but they still hurt her ears. She loves to help out around the house and she loves smoothies, so sometimes I ask her if she wants to help and I offer the noise-reducing headphones. Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t. If she doesn’t, I either vacuum when she’s not home, or give her a heads-up so that she can go into her room and turn up her music to block out the sound. If we move, one of my priorities will be a place with hardwood floors instead of carpets because both of us have a hard time with noise.

Sensory accomodations are just as necessary for autistic people and others with sensory sensitivities as wheelchair ramps are for wheelchair users. Our needs are just as valid. And there is no shame in needing accomodations. Nor is there any shame in needing support. And modifying “behaviors” does nothing to support the actual sensory need. I am happy to hear that your child’s therapists offer sensory accomodations, but again, that is absolutely 100% not what ABA is (though it sounds like ABA techniques were used in the implementation of these), nor is the use of ABA necessary in providing such supports.

So then you quote me saying,

“Sensory overload? Executive function or sensory-motor difficulties? Exhausted from 40 hours of child labor? Different style of communication work better for you? Upset about being treated like a circus animal? Not my problem, kiddo. I’m here to lure you with candy and manipulate you into doing my bidding, no questions asked.”

And you respond with:

“What the author states in the paragraph above is an example of bad ABA techniques and training. True ABA is child-based and works toward sensible and age-appropriate goals so the child can accomplish and do what is asked. Play is incorporated into all sessions and goals. If the child gets overwhelmed or needs a break, they are taught how to verbally ask or sign for it (if non-verbal).”

I’m not sure what bad techniques and training you’re referring to, since I literally didn’t mention any specific techniques or training and was making a broad statement about how I feel about ABA overall as a therapy, not one particular technique, therapist, trainer, or company.

Allow me to elaborate on what I meant in that paragraph:

Sensory overload – no breaks for sensory overload, no respect for bodily autonomy when it comes to things that may cause sensory overload such as “desensitization,” forced eye-contact, etc.

Executive function or sensory-motor difficulties – the way that ABA sees everything as “behaviors” without taking into account that some things seen as “non-compliance” may actually not be intentional, but be caused by an underlying physical or cognitive issue. Some examples:

A Challenge To Autism Professionals – Ido In Autism Land

http://idoinautismland.com/?p=4

Can Speech Challenged Students Get an Apprpriate Education? – Emma’s Hope Book

https://emmashopebook.com/2016/02/09/can-speech-challenged-students-get-an-appropriate-education/

My Uncooperative Body – Amy Sequenzia

https://autismwomensnetwork.org/my-uncooperative-body/

A Thing Experts Don’t Talk About: Auditory Processing Disorder – Love Explosions

https://loveexplosions.net/2014/10/28/a-thing-experts-dont-talk-about-auditory-processing-disorder/

40 Hours of Child Labor – I think subjecting young children to the equivalent of a full time job is in itself abuse. Many Autistic activists also feel this is ridiculous and unnecessary. For example, Morenike Giwa-Onaiwu has this to say:

http://respectfullyconnected.com/2015/01/full-time-jobs-for-pre-school-children/

Different Style of Communication – I was referring to how ABA prioritizes speech over any other kind of communication and tends to offer only PECS as a form of communication with the goal being that the child should eventually speak. This focus on speech means that the child isn’t introduced to AAC or other forms of communication that may be a better fit. And also Behavior Techs and family are encouraged to not give the child what he is asking for unless he uses the PECS even when he is clearly communicating (with gestures, etc.) what he wants.

Don’t even get me started on how limited the icons for the child to choose from are. These include mostly things that the child can ask for, such as “ball,” “outside,” “play,” etc. What about “no,” “hurt,” “stop,” “help,” etc. Let alone words that allow a child to express deeper thoughts and feelings. Nope, because ABA assumes this is temporary even though many autistic adults are non-speaking or partially non-speaking. And also because ABA doesn’t presume competence and figures kids who don’t speak must not have anything worth saying other than “ball,” or “Play-Doh.”

Circus Animal – This is a referrence to the dehumanizing and infantilizing practice of DTT which is, in fact, the same ABA method used to train animals.

 Not my problem… – This is a referrence to the way ABA doesn’t acknowledge or address any of the underlying issues which may be causing the “behaviors” they wish to modify, and also a reference to how similar rewarding kids with praise, attention, and treats for complying with an adult’s request to do things that make them uncomfortable or hurt them (eye-contact, forced sensory experiences, refrain from stimming, etc.) and withholding praise, attention, and treats for non-compliance is eerily similar to how predators groom children for abuse and therefore makes them easier targets for such.

