I Abused Children For A Living


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!


135 thoughts on “I Abused Children For A Living

  1. This broke my heart. Thank you for sharing so honestly. With a recent adult Asperger’s diagnosis, I had heard of ABA and thought it sounded awful, but you really brought that to life. Autistic children need saving from this abuse.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Thanks I was stunned cause I raise my kids somehow in ABA ways and it is common in here but I never knew it could have conveyed that messege. I was brought up in that way from my parents. I think I am lucky to see this writting. Koreans still have that army stiled ways of treating people. So sad about that I was also in that circus.


  3. I agree 100 percent! My vhild was traumatized by ABA therapy in kindergarten and hates authoritiy now.


  4. Thank you for validating what many of us parents feel and know. This is precisely the experience my daughter and my family had with ABA. And when we chose to discontinue, we were shamed for “neglecting the needs of our child”, told she was a “program failure”, and given referrals to residential programs with that being their official recommendation to our state’s Regional Center. Within weeks of stopping my daughter stopped all self injurious behaviors….it took us half a year to get her “back”, engaging with us and the world around her. She did ABA from age 2-3. She is now 9 yrs old, completely verbal, mainstreamed in school and doing exceptional. had she continued with ABA, I don’t believe any of this would be possible. Abuse…you betcha. Thank you, again, for your thoughtful and candid entry.

    Liked by 8 people

  5. I am Autistic (which I didn’t find out until recently and therefore wasn’t subjected to ABA) and also have an Autistic child.So I guess you could say they’d be listening to 3 sides? 😉
    There are so many great things written on ABA by Autistic activists, many who were subjected to far worse than what I’ve written about. I hope people will seek out the writing of ABA survivors.

    Liked by 9 people

  6. 🙂 I’m a newb too. Only when people start listening to Autistics and respecting us as the real experts on autism, will we rid the world of these ableist Autistic Conversion Therapies.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. I am glad I gave you something to think about. While I wasn’t subjected to ABA as a child (even if I’d been diagnosed, we didn’t really have those programs back then with the exception of institutional settings) I had a very authoritarian mother who was all about control and manipulation.Trying to be a better mother than the one I had.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is a huge part of the problem. Ableist hate groups like Autism Speaks promote and lobby for ABA. Then medical professionals and educators with no lived experience of autism push for these things (without considering what Autistics actually want) then because “professionals” say so, everyone believes them. And then anyone who doesn’t follow the advice of the “professionals” is seen as negligent.

    This is part of what kept me working in ABA for 3+ years even though it felt wrong from pretty much day one. The idea that professionals know best.

    I am glad you listened to your heart and got your daughter outbid that situation and that she’s doing better.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I was an Early Intervention Therapist with a company that used some ABA and PRT and play, and was better than most of the EIT programs out there, but it was still behavioral and I worried that some of those messages (i.e. my body is not my own, my feelings don’t matter) were going to be internalized by some of the kids. Compliance was so important and there really was no room for oppositional behaviors. I am so glad my superiors took my suggestions into account and let me have more freedom to include more play, naps, choices for the child, and “down time” when I thought it was necessary. Later I had to do some observations of other facilities including schools when transitioning kids to other programs when aging out and some of the things I saw was unbelievable. It made our program seem like a little piece of heaven even though it really wasn’t. I later worked with another program using the Denver Model which says it’s evidence-based play therapy, but all it really felt like was forced play and overstimulation and more required compliance. I just had to get out of that line of work. Now I am a psychotherapist working working with people with depression and anxiety and specializing in those with ASD encouraging emotional expression and self-acceptance. ABA is a reflection of our educational system, we were training these kids to pass tests, to get good scores and good data, and there was little to no room for spontaneous self-expression and exploration and real learning. I would like to reblog this if possible.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. Thank you for writing this. I have been pressured and pressured into taking my son to ABA therapy. Instead of the occupational therapy he currently is in( which my insurance doesn’t even cover) by a socail worker. And I was hesitant, while I understand this may work with non autistic children, there is no way I would take my son. If simply training him like a dog worked we would be fine by now.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. This is a very well intentioned article and I agree with it. I wonder though is there some degree to which we do need to train our kids..autistic or not? I spent much time raising my first child who was hyperactive to just be herself and be proudof who she was. I made changes to accomadate her. Now as a grown up she is having to learn adulting while managing major behavioral changes that are now engrained. ..feel like I did a bit of injustice. I know now there is a balance. But we have to let the kids take part in deciding what behaviors they want help with.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Oh this hurts my heart for so many reasons. To the author of this article, ‘birdmadgrrl’, I thank you for your passion on this matter but urge you to do a lot more research about the science that is Applied Behaviour Analysis, especially if you wish to share such strong opinions with the masses. I always think about the wonderful families and individuals I support, and how they desperately consume any material made available to them, anything to find resolution. Because of this, I like to ensure that everything they read is fair and accurate; they go through enough challenges, what with navigating the complicated systems and such.

    Case in point, the type of therapy you are describing is a form of Behaviour Modification, which could be described as the tools or “technologies” in the field (that’s where the job title comes from) and not specifically Applied Behaviour Analysis. In order for people to access the deep level of understanding that ABA can bring to life, the community developed programs like the Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) program, which is supposed to use the science of ABA to deliver intensive programs to people diagnosed with ASD. The intensive programs should include Discreet Trial Teaching (DTT), Natural Environment Teaching (NET) and social time to plan for generalization of skills. The other programs have been named ABA to make things as clear as mud. In order for people to have access to this science, these programs were developed, but you are right about how programs can be executed in the community, not very well. There is a huge gap between understanding WHY we do what we do in the field, which leads to sloppy or improper application of the science, and this is NOT ok. There are groups forming in our ABA community that have a sole mission to regulate the delivery of the science in the community. It’s just not happening fast enough and we seem to have a really hard time translating the science into laymen, accessible, comprehensible terms for everyone to understand. Let me give you the briefest explanation of ABA in the most laymen way, to get your knowledge ball rolling:

    Applied Behaviour Analysis- I will take from one of our great educators in the field, the late Donald Baer: “That there could be a science of behaviour, of what we do, of who we are? How could you resist that?”
    You see, in the science of ABA the goal is to understand all human behaviour by following a set of principles. The most profound tool in the science is the ability to understand functions of human behaviour. That is essentially the ‘WHY’ we do the things we do. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you went to school every day, or didn’t? I bet you didn’t love every minute your teachers smothered you with information, but somehow you had the ability to tolerate it. Why do you love or hate your vegetables? Or why you have preferred friends? Discovering the answers to these questions can lead you to understanding why ABA has been so effective (when implemented properly) for people diagnosed with ASD.
    My favourite way to explain it is that each human is born with a set of receptors for us to receive information from our environment. These receptors are referred to as our senses, and I’m going to blow your mind here ‘birdmadgrrl’, we have SEVEN senses that we consider and not the often reference “five sense.” Anyway, how I receive and process information is different from everyone else, and this helps to shape my behaviour and essentially, who I am. So you’re born with very few reflexive behaviors for survival (latching, crying, this could take all day) and the rest is up to your parents and all of the people and experiences in your environment. So here you are, a human with a set of sensors and an environment, to simplify life let’s say we “cause and effect” our way through it. For example, I touch a hot stove-I learn to avoid it, I say “baba”/Mom offers a bottle- I keep saying “baba”(until I shape up my vocab the same way), I ‘burp’ during circle time and everyone laughs at me-I am the class clown, so I do it again OOOR I was shy and hated people looking at me, so I never drank Cola at school again. So why do “neuro-typicals” behave the way we do? Well most of us are governed by an unwritten set of social rules that we learned through “cause and effecting” our way through life, observing and experiencing the outcomes of our actions. We are motivated or punished (stopped) by things we really like or things we find aversive, and again each human is different here. So with those facts in mind, i.e. using your sensory receptors, observing your environment, understanding social rules and having the ability to predict how your actions will impact you, you might be able to see why ABA (when implemented properly) can be so helpful for people diagnosed with ASD. For those less familiar with the diagnosis of ASD, I urge you to read more about it, but to be brief here: some will be faced with sensory processing challenges, communication challenges, poor understanding of social skills, executive functioning challenges, and so on. So basically challenges in most domains that assist humans in making sense of their surroundings and finding a “place” in the world.

    I personally have not experienced life with the neurological differences that we summarize as ASD, but I have been fortunate enough to meet hundreds of people diagnosed with ASD and even more fortunate to collaborate with them in translating to their community, what experiencing “life” is like for them. It keeps my integrity in check to actually hear from “Timmy” that his life has been positively impacted. So why does the science aim to improve socially significant behaviour? Well because we are social beings living in a structured society, albeit an increasingly troubling society, but structured none the less. The reality is, most parents have to go back to work and that means children have to go to their local school all day. Well what happens when “Timmy” hasn’t learned to tolerate his day at school and becomes physically aggressive as a means to escape the classroom, and the school team keeps calling Mom at work to come and get him? I’ll tell you what happens, “Timmy” get excluded from his school placement (look it up), Mom has to quit her job to stay home with him, the family loses their home due to financial troubles and what’s left is a whole domino shit load of challenges ahead.

