Why I Left ABA

Trigger Warning: ABA, ableism, institutionalized child abuse

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When I first became an ABA Therapist, I was thrilled. I was actually going to use my psych degree, get paid more than minimum wage, and above all, make a positive difference in Autistic children’s lives. Or at least, that’s what I thought.

Now I look back, and the year I spent working in ABA is my single greatest regret.

When I left, it wasn’t a decision I made overnight. It was a long, difficult process, full of denial and confusion. I don’t enjoy talking about it because I did so many wrong things that affected kids’ lives, and I don’t want to offer any excuses for myself. But I do want you to get a sense of what the process was like, in case anyone reading this happens to be in the same position.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I’m so grateful for the Autistic community for sharing about their lives and their experiences. I’d probably still be working in ABA right now if it wasn’t for their tireless efforts to call out ableism, which helped me recognize it in my own life and in my work. Listening to their voices and their traumatic experiences of ABA is what made me quit, and none of these critiques of ABA are my own. I learned everything from Autistic people, and I’m going to link to many of their writings and videos that influenced my decision to quit.

Since ABA affects Autistic people’s lives first and foremost, their voices are the most important part of this discussion, and it’s essential that you listen to what they’re saying.

And of course, the links in this post are only just a small sample of all the invaluable information that exists within the Autistic community – you can learn so much more by continuing to seek out Autistic writers and speakers. Before you continue reading, I recommend checking out this FAQ page about Autism by Autistic Hoya and this video by Amythest Schaber, because there is already so much misinformation about what Autism even is. And there is no better expert on Autism than someone who actually is Autistic.

I also want to recognize that many forms of therapy for Autistic kids are called “ABA,” but not all would actually be considered traditional ABA and thus they may be less problematic than the forms I’m going to discuss in this post. Many times, a therapy is labeled ABA simply to get covered by insurance. This is why it can get confusing to discuss ABA since the term is used to encompass a broad variety of teaching methods. Please understand that when I’m talking about ABA in this post, I’m speaking from my own personal experience of it. This page is a good summary of the kind of ABA I did (though I never worked at that place specifically), which included Discrete Trial Training (DTT), Natural Environment Training (NET), and errorless teaching.

When I began working as an ABA Therapist, I had barely even heard of ABA before, and it was a bit counterintuitive to me. I googled it, and I found pages and pages of glowing reports from families about how much ABA helped their Autistic children. I saw that Autism Speaks, the largest and most well-known advocacy group about Autism in the US, supported ABA. I saw that ABA was an evidence-based practice built on scientific research, and that it was the most widespread treatment for Autistic kids in America. People billed as “Autism experts” highly recommended it. I walked away feeling mostly great about the work I was doing.

However, I also got my first small exposure to other, more critical perspectives. I didn’t know how to interact with the non-speaking kids I worked with, and this prompted me to do some cursory research about Autistic people’s experiences. I ended up finding Ido Kedar’s wonderful book about his experiences as a non-speaking Autistic, and he taught me that the ability to talk indicated nothing about a person’s intelligence. Ido openly criticized ABA for not realizing this simple fact, among other things, and he often writes in his blog about how much he was underestimated by his ABA team (such as this post). His experiences left me with some doubts about the field, but one negative view was far too easy to push aside in favor of all the positivity surrounding ABA.

And that’s largely what I did for the next several months. I took some of Ido’s criticisms to heart in that I worried ABA wasn’t always a good option for non-speaking kids, but it still seemed like it could really help some of them. So I focused on learning how to do my job well and trying to be the kind of therapist who never doubted any of the kids’ intelligence. I thought that was enough.

After a while, I decided I wanted more opinions about ABA from Autistic people themselves. I went back on Google, and I began to discover a vibrant online community made up of Autistic people and their allies.

When I started finding more blogs and articles from Autistic people describing the trauma they felt as a result of ABA, I was so horrified, I could barely finish reading them. This post by Unstrange Mind was one of the first that I found, and it really made me question my job. 

But I was also quick to defend myself. Whatever I read, I would try to find anything about the author’s experience of ABA that was different than mine. I assured myself that the ABA I was doing wasn’t the same because we weren’t using aversives, or because we had options for reinforcement that the authors didn’t, or because some of the kids made so much progress, or because I really cared about the kids.

That last reason was the most comforting to me. I thought that because I cared about the kids’ well-being, because I had a strong desire to help them, everything I did must therefore be in their best interest. In my mind, it gave me a special immunity to making mistakes.

Caring meant there was no way I could be hurting them. I now realize how dangerous this idea really is. I’ve hurt many people I care deeply about. Just because you care about someone or have good intentions does not guarantee you’re doing the best thing for them.

But I was convinced that ABA could not be harmful because it was designed to help, or so I believed at the time. The result of this mindset is that Autistic kids are repeatedly forced to do things that are unnatural, uninteresting, or even painful to them, all in the name of “therapy” – and all with smiles and upbeat attitudes from the therapists demanding it. The kids may cry. They may try to escape. They may refuse. But they must do it, because we have decided it is good for them and that we are helping them. They just may not be able to see it or understand it at the time. Real Social Skills writes very poignantly about this kind of attitude among therapists in this post.

This overall concept is called compliance training, and it is an integral part of many ABA programs. The rule is, once you give a command as an ABA Therapist, you must follow through with it no matter what. If a child tries to cry or escape or engage in any other “behaviors,” you can’t give in, because then you are only reinforcing their bad behaviors and making it more likely that they’ll use them in the future.

Hopefully, you can see just how disturbing this idea really is, as I do now. Compliance training does not provide any way for a child to say “no” once a therapist gives a command, because everyone assumes that a child doesn’t have a valid reason for refusing to do something. This video by Amythest Schaber (a.k.a. Neurowonderful) explains why this is so harmful.

As Amythest explains, compliance training sends a very damaging message to Autistic kids by never allowing them to say “no.” It tells them that their feelings are invalid, and at its worst, that there is something deeply wrong with them if they are hurt or unnerved by things that don’t hurt or unnerve us. As if being neurotypical automatically means that we somehow know what’s best for every Autistic child.

Compliance training becomes doubly dangerous when it is not rooted in a real understanding of Autistic people’s experiences. Oftentimes, an underlying reason behind many goals in ABA is to teach kids to look and act less Autistic. If a child has any behaviors that seem “repetitive” or “obsessive,” or any that are just not understood by the neurotypical people around them, then behaviorists often try to change these things. Stimming is the most common example of this, but it could be anything. Walking on tip-toes, talking about the same topic too many times, using echolalia, having an intense interest, not making eye contact, covering ears, not playing with toys in a specific manner – anything that behaviorists deem “inappropriate” often becomes a goal the child has to work on changing. (If you don’t know what stimming is, Amythest has two great videos explaining stim here and here. You can also read this post by BJforShaw.)

The problem is that these kinds of goals completely discount the fact that everyone has a reason for doing something. Just because someone else doesn’t understand why a child is flapping their hands or covering their ears or any number of other things, that does not mean the child has no valid reasons for doing so.

Since Autism often involves special sensory sensitivities, it makes complete sense that Autistic people react to the world differently than neurotypicals. In fact, many Autistic people have already explained that there is a reason for their stim and other repetitive behaviors that might seem strange to neurotypical people – for example, it is a natural expression of feelings and helps regulate overwhelming sensory input, as Amythest explains in her first video about stimming. Things that a neurotypical person would hardly notice, like fluorescent lights or soft background music, can be overwhelming to someone with more heightened sensory systems. This means that refusing to allow a child to engage in stim – which often involves interrupting or preventing their stim by physically forcing their hands down to their sides or on to a table – could be physically painful for them. Julia Bascom writes about how horrible that experience is here. Eye contact is similar; many Autistic people have also talked about direct eye contact as being a very overwhelming sensory experience, such as Judy Endow’s post here.