Here’s what you had to say on stimming:

“My children have never been forced to stop stimming or even told to. Instead, they were shown an environment where they could safely stim and where they could get the input that they so desperately needed without hurting themselves or others. For example, letting the child hit their head on a firm pillow versus letting them slam their head into a wall…”

How lovely for you that your children were not told to stop stimming. And since I only had one child (an older child) whose program included the use of the term, “quiet hands,” and who had to earn his right to stim by getting tokens for “on task behavior” in class, I would almost give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe this practice was being faded out and was only being used on this child because he was older. Almost. But the thing is, I happen to know a little girl who was recently (last year) told by several teachers and an ABA therapist to stop stimming because it was “distracting to other students” even though she was only rocking and no students were actually paying any attention to her and safety was not an issue. So that makes me think that the whole stop the stim thing isn’t a thing of the past.

Also, you don’t need ABA to offer your kid a pillow. That’s kind of the common sense thing to do.

“The tracking is absolutely and 100% for insurance purposes.” Bullshit. I’m not even going to elaborate. Anyone familiar with ABA knows the role data plays.

OMG your ignorance is astounding! Check out this quote:

“Several paragraphs down, the author talks about shock therapy and ABA, the history behind it and how ABA companies still use it today. I have never in my life heard of any ABA company using shock therapy for treatment. I have lived in different states and used multiple ABA companies and not once was this mentioned. Are there companies out there that use it? I don’t know, but I do know that if they do, they are not doing true ABA therapy.”

This is quite literally what ABA therapy was founded on. See below:

In which Lovaas brags about beating the shit out of autistic kids…

Screams, Slaps, and Love (feature about the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute) – curated by neurodiversity.com

 http://www.neurodiversity.com/library_screams_1965.html

In which “True ABA” (it doesn’t get much truer than the guy who pioneered the ‘therapy’) involves shocking autistic children….

Building Social Behavior in Autistic Children by use of Electric Shock – curated by neurodiversity.com

http://www.neurodiversity.com/library_lovaas_1965.pdf

Oh look, here’s where Lovaas & friends decide to use “True ABA” for Gay Conversion Therapy as well as Autistic Conversion Therapy…

Behavioral Treatment of Deviant Sex-Role Behaviors in a Male Child – curated by neurodiversity.com

http://www.neurodiversity.com/library_rekers_1974.html

Oh and here’s where one of the kids subjected to the Gay Conversion Therapy grows up and kills himself! – CNN

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/06/07/sissy.boy.experiment/index.html

And here’s the book that started it all…The father of ABA’s handy little guide to child abuse… – The Internet Archive

https://archive.org/stream/LovaasMeBook/Lovaas%20-Me%20Book_djvu.txt

And now let me introduce you to the Judge Rotenburg Center…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAj9W0ntUMI

But you’re probably right, I mean since you’ve never heard of it, it can’t possibly exist, right? That being said, a bad-ass Autistic activist named Lydia X. Z. Brown has somehow managed to compile a shit-ton of information about this place…must be magic….

https://autistichoya.net/judge-rotenberg-center/

See, even though you’ve never heard of it, the Association for Behavior Analysis International is not only aware of this practice, but they actually praise it, even featuring the Judge Rotenburg Center at their annual conferences.

In 2009 BCBAs rave about the use of electric shock on autistics…
http://autismcrisis.blogspot.com/2009/05/saving-autistics-and-world-skin-shock.html

In 2016 Autistic activists protest ABAI’s convention which included JRC again

http://distweet.com/

Next, you claim that ABA does not strive to make autistic kids “indistinguishable from peers” which I’m not going to go into too much because anyone who knows anything about ABA knows that this statement is ludicrous. However, I would just like to point out that while many ABA companies might have dropped that little catchphrase, it’s still the unstated goal.

In fact, one of the companies I linked to above (CARD) takes this a step further by claiming, “recovery is possible,” though they make sure to include the following disclaimer: “Let me explain exactly what we at CARD mean when we say a child has recovered from autism. We mean that the child no longer displays clinically significant impairments related to autism. In other words, there is nothing left to treat, the child is doing just fine.” They use this word eight times on the page titled “Recovery,” and have the words “Recovery is Possible” printed across the Home page. Why do you suppose they use this word so many times despite admitting (in a word salad that rivals even yours) that autism isn’t something that can be recovered from? I suspect it is to convince parents that their kids can lose their diagnosis and not have to be labeled with that scary “autism” word. But is losing their diagnosis a good thing? After all, they’re still autistic. And their support needs will change throughout their life. The ONLY thing that losing a diagnosis will do is allow their schools and employers to deny them the accomodations that they will likely still need. How is that good?

