This was written in response to this article which was written in response to my first article:
You can read my first article here:
*CW: ABA/Autistic Conversion Therapy, abuse, torture (including graphic images and video of), mention of “awareness,” “recovery,” Autism Speaks, filicide, and links to all of this and other material that many people may find triggering. Please proceed with caution…
*CN: This is a very long read so settle in for a while (or save for later)…
Dear Condescending ‘Autism Mom,’
I’m assuming that’s what you call yourself since your views seem to be right in line with those who prefer that title. I also think it’s fair to make assumptions since you’ve made plenty about me.
Still, I wanted to sincerely thank you for writing your article, “True ABA Therapy Is Not Abuse: A Response.” You see, despite the fact that my article contained language that might be considered shocking to some, while yours resorted to fluff words and double-speak, we were in fact describing the exact same thing. So your article actually did a better job of proving my point than mine did. Thanks!
My choice of language was intentional. For one, I’m a direct person and prefer to keep things real. But the main reason is that I wanted to explicitly point out how abusive ABA therapy is even in the absense of aversives, even when only “positive reinforcement” is used, and yes, even when the child appears to be having fun. That was the entire purpose of the article.
Yet you along with many others seem to have missed the point entirely. I was not a child-hating, poorly trained ABA therapist. Nor are your kids’ therapists Mary Poppins incarnate. Literally the only difference between what I described and what you described is perspective. And they say WE lack “Theory of Mind!”
ABA survivors have written extensively about being subjected to ABA therapy that utilized torturous aversives (which IS “True ABA,” by the way) and some have even touched on the fact that not all of what’s labeled ABA these days is actually ABA. However, I haven’t found any writing by survivors on ABA in the form it usually takes today (the way you described it and the way it was perpetrated by me.) This is most likely because these kids aren’t adults yet and haven’t gotten around to telling their stories, NOT because it isn’t abusive. So I wanted to share my opinion on this “lighter” form of ABA from the perspective of an (unidentified at the time) Autistic former ABA therapist.
Due to the assumptions you made and the misinformation you are now spreading, I thought it necessary to respond to your response. So here we are. Obviously, there is only so much I can fit into one piece and I don’t actually expect you to learn anything since you have already demonstrated your willful ignorance and refusal to listen to the people actually affected by your beloved ‘therapy.’
For those who ARE willing to listen to #ActuallyAutistic people I have peppered this article with links to the work of prominent Autistic advocates/activists and I hope you will not only learn from the small samplings I have included, but follow their blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, read their books, attend their conferences & presentations, etc. because contrary to popular opinion, the best way to learn about autism is by LISTENING to autistic people.
This is, after all, how I came to realize that ABA is abusive. By listening to Autistic voices, taking their concerns to heart, and seeing things from their point of view instead of getting defensive. This was pretty easy for me because like many of the former ABA therapists and parents who reached out to me, although I didn’t see the abuse inherent in it at the time, I did have the feeling that something wasn’t right. It took listening to autistic people and learning about autism from autistic people themselves, to understand why it never “felt right” and how harmful it really is. Learning about Autistic culture and history, the history of ABA therapy, disability rights, ableism, the neurodiversity paradigm, and the social model of disability further solidified my understanding of how unethical ABA (not a particular company, therapist, or technique, but ABA therapy at its core) is.
Discovering this hard truth, that I had been part of an industry that has potentially harmed countless autistics made me want to do something about it. It made me want to make sure that the next generation of autistics (and the generations that follow) would be accepted as they are, supported, accomodated, and cherished. That parents would stop subjecting their children to this archaic and completely unnecessary ‘therapy.’
I reached out to a prominent Autistic advocate who, in addition to all the other projects and organizations she was involved in, was doing a local advocacy project in her area to educate people about autism from an autistic perspective. She helped me start a similar project in my area. We became good friends and through her I have met so many other awesome Autistic people including many other prominent activists (none of whom support ABA by the way.) You see, despite being large, the Autistic community is a pretty close knit community. We all pretty much know each other, we’re familiar with each other’s work, and we have each other’s backs. We have to. The so-called “autism community” aka parents and professionals community doesn’t have our backs. Hell, they won’t even listen to us. They actively work AGAINST our interests. But I digress…
So without further ado I will now dissect, “True ABA Therapy Is Not Abuse: A Response.” Hey, the least I can do is return the favor, right?
I knew I was in for a ride when I read the cute little intro which had me literally laughing out loud at the ignorance and arrogance of someone who would write an article for the sole purpose of accusing ME of not knowing what I’m talking about while simultaneously not knowing what the hell they’re talking about and being completely out of touch with Autistic culture, autistic history, autistic rights issues, current events, etc.
I can’t think of a better display of the typical self-righteous behavior exhibited by the “autism community” than a presumably allistic (non-autistic) person with no experience in ABA other than having “gone through ABA therapy with my children first hand” ‘splaining ABA therapy and autism to an #ActuallyAutistic former ABA therapist. Also, that’s not what “first hand” means.