    The goal of ABA is to learn WHY “Timmy” does what he does, find out what is motivating for “Timmy” (what his dreams are made of), and how can we teach him to tolerate the school or other social environments that might not “make sense” to him? I am not talking about desensitizing sensory aversions. I’m talking about learning to attend long enough to learn some communication skills, so that life is less stressful for you when you really want a glass of apple juice but you only know the sign for drink. I’m talking about teaching “Timmy” to identify the colour blue so that he can ask for his favourite blue shirt without tantruming as Mom shows him every shirt except the blue one, or teaching him to wipe his own behind so that he can have some privacy and independence in his life. I specifically disliked the way you talk about blocking self-stimulation (aka stimming), there is so much more to be said on the matter than one individualized program in an IBI setting that you experienced. Again, consider the ‘WHY’ here and not HOW you were taught to implement in your specific program (I promise, there is a goldmine of understanding missing here). There are multiple reasons why “Timmy” might want to engage in self-stimulation for 11hours a day, but how is that possible for the average family to maintain? How does Mom get “Timmy” to stop stimming when she’s teaching him to bathe himself? How does Mom get “Timmy” to stop stimming when she wants to teach him how to ask specifically for apple juice? Sure, “Timmy” can self-sooth this way, but the reality of the world we live in is that stuff has to get done in an average day, so anything ANYBODY likes to do, has to be done in moderation. Any behaviour that consumes and impedes anybodies ability to function daily is considered unhealthily. I’ll go out on a limb here and even refer to it as an addiction.
    What you are describing in this blog is the very sad reality of how things “translate” once people leave their training and come into the field to actually “apply” the science. See it’s called ‘Applied Behaviour Analysis’ and many in the field are not applying it well, tragic. I see your blog as yet another alarm to those in the field with the power to impact how we educate our practitioners and how each one of us delivers the science we were taught. There are so many gaps in services; it could almost make you abandon the field. ALMOST! And then you meet with “Timmy” and his family again and you remember why you signed up for this in the first place.

    I am saddened to hear your personal experience, another example of the misuse of the tools that ABA can provide us with, and not any fault of your own. You did as you were instructed, as those above you surely did. The problem lies in the fields ability to teach application skills, and the ‘WHY’ part, man it’s the most important piece. Just know that the best of intentions were there, but what you experienced is not what was intended by our scholars; I assure you, this is not what ABA therapy should look like. Once again, I strongly urge you to read more, there is so much I just can’t cover here. Your mind could be blown, there is much to learn about how the science of ABA is used to improve the lives of many humans: the corporate world by top performing companies, those with acquired brain injuries, even those with a mental health diagnosis. I haven’t even begun to describe things here.
    I will continue to do my part to make sure that everyone I have the honour of working with, understands and follows best practices in the field. It’s an uphill battle, but I believe that at eventually the hard work will pay off, and we will master training our practitioners to both understand and execute their skills and programs, with the common goal of improving the quality of lives for those we support.

    I am begging you to read more before you commit to a series of written blogs that over generalize an entire field of science, and instead make a commitment to insisting on best practices and application.

    Liked by 18 people

  13. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Any program is only as good as those implementing it. I believe the biggest problem is that short-cuts have been made over time for many reasons: time constraints, budget cuts, increasing numbers of identified individuals, decreasing numbers of properly trained staff. The focus seems to be conformity at any cost; the end justifies the means. How much damage is being caused along the way? It’s time to stop trying to put square pegs in round holes.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. You are right that the theory’s seem wonderful as you are “learning” them in college, but the application of said theories can really be awful. I got an undergraduate degree in Developmental Psychology and Injustice and Inequality Sociology with clinical Psychology elective courses, upper level classes. Yes, I am no Ph.D. holder but I learned a little bit of the ‘why’ and I thought it was great. I loved signing up for the latest psych class. However, when I got my first job, a behavioral health technician, I was hit in the face with awful implementation. From literally talking to adults like little kids because they were mentally ill to making it mandatory to follow a twelve step program in order to graduate rehab. First thing I was told on my first day was (1) these people are crazy and (2) they would steal candy from a baby and cannot be trusted ever! I was appalled and broken before I even hit 11 months on the job. College showed me a discipline filled with compassion and deep knowledge and rigorous academic discipline to just enter into a world that made my skin crawl.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. “So why do “neuro-typicals” behave the way we do? Well most of us are governed by an unwritten set of social rules that we learned through “cause and effecting” our way through life, observing and experiencing the outcomes of our actions.”

    My ASD son naturally learns everyday life through “cause and effectung” as did his ASD momma… I think you are misunderstanding why ASD people have difficulties socialy.

    Also this so called unwritten set of social rule that you say most nuro-typicals learn by cause n effect, is in fact in writing all around us. What do you think laws are? A written set of social rules that we are supposed to govern our lives. What about all the advice columns in newspapers, what do you think those are? Those are your social rules that society believes you should follow. Let’s not forget women’s and mens magazine’s. Stuffed full of social rules we are told we should follow. Growing up you’re told how to vact in society by most of those around you. Your mom tells you how to behave in public because it’s what society expects of you. Go to a book store and walk down the self help and dating isles. Books full of social rules. Written words defining what society expects/wants of you. “How to get a guy to notice yor” , “How to win friends and infulance people”….

    Maybe later l will come back and explain why we ASD folks seem to be unsocial and have issues fiting in to society.

    Liked by 5 people

  16. As an autistic person I kindly ask you to sit back and listen to the autistic community and to autistic people. ABA is abusive. End of story. I don’t care how well you spin your story of “trying to understand”, the world is a place designed for neurotypical people and my brain isn’t neurotypical so stop FORCING me to try and understand it. Why not, instead, accommodate my sensory and emotional needs so the world is less confusing and scary and full “fitting in”.

    Liked by 16 people

  17. I’ve been an ABA Therapist for years and am also currently working towards my master’s degree to become a board certified behaviour analyst. This post is spreading fear into already fearful parents when ABA is something that has done absolutely amazing things for children on the spectrum. It doesn’t seem like you really understand how often we utilize behavioural interventions in everyday life. Have you ever seen a sticker chart that allows children to earn prizes for following rules at school? Or a mother ignoring a tantrum at a grocery store because her child wants a chocolate bar but she has said no? Or a teacher telling a neurotypical child to quiet down while they are teaching a classroom full of kids because making constant noise is distracting to themselves or others? Would you consider any of those things abusive? I could think of a thousand instances like this in everyday life but I’ll attempt to keep this post short. i think allowing children, both neurotypical and not, to do anything and everything they want to do is abusive. Children grow into adults and as an adult myself, I am able to be successful because I was taught structure as a child. I was to be quiet and focus on learning at school. I was ignored when I tantrumed because I wanted chocolate but my mom said no. I earned rewards for good behaviour. A child on the spectrum should also be taught structure and how to function appropriately in everyday life. The kids I work with love Therapy, make amazing progress, have as many breaks as necessary, can fidget at the table as long as they pay attention to what we’re working on, and are never ignored if they are distressed because they are hurt, scared, sick etc. I highly suggest you truly educate yourself before spreading this sort of propaganda.

    Liked by 11 people

  18. Historically, it’s hypothesised that autism (particularly Aspergers in my reading experience) was once simply another ‘personality type’. Over time, it’s society which has deemed this type of personality unacceptable.
    Having three ASD kids, and definitely lying somewhere on the spectrum myself, I can’t help but wonder if today’s ‘thinkers’ will also someday be labelled unacceptable, until eventually only one type is accepted. Rather Aryan feeling no?

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I mean, what do you mean by “training?” All kids need to be taught, and to be taught discipline, but most kids we don’t subject to ABA. Only autistic and other developmentally disabled kids. And yet most kids DO learn some degree of distress tolerance, self-direction, goal-oriented behavior, and self-accommodation without systematically being taught that adults with the power to either give them candy or withhold everything they enjoy can make them do whatever they want. So…how do we do that with other kids?

    “I spent much time raising my first child who was hyperactive to just be herself and be proudof who she was. I made changes to accomadate her. Now as a grown up she is having to learn adulting while managing major behavioral changes that are now engrained.”

    It sounds like maybe what she missed out on being taught, along with to be herself and proud of who she was, which are necessary but not sufficient, was to make changes or accommodations for herself, and to implement strategies that work with her challenges so she can do the things she needs or wants to do. The rewards of challenging yourself and making things work for yourself are also things that we manage to teach most kids without the message that their body is not their own and they can only succeed by complete compliance with authority.

    Liked by 6 people

  20. I am a Proud Momma to my beautiful daughter. She was born with a very rare condtion and is blind along with brain malformations.
    She is going to be a teen this year and I am realizing more and more that she is ASD. I have always had this feeling, but with her disabilities I have not been able to get any help. But while reading all of this I am wondering if anyone has any suggestions? She is in main streem school and does very well. But she has no real friends, she has never been able to express her emotions and often laughs at situations that are not laughable. There are many other reasons why I believe she has many tenacity of ASD. But I am a lost mom..
    Any advice on ASD especially with the blind would be so much appreciated. I have never ever reached out in this way, but reading this article has really touched me. As I have seen many other children with different disabilities being “tought” and treated this way.. I am just terrified to even think of my daughter’s future will be..


  21. Hello and welcome! The absolute best thing you can do for her is learn from Autistic adults, make Autistic friends (not just for her but for you too), get involved with the Autistic community (which is very different than the “Autism Community,” celebrate Autistic culture. Yes we have our own beautiful culture, like Deaf people have their own beautiful culture.Ours is still emerging. You will learn more from actually autistic people than you ever could from the so-called professionals.

    I will come back with more links & stuff later when I am at my computer, but here are some things to get you started:

    Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance is a Facebook community where you can PM any questions you may have and get your questions answered by Autistic people and Autistic parents of Autistic children. They also have a blog

    Respectfully Connected is a blog by Autistic parents of Autistic children. They promote compassionate parenting practices.

    The Real Experts edited by Michelle Sutton

    The ABC’s of Autism Acceptance by Sparrow Rose Jones

    What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew by Autism Women’s Network

    Loud Hands by Autistic Self Advocacy Network

    We have a saying in the Autistic Community (and broader Disability comunirty): “Nothing about us without us.” If you use that as your guiding light you’ll already be ahead of most parents.