Also, CARD’s blog features an interview with Holly Robinson Peete who is despised by the #ActuallyAutistic community for claiming that vaccines caused her child’s autism and that he has now “recovered” from it as a result of the numerous quack treatments she subjected him to (including but not limited to use of a fucking hyperbaric oxygen chamber) and her ties to the notorious Jenny McCarthy, President of one of the sketchiest autism organizations out there, Generation Rescue which promotes such quackery. Here’s an interview where HRP makes her son’s autism all about her, expressing her disappointment in not getting the neurotypical child she wanted, her ableist views about his autistic traits, and discusses some of the quackery she subjected him to in the name of normalization. 

http://celebritybabies.people.com/2007/05/30/rodney_and_holl/

Meanwhile…over at ABC’s “results” page, they state “While several of our intensive in-home clients have become indistinguishable from same age peers, we are currently analyzing these datum for a more objective analysis.” http://www.appliedbehaviorconsultants.com/Company/Our-Results Why analyze these datum if it’s not your objective? And why include that on the “results” page if it isn’t an intended result? I call bullshit.

Even if they don’t specifically say they are trying to make your kid appear neurotypical, think about all the little things they DO and add them up.

“Appropriate play skills.” Appropriate for who? There is no wrong versus right way to play. If you’d rather sit there and spin a wheel around for an hour, or line up and organize your toys in complex patterns, or find parallelograms and trapezoids in the bark at the playground instead of going on the slide, you should be able to do it. For some people, this is actually more enjoyable than playing with the other kids. And autistic kids can learn a lot from autistic play. What they actually mean by “appropriate play skills” is neurotypical play skills.

“Age appropriateness.” Similar to above, if I want to watch the freakin’ Care Bears while being middle-aged, who are you to stop me? Or if I’m 3 years old and I want to watch nothing but science documentaries intended for an adult audience. Why do neurotypicals think they get to decide what is age-appropriate when neurodivergent children have their own developmental trajectories? Oh, that’s right because they’re measuring them against a neurotypical yardstick and want them to appear neurotypical.

“Communication.” Touched on this a bit earlier, but they want kids to use speech. You know, so their poor Martyr Mommies can finally hear then say, “I love you.” Even if that’s not the communication they prefer.

“Social Skills.” Autistics have our own way of socializing & it works great for us. The problem is not the way we socialize, but the difference between how we socialize and how neurotypicals socialize and the fact that our society is built around the needs of the neuromajority and unwilling to accomodate people with different social needs while demanding that neurominorities accomodate their needs. ABA’s solution? Teach us to socialize like the neuromajority because we’re obviously in the wrong. “Social Skills” classes have been almost as bad as ABA for autistics because they basically teach us that we’re doing everything wrong and that gets internalized. Instead of putting us in ableist social skills classes, here’s an idea…expose us to people and let us socialize in our own way on our own terms.

“Special Interests.” I don’t know why allistics seem to have such an obsession, or even phobia of our so-called “special interests.” I even had an ABA therapist tell me once, “Well what if a kid really likes horses and that’s all they want to talk about or think about? Then we have to redirect them.” Now why the fuck would you have to redirect a kid for talking about their passion? ABA’s answer: Because it’s not what the “normal” kids do.

Everything about ABA involves conforming. Why conform? So you can be “indistinguishable from peers.”

Next, you say, “Toward the end of the article, the author talks about compliance. Yes compliance is a scary word, but it just means obedience or listening to and doing what someone asks…”

At this point, I’m wondering if you even know what fucking words mean. Compliance and obedience are the same thing. How is that any less fucked up? More word salad.

So here’s where you respond to each of my points about what messages are getting internalized and this is where the double-speak gets really impressive!

1. “People with more power than me can force me to do whatever they want.”

“This is absolutely not true. No one is going to make the child do anything with the exception of making sure they don’t hurt themselves or others. Does ABA work on teaching the child that it is important to obey? Yes. Does ABA make sure that the child follows through with a tax and doesn’t get out of it if needed? Yes…”

So you basically just said, “they don’t force anyone to do anything except when they do because they teach the child it’s important to obey.”

Guess what? I was taught to obey. I didn’t have ABA, just authoritarian parents. You wanna know what obeying got me? Raped.

While we’re on the topic, here’s an article by Respectfully Connected on why compliance training sucks
http://respectfullyconnected.com/2016/03/the-importance-of-no/

2. “Nobody, not even my parents will come to my defense.”

“This one hurts me a lot.”

Well if the shoe fits…but again, you seem to have missed the point. I wasn’t saying that parents would watch their child being abused and not step in out of some misguided idea that they weren’t allowed to. My point was that you wouldn’t step in because you (like the vast majority of non-autistic people) don’t recognize it as abuse. You are the one who signed your kid up for ABA, you are the one who allows it to continue, and you don’t see the harm in it. Therefore you are not coming to your child’s defense.

It’s like the store scenario you brought up with the planned ignoring. That is straight up psychological abuse. Go to any domestic violence website and you will find “withholds affection/attention as punishment” listed as a control tactic used by abusers sometimes as emotional abuse alone, sometimes leading up to physical abuse.