Compliance training and harmful therapy goals are two of the biggest problems with many forms of ABA, but there are plenty of other concerns that Autistic people and their allies have raised about the ABA they experienced. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some further concerns include:

-Using explicit aversives to actively discourage unacceptable behaviors (see this post by Ink and Daggers).
-Withholding all rewards unless kids ask for it or earn it, including food, breaks, and affection.
-Not allowing any free time or only very small breaks in 5-hour/8-hour days (again, see this post by Unstrange Mind, which also details many other problems with ABA, including the goals meant for normalizing kids).
-Not recognizing motor apraxia, which may give the appearance an Autistic person does not understand a command, when in reality, they may not be able to get their body to obey them because they experience a disconnect between their mind and their body (again, see this post by Ido Kedar, this post by Amy Sequenzia, and this post at Emma’s Hope Book).
-Allowing behaviorists to have too much power (see this post by Real Social Skills).
-Using verbal prompts (“quiet hands,” “nice hands,” “hands down”) and physical prompts to prevent children from stimming (again, see this post by Julia Bascom).
-Using functioning labels to define a child’s abilities (see this post at Musings of an Aspie and this video by Amythest Schaber).
-Routinely using physical restraints as a solution for kids engaging in violent or destructive behaviors, instead of as an absolute last resort that is recognized as being harmful (see this post by Real Social Skills and this checklist for identifying sources of aggression at We Are Like Your Child).
-Not presuming the kids to be competent and, relatedly, not providing adequate means of communication (see this post at Emma’s Hope Book and this post by Ido Kedar).

Of these things, the ABA I was part of included all but the first.

When I was immersed in the field, I didn’t fully realize the ableist mindset underlying so many of the kids’ programs. Other people had been working in the field for years, and they spoke confidently about the teaching methods they used. Parents trusted them; a lot of them were probably told the same things I was. The people I worked with treated me kindly and considerately. I repeatedly heard that it was the only scientific evidence-based practice for Autistic kids and the most effective one, so I trusted the BCBAs who were writing the kids’ programs, and I assumed that there was a good reason for why we did the things we did.

Of course, ignorance isn’t an excuse. Whether I took the time to listen to Autistic people or not, the ABA therapy I did was harmful to those kids. Knowing or not knowing didn’t change that.

It took me a while to fully realize and accept why many Autistic people oppose ABA. I would wake up and go to work, determined to find more reasons why my ABA was good. I would feel happy to see my client and watch my client be happy to see me. I would be with people I admired and respected, hear about some of the kids’ progress, and in those moments, everything I read the previous night would feel like just a bad dream. Then I would go home, continue to look up more about what Autistic people had to say about ABA, and again have to try to convince myself why my ABA was different.

During this time, I tried everything I could to see if there was a way I could do ABA without running into ethical issues, but I repeatedly found that I had to make a choice between doing the ABA and respecting the child.

Withholding rewards was part of the ABA. Making kids talk or sign, even when it was clearly not the best form of communication for them, was part of ABA. Extinguishing stim, coercing eye contact, teaching neurotypical play skills were part of ABA. Forcing compliance was part of ABA. If I didn’t want to do any of those things, it meant not being an ABA Therapist.

When I finally began voicing my doubts to the people I worked with, the most common defense I heard was that ABA is a scientific, evidence-based practice, and that we need to rely on scientific studies more than anecdotal evidence from Autistic people themselves.

But those words really aren’t as impressive as they seem, in many cases of ABA. Yes, the methods used in ABA are “effective,” but only in the sense that a lot of Autistic people who go through ABA come out looking “less Autistic.” That is, an Autistic child is likely to learn to suppress Autistic behaviors by going through ABA that has normalization at its roots. But that doesn’t say anything about how ABA affects an Autistic person’s self-esteem, emotional state, and view of the world. It doesn’t say anything about whether ABA is ethical. If we’re measuring whether ABA helps Autistic people feel safe, accommodated, and accepted in a largely neurotypical world, then it’s very ineffective, according to the overwhelming evidence from the Autistic community.

Here’s an example. If someone beat a child to prevent him from doing something they didn’t like, he would probably stop doing it, and you could then say beating is an “effective” method. They could even take data as part of a scientific study to show you that their child’s behaviors decreased after they started beating him. But obviously, that doesn’t mean anyone should beat a child. That doesn’t mean it’s not abusive when a child is beaten. That doesn’t mean that child will grow up feeling healthy and happy about who he is. Abuse is never okay, and science cannot address the ethics of a method.

It’s even more concerning that ABA was founded by Ivar Lovaas, who bluntly stated that he believed Autistic people weren’t even people. This is an exact quote from him: “You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense—they have hair, a nose and a mouth—but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but you have to build the person.” Lovaas also used electroshock on kids with Autism.

Of course, very few people in ABA today would outwardly agree with what Lovaas said about Autistic people. Most probably aren’t even aware. But his thinking is still clear in many aspects of ABA – too many behaviorists continue to discount the fact that Autistic people have valid reasons for their way of doing things, even though there is now an entire community of Autistic self-advocates to explain their own experiences.

If your goal is to help a certain community, one of the first things you should do is make sure you’re in touch with the community you’re trying to help. Their voices are more important than anyone else’s. And yet, many ABA programs remain completely disconnected from Autistic people themselves.

Once I realized that nothing was going to change after I expressed my doubts, I finally couldn’t defend myself anymore. ABA was wrong, and I had to get out. I compiled a list of many of the anti-ABA articles I’d read from the Autistic community, emailed it to my supervisors, talked with some of them again about why I was leaving, and then I finally got the hell out.

I’m lucky that I was able to just walk away from it. But there are still far too many Autistic kids who can’t leave, no matter how much they want to.

Kids I care about are still in ABA, 5 days a week for 25-40 hours. And they could easily spend another decade or more of their life there. Many of them will grow up in the field, internalizing the message that they are flawed simply because they were born with a different neurotype. The simple fact is that many Autistic people who went through ABA describe it as being abusive, and some even have post-traumatic stress because of it.

If you work in behaviorism or ABA – if your job has any of the characteristics mentioned above – please take the time to read what Autistic people are saying and really evaluate whether you are helping or harming. Talk to your supervisors or coworkers about what you’ve read from people in the Autistic community. Ask yourself whether you would feel comfortable talking to an Autistic person about your job. I know that it’s daunting, and honestly, it’s not easy. It wasn’t easy for me. But I made it through it, and you can too.

Also remember: this is not about you. This is not about what’s easiest or most comfortable for you, or what’s best for your career. This is about Autistic kids and adults who grow up feeling traumatized and devalued. This is about truly helping Autistic people by making society more safe, accepting, and accommodating of all neurotypes. Make sure you’re fighting for that goal and not against it.

Learn More
 Autistic Hoya: Autism FAQ Page
– Amythest Schaber: What is Autism?
 Ido Kedar: A Challenge to Autism Professionals
 Unstrange Mind: ABA
 Real Social Skills: Nice Lady Therapists
 Amythest Schaber: A Few Words on Compliance Training
 Amythest Schaber: What is Stimming?
 Amythest Schaber: What is Verbal/Vocal Stimming?
 BJForShaw: I Stim, Therefore I Am
 Unstrange Mind: O is for Overloaded, Overstimulated, and Overwhelmed
 Judy Endow: Autism and Eye Contact
 Ink and Daggers: I’m Sorry, but That’s Not Earning Your Token
 Emma’s Hope Book: “Presume Competence” – What Does That Mean, Exactly?
 Amy Sequenzia: My Uncooperative Body
 Emma’s Hope Book: Rethinking Your Beliefs About Autism
 Musings of an Aspie: Decoding the High-Functioning Label
 Amythest Schaber: What About Functioning Labels?
 Julia Bascom: Quiet Hands
 Real Social Skills: A Basic Problem with ABA
 Real Social Skills: Restraint is Violent
– We Are Like Your Child: A Checklist for Identifying Sources of Aggression
– Emma’s Hope Book: Tackling That Troublesome Issue of ABA and Ethics
 Amythest Schaber: A Note to (What Feels Like) Every ABA Therapist Ever
 Ink and Daggers: Dear “Good Behaviorists”
 Real Social Skills: If You Want Me to Believe You’re a Good Behaviorist
– Unstrange Mind: What Does Helpful vs. Harmful Therapy Look Like?

[Photo: Copyright Lali Masriera cc // Unaltered]

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544 thoughts on “Why I Left ABA

    1. This is exactly my struggle right now. I very much would love to get a masters degree in special education, but I’m terrified at the politics involved and what may be forced as part of a child’s behavior plan. I can not agree with most of the common treatments right now and I probably wouldn’t have a job for long, yet, the other part of me wonders what I can do to help change the status quo. Why do we place so much importance on stopping behaviors that are not directly harmful to anyone? I don’t know…it’s why I may be leaning more toward the MS is Social Work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alice,

        Maybe this is an opportunity for you to explore other methodologies, for example, TEACH and SCERTS. Also, not sure of Verbal Behavuor is any less harmful than ABA, but that may be one to consider as well. I live in MA and the Son Rise program is based in the western part of the state and I have heard it to be hugely successful. Bottom line: the kids need effective special ed teachers desperately, and who is to say that ABA has to be what you have to teach them? There may be more professionals out there who question or even dislike ABA, but until schools are presented with a good alternative, they will stick with the old standby. Maybe you can start working with autistic adults to help in this endevor? And then move on to teaching children?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I completely relate, Alice. Chrispy has some good suggestions. I’m also personally planning on going into speech-language pathology and focusing on augmentative and alternative communication to ensure Autistic people get a form of communication that works best for them. That might be something you want to look into as well. You can even work in schools if you want. I also know occupational therapy is supposed to help with sensory aspects of Autism, but I don’t know much more about it (anyone have good/bad experiences to share?).