    Some good organizations run BY and FOR Autistics with reliable info on autism:

    Autistic Self Advocacy Network
    You may have a chapter with meetings in your area

    Autism Women’s Network
    They also have social meet-ups and other events if you have one in your area

    Autistic Families International
    They have a website and FB page

    Avoid these (and generally any organization run by non autistic parents and professionals) like THE PLAGUE:

    Autism Speaks
    Generation Rescue
    Talk About Curing Autism

    *anything that promotes a “cure” for autism*

    Liked by 9 people

  22. I would like offer backup for anyone who doubts your story. I too had a job as an ABA “therapist” the summer after my freshman year in college (when i knew nothing about life, children, or anything really). The understanding about what autism was, why it was, why we did what we did, etc was extremely superficial and the focus was on behavioral outcomes. I remember the emphasis on “quiet hands” and on not letting someone out of a locked therapy room until they had “earned” a break or asked verbally to have a need met. I remember the 11 year old boy who bit and scratched my arms to the point of breaking the skin when I tried to actually implement those techniques. I remember the look in his eyes and feeling like I deserved it.

    After a few weeks his mom confided she didn’t care if he spoke, or modeled any of the outcomes identified on his sheet. We could play toys in the basement, and as long as he didn’t hurt himself or me and she had her 60 minutes to do all the chores that weren’t getting done when I left, we were good. He verbalized just as well ( if not more often) when he was happy. He was showed more “prosocial” behaviors when I was being prosocial with him. Go figure, teaching a kid to play nicely with his little brother is easier when the adults aren’t constantly modeling physical restraint as a means of getting someone to do what we want. Unfortunately, I went back to school in the fall and there were no suitable therapists (ie. therapists willing to ignore the fact that these techniques are physically impossible as soon as the kid is as strong as the adult). But instead of celebrating their sons physical gifts and channelling it into sports like any other 11 year old would get, this poor family was sold on a residential facility. I know that decision broke his moms heart, and it broke mine when she told me. This family just needed 5-10 hours a week someone there helping out so that mom and dad could do all the things required to keep a family functioning. Instead they got mandated behavioral therapy and institutionalization.

    Now granted, this was years ago, and i hope very strongly that things might have changed since then, but I know that the only part of my experiences that don’t match what the author describes, are the parts where I worried I’d get in trouble from the people signing my check. The parts where I came over to just baby sit, outside the scope of the therapy. The parts when I came for therapy, and he was having a rough day so we just laid out in the grass in the backyard instead. The part where I’d go retrieve his toys from the “therapy room” and bring them out into any other room in the house, because I thought getting him to play nicely was more important than forcing him into a room that literally inspired a panic attack and meltdown more often than not. Those little bits of humanity, those weren’t part of my training. And, even though now i know it was the right thing to do, those caused me a huge amount of anxiety and stress at the time. It was an extremely messed up situation from any side. I am so greatful to all the autistic adults out there who started the conversation and have put words to what I could really only feel in my gut.

    Liked by 5 people

  23. I disagree. The problem is what works for your child may not work for mine, and visa versa.
    I was told auditory integration and sensory integration were hogwash, but they worked for us. Likewise, when our son did chelation he quickly began to read and write. ABA works for some kids and I would have tried it had it been affordable when our son was young.

    Every child is different .

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Every child is different, however ableist compliance based “normalization” therapies and dangerous quack treatments like chelation don’t help anyone.

    Also, Autistics develop at our own rate, sometimes losing / gaining skills suddenly. Don’t be so sure it was the chelation. Also please stop endangering your child’s life and accept them for who they are.

    To anyone reading this: steer clear of quack “treatments” such as chelation, hyperbaric chambers, bleach enemas, etc. These things are not only bullshit, but straight up abuse.

    Liked by 8 people

  25. Thank you for sharing your story. I am glad that you went against the grain, and appreciate your courage and honesty.

    The truth is we can learn all of the things ABA teaches just fine without ABA. There are respectful ways of teaching all of those things. And the things we can’t learn? Well, if we can’t learn something, ABA wouldn’t have helped anyway. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. There are plenty of Autistic children not only getting by without ABA, but THRIVING.

    And all these people coming here to defend ABA, even as people in the comments share their stories of abuse and survival is the epitome of socially inappropriate behavior. But then, ABA supporters are pretty much known for their attempts to gaslight and silence Autistics, so….

    Liked by 5 people

  26. “Well what happens when “Timmy” hasn’t learned to tolerate his day at school and becomes physically aggressive as a means to escape the classroom, and the school team keeps calling Mom at work to come and get him? I’ll tell you what happens, “Timmy” get excluded from his school placement (look it up), Mom has to quit her job to stay home with him, the family loses their home due to financial troubles and what’s left is a whole domino shit load of challenges ahead.”

    ACTUALLY, what happens is that timmy gets an IEP that accommodates his sensory and learning sensitivities instead of forcing him to endure the stress without ever letting anything on like a fucking POW being tortured. and later, he gets ADA accommodations for same, instead of suffering C-PTSD and adult autistic burnout.

    Liked by 12 people

  27. Chelation? Seriously?

    Well, congrats on attempting to murder your child with snake oil. Glad you didn’t succeed.

    Chelation removes minerals vital to our body functioning properly, such as calcium, iron, and manganese. It can damage the liver, sometimes severely. Chelation for autistic kids already has a body count. And you still want to put your kid at risk, for something which has been proven to be ineffective.

    How about you accept your kid and work with him, rather than subjecting him to poison and torture?

    Liked by 6 people

  28. ….and you are still wrong. The problem with ABA is exactly that science, you seem to praise so much. Autism is not simply a behavioural problem. But the ABA lobby attemps to reduce autism to a behavioural problem to sell the idea of a “cure” to parents. ABA is neglecting the entire neuroscience and perception part that makes autism .Plus ABA always implements to escecially parents that autism is an awful thing to have. We don´t need that pseudoscientific cure called ABA. People like you needs to be cured and saved from that awful ABA.

    Liked by 4 people

  29. Thank you for this I’m new to this my son was diagnosed in September 2016 and they a re wanting me to do ABA therapy with him one thing after another has been happening with insurance so we haven’t started it yet so I think I’m going to drop it for now. I look forward to your next post about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Please don’t subject your child to this. Not only is it harmful, but it is completely unnecessary.

    Every major Autistic run organization rejects ABA. Get your info from these organizations bc you are getting info from actually autistic people.

    Autism is not something that needs to be treated.And each autistic person’s support needs are vastly different.

    Make sure your child has access to whatever kind of communication he is most comfortable with: AAC, sign language, communication bracelets, etc. And remember that EVERYONE communicates. Behavior is also communication.

    Help support your child by creating a sensory friendly and stress free environment, advocating for any supports he might need and teaching him to do the same. Teach coping strategies, etc. Some people find OT helpful. It just depends on what areas your child needs help with.

    Please check out the Respectfully Connected blog

    And the Parenting Autistic Children With Love And Acceptance Facebook community. I listed some helpful resources in a comment further down, but I think I will put some links and helpful info on my blog’s Facebook page for anyone interested.

    Liked by 6 people

  31. Great contribution to a growing body of anti-ABA accounts, and I can’t wait to read the next blogs. I’m an autistic adult with a non-verbal autistic son, the kids that ABA preys on to stay in business. It is hysterical reading the caped-crusading ABA apologists who like magic show up in the comment section anytime someone so much as utters a critical word on their money-making pseudoscience. They all follow what seems like a prepared script that follows the same outline: 1) you don’t understand ABA, 2) you implemented it incorrectly, 3) it is “science” and “evidence-based,” 4) it has helped so many children and you’re spreading misinformation to parents. It is humorous because there’s always some masters student, a BCBA Lite, who’s done it for years and knows what “proper” ABA is. Then of course the BCBAs show up as though they have some alert that goes off any time an article comes online, so they can swoop in science the shit out of all of us naive autistic people who don’t “get’ it. This time was especially amusing with the BCBA above who made it clear what ABA and Early Intervention really represents: the medical model of disability, or the pathology paradigm in practice, with their PR firm Autism Speaks convincing new parents that autism requires immediate and ongoing “treatment” for the best “outcome,” again, because this is the medical model, autism as disease model. They’ve invented a “developmental window” that your child must meet, and ABA and Early Intervention are there to swoop in and suck all the new diagnoses up to turn them into proper, socially “appropriate” and compliant children. You see, unlike autistic people pushing fear or propaganda as the BCBA Lite says above, the fear is invented by EI and ABA and Autism Speaks and the medical model they all operate under that captures the emotions of parents who don’t know any better. But like the BCBA says above, we can’t have Timmy stimming all day because how would mom teach skills if he’s allowed to do whatever he wants? After all, there’s a household to run! Yeah, sorry, please stop pretending that your pseudoscience money cult is about helping autistic people.

    Liked by 9 people

  32. I could not agree more. Everything you said, everything. I cannot tell you how pressured I have been to do ‘the only treatment that works” for my daughter but I won’t. it’s demeaning and dehumanizing and it treats them as sub human. I’m so glad you put into words the feelings I have had for years. I tried it for a week here and there because the therapists seemed different; but no matter who does it they are hurting my child. No way! And it doesn’t even work!!! She regressed every time!


  33. This sadly sounds like much of mainstream, authoritarian, punitive, compliance-based parenting. =( I raised my first two kids that way until they were 7 and 9. It’s how I was raised. Then I discovered peaceful parenting. The transition has been extremely difficult, but worth it. My younger two children get to experience a much softer, guidance-based parent in me. I hope that my older two can learn from what they see with their siblings and also from what I’ve told them about why I think I wronged them before.

    I have a page on Facebook devoted to parents like myself who are trying to shed their authoritarian upbringing and become peaceful parents.


  34. What would be an alternative method if I want to work in the field? Many have recommended ABA classes but I always have this feeling that it is lacking something.
    Please advise to degrees or classes / courses that would be alternative and forefront.
    Thank you,


  35. I am the neurotypical parent of a neurotypical child and don’t think that using sticker charts (rewards/punishments), ignoring a child having a hard time (failing to be empathetic/remain connected), or demanding quiet compliance from noisy young kids (setting developmentally inappropriate expectations) are acceptable adult behaviors. I know these coercion tactics are mainstream but that doesn’t mean they’re appropriate or effective for anyone, let alone autistic children who are living in a world that is not centered on them. “We do similar things to neurotypical kids” is not a justification, especially when autistic people have repeatedly explained how distressful and harmful ABA therapy & its goals are to them.