Now, I realize you’ve already presumed your kids to be incompetent and unable to learn anything w/o ABA, but this therapist is modeling an abusive relationship. What do you think will happen in the future if your child learns that that’s how relationships are supposed to work?

3. “Other people are in charge of my body.”

“Again, this is not true. The only time a therapist has moved my child’s body is in the case of the “hand-over-hand” technique and even that is only used as a last result…”

Again, missing the point. You do not have to physically move someone’s body or even touch it to have control over it. Hand-over-hand is one of the things I was talking about, yes. And it does definitely let a child know that even if they don’t want to do something, they will eventually be made to do it anyway. It seems harmless when taken out of context, like say a parent helping a child hold a pencil and trace a letter, etc. But when you look at it in the context of an 8 hour therapy day, and every single lesson you’re being rewarded for compliance and punished for noncompliance (and yes, when you’re working for rewards not getting them is a punishment) you start to realize you don’t have any real choices.

So the hand-over-hand is just a very small part of it. What I was referring to is how the child has to do what the therapist says they have to do. “Show me ‘over.’ Show me ‘under.’ Goooooood job!” Small things like this are happening over and over countless times in the course of a session. The child knows they can’t leave. The child knows they have to comply, be punished, or have their body do the thing anyway. That is not a real choice and it’s a dangerous message. Add to that programs that focus on things like “Whole Body Listening” where the child is expected to move their body in neurotypical ways, or programs where stimming is discouraged, eye-contact encouraged, sensory experiences forced, etc. The child has no choice over any of this.

4. “I’m not allowed to say no, or protest.”

“Our therapists have never once told my child that they couldn’t say no or prostest.”

They don’t have to. The compliance is built into the program. As I mentioned above, the child knows she must comply to earn her reward or not comply and eventually she will be made to do it anyway. The choice comes down to “Choose to comply or choose not to and be forced to anyway.” How does that leave an option to say no or protest?

5. “If I am having a hard time, adults will ignore me instead of helping me; they don’t care.”

Talked about this above, but want to respond to, “Our ABA therapists care about our children very much…”

I cared about every one of the kids I worked with. I’d say about 90% of the therapists I worked with do too. I still think about those kids and wonder how they’re doing, whether they’ve been emotionally scarred by the ABA I perpetrated on them. Hence me writing the OP years afterward. But the thing is, it doesn’t matter if your therapists care about your children because they could still be harming them. As they say, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Do you think I would have stayed if I knew the harm I was doing? I didn’t know until 3 or 4 years afterwards, when I read article after article, post after post, book after book, about autistics having PTSD from it. The more I read, the more I thought about it and the more it made sense. All of the times I felt uneasy about what I was being asked to do. It made sense in retrospect. And everytime I see an autistic speak up about the abuse they endured and countless ABA therapists and parents show up to gaslight them, belittle them, silence them, and abuse them more, I feel sickened to have ever been associated with those people and that industry.

6. “My parents must hate me too because they won’t even give me a break (a big deal is made in ABA about ‘consistency’ and making the parents and everyone else around the child do ABA on them in the off hours).”

“Yes, consistency is key. But that doesn’t mean I am forcing ABA techniques on my child 24/7.”

I don’t believe you. 🙂

7. “I am the sum of my behaviors, I have no inherent value.”

“I am not sure where the author gets this one…”

Umm, from the fact that every single behavior is looked at as something to reward or punish.

“There is a lot of praise and celebrating in ABA therapy. It’s a big deal when a child reaches a goal or is able to do something they weren’t able to do before…”

Exactly. The child isn’t celebrated. Desired behaviors and met goals are celebrated. Undesired behaviors are ignored. This teaches the child that acceptance is conditional upon desired behaviors and met goals, attention is conditional upon pleasing others. Another way to say this is THEY ARE THE SUM OF THEIR BEHAVIORS.

I’m guessing I’ll probably get another response to this either from you or someone else, so I thought I should let you all know that I probably won’t be responding to those. I don’t have the time, energy, or desire to engage in online wars with every ABA apologist that comes along. I have provided more than enough info to get you started, but I will not do all of your research for you.

It all comes down to this: The Autistic community is telling you ABA is abuse. ABA therapists and parents are trying to convince you it’s not. Who you choose to listen to reflects a lot about you and how you feel about your child and your child’s community.

If the people you are abusing tell you it’s abuse, then it’s abuse. Autistics have been telling you for years that ABA is abusive and has harmed so many members of our community. You didn’t listen, you justified your actions, even rallied up your favorite hate group and fought to get ABA covered by insurance companies AGAINST THE WISHES OF THE AUTISTIC COMMUNITY.

We are telling you to stop. We are telling you to listen. We are telling you because we don’t want your kids to be hurt like so many others have already been. If you do not listen, you are CHOOSING to DELIBERATELY harm autistic people. Not to mention the epic level of gaslighting you all engage in. Please go through the links below for writing on ABA therapy by Autistics/ABA survivors, parents, former therapists, researchers, etc.