“I am a mom to two special needs kids and both of them are currently in ABA therapy…”
What this tells me is that you don’t know any Autistic adults (or even Disabled adults for that matter) because if you did, you’d know how offensive it is to use the term “special needs,” let alone refer to your own children as being “special needs kids.” But that doesn’t surprise me considering that you’ve chosen to subject your kids to an ableist ‘therapy’ which is solely supported by parents and the medical community, yet is universally condemned by the very people it claims to help.
Here are some links to writing by some Autistic Rights Advocates on why euphemisms like “special needs” are so offensive:
My Needs Are Not “Special” -by Michelle Sutton
#SayTheWord, Not “Special Needs” -by Erin Human
“Both children started ABA therapy at age two. My son has been in ABA therapy for just about five years now and my daughter has been in ABA therapy for one year.
ABA therapy has drastically changed our lives for the better. Even now, as I look back and read the original paperwork that outlined my son’s diagnosis, I am blown away at how far he’s come…”
This leads me to believe that you have fully bought into the whole tragedy narrative pushed by the medical community, the educational community, the parent community, and yes, the ABA industry itself. I bet it’s what steered you toward ABA to begin with.
But the thing is, you were sold a lie. I mean, did you actually believe that your son wouldn’t have learned anything in those 3 years if it weren’t for ABA? That your children are incapable of learning without it? How sad. The Autistic community is full of parents raising their children without ABA and our kids are thriving, happy, and proud. They are learning all the time and we encourage them to learn in ways that work best for them.
But don’t take my word for it…
Training by Repitition Actually Prevents Learning For Those With Autism -by Shilo Rea, Carnegie Mellon University
Behavior Modification Therapy Does Work -by Michelle Sutton
Awesomely Autistic, Awesomely Distinguishable -by Amy Sequenzia
10 ‘Autism Interventions’ For Families Embracing The Neurodiversity Paradigm -by Briannon Lee
Behavior Plan For Parents of Newly Diagnosed Autistic Children – byLei Wiley-Mydske
“That’s why when I came across the article, ‘I Abused Children for a Living,’ I was shocked at what was written and during Autism Awareness Month no less!”
Well if you found that shocking, then you’d better hold onto your fucking pearls because I’m about to tell you what us Autistics think of your “awareness” campaigns, which I might add, you would already know if you had any fucking clue about Autistic culture. I mean, this is basic 101 stuff here.
What Good Does Autism Awareness Do? It Doesn’t – Amy Sequenzia
ASAN Condemns White House Autism Proclamation – ASAN
Awareness vs. Acceptance – A Heart Made Fullmetal
Your Awareness Wants Me Dead – A Heart Made Fullmetal
A Is For Autism Acceptance – Unstrange Mind
And here is a masterpost about the hate group (and biggest pusher of “awareness”) Autism Speaks curated by The Caffeinated Autistic
Autism Speaks is so vile, that Autistic activists took action & formed a counter organization called Boycott Autism Speaks to educate people about this heinous hate group and to encourage people to boycott the organization and their supporters. I’m linking to the “Why Boycott” page instead of the home page so you can scroll down and see just how many disability rights organizations co-signed the letter to AS supporters. http://www.boycottautismspeaks.com/why-boycott-1.html
Autism Speaks’ walks are regularly protested by #ActuallyAutistic people who want no part of their “awareness.” They were actually driven out of a large city near me by these protests and I hope to accomplish the same in my city.
Oh, and here’s a clip of Alison Singer (former VP of Autism Speaks) talking about how she contemplated MURDERING her autistic daughter IN FRONT OF HER DAUGHTER in a video to promote, you guessed it…Awareness
Think this sentiment is just the fucked up thoughts of one “bad apple?” It’s not. The sentiment as well as the action that so often follows it is so common that the Disability community has set aside a special day every year to mourn our own. Disabled people who were murdered by their own parents and caregivers. This is what “awareness” get us.
Some autistic people even avoid leaving the house in April to avoid being triggered by the onslaught of puzzle pieces and blue lights and the correspondiing message of hate that these things symbolize.
We’ve even started our own counter-campaigns to promote acceptance and fight against the negative messages that your “awareness” perpeptuates. Like Autism Acceptance Day. http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/ In this interview, Paula C. Durbin-Westby talks about why she started Autism Acceptance Day/Month/Decade. http://www.assistiveware.com/interview-founder-autism-acceptance-month which was quickly adopted by the largest advocacy organization run by and for autistics (Autistic Self Advocacy Network) http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/
There is the Walk in Red campaign http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/
And Tone it Down Taupe http://toneitdowntaupe.tumblr.com/ which offers scholarships for tablets for autistic adults
There is an ENORMOUS amount of information out there on awareness, acceptance, Autism Speaks (and other equally harmful organizations) but I cannot fit it all into this one article and like I said, this is just to get you started.
“I am not sure when this person was an ABA therapist, but nowadays, there is A LOT of training that goes into being both a BCBA and a “Behavioral Technician” or what is now just called, “therapist.” If you are apart of a company that hires your therapist off the street, with no experience whatsoever, RUN. This is not a company you want to be with and the company is probably not up-to-date on what the legal requirements are for this job.”