    Letting children do whatever they please without limits is not the alternative here. Hopefully you are at least aware of other non-behaviorist methods of understanding and caring for children.

    Liked by 9 people

  36. Thank you for this! Just last week I was in an ARD for my son when the subject came up and I told them how I challenged his ex speech therapist to find me just one testimonial of an autistic adult who endorses ABA. She couldn’t find one. Of course his teacher chimed in oh my son loves his ABA, exactly the way you describe here. Keep fighting the fight!


  37. I am Autistic, and i am glad you wrote this blog, Birdmadgrrl. This needed to be written.

    I have never been through ABA myself, and i am middle-aged, single, never married, don’t have children, but if i did, and they were Autistic, i damn well can guarantee you i would not subject them to ABA or ANY compliance based therapy, no matter how “well-intentioned” it may seem, because of the numerous horror stories i have read of Autistics growing up to live an adult life with PTSD and C-PTSD from being forced to be “normal” and “indistinguishable from our peers”.

    Even so, i still grew up in a family who did not accept me, and who kept trying to force ME into normal. And they were abusive about it, both physically and mentally abusive. I now suffer with C-PTSD, no surprise.

    As for chelation therapy, not only does it not work, it can literally be fatal….yes, it can literally kill your child!

    “To anyone reading this: steer clear of quack “treatments” such as chelation, hyperbaric chambers, bleach enemas, etc. These things are not only bullshit, but straight up abuse.”

    I agree!!

    And all of these “treatments” can kill your child.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Thank you for writing this.

    I’m crying tears of happiness that you are speaking out for kids like mine.

    My son, now 17 and college bound, has Aspergers. He was traumatized by an ABA therapist from the age of 9 to 11.

    He was forcibly restrained in illegal time out rooms for hours. He was deprived of water to drink for meltdowns that lasted for hours, multiple times.

    The ABA therapist did exactly as you described. She did planned ignoring, refused to help him when he vomited and punished him daily. All without my knowledge for 2 years.

    My son was afraid to tell me. He was too traumatized.

    I sued my district for alternate placement and settled.

    But my son, who has Aspergers has been scarred for life emotionally. He cannot fully trust anyone, even me, his mother and advocate and bff.

    Thank you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Someone asked about alternatives to ABA. Please read the work of Brenda Smith Myles, Ross Greene, AspergerExperts.com.

    We Aspies and with ASD have brains that are wired differently.

    We cannot be forced into thinking like a typical person.

    We do not misbehave or not comply on purpose. Usually a child on the spectrum, especially a high functioning child, “acts out” because of what Brenda Smith Myles calls the Hidden Agenda.

    We do not understand the cognitive part if behavior…the WHY.

    We need to be taught the societal norms and the rules we do not implicitly understand.

    We need love, compassion, empathy And sensory support.

    When you ask us why we are “misbehaving” or “escaping” or “avoiding” there is usually a good reason.

    Something upset us and we did not know how to handle it. And we need to be taught coping skills and strategies to ask for help not punished.

    For example, my son has dysgraphia. On his first day of school, at the age of 8 in 4th grade, he was forced to write by a teacher who was taught ABA.

    My son threw the pencil in frustration because he tried to write but could not.

    He was restrained when he melted down. He was suspended for throwing a pencil. Yet his IEP states he has dysgraphia and his 5 years of OT reports indicate he has low tone and poor fine motor skills and he cannot write.

    Yet the teacher and ABA interventionist insisted my son was “avoiding” and when he ran from them, he was “escaping and non compliant”

    Of course he was. He cannot write.

    So my son was punished for his disability.

    I had to sue my school district for alternate placement.

    In a therapeutic school that filled Ross Greene’s methodology, my son learned to use a laptop and never melted again.

    He is a senior and will be graduating with honors this June.

    Reading your story validates me but MORE important it validates my son…

    Thank you!!

    Liked by 3 people

  40. I don’t know what to make of this article. My son is undergoing ABA therapy for speech and rigidity. We personally think he has improved leaps and bounds. He is so cheerful, talks and lot and is working on some rigidities. He loves his therapist dearly and waits for her every single day to knock on the door. I frankly don’t know what I am missing here!

    Liked by 3 people

  41. Please don’t buy into the advertising about “evidence-based.” ABA prefaces EVERYTHING they claim with this, as though it is a defensive maneuver to fend off criticism they know will be coming, because what parent could possibly argue with “evidence-based” and “science?” Of course, there is zero evidence that ABA “works” long-term, only that in the here and now it can work to extinguish autistic behaviors, which is of course its goal. Few or no research studies have been done to account for all the adult autistics who went through ABA in childhood and now write about their awful experiences, with many suffering from mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, PTSD. The general theme is one of autistic people growing up with little to no self-worth, because the goal of this therapy is autistic erasure when you can’t actually do this. It uses the “evidence” culled from various behaviorist studies done over several decades of experimenting on autistic children. Eugenics was also considered a “science” a century ago, and it led to mass sterilization programs of disabled people and undesirable minority populations to stop them from reproducing. You see, a lot of unethical and abhorrent medical or experimental practices claim to be science and “evidence-based.” This is the starting point of ABA, and unfortunately because of the structural discrimination and oppression of disabled people that goes back well into the early 20th century, few alternative methods have developed and gained any kind of wide popularity outside of the medical model’s Early Intervention/ABA. I think of all the therapies out there that autistic children often are placed with, occupational therapy can be one of the most beneficial for working through sensory difficulties, but as with all Early Intervention, OT is as susceptible to any other in its training which is fully informed by the pathology paradigm. Few therapists are trained any other way, but good therapists can learn to break from the ideas of pathology that they’re taught.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. To Jennifer Paul…

    You ask how does mom get “Timmy to stop self stimming in the bathtub?”

    Quite simply the answer os she does not.

    She loves and accepts Timmy.

    If Timmy wants to stim, he may stim.

    As an Aspie myself who needs to stim for anxiety and who is raising Aspies who stim, I say you do not have the right to tell me that stimming is not ok or to make me feel guilty for using a behavior that is helpful at alleviating my anxiety.

    We can stim and bathe if that makes us calm.

    Who are you to say we cannot or that I as a parent am wrong to let my child stim. Are you the behavior police??

    You do not have a right to want to fix us or cure us.

    You should be trying to ACCEPT us for who we are.

    In the words of the incredible Temple Grandin, “we are different, not less”.

    Do not try to FIX US by forcing us to COMPLY to YOUR standards of normalcy.

    Who says stimming in a bathtub is wrong? I sure do not.

    We are just fine, thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Jennifer Paul, just STOP. You have obvious been brainwashed and bought in completely to the farce that is “ABA”. Your condension of the author of this blog post is reprehensible. As you admitted, “you personally have not experienced life with the neurological differences that we summarize as ASD”. I don’t care how many “hundreds of people diagnosed with ASD” you have “met and collaborated with”, here is the real truth…UNLESS YOU “LIVE IT”, YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY “GET IT”. Go somewhere else to spew your “superior knowledge and intellect”. I, for one, am sick to death of “professionals” who are barely out of school themselves and usually don’t even have typical children of their own, much less a child on the spectrum, that have the audacity to claim to know what is best for MY CHILD! Sadly, I listened to these “professionals” and allowed their “evidence-based” ABA therapy to invade our home for 10+ years. I wish I had listened to that little voice in my head that was telling me something was wrong. I am still trying to undo the damage and crushing effects that ABA had on our now 16-year old son with ASD. It hurts me to know that I subjected my son to all these years of “therapy”, but I was following the supposedly “gold-standard” treatment for children with ASD.

    THANK YOU, “birdmadgrrl”, for sharing your experience and thoughts that mirror my own. I look forward to your future posts…

    Liked by 3 people

  44. Although I am saddened to hear your experiences I am glad that you have written about and shared them.

    I have sought an ABA programme for Dylan for the last 5 years. We do not follow ‘textbook’ 40 hour weeks and behaviour modification but we do implement the teaching technique of building on learnt skills to develop positive learning. I hate the idea that we are abusing Dylan for following ABA methods and as parents we scrutinise all advice from his consultant to ensure that all targets and plans are Dylan centred.

    I urge all parents, therapists and teachers to also ensure that they are scrutinising methods used and ensuring that all therapies, be it ABA or otherwise, are for the best of the child to avoid abusive practices.

    A thought provoking post. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Greg Love — thank you for offering your perspective as a person with autism. I have a nonspeaking autistic son and we made the decision years ago to stop ABA. We are currently preparing to homeschool him so that he can be removed from an ABA-based public school classroom. All parents struggle with knowing whether we are doing the right thing for our kids, so your comments validate my instinct. Thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. If every autistic child is unique as we purport, is not the way ABA Therapy is administered tailored to that child. On the third day of my 13 y/o grandson’s introduction to ABA, he was taken down for not complying and trying to get away. He fought back and was sent home for hurting the techs. It seems to me that a 13 y/o, 5′ 4″, 160 lb. child would require a different approach than what would be used with a 6 y/o. We are very concerned. The blog as well as the comments are very helpful to us.

    Liked by 2 people

  47. Why is ABA only used on people with Autism if it it is scientifically proven to be successful for the child to function as a seemingly neurotypical child? If a child cannot walk and needs to be in a wheelchair then we should use ABA on him to help him be like everyone else. After all, being in a wheelchair means that you are different, you are not using your two feet like a normal person, you need assistance to get places, you need help going to the bathroom or to shower, you may not even be able to use the bathroom so you may need to have your diaper changed at a regular basis, etc. We can’t have mommy do all this and still work because that is a nuisance and a inconvenient burden so we should use ABA to teach this child how be like everyone else and not need a wheelchair anymore.
    Should we try to see if that would work on people who cant walk and need to be in a wheelchair to see if they can become normal like everyone else so they dont be a burden on society or are only people with Autism considered to be problematic and a burden to society? Why or why not?