Autistics/ABA Survivors on ABA:

 

ABA – Unstrange Mind

http://unstrangemind.com/aba/

Quiet Hands – Neuroqueer

http://neuroqueer.blogspot.com/2014/03/quiet-hands-by-julia-bascom.html

The Normalization Agenda (part 1) -That Bloody Cat

https://thatbloodycat.com/2016/09/18/the-normalization-agenda/

The Normalization Agenda (part 2) – That Bloody Cat

https://thatbloodycat.com/2016/09/26/the-normalization-agenda-part-2/

Indistinguishable From Peers- An introduction – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking

http://timetolisten.blogspot.com/2013/09/indistinguishable-from-peers.html

Indistinguishable From Peers Means: You Don’t Have Autism Related Problems – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking

http://timetolisten.blogspot.com/2013/09/indistinguishable-from-peers-means-you.html

If You Don’t Use Your Words You Wont Be Indistinguishable – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking

http://timetolisten.blogspot.com/2013/10/if-you-dont-use-your-words-you-wont-be.html

The Cost Of Indistinguishability Is Unreasonable – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking

http://timetolisten.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-cost-of-indistinguishability-is.html

The Tyranny Of Indistinguishability: Performance – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking

http://timetolisten.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-tyranny-of-indistinguishability.html

Your Therapy IS Like That, Or At Least Your Attitude Is – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking

http://timetolisten.blogspot.com/2017/03/your-therapy-likely-is-like-that-or-at.html

The Spread Of Compliance Training – Paginated Thoughts

http://kpaginatedthoughts.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-spread-of-compliance-training.html

The Realities Of ABA – How You Should Be Parenting Your Autistic Child

https://autisticparenting.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/the-realities-of-aba/

My thoughts On ABA – Amy Sequenzia

https://autismwomensnetwork.org/my-thoughts-on-aba/

Autism Conversion Therapy – Amy Sequenzia

https://autismwomensnetwork.org/autistic-conversion-therapy/

Have Some ABA, Or Else… – Amy Sequenzia

https://autismwomensnetwork.org/have-some-aba-or-else/

Why I Oppose ABA As A Method Of Instruction – Social Skills For Autonomous People

http://realsocialskills.org/post/110819268573/why-i-oppose-aba-as-a-method-of-instruction

Appearing To Enjoy Behavior Modification Is Not Meaningful – Social Skills For Autonomoous People

http://realsocialskills.org/post/124333076514/appearing-to-enjoy-behavior-modificiation-is-not

A Basic Problem With ABA – Social Skills For Autonomous People

http://realsocialskills.org/post/95830870697/a-basic-problem-with-aba

 

Parents on ABA:

Autism, Therapies and Acceptance: A Mother’s Perspective – Morenike Giwa-Onaiwu

https://autismwomensnetwork.org/autism-therapies-and-acceptance-a-mothers-perspective/

Tackling That Troublesome Issue Of ABA and Ethics – Emma’s Hope Book

https://emmashopebook.com/2012/10/10/tackling-that-troublesome-issue-of-aba-and-ethics/

Open Letter To Families Considering Behavioral Therapy (Part 1)

– Astraea

 http://www.astraeasweb.net/politics/aba.html

Open Letter To Families Considering Behavioral Therapy (Part 1)

– Astraea

http://www.astraeasweb.net/politics/aba2.html

ABA and Autism- The Thorny Problem of Control And Consent – Small But Kinda Mighty

http://smallbutkindamighty.com/2015/06/16/aba-and-autism-the-thorny-problem-of-control-and-consent/

The Cost Of Compliance Is Unreasonable – Love Explosions

https://loveexplosions.net/2013/01/30/the-cost-of-compliance-is-unreasonable/

Touch Nose. Gummi Bear: ABA In Our Family – Love Explosions

https://loveexplosions.net/2013/09/13/touch-nose-gummi-bear-aba-in-our-family/

Touch Nose. Gummi Bear: What Is ABA And Why Does It Suck? – Love Explosions

https://loveexplosions.net/2013/09/15/touch-nose-gummi-bear-what-is-aba-and-why-does-it-suck/

 

Therapists and Former Therapists on ABA:

Why I Left ABA – Socially Anxious Advocate

https://sociallyanxiousadvocate.wordpress.com/tag/aba/

I’m Sorry But That’s Not Earning Your Token – Ink and Daggers

http://ink-and-daggers.tumblr.com/post/112076858794/im-sorry-but-thats-not-earning-your-token

Would You Accept This Behavior Towards A Non-Autistic?