          I’ve pretty much accepted that advocacy is going to be a huge part of any field that provides therapy to Autistic people, and I will more than likely bump heads with ABA and behaviorism. The thought of a lifetime of that is draining. But the more we can do it, the more it will diminish. If you can find a good program (or teacher or mentor) in the field that shares similar values and incorporates Autistic people into the conversation, that will help a lot. And I think it will be helpful to find and be part of a community of other professionals who feel the same way – clearly we are out there.

          It is a hard choice, and I completely understand your reservations. Wherever your path leads, I do wish you the best!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hi!
            I just read your post and more set of the unearthed feelings I’ve had while providing ABA have been put into words. I just started therapy with a client last week and it kills me to see him forced to do this because I also work with another client doing Son-rise therapy. I am working for a school now and desperately want out but I also want the family to see this post before I go. Do you think I will run into legal problems if I do? I also ran into mistreatment in the school one day when I was shadowing for more training and I still have an opportunity to go back and shadow and hopefully speak to the teachers and kids maybe during circle time where comments from the teacher cause humiliation (i.e. She would talk about them as if they weren’t there or couldn’t hear her) what do you recommend?

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        2. The problem is: dtt is not the whole of aba. In the venn diagram of ABA, dtt fits into the whole, but there is so much more to aba. Verbal behavior, for instance, is ABA. Teacch is based in ABA. Direct instruction is based in ABA.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I had some therhy based off the son rise that was Better then the aba stuff I also had I had therhy like we’re I go to camp we get behavior charts an you get points for good stuff thst on your chart you don’t lose a token .like in school you could lose a snack break be told to sit on your hands for being to stimmy or aggressive I think safe hands an Useing fidget toys feel better

            Liked by 1 person

          2. There are so many kids I have worked with that would scream all day and engage in SIB. You know what helped get rid of these behaviors? ABA. I don’t know where you worked but where I worked we only use physical restraint if someone is a threat to themselves or others. If a child is throwing a tantrum or scratching and kicking, you are supposed to remove yourself from the area and yeah you are fixing compliance for doing tasks that they need to learn to be independent. Then if they show resistance you give them a break.

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            1. It depends on whether the behavior is for escape or access to tangible. In instances of escape, you have to continue to present the lesson- this usually requires forcing the child to do the task.

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              1. Here straight from yhe horse’s mouth, KathT dhow the abuse inherent in AB Analy$i$. The child is distressed, wants to quit, wants ABA to go away, ABA continues, treats for escape, Very cruel.

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            2. And I know many ABA centers where the kids would scream and engage in SIB and the center only increased those behaviors or caused those behaviors to begin with. ABA does not always “get rid” of those behaviors mainly because most ABA centers have no clue how to increase communication.

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              1. How about you show us the videos, you identify yourself by name and credentials, and stop drinking so much if you’re anything like your ABA peers Darby Barby Doll. And then leave us autistics alone. More and more of your victims are growing up and they are free from you and they are telling true anecdotal reports of abuse and trauma from you control freaks who cannot stay married to these poor dudes who won’t know what hit them until after you control them by withholding rewards on your wedding night and so on and so forth.

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              2. Dave, actually I was defending you and saying that ABA often is the cause of so many of these behaviors because the kids are trying to escape from the horrible intervention being thrown at them.

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              3. Wow, you are also darb and you were defending me? Excuse me, please, I didn’t get that. I would delete, but that’s probably not possible for me to do. Only the web host here can and she’s been awfully silent here for the longest time.

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            3. I truly cringe when I read about parents like Susan Senator (below) who writes her own blog and is a parent advocate and whose son was placed in an ABA residential facility at around age 17. She is actually trying to convince people here that putting her kid in isolation for behaviors is good treatment. It is not. It is punishment and I guarantee no one really looked at the function of the behavior. Just shove him in the time out closets many of which I have seen in these centers in Massachusetts. Nothing but padded, small rooms. Her son is now an adult and received broken ribs by someone in his day or in his out of home living facility. last year This poor kid!

              from Susan Senator’s blog:

              “Together we thought back to the last time when Nat was like this. It was ten years ago, just before he moved into his school residence. At that time, the school implemented a time-out technique. They would have him go into a small room within the classroom and set the timer for one minute. If he could be calm for one minute, he could come out. If not, he went back in and the timer was reset.

              I’m well aware that this may not be a legal technique anymore, and some judge it as inhumane. I disagree. When done with concern and care, the way Nat’s teachers did it, there is a space created for the person to decompress.”

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            1. Have you behavior control freaks done any Functional Assessments to figure out how often you all provoke what you all describe literally as “challenging behaviors of deviant autistics.”

              Who’s the deviant here, you or us? Analyze yourself!

              You are the circus side show freaks you want our parents to call their children, you phony Bologna ABAers! The Board Certified Behavior Analysts, outcast by true professionals who know how to listen. Do you have any idea how you really piss us off? And then you “treat effectively for angry behavior.” Now climb up a tree and act like a nut up there away from us! You heard it. Go away and leave us autistics alone, what we all want you to do!

              Look! Surprise:

              Blog post: “An actually autistic man defines and explains Applied Behavior Analy$i$.” Read it and weep, ABA!

              Then find someone your own size to pick on. Someone else with a pea brain like yours! Big woop! Florida State U.: The big fat ABA institution ain’t exactly Ive League now is it? Nor is Western Michigan ABA chock full of autistic geniuses. Am I right? Like you think we’re not analyzing your drunken Facebook wedding pics!

              https://rewardandconsent.blogspot.com/2016/11/an-actual-autistic-defines-applied.html

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        3. Other alternatives ARE available, but we must be willing to leave behind our belief system that these kids have intellectual disabilities and need repetitious training to overcome their disabilities. This is NOT true. Once I was willing to make a paradigm shift about my understanding of non-verbal/non-reliably verbal autism, I was able to truly see their movement differences and sensory differences and provide helpful supports that allowed my clients to demonstrate their abilities and develop communication. Please visit Optimal Rhythms, Inc at our website or Facebook page to learn how we are teaching others to #rethinkautism. Consider attending our 2016 Rethinking Autism Conference on April 1-2, to kick off Autism Acceptance Month!!

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        4. Mass. —home of the New England Center For Children. What an utterly disgusting place and parents are so stupid to believe this is good for their kids!

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      2. I hate ABA I was negatively affected by it it may be too passive not able to say no to adults and cause me to or not no I could say no or whatever as a child it a very confusing an even now I get upset if someone mad at me .when I got more verble an could tell my parents what was going on somewhat .they try an tell them not to do that or whatever .but it wasn’t even until, now that more I rember .me an my friends reward system an teacher put there hands on you .while telling you not to be aggressive
        or getting in trouble for stuff is confusing but hs I stared feeling like a dog

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        1. Stefanie, I’m so sorry that you had such a horrible experience. That was not right, and the people who treated you that way were wrong. I’m so glad that your parents were able to step in for you. Thanks for adding your perspective to the discussion – I really value your viewpoint. I wish you all the best, and I hope to see your comments again in the future.

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        2. Stefanie, I have notice that my daughter. She is feeling the same as you. She specks but not a lot. She crys when she is told she can’t do what she wants. When first they ask her “okay what do you want to do? ” then they tell her ” okay first you have to do this and that and if you do we can do what you want” know she don’t like her therapists. She have push there toys and other things around her and has tried to kick them out of the house. I think I should stop all this A B A now!

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      3. things are so weird now they made all these pc words or fancy words that make no sense like I use to be a Bolter or runner now they call it eloping the first time I head it stared lmao wth isn’t that when two people sneak off an get married or something .an now they can’t say this is that it crazy .but something’s they did when I was a child would be considered abusive .

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        1. It’s just the behavioral term for it. You can call it whatever you want but if you are working in ABA, people may not take you as seriously if you do not use the terms.