I was a Behavior Technician less than 10 years ago and the requirements at the company I worked for (which by the way is one of the oldest, most respected companies in the industry) have not changed. In fact, it’s not the only large, well respected company that doesn’t require experience. Some examples:
Center for Autism and Related Disorders (high school diploma or equivalent)
Applied Behavior Consultants (note how the degree is listed as “preferred,” not as a requirement)
Also, note how large these organizations are. These are not small “Ma & Pa” businesses that are “not up-to-date on what the legal requirements are for this job” and have somehow managed to fly under the radar while breaking the law as you suggest.
One thing that has changed is that a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) credential became available in 2015 (which is not required to get hired as a BT since most of the companies offer on-the-job training that results in an RBT credential.) https://bacb.com/rbt-requirements/
The training for the credential, by the way, is EXACTLY like the training I received before the credential was available and doesn’t involve learning anything about autism, only ABA techniques. https://bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/161019-RBT-task-list-english.pdf
In retrospect, it’s actually probably a good thing that they don’t teach their techs about autism since they have a very warped idea of what autism even is. If the ABA industry had any idea what autism is, the ABA industry wouldn’t exist to begin with. Because autism is not “behaviors.” In fact, if you ask #ActuallyAutistic people what autism is, you’ll get a very different answer than you’ll get from the medical community. This is because we’re going by our actual experiences as opposed to some allistic (non-autistic) professional’s subjective observation of outward behaviors and biased interpretation of such.
For example, Nick Walker’s “What Is Autism” is the most widely accepted description of autism among #ActuallyAutistic people.
Autistic Families International (an organization run BY and FOR autistics) describes autism similarly.
You responded to my statement about ABA considering an autistic person “nothing more than the unruly embodiment of behaviors to be reinforced, shaped, or extinguished, a list of ‘excesses’ and ‘deficits’ to be tallied and managed. A defiant child to be made compliant.” by saying,
“This is absolutely false of true ABA. Yes, there is training that goes into the therapy for a child with autism, but every parent trains their child as they grow up. We potty train our children, we train our children not to touch things that could burn them or hurt them…It is our job to help them learn about the world around them and it is no different for the child with autism.”
Well, yes and no. We teach our kids how to use the toilet and about safety and all the other things they need to know to get by in the world. But saying that it is no different for the “child with autism” is a bold faced lie. Do you know of anyone who puts their neurotypical child through 25-40 hours of ABA a week? Anyone who subjects their neurotypical child to DTT sessions? I don’t.
And though I know some parents who use reward systems (I personally don’t believe in them) I don’t know any parent of a neurotypical child who uses rewards/praise for each individual task or portion of a task that their child does for 8 hours straight. Occasional use of reward systems like sticker charts, allowances, etc. is not the same same as putting your child through ABA therapy. To pretend they are is to intentionally mislead people. And ABA is completely unnecessary to teach these things to an autistic child or any other neurodivergent child, just as ABA is completely unnecessary to teach these things to a neurotypical child. And contrary to popular belief, opting out of ABA doesn’t mean that you just let your kids run around and do whatever the hell they want. Black and white thinking much?
Here’s a link where you can learn more about your problematic language and why the vast majority of autistics prefer identity first language as opposed to, say, “child with autism”
Here’s a link to a community run by autistic adults and autistic parents of autistic children where you can get parenting advice from people with actual “first hand experience” of being autistic. And by “first hand,” I mean the traditional meaning as in they experience it themselves as opposed to your alternative definition
I also recommend the Respectfully Connected Blog
And the following books by Autistics:
The Real Experts: Readings for Parents of Autistic Children – Edited by Michelle Sutton
What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew – AWN
The ABCs of Autism Acceptance – by Sparrow R. Jones
Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking – Edited by Julia Bascom
As well as Amythest Schaber’s YouTube series, Ask An Autistic
When I mentioned that my company trained us to use “planned ignoring,” when a child had a meltdown, you defended the practice by saying, “This part of ABA therapy has been extremely taken out of proportion. In ABA therapy there is ignoring of attention-seeking behaviors but never ignoring of the child himself There is a very big difference here.”
This is yet another example of how ABA sees autistic people as a set of behaviors to be fixed as opposed to whole people with valid needs. Viewing a meltdown as “attention-seeking behavior” is ableist as fuck. Taking it a step further and ignoring the child until their meltdown stops is emotional abuse. There is no way to ignore a child’s behavior without ignoring the child himself.
Then you go on…
“So what is this ‘planned ignoring?’ It looks a bit like this: You’re at the store with your child who has autism. Your finishing up and your child is having a hard time. The lights are bright, there are too many people, and the noises are overwhelming. Your child starts to have a meltdown. People are staring, your child is on the floor hitting himself and you don’t know what to do….”