– Heidi LoStracco MS, CCC-SLP

http://www.speakforyourself.org/uncategorized/accept-behavior-towards-non-autistic-child/

 

For Therapists:

A Note To (What Feels Like) Every ABA Therapist Ever – Neurowonderful

http://neurowonderful.tumblr.com/post/112730019116/a-note-to-what-feels-like-every-aba-therapist

Dear “Good Behaviorists” – Ink and Daggers

http://ink-and-daggers.tumblr.com/post/112503447899/dear-good-behaviorists

If You Want Me To Believe You’re A Good Behaviorist – Social Skills For Autonomous People

http://realsocialskills.org/post/99822366632/if-you-want-me-to-believe-youre-a-good

The Misbehaviour Of Behaviourists – Michelle Dawson

http://www.sentex.net/~nexus23/naa_aba.html

Autism Advocacy And Aversives (Part 1) – Michelle Dawson

http://autismcrisis.blogspot.com/2006/11/autism-advocacy-and-aversives-part-one.html

Autism Advocacy And Aversives (Part 2) – Michelle Dawson

http://autismcrisis.blogspot.com/2006/11/autism-advocacy-and-aversives-part-two.html

Autism Advocacy And Aversives (Part 3) – Michelle Dawson

http://autismcrisis.blogspot.com/2006/11/autism-advocacy-and-aversives-part.html

But all of these people are probably just making shit up, right?

I Abused Children For A Living

https://madasbirdsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/i-abused-children-and-so-do-you-a-response-to-an-aba-apologist/

I abused children for a living. It didn’t look like abuse. It didn’t feel like abuse (at least not to me) but it was definitely abuse. I see that now. Back then, I actually thought I was helping those kids. In fact, it was and still is considered ‘therapy.’ And not just any therapy- the most sought-after autism therapy, often the ONLY therapy insurance will cover. To this day it’s lauded as the only “evidence-based treatment” for autism.

You see, I was an ABA therapist. My official title was ‘Behavior Technician’ which in itself is really telling. I was hired off the street with no background in child development, no knowledge of autism or ABA, and no experience working with children, let alone autistic children. I. Literally. Did. Not. Know. What. Autism. Is. And I wouldn’t find out what autism is in the years that I worked there either.

To be honest, I wouldn’t need any of that knowledge or experience for this position, because to ABA, autism is a ‘behavioral disorder.’ To ABA, an autistic person is nothing more than the unruly embodiment of behaviors to be reinforced, shaped, or extinguished, a list of  ‘excesses’ and ‘deficits’ to be tallied and managed. A defiant child to be made compliant. Basically, I was a glorified dog trainer.

And if your only goal is to offer treats for compliance and withhold them for non-compliance then it makes sense that you wouldn’t bother to learn even the most basic knowledge about autistic neurology. Oh, we had continuing education meetings once a month, but we didn’t learn anything about autism.

We learned things like ‘planned ignoring’- how to ignore a distressed child until they comply with your demands, how to ‘properly’ restrain a 2-6 year old child, how to not show empathy when a child has a meltdown- that would only reinforce the behavior and we can’t have that, how to ‘desensitize’ a child to painful or uncomfortable sensory experiences (hint; they aren’t actually desensitized, just forced to endure it until they successfully and consistently don’t react), how to change the environment- not to make it more accessible, but to make it more conducive to compliance (ex; feed the child salty chips so that she’ll drink more water so that she’ll use the potty chair at the designated time.)

Sensory overload? Executive function or sensory-motor difficulties? Exhausted from 40 hours of child labor? Different style of communication work better for you? Upset about being treated like a circus animal? Not my problem, kiddo. I’m here to lure you with candy and manipulate you into doing my bidding, no questions asked. Which will make you excellent prey for sexual predators, abusive teachers, caregivers, and partners later in life. Oh and let’s not forget the bullies, but we’ll just call them “friends,” because every classmate or child the same age as you is automatically a friend, right? Need to stim? Don’t worry, do enough tricks for me and you can earn the privilege to move YOUR body the way YOU want to…just 4 more tokens to go! Until then, quiet hands!

During the 3+ years that I worked there, different things would come up. “Why does he have to have quiet hands? He’s not hurting anyone.” “Why can’t we just find out what’s bothering him & help him find a solution?” “Why do we need to track that he knows 1000 words when he obviously knows way more than that?” Every time I would question their methods or their reasoning, my questions would be answered with some variation of, “This is the only evidence-based treatment for autism. It’s the only way they can learn.”

And against my intuition, I believed them. Because they’re the professionals, right? What do I know? They’re the ones with college degrees. All I’ve got is a GED and a minimum wage job which I’m lucky to have. And while I don’t personally believe in rewards and punishments, it is the way most parents raise their kids, this is just an extreme version of that. Besides, it’s scientific. It’s been proven to help autistic kids. That’s how I tried to make sense of it.