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          1. Google Scholar these typical ABA terms: “Deviant autistic behavior.” “Elopement:” when we walk away from ABA demands. “Escape from ABA demands.” When they force us to sit and we try to get away. Starting age one. “GED .. Graduated Electronic Decelerator of the Rate of Behavior with extremely painful ABA skin shock contingent upon noncompliance, classroom disruption, aggression (what ABA provokes), and self-injury, including popping ones own pimple, google it, what the U.N. calls torture, what all non PBS ABA supports and is complicit with. “Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) of Board Certified Behavior Ananlysts ((BCBAs) extremely “effective” punishers: BACB 4th Edition Task list of job skills and concepts demonstrable necessary to become and continue to be BCBAs: Ten times punishement skills, concepts.” Pinpoint their ten. Google it! Now that ABA wants to use its high falutant terminology here in the best ABA board that is not censored by ABA, as all the pro ABA boards are!

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          2. no I have autism an grew up in it when they say those words now they call it something else .an I ask my friend why they call it this when it really that she say it sounds better idk .i still get help .but just diff from ehen I was a kid

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      4. Stopping behaviors are important cause it distracts them from doing what they are suppose to be learning. It gets in the way. And yes, everyone has to learn to the best of their ability. How can I teach my daughter to write when her hands are flapping? Stop the flapping first, then teach her to hold the pen, then to write. Eye contact….very important. Doesn’t have to make it with everyone, but at least me. It’s a way of seeing if she gets it, or how can she see to pronounce when she’s not look at my mouth? Look at me… Or, shhhh quiet……her humming is stimming, how can she hear what I am saying or asking while humming noises constantly. How is any input going to get into her? She blocks her ears too. How can she hear me to learn if she is blocking her ears constantly? She is allowed to do the stims occasionally, to help her relaxe. Or if she is really stressed they come on hard and strong…then there is no point of even trying, too worked up or tired. Time to find something enjoyable to do. She also,cannot take hours a day of learning. That’s way too much to demand. She can become very aggressive if pushed too much. I also want her to enjoy life. But if I didn’t interrupt her stims no one would want to be around her. I want her to learn to appear as normal as possible. If I didn’t stop her stims she wouldn’t even know the things she learned to enjoy.

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        1. I’m told when I’m stimming or doing my thing I get so into it that I don’t social an forget about other people around I Gus’s true

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              1. George is probably a BCBA who makes zero progress with the kids but makes thousands because stupid parents and school districts think it is the only intervention worthwhile.

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          1. No she isn’t. It’s kind of up to the parents. Some of our clients parents tell us that if their child is stimming just to let it happen if it’s not interfering with their work. Other parents will tell you that its okay to try to stop it. If a child is scripting when you are trying to ask them questions, you have to break that or they will not answer.

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            1. That people expect ABA is up to the parent and not the parent and child is dead wrong and THE cause of all ABA cult wide abuse! Google my highly ethical Cognitive Behavioral “Reward and Consent” decent alternative to cruel and freaky unusual ABA coercion! Those folks who say Mommy is only in charge of autistic child body prove THE ABA flaw!

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    2. This article is ridiculously uninformed and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding to what behavior analysis is, stands for and does in terms of teaching skills, shaping behavior and generally affecting people’s lives. From the explanation of “compliance training” to behavior having a “reason”. Anyone who reads this and thinks that they are gaining from the words on the screen is absolutely being misled and skewed away from a truly scientific and evidence-based approach. Absolutely shamful.

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      1. Dimtri – have you spoken, read, or listened to any autistic people who have experienced ABA?

        If not, I ask you to put aside your attachment to ABA and do this, because being instantly on the defensive and not open to the experiences of those that you want to help isn’t what you want.

        Just because YOU practice in a particular way does not mean that ABA is taught or practiced in the same way by others. That’s the problem. There are people out there who have been damaged by ABA. Please be part of the solution and help this change.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Alex Lowery had ABA home programme and he enjoyed it and said that he liked it better than his school because the ABA team were able to teach him. I personally know some teenagers and adults with Autism and they’ve nothing but great things to say about it. This article is very badly written with zero research done. Lovaas did not “invent” ABA and it’s the science of everyday life. There are rules that we abide by and as a society we shape each other’s behavior all the time. ABA is a natural science and you might want to look into B.F. Skinner because he in fact is the grandfather of Applied Behavior Analysis. There probably are people out there that are giving ABA a bad name. Much the same as a doctor or a nurse or a teacher that are misusing their position and not abiding by rules. The science is not to blame just the same as if a teacher did something wrong you wouldn’t say that education is bad. My so has a ABA home programme and if I thought for one minute that his therapist or BCBA was behaving unethically I would have them booted out and reported. After which they would not be allowed to practice any longer. Just like a teacher or a doctor etc. My son has learned so much and he enjoys his therapy and adores his therapist. ABA has saved my son’s life because he used to run out on to roads and used to try and outsmart me to get out. There’s nothing liked more than eloping and enjoying a good run to no where. This hasn’t happened in a year. His eclectic school had said that he wasn’t ready for toilet training yet an ABA programme taught him. He had a PECS consultant over when he was three and non verbal (yes PECS is based on BF Skinner’s Verbal Behavior and is the science of ABA). He had no speech and no way of communicating except through biting other’s, throwing things and banging his head of things. Four days later he is on phase 4 of PECS and is already speaking one word at a time. Banana, biscuit etc and is using these words while making up his sentence strip and not long after that speaking the whole sentence “I want juice”. No more head banging or any other non functional communication. He knows his whole alphabet, he can read a bit and spell. He learned to dress himself and brush his hair. He has learned to draw and really enjoys it. If I where to list everything he’s learned I’d be here all week. The NHS has written him off as well as his educational psychologist. His school don’t think he can do much. I don’t even blame them. His teacher is lovely but they have no access to this science so they can’t know that he’s capable of more. He isn’t screaming and crying when he’s learning. Each trial lasts for 10 responses (ten tokens) and this is done in 3 minutes and the very most and he enjoys getting the thing that he has worked for. When we give him praise he smiles. If he get’s something wrong we just change the programme around so he does get it. That is the meaning of errorless learning. My son is learning to be independent and isn’t going to end up in an institution where patients do get beaten. This happens because their carers aren’t adequately trained to cope with the demands of the individual and aren’t able to teach them anything. If they were trained in ABA then the patients wouldn’t be locked up and they would be given plenty of stimulation. There’s a story out there, look up Bring Chris Home. You tell me what’s more ethical. One more point, my son has never been put in restraints and I wouldn’t let it happen. I’m a parents and I’m studying the Masters in ABA.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s awesome to hear about your son’s achievements! ABA is a term that’s used very broadly, so I fully understand that there are likely forms of it that lack the characteristics described in my post. (What I’ve described definitely exists, though.)

            That said, I would still advise you to read the links I’ve posted here. A lot of kids may make progress through ABA therapy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not harmful to them emotionally and psychologically. They may be learning very valid skills, and yet still feel devalued or invalidated for who they are in the process. Just wanted to mention that. But, if you feel confidently that he’s truly enjoying the therapy and that it’s making him feel accepted and accommodated, then that’s great, and I’m happy to hear it.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. There is so much more to ABA than compliance training and DTT. You obviously had an unfortunate experience with an ABA group that did only that and that is a problem. But there are many child-centered ABA interventions.
              Also, most ABA programs don’t employ SLPs, especially SLPs experienced in AAC (given the high per centage of nonverbal kids). We DO know that being minimally verbal does NOT mean they have nothing to say. We can be right there using basic learning science in natural contexts, in child-directed activities, making interactions fun, engaging and communicative.
              I also agree you need to do more research and look at those who have experienced different sides of ABA.
              Like anything it is not all good or all bad. Done right, and with the knowledge we have gained over the recent years, it can be very beneficial.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I view ABA as a way to facilitate communication, so the autistic person can express their needs. It is recorded so problem behaviors can be avoided before the ever start in the future. Honestly, I think most parents do that with their kids regardless of autism or not. I understand what you are saying in this post, but this can be done respectfully and kindly. It just needs a gentle thoughtful approach.

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          2. PECS is severely limited and there are much better approaches to supporting communication. Kids with limited expressive communication need access to core vocabulary; mastering requesting-based systems should not be treated as a prerequisite. The fact that ABA is so pervasive and ABA therapists usually believe strongly in the importance of PECS is actually a major barrier to children accessing appropriate communication support.

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            1. PECS is not a request based system, it is a full communication system that incorporates all parts of speech. If it is being used for requesting only, then it is being misused.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. PECS is so old school. Parents!…. wake up, get away from ABA and PECS and look into RPM. The ABA industry and too many bad SLP’s are making so much money off of ineffective and damaging therapy. RPM is a wonderful communication tool and a better means of actually educating the kids.