So you seem to acknowledge that your child is having a hard time (as opposed to giving you a hard time.) You seem to be aware that it is the inaccessibility of the store and not “attention-seeking behavior” that has caused the meltdown. You see that your child is obviously in a great deal of pain (yes some sensory input can be physically painful) or discomfort, and yet you allow the ABA therapist to punish your child for something beyond his control……
“The ABA therapist now comes in with their “planned ignoring” technique. This means they are going to ignore the meltdown itself, and then prioritize protecting the child from hurting himself or others. During this time the ABA therapist does not show emotion- this doesn’t mean they don’t empathize, but in order to not enforce the behavior of the meltdown, they must remain neutral.”
Whether or not the therapist empathizes makes no difference if the therapist intentionally does not show emotion until the child does what the therapist wants. This is psychological manipulation. Withholding attention/affection is a tactic used by abusers of all kinds to gain control over the victim. IT IS ABUSE.
Again, a meltdown is not a voluntary “behavior.” Your child is in distress due to circumstances beyond his control. He needs your patience, understanding, and support, not your power trip and manipulative head games. Ignoring this NEED, using it against him, or allowing others to do so makes you an abusive asshole.
“Once the above has taken place the therapist would either gently remove the child from the situation (taking them to the car) or they would help show the child how to cope right where they are. The therapist might sit on the floor with them and give them deep sensory input or show them how to cover their ears if the noises are bothering them. They may even do breathing techniques with the child. All of these strategies are called calm-down techniques and what is done with each child will depend on the personality of each child.”
None of this is actually ABA. I’m not saying your ABA therapist doesn’t do these things because many ABA companies add other elements to their programs such as sensory supports, OT, etc. but those things are not ABA just because an ABA therapist is the one doing it. Also, you don’t need to be an ABA therapist to offer supports, strategies and accomodations because THOSE THINGS ARE NOT ABA.
So then I spoke about ‘desensitizing’ children to painful or uncomfortable sensory experiences. Fortunately, I never had to personally take part in this because the one child I had who was subjected to it had it done in the afternoon and I was the morning person. I did witness it being done on a few occasions while I was waiting for the rest of the team to show up for our team meetings.
This little boy was considered a “picky eater” which of course, according to ABA is a “behavior.” And behaviors can be modified. Nevermind the fact that he may have had sensory issues with the smell, texture, or flavor of the food. Nevermind the fact that some autistics are so affected by certain smells that it can make them physically sick. It can feel as if you are literally eating garbage. Nevermind that multivitamins are a thing that’s available and that not eating oranges isn’t going to give him scurvy. Nope, he needs to be coerced into eating it. He needs to eat a bite of the yucky thing in order to earn the bite of the thing that’s going to get that awful taste out of his mouth. He knows that this torture won’t end until he complies because ABA therapists don’t give orders that they don’t follow through on. That would only reinforce the alleged ‘behavior.’
But your take on “desensitization” is this:
“If your child is having a painful or uncomfortable sensory experience wouldn’t you want to help them? If your clothes itch or your back needs to be scratched, do you let yourself scratch it? I’m assuming you do. It is the same thing when helping a child with autism with their sensory needs.”
Umm…what the actual fuck? Do you live in some kind of backward universe? Because I don’t know about you, but if my clothes itch, I change into some clothes that aren’t itchy. I don’t put on all the itchy clothes I can find and force myself to suffer through it. How is scratching an itchy back, and thus relieving the uncomfortable situation equal to being coerced into an even more itchy predicament and being forced not to scratch your back? That doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.
You go on to give an example of how your son is sensitive to noises and wouldn’t go into the room that the washer and dryer are in, and how the ABA therapist had him watch videos and look at the washer and dryer when they weren’t on to know that they were safe, and also that he was offered noise-reducing headphones.
Now I don’t know your son, so I don’t know whether it was just the noise or a phobia or lack of understanding, or some combination of those. I’m not going to presume to know anything about that because that’s different for everyone.
What I will say though, is that my daughter and I both have sensory issues with certain sounds and in both of our cases, knowing where the sound is coming from and that its is safe, etc. isn’t going to do a damn thing to make it less painful, less jarring, or less panic inducing. For example, I absolutely despise fireworks. I know they’re safe (from a distance anyway) but if you put me in the backyard on the 4th of July when fireworks are booming all over the neighborhood, I’m still going to be in a state of distress. That’s why I keep my happy-ass inside. I can listen to music to block out the sound. Those are accomodations. No ABA necessary.
For my daughter it’s the vacuum cleaner and the blender. She knows they’re safe but they still hurt her ears. She loves to help out around the house and she loves smoothies, so sometimes I ask her if she wants to help and I offer the noise-reducing headphones. Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t. If she doesn’t, I either vacuum when she’s not home, or give her a heads-up so that she can go into her room and turn up her music to block out the sound. If we move, one of my priorities will be a place with hardwood floors instead of carpets because both of us have a hard time with noise.
Sensory accomodations are just as necessary for autistic people and others with sensory sensitivities as wheelchair ramps are for wheelchair users. Our needs are just as valid. And there is no shame in needing accomodations. Nor is there any shame in needing support. And modifying “behaviors” does nothing to support the actual sensory need. I am happy to hear that your child’s therapists offer sensory accomodations, but again, that is absolutely 100% not what ABA is (though it sounds like ABA techniques were used in the implementation of these), nor is the use of ABA necessary in providing such supports.