Since I didn’t have a clue what autism really is, I didn’t know that it’s not something that requires “treatment.” I certainly didn’t know anything about ABA’s barbaric history & the fact that it’s sadistic founder, O. Ivar Lovaas tortured kids with electric shocks and beatings in a morbid yet futile attempt at both Autistic Conversion Therapy and Gay Conversion Therapy. Yet this creep is hailed as a hero by the industry. The “evidence” that they love to cite is based on torture. Would you comply with demands if tortured enough? Probably. Does that make it effective? Well I guess that depends on what your goals are. If your goal is to gain compliance (which is the goal of ABA) then yeah I guess it’s effective at that goal, but that’s a pretty shitty goal to have, and at what cost?

I wouldn’t find out just what the cost was until years later when I discovered the Autistic community. Now if you listen to the Autistic community (and hopefully you do) then you already know that it is a real challenge to find any adult who was subjected to this ‘therapy’ as a child who does not now have PTSD or C-PTSD.

I know what you’re thinking…”It’s not like that anymore.” “My ABA is different.” “Timmy loves his ABA therapist.” Or maybe you’ve heard that if it doesn’t seem abusive, it’s probably something else and the company is calling it ABA so that it will be covered by insurance (aka: insurance fraud.) So first off, I think it’s important to note that ABA that uses aversives (electric shock, etc.) IS STILL A THING. It is not a thing of the past. And yes, there is definitely some insurance fraud going on too. But what I’m writing about is the so-called “good ABA” aka: “not my ABA” because it may not look like abuse, but it still is.

How, you ask? Well let’s start with the ultimate objective of ABA:

The ultimate objective of ABA is to make the child “indistinguishable from peers.” This in itself is abuse because you are teaching the child that the only way that they will be tolerated is if they pretend to be like everyone else. They must sacrifice 40 hours a week instead of playing because there is something “wrong” with them which they have to spend all day everyday trying to fix. This not only gives the child internalized ableism, but also forces the child to move, communicate, play, and socialize in ways that are unnatural, uncomfortable, and often painful in the hopes that they will possibly not be treated poorly by their so-called peers. It is an act that often results in autistic burn-out later in life.

If “indistinguishability” is the end, what is the means to that end?

Compliance. This is possibly the most abusive part of ABA (and again, I’m talking about the ‘playful,’ ‘fun,’ ‘positive reinforcements only’ kind of ABA that Timmy just loves! Timmy might be laughing. He might really love those gummy bears, or Thomas the Train. He might even genuinely love his therapist & have fun playing during the 15 minute breaks he gets each hour. But guess what? It’s still abuse.

Timmy is being taught that his body is not his own. Timmy is learning that he has to ‘earn’ access to his own belongings. Then when the therapist leaves, his favorite things are stored away until the next session. I don’t doubt that Timmy is having fun in the moment. The kids I worked with often seemed to be having fun. But the thing is, a lot of this abuse takes place on a subconscious level. The child might not even realize he’s being abused because he’s distracted by candy, or balloons. But there is a power imbalance. And little Timmy’s brain is picking up on all of this and filing it away.

Some of the things getting filed…
-People with more power than me can force me to do whatever they want
-Nobody, not even my parents will come to my defense
-Other people are in charge of my body
-I’m not allowed to say no, or protest
-It’s OK for people to physically move me if I’m not doing what they want me to do
-If I am having a hard time, adults will ignore me instead of helping me; they don’t care
-My parents must hate me too because they won’t even give me a break (a big deal is made in ABA about ‘consistency’ and making the parents and everyone the child is around use ABA on them in the off hours too)
-I am the sum of my behaviors, I have no inherent value

Like I said, the child might not even realize that they’re learning these things but the messages are there, getting absorbed all the time.

Anyway, in my quest to show how bad the “good” ABA actually is, I went to my old company’s website to see if they were still doing things the same way and to get some info that I could use to back up my point. While I was there, I was disgusted at what I found and I have decided to do a series breaking down pretty much everything on their website. So this post turned out much longer than I expected it to be and I’m going to follow it up with an even longer series on ABA because it seems I have a lot more to say on the topic. So stay tuned!

Long grey hallway of a dilapidated old asylum.

When Summer Camp Is The Insane Asylum

*This post is Part 2 in the series Institutionalized!

*CN: mention of sexual abuse, institutionalization, forced treatment, needles, manipulative psychological trickery, and restraint

*Please note that I have a very dark, twisted sense of humor about my own experiences (which is what’s helped me get through a lot of this) and in this series I make use of terms such as “insane asylum,” “booby-hatch,” “loony bin,” etc.
……….

The first time I was thrown in the booby-hatch I was 13 years old. Now, You’re probably wondering (at least I hope you’re wondering) what could possibly bring someone to ship their own CHILD off to the local loony bin. Was I a danger to myself and others? Nope (not that that would justify it.) No, my crime was being in possession of some very dirty laundry that could potentially make my mother look bad.