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          3. Gabriel’s Mummy, I’m currently working on a piece of software meant to improve ABA/ Autism therapy. I tend to agree with you, but I also suspect that there’s something wrong with some ABA practitioners – we’re looking to give everyone involved a voice, so that parents, children and therapists can actually do good. Would you be willing to hop on a skype call with me?

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          4. “The NHS has written him off as well as his educational psychologist.”

            That is extremely discouraging and disgusting. I’m more than disappointed that they did that.

            I’m glad that using a science-based approach is helping with your lad’s development and learning. I’m sure there’s be detractors who’ll claim that you’re lying. Many of them will themselves be autistic. Well – I’m autistic, and was told that ABA was the work of the devil,. etc, until I was doing my master’s in educational psychology. Then I found out that my own kind had actually lied to me and mislead me … I cannot forgive that sort of thing.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. Patricia, I am a BACA who has worked with several individuals with ABA who have had wonderful experiences. In fact, at my current company, there is an adult with Autism who had such a positive experience with his ABA therapy that he is now volunteering with the company. He is also going to college to be a teacher, and happy with his life. He now has the skills necessary to pursue his dreams due to the ABA training he received.
          I guarantee that there are people who are practicing ABA incorrectly out there, or that are using the principles and techniques of ABA in an unethical manner, but that does not represent ABA. It can be compared to religions such as Islam or Christianity, where there are people of that religion who harm others in the name of the religion, who do not accurately represent the ideologies of the religion. The points in this article are important, and anyone who works with individuals with disabilities should be mindful of them. There are people who treat individuals with disabilities poorly in every field; speech pathologists, special education teachers, psychologists, doctors, etc…
          I don’t disagree on the points of this article, I disagree with the anti-ABA stance of the article. It is indeed an ignorant and biased stance.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Jeff, that’s awesome that there’s an Autistic person volunteering at the ABA therapy place you work! I’m happy to hear that, and that’s definitely a good sign.

            Again, I didn’t receive training on the ethical code for behavior analysts. I’m going to say that upfront. However, I’ve reviewed the ethical standards on the BACB website (http://www.bacb.com/index.php?page=57 and http://www.bacb.com/Downloadfiles/BACB_Compliance_Code.pdf) and I don’t see how anything I’ve described is a violation of those standards. Even aversives (I know some places use taste aversion sprays) are allowed under the standards as a last resort. If I’ve missed anything, though, please let me know because I’d definitely be interested to hear if there were ethical violations in any of those procedures. It would be easy if it was just a matter of a few “rogue” practitioners that are defying the ethical standards, but I just don’t think that’s the case. Some behavioral therapy places are still using electroshock (look up the Judge Rotenberg Center).

            I’ve said this so many times and in the post itself: there may be forms of ABA therapy that are less problematic than what I’ve described here. I still believe that everybody working in the field of behaviorism and ABA as a whole needs to read about these experiences that Autistic people have had to ensure that their therapy is not part of the problem. Even the people I worked with considered their own ABA therapy to be good. Please do take the time to read the links in this post.

            I understand that you disagree with the overall anti-ABA stance that you feel this post represents. I already acknowledged in my post that my experience of ABA therapy may not be everyone’s (see the beginning of the post). Also, there have been conversations about whether behavioral therapy is ever a good idea for Autistic kids. Some people don’t think it is; that’s a view that exists, and I can certainly understand it. I just know I’m definitely against any therapies that have any of these characteristics.

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            1. It sounds like either the author made no effort to learn and grow in the field of ABA, or simply worked for a terrible organization. There are so many “red flags” regarding the authors outlook on the science, starting with the terminology. You don’t “do” ABA, since it isn’t a method of teaching, and there are not many forms of ABA. It is simply a set of principles that we are all affected by. It is not a way to teach, but a set of scientific principle to be used for good or bad. If there are children with autism who grew up to despise ABA therapy, then it means that you were implementing the principles incorrectly and without regard for them as individuals.

              You have no right spewing this sort of opinion, when there are families who are looking for evidence-based therapy, but are being pulled in different directions. It is hard enough for them to filter through the garbage “therapies” out there. Shame on you for feeling that you could publish your skewed opinion for hopeful families to read. Autistic people, really? Being that you do not use people-first language makes me have serious doubts that you were ever a therapist.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Joel, do you know of any blogs or writings from these folks who had great experiences with ABA? I have been trying to find such resources and am not convinced that any exist. I am concerned that those who “sing the praises of ABA” are primarily those with a financial stake in ensuring it’s continued existence. Sometimes we hear from parents, but I want to hear from the [now grown] children themselves. Thank you.

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              2. Autistic person here. The vast majority of autistic people hate person-first language. The fact that therapists view autistic as an insult and autism as something to be distanced from is exactly why they can justify ABA to themselves.

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        3. We’ve been doing ABA with my daughter for about two months now. She is all excited when they arrive. If she does not want to do something they do not force her, they respect her right to say no. Their biggest objective is to teach her the building blocks of language, and I have watched my daughter blossom in so many ways since we’ve started. I remember early conversations about ABA, and the one statement that stands out in my head was this, “There is good ABA, and there is bad ABA.” From the start of ABA I let them know that things like scripting, eye contact, or other stims were OK, and that I did not want them forcing her to stop doing these things, nor did I want them to take away her individuality. I asked them what their goals are, and what are their methods. It is up to us to find the right fit for our own children, one that will be a positive experience for them. For us, ABA is merely providing my daughter with a set of tools to cope with situations she will experience in life, not a way of changing her as a person. I tell my daughter every day how proud I am of her, how perfect she is, and I ask her never to change. Autism is part of who she is, and it makes her the unique, intelligent, creative, and beautiful girl that we love.

          Liked by 3 people

        4. some who work in the Feld don’t understand that not everyone dose things the same way some are very good an understanding an some don’t understand at all I was affected badly by some of the stuff done at one school I went to .an it took along time to get over it .also it very rude to not listen to us with autism who can tell you what is bad or not .i hate when other think they no what best .or talk to us like we are dumb don’t be condescending treat us like you like to be treated rember everyone is one accident away from being disabled I can talk now about what it like .but sometimes it hard for those to listen as my autism make me seem like I’m not as hf as I am

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      2. I also want to add that most people working in ABA may not use the term “compliance training” (although in my experience, there was a lot of talk of “gaining compliance”), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

        Frankly, I find it disturbing if you’re denying that behaviors have a reason. Every behavior has a reason behind it.

        I’ve already written about why saying ABA is evidence-based and scientific does not mean it’s inherently ethical and helpful to Autistic people.

        Please read what Autistic people are saying to make sure your therapy (if you’re involved in any) is not part of the problem.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I think you mean, every behavior has a function. It goes to show that you have no experience of ABA at all. I doubt that you were ever a therapist.

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          1. What’s the difference between saying “every behavior has a function” and “every behavior has a reason”? If a child is screaming because he wants a cookie, the function of the screaming is to obtain a cookie, and the reason for the screaming is that he wants a cookie. Is a function not a reason?

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            1. ” If a child is screaming because he wants a cookie, the function of the screaming is to obtain a cookie, and the reason for the screaming is that he wants a cookie. Is a function not a reason?”

              No. The two are different.

              There’s a cookie. Kid wants it.
              Wanting the cookie is the reason to do something.
              Getting the cookie is the function of the thing that the kid does.

              This really is simple.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. The function becomes screaming when people don’t recognize that the competent child needs a reliable means of communication, yet has apraxia and is unable to motor plan typical ways of saying or doing. Unfortunately, with ABA, the focus then becomes compliance training, teaching the child it is not okay to have an opinion or a want unless the person in authority over them gives them permission, and then it must be communicated in the way that works for the adult in authority, regardless of how it works for the child. You are right! It really is quite simple.

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              2. “Unfortunately, with ABA, the focus then becomes compliance training, teaching the child it is not okay to have an opinion or a want unless the person in authority over them gives them permission, and then it must be communicated in the way that works for the adult in authority, regardless of how it works for the child.”

                Absolute fucking bullshit.

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              3. “I didn’t receive training on the ethical code for behavior analysts. I’m going to say that upfront.”

                How on Earth would that be even possible if you were doing any properly organised training? Was your training being provided by BCBAs? If so – the training would automatically include ethics matters from the started, since all BCBA training and assessment deals with practices in the context of the BACB Professional Disciplinary and Ethical Standards and Guidelines for Responsible Conduct for Behavior Analysts. For the exam, all ethical considerations topics are dealt with as part of the assessment process as it examines topics to which the ethical standards apply, rather than lumping them in at the end as a disconnected body of questions.
                http://bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/BACB_Fourth_Edition_Task_List.pdf

                If you did not receive that training in ethics, then either of two things are true here. One is that you were not being trained by appropriately qualified people. The other is that you were actually not being trained at all.