So then you quote me saying,
“Sensory overload? Executive function or sensory-motor difficulties? Exhausted from 40 hours of child labor? Different style of communication work better for you? Upset about being treated like a circus animal? Not my problem, kiddo. I’m here to lure you with candy and manipulate you into doing my bidding, no questions asked.”
And you respond with:
“What the author states in the paragraph above is an example of bad ABA techniques and training. True ABA is child-based and works toward sensible and age-appropriate goals so the child can accomplish and do what is asked. Play is incorporated into all sessions and goals. If the child gets overwhelmed or needs a break, they are taught how to verbally ask or sign for it (if non-verbal).”
I’m not sure what bad techniques and training you’re referring to, since I literally didn’t mention any specific techniques or training and was making a broad statement about how I feel about ABA overall as a therapy, not one particular technique, therapist, trainer, or company.
Allow me to elaborate on what I meant in that paragraph:
Sensory overload – no breaks for sensory overload, no respect for bodily autonomy when it comes to things that may cause sensory overload such as “desensitization,” forced eye-contact, etc.
Executive function or sensory-motor difficulties – the way that ABA sees everything as “behaviors” without taking into account that some things seen as “non-compliance” may actually not be intentional, but be caused by an underlying physical or cognitive issue. Some examples:
A Challenge To Autism Professionals – Ido In Autism Land
Can Speech Challenged Students Get an Apprpriate Education? – Emma’s Hope Book
My Uncooperative Body – Amy Sequenzia
A Thing Experts Don’t Talk About: Auditory Processing Disorder – Love Explosions
40 Hours of Child Labor – I think subjecting young children to the equivalent of a full time job is in itself abuse. Many Autistic activists also feel this is ridiculous and unnecessary. For example, Morenike Giwa-Onaiwu has this to say:
Different Style of Communication – I was referring to how ABA prioritizes speech over any other kind of communication and tends to offer only PECS as a form of communication with the goal being that the child should eventually speak. This focus on speech means that the child isn’t introduced to AAC or other forms of communication that may be a better fit. And also Behavior Techs and family are encouraged to not give the child what he is asking for unless he uses the PECS even when he is clearly communicating (with gestures, etc.) what he wants.
Don’t even get me started on how limited the icons for the child to choose from are. These include mostly things that the child can ask for, such as “ball,” “outside,” “play,” etc. What about “no,” “hurt,” “stop,” “help,” etc. Let alone words that allow a child to express deeper thoughts and feelings. Nope, because ABA assumes this is temporary even though many autistic adults are non-speaking or partially non-speaking. And also because ABA doesn’t presume competence and figures kids who don’t speak must not have anything worth saying other than “ball,” or “Play-Doh.”
Circus Animal – This is a referrence to the dehumanizing and infantilizing practice of DTT which is, in fact, the same ABA method used to train animals.
Not my problem… – This is a referrence to the way ABA doesn’t acknowledge or address any of the underlying issues which may be causing the “behaviors” they wish to modify, and also a reference to how similar rewarding kids with praise, attention, and treats for complying with an adult’s request to do things that make them uncomfortable or hurt them (eye-contact, forced sensory experiences, refrain from stimming, etc.) and withholding praise, attention, and treats for non-compliance is eerily similar to how predators groom children for abuse and therefore makes them easier targets for such.
Here’s what you had to say on stimming:
“My children have never been forced to stop stimming or even told to. Instead, they were shown an environment where they could safely stim and where they could get the input that they so desperately needed without hurting themselves or others. For example, letting the child hit their head on a firm pillow versus letting them slam their head into a wall…”
How lovely for you that your children were not told to stop stimming. And since I only had one child (an older child) whose program included the use of the term, “quiet hands,” and who had to earn his right to stim by getting tokens for “on task behavior” in class, I would almost give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe this practice was being faded out and was only being used on this child because he was older. Almost. But the thing is, I happen to know a little girl who was recently (last year) told by several teachers and an ABA therapist to stop stimming because it was “distracting to other students” even though she was only rocking and no students were actually paying any attention to her and safety was not an issue. So that makes me think that the whole stop the stim thing isn’t a thing of the past.
Also, you don’t need ABA to offer your kid a pillow. That’s kind of the common sense thing to do.
“The tracking is absolutely and 100% for insurance purposes.” Bullshit. I’m not even going to elaborate. Anyone familiar with ABA knows the role data plays.
OMG your ignorance is astounding! Check out this quote:
“Several paragraphs down, the author talks about shock therapy and ABA, the history behind it and how ABA companies still use it today. I have never in my life heard of any ABA company using shock therapy for treatment. I have lived in different states and used multiple ABA companies and not once was this mentioned. Are there companies out there that use it? I don’t know, but I do know that if they do, they are not doing true ABA therapy.”