    Liked by 2 people

  48. I have twins that are on the spectrum. We have our good and bad days. We are about to do an ABA therapy in a month and I’m worried.


  49. Thanks for making the authors point that the point of your “therapy” is to force a neuroatypical child into a neurotypical child role. Telling them they are broken and flawed and must do things a certain way to be accepted. That is psychological damage to a person who can’t change the way their brain is wired and naturally works. I’m not autistic but I am ADHD. You’ll notice I didn’t say I have ADHD but that I AM ADHD. Its not a disease brought on by an imbalance in my brain like depression or anxiety, both of which I have as well as PTSD and I can trace my triggers back to spending years tryiing to force myself to be something I wasn’t even.

    Liked by 2 people

  50. And if one just ONE autistic person is able to tell someone through AAC or voice, that AbA was helpful and made their lives better I would disagree. I have met many that share your view. How long can we ignore the adults that tell us this was detrimental?

    Liked by 1 person

  51. Thank you so much for writing this. I work as a psychotherapist and have many times told parents they should pull their kids out of ABA- many parents instead pull their kids out of therapy. ABA is free, it’s also free childcare, sometimes light housework…it is catastrophic.
    Wanted to ask your permission to post a link to your post on my (very sorry excuse of a ) blog on my professional website http://www.oritwekslermft.com let me know if that would be okay with you.


  52. this is a great discussion. I’ve read most of it. I have extensive Special ed training. A big chunk of the course was on ABA. Then when I worked in a special school a big chunk of the day was spent ‘toilet training’. Then I did intensive programs and implementations using the basic principals . Some of these things worked but most made me wonder why am I doing this and what is it doing to the kids.
    This is the first time have seen it expressed so well -thank you
    I started to wonder why recently when I was working with a 10 yr old who was non verbal but I believe very bright and capable. His mother boasted of the years of ABA to make him sit at a table to do a task and to have eye contact. I asked why this was important and she said because he needs to learn this to learn other things. uuhh??Then in the classroom I would ask him how he did a task and he would take my hand and guide me to do it. His teacher kept saying he was lazy in wanting others to do things -then I saw he was imitating his ABA therapist. I dont have the permission now to explain this to the teacher for her to change her attitude and for the mother to change hers…my contract finished….I hope I get to see him again one day and tell him, I understand…


  53. Doing ABA requires the therapist to be all or mostly neurotypical too, otherwise they get slowly pushed out of the field. And none of my clients knew exactly why these grown-up friends show up at their house or school all the time because their diagnosis wasn’t disclosed to them. They need learning goals, but they really need role models and an early start at self-advocacy and acceptance!


  54. Thank you to those with autism spectrum disorders for participating. Your remarks have made it possible for me over the years to continue to advocate for sensory integration with courage.

    There was an article in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities some years ago about identical twins with autism. The parents could not decide whether to engage the children in ABA or DIR/Floortime (a relationship, play based, sensory approach) so they put one child in each. The article abstract using quantifiable evidence determined that the ABA was more effective, yet the parents pulled the twin from ABA and placed both in the play based approach. Why? The child that was in ABA had more language, but the words were “Stop it!”, screaming and other such vocalizations. The child in ABA also had more non-verbal communication, hitting. To find that little gem it was necessary to read the entire article. Quantifiable evidence of effectiveness may not be qualitative. It is hard to evaluate descriptive research such as that which comes from the field of sensory integration. It is easier to use numbers such as how many vocalization were produced, than evaluating if the interaction was meaningful.

    Liked by 3 people

  55. Besides, it is entirely possible to stim AND do necessary tasks at the same time. Whistling/singing while you work? That’s stimming! Fidgeting with your hands to help you focus (i.e. twirling hair or manipulating a fidget toy) while you learn language? Stimming! And there are many other good stims besides. And unlike these ABA people with their practices, we actually acknowledge that unhealthy stims exist; you know, self-injury, hair pulling, the usual suspects. And we acknowledge them without using the “No True Scotsman” fallacy that ABA professionals are so fond of, which is when one says that the bad stuff in their culture/area/discipline isn’t a REAL example of what they are defending. And we know that, while things like self-injury and hair-pulling may be the “least bad” option for people who are under severe stress and desperate for self-regulation, we also know that these stims are unhealthy and should be replaced with healthier stims whenever possible, or, particularly when you can’t replace or redirect those stims, it is a good idea to see if there are any environmental stressors to remove (this may include simple things like a loose thread or an itchy tag; try those first because they are easiest, and if you introduce a new thing, look to see how Timmy’s behavior changes), to see if there isn’t some comorbid medical condition adding to the stress (including migraines, head lice, and, yes, GI woes sometimes), and to consider mood stabilizers and other such medical treatments as an option – something like bipolar disorder or something like that can easily add to someone’s stress, and it can be comorbid with autism.

    Honestly, I wish ABA meant doing stuff like I mentioned above as a way of mitigating problems with unhealthy stems; after all, what I suggested above as a way to approach unhealthy stims (and frequent meltdowns as well, which can often include these stims) is, in a literal sense, analyzing someone’s behavior and then applying solutions to them – it’s a lot easier to fight something that doesn’t sound good in at least some situations. However, it never seems to; ABA in the sense it is used with autistic people in an official capacity is, in fact, operant conditioning, the same principle that governs dog training; it may be personalized, but this “personalization” boils down to taking what the specific individual loves the most (or hates the most, in the case of aversives) and using those things as the carrot (or stick) to get people to do what the therapist wants, instead of using more generic punishments/rewards, so Timmy might get, say, time playing with a Thomas the Tank engine as a reward but not gummy bears because he doesn’t like gummies, and he might get a feather stroked across the arm as punishment in an aversive-using program, because he is hyposensitive to spanking and his boundaries are so violated he no longer cares whether someone touches his behind, but a feather lightly touching him feels like a blade across his arm – the therapist who uses the feather doesn’t know they are basically stroking Timmy’s arm with the edge of a blade, sensation-wise, they only know that Timmy reacts negatively and they don’t see any injury, so they can cause Timmy this brutal sensation without losing sleep at night. And I wasn’t even delving into ways they change the environment to induce compliance.

    Birdmadgrrl, I’m afraid what you mentioned was not even the worst of the environmental changes that have been implemented in these programs, not by far. One of the worst I saw was someone turning on the heat in a car in freakin’ FLORIDA so as to “tempt” a nonverbal kid to ask the therapist to turn the heat down – what might have happened if the kid were too stressed to be able to ask for this? He might have died! And I got that from this article: http://praacticalaac.org/praactical/how-to-make-communication-temptations-really-work/
    I also notice that the ABA people who wrote that article and defend their practice may have made vague statements about how their thinking “evolved”, but I have yet to see any “We’re sorry we did this, these techniques are risky and dangerous” or “Caution, fellow therapists! Do not use these techniques because they are unhealthy and can cause serious bodily harm” either. This means that I am not real confident that they don’t still do these types of things; they may just be keeping these things from people or waiting until a person is deep into their program before using such obviously abusive techniques, especially since they still have that article up as of April 5, 2017 with no cautions or apologies or indeed anything explicitly warning people not to use these techniques. Until ABA people actively and vehemently reject methods like that, I’m still gonna use that article; statements about “evolving thoughts” mean to me that, at best, they use those techniques less often but still use them if the parents are desperate enough. After all, I come from a special ed school that may have not officially billed themselves as an ABA school but still used all sorts of euphemisms to describe things they did (i.e. a “Study Hall” which was basically during-school detention) – euphemisms do not automatically make the abusiveness of certain techniques go away. After all, a piece of shit by any other name would stink as bad, even if you called that piece of shit a rose.

    Liked by 1 person

  56. There was one time where I was not allowed to leave the kitchen (No bathroom, and through the entire night) for seventeen hours because I didn’t want to eat the rest of my food.


  57. I am going to blow your mind and inform you that there are at least nine senses, though some neurologists would say as many as 21. (Some ESP type fanatics will say as many as 35 I believe). You are absolutely correct, ABA is poorly applied, that was part of the author’s problem. Science is more focused on answering how, rather than why. Why is more of a philosophical question. Science may be born from philosophy, but it would be more apt to say it seeks to answer how, and we use that to ask questions which inform as to why. We know all about how evolution works, but why does evolution occur? It is just a random error in DNA, generally speaking, but that is a how, not a why. Natural selection/Survival of the fittest is an explanation of why evolution works, but still fails to answer why it happens. (Probably quite unanswerable).

    I encourage you to read more about how ABA has affected the lives of those who had to be put through it, before you commit to endorsing it. However, I would also like you to try all you can to correct the disaster that it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. I am the mom of an eight year old with autism. He is in ABA, and they are working towards him using a toilet that does not have a tank on it. His school remodeled and put in auto-flushing toilets, to which my son is terrified. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses and schools are going this route in an effort to conserve water and save money. He holds his pee for 8 hours a day, or wets his pants. We’ve fought with every level of the school district and school board for four years, consulted every person we could think of, and nothing. We got no where. After only two months of ABA (which looked absolutely nothing like what you described, and yes, I do know that for a fact because the clinic we go to has parent observation rooms with one way glass and microphones so I see and hear everything, and I am that helicopter mom that does watch every move and listens to every word, and will absolutely barrel into a room full of therapists if I feel like my child is being mistreated in any way.) they were able to make enough progress to where he will now use a toilet without a tank on it. I’m being genuinely curious here, what would you suggest as an alternative to ABA in this situation?