                I checked with IBCCES about their training/certification things for ethics for Certified Autism Specialists. I found their code of ethics:
                —–
                5. Client Rights and Autonomy

                1- The individual student or client’s rights and dignity come first. Members will encourage an appropriate level of independence for the students and/or clients.
                2- Members will provide the most appropriate treatment or care for the individual.
                3- Members will maintain the confidentiality and privacy of the individual entrusted to their care, as further defined by legal and professional standards.
                4- Members will apply the principles of Primum non nocere, which means, “First, do no harm.” Crisis Intervention Specialists will not provide any type of therapy, treatment, or strategy outside the scope of their training and licensure.
                5- Members will respect the autonomy of the individual in allowing an appropriate level of self-determination. Individual clients and/or students shall have the right to participate in decisions regarding their treatment and care.
                6- Any treatment or therapy will be based on best practice for the individual’s particular needs.
                7- Members will not engage in any type of harassment or abuse of an individual. Any observed or suspicion of harassment or abuse will be reported to appropriate authorities.

                6. Community and Global Responsibility

                1- Members strive to educate others in their community regarding the most appropriate strategies for special needs.
                2 Members share best practices with other professionals in order to increase the standard of care for all.
                3- Members do not permit the mistreatment of any individual student and/or client. Any observed mistreatment is reported to appropriate supervisors and/or authorities.
                4- Members will advocate for the inclusion of individuals with special needs in the community. Inclusion in an educational or treatment setting will be considered in the least restrictive setting possible for the particular individual’s needs.
                5- Members stay current in their training and knowledge, in order to provide the best possible care and treatment.
                6- Members will notify IBCCES if they observe any violation of the Code of Ethics.
                —–
                People have to already be doing this in order to get their third-party certification.

                So, if you were not being given ANY training on the BACB ethical standards and guidelines for responsible conduct, what the hell was that training programme that you were on?

                You mention witnessing abuse. If you were on a proper training programme, why did you not report it? The BACB’s ethical standards require that you do.
                http://bacb.com/ethics/

                You’re not exactly making your account of things believable here.

                Liked by 1 person

              4. I believe the account. I see a complete disregard for ethics in the field despite lessons intended to help their horrible reputation on dual consent which are completely ignored. The new ethics code gives mere lip service to ethics. This Fourth Edition Task list contains exactly ten elements which a behavior analysis must know with various permutations of the word “punishment.” It seems they should be punished first if anyone is to be punished. The profession is empathy-disabled since the feelings of the other persons are officially in ABA disregarded as unobservable and not therefore data.

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              5. For some reason, the comment I made in response to the blog article author’s comment on not having had ethics training ended up in this chain. Yeh – go, WordPress.

                Casey:
                —–
                The function becomes screaming when people don’t recognize that the competent child needs a reliable means of communication, yet has apraxia and is unable to motor plan typical ways of saying or doing. Unfortunately, with ABA, the focus then becomes compliance training, teaching the child it is not okay to have an opinion or a want unless the person in authority over them gives them permission, and then it must be communicated in the way that works for the adult in authority, regardless of how it works for the child. You are right! It really is quite simple.
                —–

                What on Earth are you talking about? ‘The function becomes screaming ….’ That makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever.

                “… yet has apraxia and is unable to motor plan typical ways of saying or doing” … Well, I’m dyspraxic, and have issues with planned motor action. Your point is… what, exactly?

                “Unfortunately, with ABA, the focus then becomes compliance training, teaching the child it is not okay to have an opinion or a want unless the person in authority over them gives them permission, and then it must be communicated in the way that works for the adult in authority, regardless of how it works for the child.”

                And your evidence for this is … what exactly?

                You cannot just expect that to be taken at face value. Make a claim? Back it up!

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      3. do you have autism .who is it good for use or the people around use .i had other therapies that help me with behaviors an stuff didn’t make me feel the way ABA did .everyone thinks it good but U.S. getting it .maybe done it works .but not for all .i had behavior proublems .but you should listen to us to .when I told or show my spl person how it felt to be me she didn’t like it

        Liked by 2 people

    3. “Autistic kids are repeatedly forced to do things that are unnatural, uninteresting, or even painful to them… and all with smiles and upbeat attitudes from the therapists demanding it. The kids may cry. They may try to escape. They may refuse. But they must do it, because we have decided it is good for them.”

      You position this as child abuse when it sounds a lot like mainstream school to me. By extrapolation, are you suggesting we should let all our kids run amok in the name of your naive misrepresentation of ethics?

      This article is self indulgent piffle and could actually cause real harm if it serves to deny even one autisitc child access to a therapy proven to improve quality of life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you’re replying to me by accident. That said, if “mainstream school” caused my child pain, made them cry or try to escape on a regular basis, I would pull them out of school. If you read the links, you will see that the treatment referred to is NOT “typical”, and if it were imposed on “neurotypical” children, parents would be up in arms.

        So PLEASE read the links. “REAL harm” has been caused TO autistic people.

        If you are a parent who has had good experiences, if your child does not fear their ABA provider, if you are an ABA provider that is loved by your clients, this article is not about you.

        That in no way negates the issues presented, and the pain experienced by others.

        Just because it hasn’t happened TO you or those you care about, or hasn’t been done BY you, does not mean hasn’t happened/is not happened, or hasn’t been done.

        The good ones, the ones who care, the lucky parents, need to STAND UP for those who have not been so lucky, and make changes whenever possible so that ALL autistic children have access to care that DOES care. Because it’s not always the case, even if you personally haven’t had the experience.

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        1. Apologies for replying to you by accident – you’re right about that.

          My point is that if a neurotypical child throws a tantrum at school because he doesn’t want to do math but is forced to by the teacher, then nobody would relate that to child abuse as the author of the article does when the exact same situation occurs in teaching a child with autism.

          You express some balance in your response, Patricia, that is not so evident to me in the article, so my criticism is not aimed at you. But it is frustrating that what the author and so many of the commentors (on both sides of the argument) seem to have missed is that ABA doesn’t claim to improve QoL for all children with autism. The science I have read is very clear on that – there is a subset for whom it is effective. So even in a perfect world, where all ABA praitioners are doing a great job there will be children who do not benefit. However, for those children that do benefit the results can be staggering… and those children should not be denied the intervention.

          I appear to be one of the lucky parents you mention in that my little boy has progressed dramatically with ABA and yet we still don’t know what the future holds for him and we still worry day and night about that… so, of course, my heart goes out to any parent whose child has not responded to the intervention. But my concern is that there is no alternative intervention with such a body of scientific evidence to support its use and, meanwhile, anecdotal horror stories might put parents off even trying it.

          Let me flip your comments around Patricia, if I may, and say that just because ABA success hasn’t happened to you or those you care about does not mean that isn’t real either.

          Science has no agenda but for the truth… it relies on statistically validated evidence, not anecdote… and it concludes that ABA is effective for a subset of autistic children. That is fact and nothing anybody posts on here can trump that.

          I’d encourage any parent reading this and weighing up their options to try ABA first – you might be one of the lucky parents too.

          With sincere best wishes to you and your loved ones, Patricia.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Considering the same behavioral principles have been demonstrated time and time again in both human and non-human animals, I’m not sure why people take such umbrage with “being treated like dogs, rats,” etc. We are all (all living organisms) sensitive to reinforcement, punishment, and extinction. Also, please read Baby in a Box from Ladies Home Journal by Skinner and tell me if that infant sounded comfortable, clean, healthy, and well cared for, then re-assess your complaints.

            Additionally, how would all of you detractors recommend teaching children with autism how to communicate their feelings about their therapies? I’d love to get the opinions of the kids I’ve worked with, more than anything I’d love for them to be able to express their private, internal experiencing of the world. However, most of the kids with autism I’ve worked with cannot simply express when something hurts or when they’re tired (though we are trying multiple methods), so I don’t think they’re at a point where we can get their verbal input on therapy. However, we can and do observe their behavior to see what they seem to prefer, to make things that seem harder or less interesting a bit easier and more interesting, and to work towards independence with self care, communication, academic, community, vocational skills, etc. When a child engages in a “challenging behavior” (something that possibly hurts himself or someone else or is extremely disruptive), we look at the possible functions or “reasons” for the behavior and ways to help the child communicate safely and effectively whatever he was trying to communicate through his behavior.