This is quite literally what ABA therapy was founded on. See below:
In which Lovaas brags about beating the shit out of autistic kids…
Screams, Slaps, and Love (feature about the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute) – curated by neurodiversity.com
In which “True ABA” (it doesn’t get much truer than the guy who pioneered the ‘therapy’) involves shocking autistic children….
Building Social Behavior in Autistic Children by use of Electric Shock – curated by neurodiversity.com
Oh look, here’s where Lovaas & friends decide to use “True ABA” for Gay Conversion Therapy as well as Autistic Conversion Therapy…
Behavioral Treatment of Deviant Sex-Role Behaviors in a Male Child – curated by neurodiversity.com
Oh and here’s where one of the kids subjected to the Gay Conversion Therapy grows up and kills himself! – CNN
And here’s the book that started it all…The father of ABA’s handy little guide to child abuse… – The Internet Archive
And now let me introduce you to the Judge Rotenburg Center…
But you’re probably right, I mean since you’ve never heard of it, it can’t possibly exist, right? That being said, a bad-ass Autistic activist named Lydia X. Z. Brown has somehow managed to compile a shit-ton of information about this place…must be magic….
See, even though you’ve never heard of it, the Association for Behavior Analysis International is not only aware of this practice, but they actually praise it, even featuring the Judge Rotenburg Center at their annual conferences.
In 2009 BCBAs rave about the use of electric shock on autistics…
In 2016 Autistic activists protest ABAI’s convention which included JRC again
Next, you claim that ABA does not strive to make autistic kids “indistinguishable from peers” which I’m not going to go into too much because anyone who knows anything about ABA knows that this statement is ludicrous. However, I would just like to point out that while many ABA companies might have dropped that little catchphrase, it’s still the unstated goal.
In fact, one of the companies I linked to above (CARD) takes this a step further by claiming, “recovery is possible,” though they make sure to include the following disclaimer: “Let me explain exactly what we at CARD mean when we say a child has recovered from autism. We mean that the child no longer displays clinically significant impairments related to autism. In other words, there is nothing left to treat, the child is doing just fine.” They use this word eight times on the page titled “Recovery,” and have the words “Recovery is Possible” printed across the Home page. Why do you suppose they use this word so many times despite admitting (in a word salad that rivals even yours) that autism isn’t something that can be recovered from? I suspect it is to convince parents that their kids can lose their diagnosis and not have to be labeled with that scary “autism” word. But is losing their diagnosis a good thing? After all, they’re still autistic. And their support needs will change throughout their life. The ONLY thing that losing a diagnosis will do is allow their schools and employers to deny them the accomodations that they will likely still need. How is that good?
Also, CARD’s blog features an interview with Holly Robinson Peete who is despised by the #ActuallyAutistic community for claiming that vaccines caused her child’s autism and that he has now “recovered” from it as a result of the numerous quack treatments she subjected him to (including but not limited to use of a fucking hyperbaric oxygen chamber) and her ties to the notorious Jenny McCarthy, President of one of the sketchiest autism organizations out there, Generation Rescue which promotes such quackery. Here’s an interview where HRP makes her son’s autism all about her, expressing her disappointment in not getting the neurotypical child she wanted, her ableist views about his autistic traits, and discusses some of the quackery she subjected him to in the name of normalization.
Meanwhile…over at ABC’s “results” page, they state “While several of our intensive in-home clients have become indistinguishable from same age peers, we are currently analyzing these datum for a more objective analysis.” http://www.appliedbehaviorconsultants.com/Company/Our-Results Why analyze these datum if it’s not your objective? And why include that on the “results” page if it isn’t an intended result? I call bullshit.
Even if they don’t specifically say they are trying to make your kid appear neurotypical, think about all the little things they DO and add them up.
“Appropriate play skills.” Appropriate for who? There is no wrong versus right way to play. If you’d rather sit there and spin a wheel around for an hour, or line up and organize your toys in complex patterns, or find parallelograms and trapezoids in the bark at the playground instead of going on the slide, you should be able to do it. For some people, this is actually more enjoyable than playing with the other kids. And autistic kids can learn a lot from autistic play. What they actually mean by “appropriate play skills” is neurotypical play skills.
“Age appropriateness.” Similar to above, if I want to watch the freakin’ Care Bears while being middle-aged, who are you to stop me? Or if I’m 3 years old and I want to watch nothing but science documentaries intended for an adult audience. Why do neurotypicals think they get to decide what is age-appropriate when neurodivergent children have their own developmental trajectories? Oh, that’s right because they’re measuring them against a neurotypical yardstick and want them to appear neurotypical.
“Communication.” Touched on this a bit earlier, but they want kids to use speech. You know, so their poor Martyr Mommies can finally hear then say, “I love you.” Even if that’s not the communication they prefer.
“Social Skills.” Autistics have our own way of socializing & it works great for us. The problem is not the way we socialize, but the difference between how we socialize and how neurotypicals socialize and the fact that our society is built around the needs of the neuromajority and unwilling to accomodate people with different social needs while demanding that neurominorities accomodate their needs. ABA’s solution? Teach us to socialize like the neuromajority because we’re obviously in the wrong. “Social Skills” classes have been almost as bad as ABA for autistics because they basically teach us that we’re doing everything wrong and that gets internalized. Instead of putting us in ableist social skills classes, here’s an idea…expose us to people and let us socialize in our own way on our own terms.