    Liked by 1 person

  59. Also, communication may be difficult, and seem impossible at times, just because one may not respond “in decent time”, it doesn’t mean we aren’t listening, you need to remember to be patient. I understand it can be difficult, but patience and encouragement is my best advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  60. Thanks so much for writing this. I’m a special educator (in training, wrapping up my M.Ed.) and do activism work around inclusion and disability rights, and yet had never heard about ABA until just recently. I’m learning more from Autistic friends (and kickass parents of Autistic kids) and I’m horrified that anyone would defend this practice. Thank you for speaking out. I look forward to following your upcoming blogs so I can learn more and defend my Autistic students.


  61. ABA is an extreme example of what is happening to children generally these days with the hovering parents and the decline in the belief in individuality and fear, fear, fear in our post-Columbine, 9/11 world. As an Aspie-Autistic who grew up in the ’60’s and ’70’s I have seen these bad changes. If the kid misses a so-called growth marker panic often ensues. Parent runs to a clinician and gets pathologized. Kids grow at different rates, one skill may come early while others are delayed but this is being forgotten. By first grade I walking several blocks BY MYSELF, by my tweens I was riding my bike for miles and taking public transportation BY MYSELF. Today if a parent allowed this he or she would be arrested for child abuse, then it was normal parenting. My parents like most demanded I get my homework done and be home in time for dinner, that was it. If I screwed up mommy did not run to the teacher, I had to suffer the consequences. That FREEDOM allowed myself to figure out who I am and what works and does not work for me. I am not advocating going back to the 60’s with its abusive institutionalization of “mental defectives”. And I most definitely could have done without bullying being accepted as a natural part of growing up or boys being boys. And do not pull that you can write so you are too high functioning to opine about my kid shit on me. My public school threw me out after 2nd grade, perfectly legal in 1965. I got lucky a private school with the attitude of we can help anybody accepted me, otherwise, I would have been institutionalized for life.

    So yeah it is great we have advanced so much but have we really? Positive reinforcement is better than aversives but the goal is the same. I hear all the time “diversity, diversity, diversity” but actions speak louder than words, we are doing everything to propagate conformity.

    The responses by the ABA specialists disgust me. Autistics are not some lab rats for your science experimentation. You do not use aversives much anymore great, but you are still using people as lab rats. “Evidence based” means that that you got them to do what you think is right. You generally recommend 25-40 hours a week of ABA. Forcing a toddler to do anything 25-40 hours a week is cruel, it is unnatural. I do not hear too much talk about the evidence that if you lessen the hours or end the therapy the “desired results” start to decrease. What you are running is at best very expensive band aid at worst a scam.

    If feel sorry for the parents trying to choose Autism treatments. Choose is a misleading word because if the parent does not want to choose ABA they are often on their own. Insurance must pay for Autism treatments in 45 states now. But that usually includes ABA plus speech. If you want an alternative treatment you are likely going to have to pay for it and you probably have to pay to move a long distance to find it and if you can not afford that, your fault for going against science.

    It is a catch 22 situation. Since ABA is the “gold standard” most of the incentives for researchers be it money or prestige is tied in with ABA. So that means little research for alternatives, which means ABA supporters can often correctly say there is no evidence for said alternative.

    Liked by 1 person

  62. Really liked your article- it’s very well written! I believe it’s important to embrace neuro-diversity and to accept children for who they are. A child can really flourish if you offer them love, compassion and understanding, along with teaching them skills and building on ther strengths. I feel hopeful that the therapetic model for treatment will move in this direction.


  63. Thank you for this. I am autistic and go nonverbal when trying to talk about things like this. Thank you for saying the words that are hard, but need to be said. As important as it is to listen to autistics over anyone else, sometimes it is hard to be the autistic one speaking. So sometimes, it is needed for a non-autistic person to speak. Thank you for not silencing yourself for the sake of it being easier.

    Liked by 1 person

  64. Thanks you so much for this. I have been searching for ABA therapy for my children (one has Autism and the other is ADHD) for a year and it would just not manifest. Our Medicaid expired and we could not re-approve and we would have to come out of the pocket and now that I read this, I believe there was a reason home ABA wasn’t manifesting into our lives lol. I do not want my children to go through trauma of this kind. Thank you so much for writing this and enlightening me on what it truly is. One of my children did have an ABA person at school who would work with him one class period 2 times a week his 1st grade and he would always come home saying “I don’t like her, she’s mean”. I will no longer consider ABA for my boys.


  65. I should add that The Accountability Pyramid encourages caregivers to carry the weight of our immature but innocent kids when the child is young but then transfers the “weight” of immature behavior to the child’s shoulders in a natural brain-development appropriate way as the child grows…using natural consequences not constant man-made rewards and punishments. This slower but more natural transfer of accountability for immature behavior preserves the child’s true self and sets them free to think for themselves as an adult. I could talk for hours about this…hopefully this makes a little sense here. 🙂


  66. Not to mention I’m pretty sure (from memory and without looking) that it violates the IDEA to enact a punishment that removes a student from school without investigating how their disability relates to the behavior that caused the consequence in question. Basically, if Timmy has a meltdown or something and is given a punishment like suspension or expulsion, and nobody looks into what made his meltdown happen/the factors that went into what happened, then the school is the one at fault, not the parents or student.

    Look it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  67. I want to thank you for publishing your piece “I Abused Children for a Living”. As I read your work, I kept thinking to myself “did she get a hold of my journal?”. I too worked in an ABA classroom for 2 years and found myself thinking the same things as you described. I also had no prior experience in early childhood (other than babysitting and nannying in homes) and absolutely no training in special ed. Team meetings and training days were NEVER about what autism is but rather about how we can tackle certain behaviors, etc.
    I now work for a Montessori school because I could no longer take ripping autonomy out of children’s hands. I felt responsible for shaping children into individuals they are not and for making their needs and wants seem less than important than our own as teachers. I remember thinking that if a child was not becoming upset by what we were doing or what we were asking, the intervention probably wasn’t working. A child becoming upset was an indicator that the behavior intervention was “working”. How warped and insane is that?!
    I really appreciated your section on “some of the things getting filed”. It summed up our work as ABA therapists beautifully- what you covered is EXACTLY what our students learned. Those are the lessons that will carry with them through their life…the quiet hands, eye contact, sitting “appropriately”, sharing a toy, etc. are subsidiary to the true lessons that you listed. It is heartbreaking for me to look back on my time there and consider that I was an active part of it. I empathized with your entire piece and it feels so wonderful to know I am not the only one who has thought these things.
    Best to you.


  68. Blargh, I don’t appear to be able to edit the other comment, but I meant to add that punishment for a meltdown would be the most obvious violation of that tenet of the IDEA, though anything that could get a punishment that could be linked back to disability is a violation of the IDEA if there’s a punishment but no investigation.

    (I looked it up and even if I’m a little wrong (I’m still looking), he can’t be excluded more than 10 days without some sort of replacement for the education. It’d be illegal for him to be completely excluded.)


  69. Speech should be treated by a Speech Language Pathologist, NOT ABA. They don’t have the background in language that an SLP has.

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  70. Montessori does a lot of ABA stuff too, just not in ways that you may recognize. Therefore, although there are things that I love about Montessori,- it’s the Behaviorism aspect that I don’t like AT ALL.


  71. I think that people are missing the point when dealing with people on the Autistic Spectrum. We die younger from suicide as well as mistreatment and neglect. We are dying, on average at the age of 54 and everyone seems okay with that. That is less than if I grew up in Chad or Afghanistan. Neuro-Typical society is giving us PTSD. The person who needs therapy is the parent. Eighty percent of parents end up getting divorced over an Autistic child like homosexuals children in the “60’s. The reason for this is because your failed understanding that it is you not me that need help. You need to forget about your ambitions and let your child play and figure out their passions and support them in their chosen field. Then they might have a chance of being Jacob Barnett. If you are doing this to your kid and you refuse to seek help yourself then you are a hypocrite.

    Liked by 1 person

  72. It’s true. The devil is in the details in papers like this; they include things like what you said and also things like what are essentially textbook descriptions of abusive tactics in other papers. And here’s the thing; when it comes to raising kids, qualitative evidence matters. A lot. Since you are dealing with human beings here; heck, qualitative is important when dealing with pets, too, but at least pets are less likely to feel the repercussions of approaches like that as a barrier from their own species and, since they aren’t human, can just dismiss some of that behavior as how humans are in general. Humans, however, do not have that luxury, because the people raising them are human too.


  73. There are a number of research (evidence based) therapy approaches that seek to help children with Autism with social communication and emotional regulation which are not ABA. Approaches which seek to learn WHY the child is doing a behavior and give the child the same outcome with a safer or conventional language or bahavior strategy. ABA won’t look at the intrisic reasons why a child is doing something. Only what they can observe. If a child is hitting or biting themselves after 6hours of school and 2 hours of therapy – a good clinician would stop and think, what is their behavior communicating – and work to give that child a way to say “I’m exhausted” (gesture, icon, vocalization, word) so they can’t replace an injurous behavior with another behavior which can give them the same result (a break).

    ABA likes to claim they are the sole treatment for Autism that’s evidence based. Maybe their right. But ONLY because other therapies aren’t trying to cure Autism, they are trying to support the child in accessing and progressing in their environment. Autism is being human. There are evidence based therapies that are not ABA.


  74. What I would suggest is simple: supports and accommodations.

    My daughter and I are both Autistic. We both have sensory issues with sounds and public bathrooms are like landmines for both of us (but more so for her.)

    These sounds can be physically painful, and cause us a lot of anxiety. No amount of exposure, showing us that they’re safe, etc. is going to change the painful sensory experience that happens when we use a public restroom.

    Sometimes these things change with age. Sometimes they don’t. Sensory processing is tricky and these things are very fluid even day to day, minute to minute (often it’s more intense if we are already stressed, sick, exhausted, etc.)