You see, my mother’s father had been sexually abusing me for as far back as I could remember. I had never told anyone because for one it was humiliating, and secondly I didn’t think anyone would believe me. At the time this went down, my mother had been spending most of her weekends in Monterey supposedly with a friend but we all knew she was having an affair (this would later be confirmed after my parents got divorced and we had to live w/affair guy.)

This all came to a head when my uncle found an unflattering story I had written about him for English class and passive-aggressively left it on the counter for him to find. My alcoholic uncle had been living with us (because our home was basically a half-way house for all of my mom’s addict relatives and/or their kids) and I wasn’t very happy about the arrangement. So he told on me for the story, my mom called me into her room to bitch me out about it and I just fucking lost it and blurted out that all of her relatives are either drunks, druggies, or child molesters. And also that I knew she was having an affair.

So then she asked me incredulously, who the child molester was. I told her it was her father. She wanted the gory details, and I did give her some but not all. She called her parents to tell them, and then gave me the phone and made me talk to her mother who promptly called me a liar.

I don’t remember if it was the same night or if it was the next day, but she told me that there was “a place I could go to be with other kids my age.” This was presented to me as if it was a goddamned summer camp; a kind of retreat where I could go to get a break from my dysfunctional family. Being that my mother is the most conniving, manipulative person I know, I have no idea why I fell for this. I guess I just wanted a vacation from my fucked up family that bad. And a flipping mental institution wasn’t even on my radar.

Now, this psych ward was actually very tame compared to the straight-up One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest type of shit I’d be subjected to later (stay tuned for that story in Part 3) but let’s face it, getting locked up somewhere against your will is never a good thing. Particularly for children. Institutions should not exist. At all.

This is more of a prelude than a story in its own right. I’m writing about this mostly to give background info and context for the fucked up shit that would happen later. And to point out how easy it is for parents to send their kids to these places when they get tired of, well, parenting.

For the most part, my stay here was pretty uneventful and involved sitting at a table eating a shit-ton of shortbread cookies with the other inmates, listening to them explain why they thought they were either God or The Devil, and being given tips on the most efficient way to slit one’s wrist. I mean, at least I wasn’t at school getting bullied.

The two most eventful things that happened in here (other than being tricked, trapped and taken hostage to begin with) were getting chased down the hall, tackled, assaulted with a needle and tranquilized like a wild beast when I made a run for it after realizing my goddamn mother was actually having me committed, and having a screaming match with my mother when I saw my aunt and cousin walking toward me with flowers because my mother apparently told them I was “mentally ill” to justify why she had me locked up.

This pissed me off because for one, these are relatives I saw maybe once a year at a barbecue and now they’re here with “get well” flowers for the “crazy” kid in the family when I didn’t even want anyone to know I was in here. I also didn’t know if it meant my mother had told them about the sexual abuse which I had specifically told her not to tell anyone about, and if they DID know then why was everyone treating ME like I’m the one who needs to be locked up when there’s a fucking child molester on the loose?!! So yeah, that rubbed me the wrong way, I flipped out, then I got bitched at for being rude to the relatives.

I was in here for about a month or two I think? One loses track of time in these places. This was the first stop on the road to forced treatment which would include years of being carted back and forth to various psychologists, getting 5150’d into two other asylums, being intentionally misdiagnosed, forcibly drugged, gaslighted, restrained, and held hostage until my insurance ran out. Stay tuned for all that in my next post.

Part 1: https://madasbirdsblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/first-blog-post/

 

Long grey hallway of a dilapidated old asylum.

Calling a Spade a Spade

As I sat down to get started on what I thought would be my first blog post, “When Summer Camp is a…” the birds in my head started fluttering. “When Summer Camp is a what?” “What do I call it?” “Is the preferred terminology different in the psych survivor community than it is in the neurodiversity community?” “Does it matter?” “Since I’m a member of both communities and am writing about my own lived experience, shouldn’t I get to choose my own terms?” “But what if I offend a fellow community member?”

In the end I decided to use the terms that I feel best reflect my personal experience and perspective on the matter. So I’ve opted to stay away from the more flowery modern terms such as “psychiatric hospital,” “mental health wellness center,” “treatment center,” etc. Instead, I have intentionally chosen to go with the more sinister sounding, “asylum,” because I feel that the more commonly used terms give people the impression that these places are benevolent hospitals designed to help people. That the atrocities that took place within the walls of these places are a thing of the past. These are “hospitals,” after all, not “insane asylums.”

This, of course, is absolute bullshit. If you think that people aren’t being verbally, emotionally, physically, sexually, chemically, and financially abused in addition to the obvious denial of basic human rights, loss of autonomy and self-determination, infantilization, gaslighting, and coercion at the hands of manipulative family members and so-called “professionals,” then you need to climb the fuck out from under whatever big ass rock you’ve been hiding under and get a clue. Until then, I’m gonna call a spade a spade and a fucking asylum an asylum.