“Special Interests.” I don’t know why allistics seem to have such an obsession, or even phobia of our so-called “special interests.” I even had an ABA therapist tell me once, “Well what if a kid really likes horses and that’s all they want to talk about or think about? Then we have to redirect them.” Now why the fuck would you have to redirect a kid for talking about their passion? ABA’s answer: Because it’s not what the “normal” kids do.
Everything about ABA involves conforming. Why conform? So you can be “indistinguishable from peers.”
Next, you say, “Toward the end of the article, the author talks about compliance. Yes compliance is a scary word, but it just means obedience or listening to and doing what someone asks…”
At this point, I’m wondering if you even know what fucking words mean. Compliance and obedience are the same thing. How is that any less fucked up? More word salad.
So here’s where you respond to each of my points about what messages are getting internalized and this is where the double-speak gets really impressive!
1. “People with more power than me can force me to do whatever they want.”
“This is absolutely not true. No one is going to make the child do anything with the exception of making sure they don’t hurt themselves or others. Does ABA work on teaching the child that it is important to obey? Yes. Does ABA make sure that the child follows through with a tax and doesn’t get out of it if needed? Yes…”
So you basically just said, “they don’t force anyone to do anything except when they do because they teach the child it’s important to obey.”
Guess what? I was taught to obey. I didn’t have ABA, just authoritarian parents. You wanna know what obeying got me? Raped.
While we’re on the topic, here’s an article by Respectfully Connected on why compliance training sucks
2. “Nobody, not even my parents will come to my defense.”
“This one hurts me a lot.”
Well if the shoe fits…but again, you seem to have missed the point. I wasn’t saying that parents would watch their child being abused and not step in out of some misguided idea that they weren’t allowed to. My point was that you wouldn’t step in because you (like the vast majority of non-autistic people) don’t recognize it as abuse. You are the one who signed your kid up for ABA, you are the one who allows it to continue, and you don’t see the harm in it. Therefore you are not coming to your child’s defense.
It’s like the store scenario you brought up with the planned ignoring. That is straight up psychological abuse. Go to any domestic violence website and you will find “withholds affection/attention as punishment” listed as a control tactic used by abusers sometimes as emotional abuse alone, sometimes leading up to physical abuse.
Now, I realize you’ve already presumed your kids to be incompetent and unable to learn anything w/o ABA, but this therapist is modeling an abusive relationship. What do you think will happen in the future if your child learns that that’s how relationships are supposed to work?
3. “Other people are in charge of my body.”
“Again, this is not true. The only time a therapist has moved my child’s body is in the case of the “hand-over-hand” technique and even that is only used as a last result…”
Again, missing the point. You do not have to physically move someone’s body or even touch it to have control over it. Hand-over-hand is one of the things I was talking about, yes. And it does definitely let a child know that even if they don’t want to do something, they will eventually be made to do it anyway. It seems harmless when taken out of context, like say a parent helping a child hold a pencil and trace a letter, etc. But when you look at it in the context of an 8 hour therapy day, and every single lesson you’re being rewarded for compliance and punished for noncompliance (and yes, when you’re working for rewards not getting them is a punishment) you start to realize you don’t have any real choices.
So the hand-over-hand is just a very small part of it. What I was referring to is how the child has to do what the therapist says they have to do. “Show me ‘over.’ Show me ‘under.’ Goooooood job!” Small things like this are happening over and over countless times in the course of a session. The child knows they can’t leave. The child knows they have to comply, be punished, or have their body do the thing anyway. That is not a real choice and it’s a dangerous message. Add to that programs that focus on things like “Whole Body Listening” where the child is expected to move their body in neurotypical ways, or programs where stimming is discouraged, eye-contact encouraged, sensory experiences forced, etc. The child has no choice over any of this.
4. “I’m not allowed to say no, or protest.”
“Our therapists have never once told my child that they couldn’t say no or prostest.”
They don’t have to. The compliance is built into the program. As I mentioned above, the child knows she must comply to earn her reward or not comply and eventually she will be made to do it anyway. The choice comes down to “Choose to comply or choose not to and be forced to anyway.” How does that leave an option to say no or protest?
5. “If I am having a hard time, adults will ignore me instead of helping me; they don’t care.”
Talked about this above, but want to respond to, “Our ABA therapists care about our children very much…”
I cared about every one of the kids I worked with. I’d say about 90% of the therapists I worked with do too. I still think about those kids and wonder how they’re doing, whether they’ve been emotionally scarred by the ABA I perpetrated on them. Hence me writing the OP years afterward. But the thing is, it doesn’t matter if your therapists care about your children because they could still be harming them. As they say, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
Do you think I would have stayed if I knew the harm I was doing? I didn’t know until 3 or 4 years afterwards, when I read article after article, post after post, book after book, about autistics having PTSD from it. The more I read, the more I thought about it and the more it made sense. All of the times I felt uneasy about what I was being asked to do. It made sense in retrospect. And everytime I see an autistic speak up about the abuse they endured and countless ABA therapists and parents show up to gaslight them, belittle them, silence them, and abuse them more, I feel sickened to have ever been associated with those people and that industry.