    The thing is, ABA is not going to change your child’s brain (nor should it if that were even possible.) ABA is going to focus on behaviors, because ABA sees the behavior as the problem.

    But behavior is communication, and if your child is screaming, he’s trying to tell you something. The problem isn’t your child or his screaming. The problem is an inaccessible bathroom and lack of supports and accommodations.

    Sensory accessibility is just as necessary for Autistics as ramps are for wheelchair users. Fight for that.

    In the meantime, some things you can try are:

    -have your son carry Post-Its with him and show him how to put 1 (doubled) over the sensor before he uses the toilet. This way it won’t flush when he least expects it and he has control of when it happens.

    -let your child wear noise-cancelling headphones

    -consider getting your son a pair of Here ear buds. These are wireless ear buds that you can program with a smart phone to actually adjust sound in the real world. They’re a bit on the pricey side (about $200 last I checked) but all of my Autistic friends who use them say they’ve been life changing, and I definitely plan to get a pair for both myself and my daughter as soon as financially possible

    -encourage your child to use the bathroom at home before going anywhere that may not have an accessible restroom.

    -advocate for your child to be able to use the restroom at school during class where it won’t be crowded and he doesn’t have to worry about others flushing, or to let him use a different restroom that is more accessible if one is available.

    Also, if the school restroom uses hand dryers exclusively as so many places are starting to do, have him pack some paper towels or napkins in his backpack.

    If your son has a lot of sensory issues, you may want to seek out an OT. A good book that I’ve found really helpful is Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals.

    A great FB community for learning about autism related things from actually autistic people is Parenting Autistic Children With Love and Acceptance. You can ask them questions and get answers from Autistic people.

    Liked by 1 person

  75. Yes! This is great. When my son was diagnosed asd last year, I struggled with the idea of aba being so “important”. And scientific etc. I’m a vet, so science background, evidence based medicine is all so important these days, but on the other hand, did I really want to treat my child like a naughty dog for stuff he can’t help??? Thank you.


  76. Thanks for this post. I hope you write some followup and explain how you came to realize what you were doing isn’t good for kids.

    I’m struggling with this decision right now; I thought once we knew what was up with my child, we’d know what to do to help him, but nope. No one can tell us what will help him the most, whether he will be able to be independent, what he can achieve. It’s frustrating and while my mother’s heart says “nothing, ever, that my baby doesn’t like” I also have to deal with the question of what can help him in the long term. And no one can tell me that.


  77. Oh, likewise. What’s even more disturbing is the way I still, in my 30s, call myself stupid for forgetting things, or lazy on days when my executive function just doesn’t want to exist, or work myself up into a state over things that aren’t actually a big deal.

    I flinched the other day when my husband took his belt off so he could relax more comfortably, and I know 100% it is because the belt was how my father dealt with my ADHD. I was never taught any coping mechanisms, but was expected to just do normality.

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  78. Yes, every child is different. However, I am ADHD (which appears to be caused by similar brain abnormalities to the ones that cause autism), and I can assure you, focusing *entirely* on “stamp out abnormal behaviors and reward normal ones,” which ABA appears to be about, is NOT how you deal with a non-neurotypical child unless you want them to come out of it with severe anxiety disorders and/or suicidal depression. I speak from first-hand experience on this, as my life was, essentially, a series of carrots and sticks (mostly sticks) from my father to try to get me to just be normal, which I’m not.


  79. Thank you. I am actually working on a follow up right now. It is a response to another blogger’s response to my blog.

    I am kind of swamped with comments in need of moderating and emails, etc. I will get to all of them (the good, the bad and the ugly.) I started this blog as a form of self care and had no idea this would reach so many people- I don’t even think it’s been a month since I started it.

    Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to say I left ABA for these reasons, I actually didn’t realize the harm I had done until years later when I got involved with the Autistic community and met so many Autistic people, and read the work of so many autistic people who were harmed by ABA.

    I actually left to start a family & later found out that both my daughter and I are Autistic (which is why I sought out autistic people.)

    While I worked there, I never saw it as abuse, but like so many of the therapist commenting and emailing me shared, it was more of a creepy feeling, like something wasn’t right.

    Liked by 1 person

  80. When the therapist is not there, what does he do? What is he allowed to do? Is she the bright spot in his day? Is she the reason his toys come out? Does pleasing her mean that he sometimes gets to stim without being put down for it? Do people smile at him and tell him he’s a good kid-when he isn’t performing for them? (Watch your tone of voice. Even when we can’t read expressions, many of us–but autism is not a singular thing–can read tones of voice. Let your tone and your words be consistent. Does ABA even teach that?)

    Do you understand that teaching a child to perform normalcy does not in fact make him normal? What is he going to build on this childhood where he spent half of his waking life learning how to pass as somebody he isn’t during the other half? He still has the exact same brain he always did. He still needs the “rigidity” (consistency, predictability, and lots of advance prep for new situations) and I bet speaking is as hard as it ever was. He’s just pouring enormous amounts of energy into talking and cramming down his discomfort.
    What else could he be doing, with that energy?

    Also, what the heck does behavioral modification have to do with speech therapy?


  81. Please listen to Actually autistic adults who have endured ABA as a therapy.
    Listen. To. The. Actually. Autistic.
    They are screaming to be heard, not refuted or discounted by “but we have good intentions.”
    Do you realize that by ignoring autistics and plugging your ears are you shout “ABA IS GOOD,” you are again silencing the people you claim to want to help?

    Liked by 1 person

  82. Thank you for this article. It was shared in a fb group I belong to. I was on the border of starting our daughter in ABA and my research coupled with your article has reaffirmed my first gut instinct that it was not going to be right for her. Please keep blogging!


  83. I was wondering what your thoughts are on RDI? I have always known there was no way we would do ABA as it doesn’t fit in with our family or parenting values. We were considering doing some RDI therapy.


  84. I don’t know enough about RDI to speak specifically about it. I had briefly looked into it as well as floortime after learning how problematic ABA is. I didn’t get too far into researching those (though more into floortime) because I soon learned that I was missing the point.

    The point being that autistic kids don’t need therapy for autism. This is based on the ableist assumption that being autistic is a problem which needs fixing.

    Autistic kids may need various therapies, educational supports, etc. but they don’t need therapy “for autism.” And the kinds of therapies they may or may not need will vary.

    It is best to focus on the individual challenges and needs of the person as they will be vastly different than the challenges and needs of another autistic person.

    For example, maybe your child has a problem with communication. So you hire an SLP who knows a helluva lot more about communication challenges than an ABA therapist.The SLP can start working with the child to find an appropriate means of communication that works well for your child instead of focusing on “getting the child to talk.” An SLP would also be able to recognize whether there was a physical or cognitive issue contributing to the speech challenges.

    If your child has sensory challenges you could get them an OT to help come up with strategies. Or even talk to autistic adults who have similar issues for advice.

    The best thing you can do for your child is connect with autistic adults. Listen to Autistics and not just one, but as many as you can. We won’t all have the same challenges and experiences as your child but I guarantee you at least one of us does.

    Learn about Autistic culture and introduce your child to Autistic culture. Expose them to their community. Teach them how to advocate for the accommodations they need. Because at the end of the day, the most disabling thing for Autistics isn’t autism. It’s bigotry and inaccessibility and oppression.

    Liked by 2 people

  85. Thank you for putting this so well, just because that’s how it’s been done, doesn’t make it right. For the sake of all our children, we need to question our adult behaviour and try to be our nurturing best.


  86. Fantastic, fantastic post. Thank you for sharing, genuinely.

    I do want to say, though, that I myself was “treated” by speech and language pathologists. I’m certain that it was a better experience than ABA would have been, but I would absolutely NEVER reccommend someone else put their child with an SLP. It might have just been my school and the methodology the SLPs used (“social thinking therapy”), but the experience was still horrible for me. Lots of “discreet trial training” (see: more dog training), manipulation, with a sprinkle of gaslighting. Nothing they “taught” me or told me or my parents was useful. still scarred by that.

    So, unfortunately, I don’t know if SLPs are the best option. I don’t know if my experience there was an outlier, but I still worry about suggesting such things to others.

    Liked by 2 people

  87. I think the problem is that “normalization” techniques (including ABA techniques) are seeping into every field- even general ed teachers are using them. So it’s really important to not only research the therapy itself, but to make sure you are comfortable with and can trust the therapist themselves. Let them know your boundaries and make sure they don’t violate those boundaries.

    I am sorry you had to endure the Social Thinking program. That’s terrible.

    I had it specifically written into my child’s IEP that they were not to use that program. One day my daughter comes home from speech in a bad mood saying she didn’t like the app they were using and I asked her about the app. From the wording she used (“expected” “unexpected”, etc.) I knew it was a Social Thinking based app.So I told the SLP I didn’t want them using it again, sent an email explaining why and that it was actually in the IEP, etc. She worked with me.

    Eventually we dropped speech altogether just because I didn’t think it was necessary in my daughter’s case and she didn’t enjoy going anymore. The IEP team agreed that in my daughter’s case, learning these thing naturally would work better for her.

    She doesn’t have any therapies right now. We just help her with whatever specific needs she has, make sure she has the accomodations she needs, teach her how to get her needs met and advocate for herself, self-knowledge and coping skills, etc. She’s thriving.

    We also homeschool her so that she can spend her energy on learning and playing rather than being in constant fight or flight from being trapped in a sensory hostile environment and we don’t have to worry about her being bullied or abused. She’s a happy kiddo who loves to learn. She plays with other kids when she feels comfortable doing so. We don’t force “socialization” on her and she socializes in her own beautifully Autistic way.