            Also, have you ever removed something your child/student liked to do following some sort of inappropriate behavior? For example, if your child was unkind to his sibling, might you tell him he can’t play on his iPad for the next hour? If, following this consequence (and perhaps a few more similar opportunities to provide this consequence), you see a decrease in his unkindness toward his sister, THIS IS PUNISHMENT. If a class of students earns marbles toward a special treat but loses marbles following instances of talking out, not finishing their work, etc., and you see a decrease in those behaviors following the removal of marbles, THIS IS PUNISHMENT. Not all punishers involve aversive stimulation in the form of shocks or bad tastes, they can be as simple as removing a preferred item. Most ABA practitioners are ashamed of the JRC and would never want to be associated with the FORM of punishment used with some children there. With regards to time out rooms and physical restraints, it is typically very specific as to when those can be used, and they’re only used when a child is presenting a danger to himself or others. Does it protect a child’s safety and dignity to let him hit himself over and over? Does it help families to let the mom get her hair pulled and her face scratched? Or might it be better to protect the child and family until the child has calmed down, then review the incident afterwards to identify skills to teach the child or ways to avoid the situation in the future? Again, certainly there are still inappropriate uses of TO rooms and restraints, but if done correctly with a high level of training, oversight from medical and clinical teams, consent from families, etc., it doesn’t have to be this heinous occurrence.

            Finally, thank you to whoever posted about whether you’d allow a neurotypical child cry and get out of math class. Sure, there are certain scenarios, certain classes or skills or locations, that may not be very important for a child to contact or to be able to tolerate, but there are MANY scenarios that a person will have to tolerate. If a child, for example, cannot tolerate wearing clothes, he’s going to be pretty limited in where he can go and what he can do. If, for another example, he does not tolerate dental checkups, or doesn’t learn to brush his teeth because he doesn’t like how it feels, he’s likely to be in much more pain later on. Are these choices we let any child make for himself? Or do we get our kids into clothes every morning and get through tooth brushing at least once or twice a day? I’m assuming the latter. We can’t always just do what we want to do. In life some things are uncomfortable or downright aversive, but sometimes we need to tolerate those things for the good of ourselves or our families. I understand that some of those things might be even more aversive or perhaps painful to someone with autism/to an autistic person, and their voices certainly need to be part of the conversation so that therapists, families, doctors, etc. can better understand and help them with those sensitivities. However, the opinions and experiences of autistic people should not be the end-all-be-all of how we treat newly diagnosed children with autism. I certainly wouldn’t go ask a former cancer patient what they think the best course of treatment would be for me just because they had the same kind of cancer, I’d want a team of doctors (who either have or more likely have not experienced that type of cancer) with experience treating hundreds of cancer patients to provide me with the best evidence-based treatment options for returning to health, and I’d probably also solicit the experiences of people who’ve gone through the treatment to understand what I might experience as well. Now, I fully recognize that autism is not something to be cured like cancer, but the parts of autism that are associated with the aforementioned examples of difficulties do necessitate some form of treatment. Why not treat those things as best we can?

            Alright interwebs, bring on the trolls if you must.

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    4. Hi folks..Ive worked with the whole spectrum of behaviours over the last 40 years. My background is orthodox behaviourism and I trained in 1982 at the Bethlem Royal & Maudsley hospital, London. Oh dear..much disinginuity..Well aware of Lovaas, I lived through the ABA 80’s revolution here in the UK espoused mainly by Gary Lavigna and Tom Willis from Lovaas heartland UCLA. Right, I am not an ABA advocate but I acknowledge the objective approach it takes to understanding the ‘function’ of behaviours..i.e.why they do this stuff? By 1987 my style had grown into promoting ‘well being’..happiness if you like..what the xxxx does it matter whether your stereotypies reduced by 10% over six months..did it make you happy or give you anything useful? Although not a borne again ABA disciple I must just defend it for the sake of truth as far as my experience of it goes and having attended a lot of training over the years including a trip to UCLA in 2000. It isnt about forcing anyone to do anything. In Lovaas’s day the culture of electro shock was commonly discussed in research literature and some places did it. No one would advocate now not even Lovaas. Punishment to reduce challenging behaviour used to be far far more prevalent in the days of ‘behaviour modification’ than now and I remember being expected to use a ‘time out cubicle’ designed by a senior clinical psychologist in 1982. We told him where to put his cubicle and dumped it in the refuse skip. Hint: keep it simple..keep the jargon to a minimum..the behavioural approach can be glorious in its simplicity but easily confused by clever language. Kids with autism are kids with the same rights as anyone..fact. We are not here to damage those rights..fact. Where learning is involved it can either be intellectual or skills or both. No two kids with ASD are the same. The hand flapping thing I wouldn’t get too hung up on. The main problem is that they kind-of don’t follow the same behaviour rules. They’re often in they own heads and looking out like they’re seeing the world through a car windscreen. They can be a little unpredictable..can get upset and sometimes its not clear why. Sometimes it can be serious especially if that’s how they’ve learned to get what they want or avoid what they don’t want. Outbursts ..temper tantrums when encouraged to do something or encouraged not to do something..or finding their routine has been changed. What to do…restraint? ..bad..but what if they’re biting they’re arm whilst hitting Gary Lavigna on the head? Do we step in? Well I think lawyers might make a case out of our inaction and Gary Lavigna could get even richer. So yes..its bad but sometimes a necessary evil. ABA thinks about ‘consequences’..i.e. whats the best response when they try to hit Gary? (send Gary back to UCLA). we work out and agree the best response..so OK every time Jimi does this..then we’re going to do that. The nearest we get to ‘punishment’ these days is to ignore the stuff we used to punish..so if the kid is ‘stimming’ we ignore it..focus on something groovy that’s better and maybe involves his hands so he cannot stim and might connect grooviness without stimming. Attached to ignoring problem behaviours is encouraging other ‘applied’ behaviours that are again more groovy..the best being a groovy general programme where the last thing Jimi wants to do is kick off because by doing the groovy stuff he knows he’s going to be allowed to play his guitar but only if he wears his headphones because he plays so loudly! The only little issue is that its always ‘Hey Joe..Hey Joe’ for the whole period and he can kick off when its time to stop. But he’s learned that grooviness continues even after playing his guitar and that he’ll be back on it like he always is..so why kick off? They gave the simple approach a ridiculous name to make us sound clever..”differential reinforcement of other behavior” (DRO) or common sense….or for the really clever..”differential reinforcement of incompatible behaviours” (DRI) (like playing Hey Joe) i.e. common sense.

      Woody Allan type behaviour joke: “I read the complete works of BF Skinner in two days. Its about pigeons”. Goodnight x

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      1. LaVigna led the break off of Positive Behavior Support from ABA. PBS rules out punitive techniques as unnecessary and therefore unethical. There is a wall of separation. ABA is addicted to punishment. PBS is not. Insurance covers ABA, not PBS. So PBS people misrepresent themselves and say they do ABA. Both are coercive as they disregard the dissent of child. In practice, despite its theoretical denials that it punishes, PBS does punish as it ostracices children from class trips and when only the so called normal children get the treats and prizes. Theyboth treat us like dogs, rats, and pigeons in the Skinner Box, where he raised his baby, BFSkiner, ABA pop of the pops.

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        1. I like it because it positives if I couldn’t do something or I didn’t like something .the ot would try something else an say it was good I told her I couldn’t handle that one thng it did help my language get better among other things .i have sever sencorey iusse so I now know how to mange it but sometime it get me an can have a meltdown if to much going on .or I use up my points by end of the day

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    5. wow wow wow… you got me here. I am on the ground almost about to cry! thank you so much for this. I actually am getting my MS in Special Education right now. I have been a “therapist” for a while. thought it would be a good start before I get my credential. my heart sinks! I already have been looking for another job before I read this. I read some about this but this resource is great I’ll be coming here often just to read through this info. There is one little girl that sticks out in my mind. She just bends to the will of her therapists knowing that they will “follow through” anyway. My Masters program has done a horrible job at introducing us to these concepts of different “treatments.” I am going to let them know about that.

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      1. Hi Samanthaeh10 :) Come visit autistikids.com (Especially check out the “Presume Competence” section.
        ) – lots of links to autistic bloggers. You can often ask questions on their sites. You never know what direction they might inspire you in. Feel free to ping me at autistikids@gmail.com and I’ll see if I can find some other info for you. With your open heart and mind, you will be a BUTT kicking special-ed teacher.

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    6. I am a parent of a child with autism and ABA DOES WORK when it is done the right way and the person know what they are doing. You also have to be train by someone who knows what they are doing also.