6. “My parents must hate me too because they won’t even give me a break (a big deal is made in ABA about ‘consistency’ and making the parents and everyone else around the child do ABA on them in the off hours).”
“Yes, consistency is key. But that doesn’t mean I am forcing ABA techniques on my child 24/7.”
I don’t believe you. 🙂
7. “I am the sum of my behaviors, I have no inherent value.”
“I am not sure where the author gets this one…”
Umm, from the fact that every single behavior is looked at as something to reward or punish.
“There is a lot of praise and celebrating in ABA therapy. It’s a big deal when a child reaches a goal or is able to do something they weren’t able to do before…”
Exactly. The child isn’t celebrated. Desired behaviors and met goals are celebrated. Undesired behaviors are ignored. This teaches the child that acceptance is conditional upon desired behaviors and met goals, attention is conditional upon pleasing others. Another way to say this is THEY ARE THE SUM OF THEIR BEHAVIORS.
I’m guessing I’ll probably get another response to this either from you or someone else, so I thought I should let you all know that I probably won’t be responding to those. I don’t have the time, energy, or desire to engage in online wars with every ABA apologist that comes along. I have provided more than enough info to get you started, but I will not do all of your research for you.
It all comes down to this: The Autistic community is telling you ABA is abuse. ABA therapists and parents are trying to convince you it’s not. Who you choose to listen to reflects a lot about you and how you feel about your child and your child’s community.
If the people you are abusing tell you it’s abuse, then it’s abuse. Autistics have been telling you for years that ABA is abusive and has harmed so many members of our community. You didn’t listen, you justified your actions, even rallied up your favorite hate group and fought to get ABA covered by insurance companies AGAINST THE WISHES OF THE AUTISTIC COMMUNITY.
We are telling you to stop. We are telling you to listen. We are telling you because we don’t want your kids to be hurt like so many others have already been. If you do not listen, you are CHOOSING to DELIBERATELY harm autistic people. Not to mention the epic level of gaslighting you all engage in. Please go through the links below for writing on ABA therapy by Autistics/ABA survivors, parents, former therapists, researchers, etc.
Autistics/ABA Survivors on ABA:
ABA – Unstrange Mind
Quiet Hands – Neuroqueer
The Normalization Agenda (part 1) -That Bloody Cat
The Normalization Agenda (part 2) – That Bloody Cat
Indistinguishable From Peers- An introduction – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
Indistinguishable From Peers Means: You Don’t Have Autism Related Problems – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
If You Don’t Use Your Words You Wont Be Indistinguishable – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
The Cost Of Indistinguishability Is Unreasonable – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
The Tyranny Of Indistinguishability: Performance – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
Your Therapy IS Like That, Or At Least Your Attitude Is – Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
The Spread Of Compliance Training – Paginated Thoughts
The Realities Of ABA – How You Should Be Parenting Your Autistic Child
My thoughts On ABA – Amy Sequenzia
Autism Conversion Therapy – Amy Sequenzia
Have Some ABA, Or Else… – Amy Sequenzia
Why I Oppose ABA As A Method Of Instruction – Social Skills For Autonomous People
Appearing To Enjoy Behavior Modification Is Not Meaningful – Social Skills For Autonomoous People
A Basic Problem With ABA – Social Skills For Autonomous People
Parents on ABA:
Autism, Therapies and Acceptance: A Mother’s Perspective – Morenike Giwa-Onaiwu
Tackling That Troublesome Issue Of ABA and Ethics – Emma’s Hope Book
Open Letter To Families Considering Behavioral Therapy (Part 1)
Open Letter To Families Considering Behavioral Therapy (Part 1)
ABA and Autism- The Thorny Problem of Control And Consent – Small But Kinda Mighty
The Cost Of Compliance Is Unreasonable – Love Explosions
Touch Nose. Gummi Bear: ABA In Our Family – Love Explosions
Touch Nose. Gummi Bear: What Is ABA And Why Does It Suck? – Love Explosions
Therapists and Former Therapists on ABA:
Why I Left ABA – Socially Anxious Advocate
I’m Sorry But That’s Not Earning Your Token – Ink and Daggers
Would You Accept This Behavior Towards A Non-Autistic?
– Heidi LoStracco MS, CCC-SLP
A Note To (What Feels Like) Every ABA Therapist Ever – Neurowonderful
Dear “Good Behaviorists” – Ink and Daggers
If You Want Me To Believe You’re A Good Behaviorist – Social Skills For Autonomous People
The Misbehaviour Of Behaviourists – Michelle Dawson
Autism Advocacy And Aversives (Part 1) – Michelle Dawson
Autism Advocacy And Aversives (Part 2) – Michelle Dawson
Autism Advocacy And Aversives (Part 3) – Michelle Dawson
But all of these people are probably just making shit up, right?