    Liked by 1 person

  88. Regarding “expected” and “unexpected”, in the context it’s being used there, a lot of kids would likely learn that “unexpected” is a synonym for bad. In other words, whether or not the ABA people, SLPs, and the like actually intend to load the language, the language they use becomes loaded because the emotional vacuum left by words that are not supposed to be emotional will inevitably be filled by emotional connotations as understood by the kid. In this case, the word “unexpected” is paired with “consequences”, which are experienced by the kid as punishment, which means they are punishment regardless of how the person administering the consequences defines them, which means that “unexpected” behavior becomes, in the kid’s mind, a synonym for “bad” behavior, regardless of how often authority figures gaslight them by saying that “no, no, you’re not bad” even though they are saying that to a kid who gets punished a lot. What else is a kid who gets punished a lot supposed to think, except that they are bad?
    And there is another thing, about the way ABA apologists like the one in the article responding to this one: “Our therapists have never once told my child that they couldn’t say no or protest. My son has been told that it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to not want to work on chores, but you still have to do it. My son is allowed to be angry, but he’s not allowed to use that anger to hurt others or himself”.
    Here’s the thing:
    I went to a school that was was emotionally abusive towards me, and they could have claimed to be positive only; recently, looking at their website, I’m pretty sure they did essentially claim that (though they didn’t use the term ABA at all, only techniques associated with ABA). One thing I remember is that I ranted once to prevent myself from crying, which my school had previously forbidden me from doing, and I had trouble stopping crying until I tried ranting instead in order to maintain control by stopping tears, which I believed were the worst thing I could do because of what they previously said. The teacher responded to this with a saccharine, very slow “you have….the right….to be ir-ri-ta-ted”, and then followed that up by threatening to call my parents if I did not stop ranting, even though I wasn’t screaming or anything like that. In other words, they said I had the right to be irritated, they said the words, but they did not actually mean it, not really, and they certainly did not mean I had the right to express irritation. I suspect that the supposed “right to protest” posited by ABA apologists is the same thing, empty and saccharine and devoid of meaning. That quote might sound kinda-sorta-reasonable, but it is the implied message that is the takeaway, and the implied message the kid is getting is most likely not what the quote says – besides “not allowed to hurt others” could easily become “not allowed to outwardly express” because outward expression of anger could be classified as disruptive or hurtful. I take such things as what that apologist said with a massive grain of salt.

    Liked by 2 people

  89. Exactly. And that’s why I specified in the IEP that I didn’t want any ABA therapist interacting with my child, any ABA like techniques used by anyone who works with her, and no Social Thinking stuff used with her.

    The other thing that bothers me about the Social Thinking curriculum besides the obviously coded language for “bad” and “good” behavior is that the whole program is based on how other people feel/think about the child and getting them to do things that marriage other kids “think good thoughts” about them. It’s really gross and harmful to teach a kid to basically please their peers no matter what and worry about what others are thinking of them.

    That is not what I want for my kid and I wish it weren’t what so many people want for their kids.


  90. Ok so how the heck do you curb problem behavior? I’ve heard so much what not to do but no what to do! This is frustrating when I’m trying really hard to just get my autistic daughter to not lie and steal so she doesn’t end up in jail. No one has answers.. Just “don’t do this..that..”


  91. I haven’t dealt with this problem with my child, or any of the kids I’ve worked with, so I can’t offer and advice as far as “I did xyz and it worked.”

    What I can say is that this is not an issue limited to autistic children, and if my autistic child was lying and stealing, I would handle it the same way I would if she were an allistic child.

    First I would find out why she was doing it (this is where a strong relationship built on trust comes in handy, but you may need to use your detective skills as well, particularly if you have not yet found a reliable means of communication for your child.)

    Once you have figured out the “why,” you can determine how to handle it.

    For example with the lying, is it she’s embarrassed of the truth? Afraid she’ll be punished, shamed, or otherwise get in trouble?

    Keep in mind that this can be a fear even if you never punish your child. I try to make it very clear to my child that she can tell me the truth about anything and she won’t get in trouble. I also work very hard to stay calm and non-judgemental, and as brief as possible (I struggle with the brief part haha) when I need to talk to her about behavior, so that I don’t come off as that scary or naggy and unapproachable adult most of us grew up with.

    For the stealing, is it impulsivity? Is it always a specific type of thing she steals, or from a particular person or place? Once you find out why, you can address it and give her a different way to meet whatever need she is trying to address by stealing.

    As for teaching right from wrong, one thing that works in our house is learning from favorite books and shows that deal with whatever the issue is or even from the behavior of others in real life. This needn’t be a lecture, nor do I strive to extract a moral lesson out of everything she reads, watches, does, etc. But I’ve found that most of the “lessons” that have really stuck have come from casual conversations about how characters were treating other characters.

    I highly recommend the Parenting Autistic Children With Love and Acceptance facebook community for parenting advice. You can send a private message to them with a question or issue you’re having and they will either post it anonymously to be answered by the community or sometimes the admins will offer advice. It is a community where you can get advice from actually autistic people, many who are also parents of autistic children. I have found them to be very helpful in my own parenting journey.


  92. I get what you’re saying! I thought the same thing many years ago until my research landed on something that now makes scientific and logical sense to me. I’m not sure if it’s for everyone, but it’s a guide that does help me know what TO DO. How old is your daughter? I might have some ideas that could help. I’m now a parent mentor and would be happy to talk with you. No fees. Just parent-to-parent friendship and help. Reply if interested and we’ll figure out a way to get in touch.


  93. It’s kind of fascinating to hear someone who has clearly had experience w/ Social thinking. I’ve never met anyone outside my school has had experience with it so feeling justified in my frustration with it and the gaslighting and all that crap is pretty hard. The “unexpected” and “expected” behavior used to really really irritate me; it’s so clear what they’re really saying.

    Regardless, you’re right. So many autism “therapies” can be harmful regardless of type or therapist. It’s difficult to find folks you can trust and keep abusive behaviors towards kids away.


  94. As a Young Adult with P.D.A which is on the Autistic Spectrum I find the idea of training people like me to be “normal” though basically glorified dog training is appalling it does no good the the autistic person and is for the benefit of the people around them only is it a wonder that Autistic people who under go ABA in childhood in later life are quite likely to develop PTSD which is the same illness that soldiers in war who have seen such terrible conflict develop you a couseing trauma to the autistic child. We do not need to be made “BETTER” we need to be understood


  95. The following demonstrates the ABA mentality behind most Autism research and why the phrase “Nothing for us without us” was coined.

    Summarizing, the researchers were flummoxed when thier study showed the speech and language “impairments” were only the cause of 3 percent of autistic childrens “tantrums”. Yes tantrums is how they they repeatedly described meltdowns. They theorized that the cause of the “tantrums” are mood disorders and low frustration tolerance and surprise surprise ABA is the cure.

    The really disturbing part is these are not researchers from quack college or Age of Autism college but prestigious Penn State University.


  96. If you were treated by an SLP, it’s because you had speech and language issues. How is the language therapy you received not useful? We all need to communicate. And real SLPs don’t use DTT.


  97. he could hate authority because of lack of discipline in the homefront. just a thought.


  98. I didn’t have any speech and language problems, and neither was I treated for any. When I was very little, I had some – around early Elementary school – but I was treated for them and got over them faster than they’d ever seen anyone do so, and sense then there have been zero problems. I don’t have problems with speech, I am completely verbal. I don’t have problems with language, either. Now, in college, I am consistently the best writer in my classes. Please don’t make assumptions about my abilities.
    As for “real SLPs”, I have nothing to tell you other than the fact that their job title was Speech & Language Pathologist, that they did speech and language work with most students, and that I received DTT and social thinking therapy from them. I am fairly sure of what happened there, as I was forced to live through that crap for 7 years. They were SLPs.


  99. I can’t reply to “Megan”, but here’s my response to her, with her response to me first:
    “I didn’t have any speech and language problems, and neither was I treated for any. When I was very little, I had some – around early Elementary school – but I was treated for them and got over them faster than they’d ever seen anyone do so, and sense then there have been zero problems. I don’t have problems with speech, I am completely verbal. I don’t have problems with language, either. Now, in college, I am consistently the best writer in my classes. Please don’t make assumptions about my abilities.
    As for “real SLPs”, I have nothing to tell you other than the fact that their job title was Speech & Language Pathologist, that they did speech and language work with most students, and that I received DTT and social thinking therapy from them. I am fairly sure of what happened there, as I was forced to live through that crap for 7 years. They were SLPs. ”

    Like I said before if were seeing an SLP, you had speech/language issues. If you supposedly got over them “quicker than anyone they’ve ever seen” it’s because they were doing their job, not necessarily because you didn’t have any issues. Them tackling your issues early is the reason why you have zero issues now. Speech and language encompasses much more than being “verbal”. The reason you were referred to one may have been for reasons more than just “not talking”. SLPs don’t just teach you how to talk, they teach you proper tongue placement (articulation), social language, they’re also trained to do swallowing and feeding therapy, and to teach use of augmentive communication devices. I’m not trying to come across as making assumptions about your abilities, I’m just trying to explain to you why else you may have saw a speech therapist. I saw a speech therapist too when I was in early elementary school due to surgery from a cleft. I have zero issues with speech and language now, and that’s because I saw an SLP as early as possible.

    If your SLP supposedly did all those things, I doubt they were a real SLP.


  100. Again, I don’t know what to tell you. I had help with speech problems in about the 2nd grade. When I had SLPs, not a single one taught me anything of what you’ve described besides maybe “social language”. I didn’t have problems swallowing and feeding, I don’t and have never used AAC, and my tongue placement and articulation was fine. The experience I had with SLPs was that they worked with my IEP, performed Social Thinking Therapy on me, would watch me in my classroom, etc.

    I don’t really know what you mean by being a “real” or “not real” SLP. If you’re implying they were legally liscenced, that seems fairly odd. There were quite a number of SLPs at my high school and I know for a fact I wasn’t the only one receiving this treatment by them. It seems unlikely that all of them lied about their accreditation, and the school was additionally aware of what they were doing to me, so…


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