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      1. Everyone will raise their children how they see fit but my son is 17 and after speaking to him now he can explain better and from what I read here I wouldn’t choose it. For the reason that it might stop/change the behaviour but how do you know stopping the behaviour is not causing them huge stress unless they are old enough to tell you so. My son does behaviours for reasons – to alleviate stress or to avoid foods because they look horrible or smell horrible but if it works and your child is happy then that’s ok for you.

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    7. As an ABA therapist with extensive training in trauma therapy and counseling, I feel it is critical to know MORE than one discipline. When I supervise others, I inject the fact that, although some of these children are non-verbal, we need to MAKE SURE that how we approach and reward them, reflects a therapeutic approach synonymous with building self-esteem. I think that IF someone is ONLY trained in ABA, they may not get this in their training. This is why I opted to go for ABA training and certification AFTER getting my MS in Clinical Counseling. There are ‘good and bad’ in every profession, and the value of ABA cannot be negated as a system of learning.

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      1. People have to make an informed choice and I’m not knocking your training but personally I wouldn’t do it for my child. Even non verbal will mature and talk eventually. But that’s just my biased feelings. But my son is now 17 and much better. Maturity helps so much.

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      2. Beth. I don’t believe you. You say you do ABA and you specialize in trauma? What is your name and your credential? ABA knows zilch about the trauma you cause! Where is your professional statement against ABA extremely painful electric skin shock? The U.N. calls you supporters of skin shock torturers! You don’t have one. I guarantee it! Put your money where your mouth is and publish one, or else shut up and listen to us autistics speaking. We hate your ABA. Go away and leave us alone, you profiteers!

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      3. Beth. I don’t believe you… You say you do ABA and you specialize in trauma? What is your name and your credential? ABA knows zilch about the trauma you cause! Where is your professional statement against ABA extremely painful electric skin shock? The U.N. calls you supporters of skin shock torturers! You don’t have one. I guarantee it! Put your money where your mouth is and publish one, or else shut up and listen to us autistics speaking. We hate your ABA. Go away and leave us alone, you profiteers!

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  1. this is a “must read” article by all families having children with autism…ty for the perspective on ‘compliance training’ usually advocated by therapists…

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I stated it in other posts, but I believe this anti ABA stance is dangerous, in addition to the anti compliance training stance. Compliance training as you call it can be very very important. Your issue is with the utilization of ‘compliance training’ and the goals selected by the teams you worked with. For example, if I am working with a client who does not follow safety instructions such as being told “Stop” because they are about to walk into traffic, then compliance training is necessary. If I am dealing with an individual who hits their head so severely when given an every day instruction that they may cause permanent damage or even critical damage to themselves, then compliance training, in addition to working on decreasing that behavior would be essential to that individuals life. Now it would be unethical to teach a person to comply to every little command even if they do not want to, such as punishing an individual because they did not clap their hands when you told them to.
        Also, I agree with the above poster that your article is ignorant of the techniques and principles of ABA. For example, you state that in compliance training individuals have “no way of saying ‘No’ or that they do not want to do something”. That is 100% false. I am sure there are programs out there who do this, but it does NOT represent ABA. In fact, I ALWAYS teach the individuals I work with how they can refuse. Now if I am working with an individual who engages in dangerous aggression when given a non-preferred instruction, and is very likely to harm themselves or others, then I will teach them what to do INSTEAD of aggress. Such as, teaching him/her to say no, exchange an icon, sign (whatever mode of communication is most appropriate for them), or in some way safely communicate that they do not want to do that thing. It IS also important to teach individuals that they MUST comply with instructions at times. This is important for ANYONE not only individuals with Autism. For example, if an officer tells me to pull over, I MUST comply. Failing to teach an individual with autism (or any individual in the human race) that there are situations that you can not have what you want, or that you must comply would be doing a disservice, and could harm them in the future.

        It sounds like you have an issue with what people teach, and specifically the company you worked for, not the principles of ABA. Your article reminds me of people who hate all Muslims because of what ISIS does, or hate all Christians because of what some radical conservative Christians (such as Westboro Baptist) do.

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        1. I’ve responded to some of your points in my comment to you above. For compliance training, yes of course there are some situations that Autistic kids should learn to follow commands when there are good reasons behind it and they have a say in other aspects of their life. But the way it was used in the ABA therapy I was part of, Autistic kids had to comply to *every* demand that a therapist made simply because a therapist made it. You’ve already agreed yourself that that’s not right, so we have that. I mean, you can say it’s false and that it doesn’t represent ABA, but that was the ABA therapy I was part of. The kids had choices about what reinforcements they wanted, but not when it came to explicit commands from therapists or BCBAs.

          I’m glad that you do teach the word no. That is very important. If a child is banging their head against the wall when you give them a command, well, it’s so important to realize the child has a reason for doing so and to be *very* careful about what assumptions you make about what that reason is. If a child doesn’t have an adequate means of communicating, then there’s pretty much no way to know for sure why they’re doing that, which is why communication is absolutely essential. I can’t really say much more about it, but I strongly encourage you to read some examples of what Autistic people have written about aggression and self-injury:

          http://wearelikeyourchild.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-checklist-for-identifying-sources-of.html
          http://emmashopebook.com/category/self-injurious-behavior/

          To reiterate, I’m against compliance-based therapy, based on what Autistic people have said about it. That doesn’t mean a child never gets told no; it just means I’m against compliance-based therapy. I hope you will read the links I’ve provided.

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        2. I had no sence of danger or awearness I had to be watch all, the time an on Felix trips had to have a one on one .becuse I was a wonder also an some what non verble .but back in the 70s an 80s aba isn’t like it is now maybe other therhies work to .becuse I still don’t always understand why I’m doing something wrong all aba taught me was to say sorry becuse that make things Beyer an then you get your reward or whatever .but the way it was done with us was you earthier get a reward or lose something .you were told you were being good or bad an so on .but what those who think it good do not understand is that are behavior is are way of coummitiong it may not be ok at the time .but we shouldn’t be tread like that .also growing up felt like there were to sets of rules one for us an one for not kids .i was also thought of as low f when younger .so I telling you what it was like from the child I was

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  2. Reblogged this on Melissa Fields, Autist and commented:
    Reblogging because this explains why compliance therapies such as ABA are bad, and this explains about Autism and Autistic people and how our minds work and how we process things. It is a long read, but please take the time to read this and click on all of the links too. Because Autism is NOT a behavioral problem. It is a real disability, and we need understanding and acceptance, and help that will help us on our level and at our pace and ability…..not NT people’s.Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Why don’t you tell us where you worked? Surely if kids are being abused there we would all want to put a stop to it. If you can’t tell us then I’m afraid we have a “witches of Salem” scenario here where you are making up ghoulish stories to cause chaos and destruction.

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        1. From a blogger with autism (http://neurowonderful.tumblr.com/post/112730019116/a-note-to-what-feels-like-every-aba-therapist )
          “it is the autistic people being submitted and who have been submitted to ABA, and not the ABA practitioners, who get to decide if ABA is abusive or not.

          And quite frankly, as an allistic person trained and educated by an inherently ableist, violent institution, there is a good chance that you wouldn’t even recognize the abuse as abuse.

          Autistic people perceive differently, we have different pain and sensory experiences, we feel things differently. Allistic ABA practitioners, no matter how experienced or “empathetic”, really don’t have any idea what it’s like to be autistic, and they never will.

          That’s why it’s so critical for you to actually listen to autistic people, rather than shouting over our voices and stepping all over us as you rush to defend your profession. If you actually care about autistic people,”

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post! You said all this much more diplomatically than I ever have said it. Please include in your list of links and in your research my blog on the ethics of ABA, written since 2007. It sounds like it didn’t come up in your research. Or you disagree with it, perhaps. But that’s okay. Without objection expected, I will be disseminating your post to parents of autistics internet groups and to Applied Behavior Analysis in Facebook. This is very important. You have led your readers to the voice of autistics much better than I ever have. Thanks for the info! You provide many voices I haven’t read yet. My blog is Reward and Consent. http://rewardandconsent.blogspot.com … The main paper is an essay on how ABA can and should gain the dual consent of parent and child to ABA. Perhaps you are right. As I am learning more over time. ABA is inherently unethical down to its very core and dual consent will never happen. It is just a pipe dream of mine, perhaps. Do you know the gentle sister profession to ABA, Positive Behavior Support? To me it hold more promise. A follower of PBS is not an ABA practitioner despite ABA claims that PBS is a part of ABA. They have broken away free and clear from ABA. PBS does not punish. Despite their claims to the contrary, ABA is all about punishment. If they cannot control with their positive reinforcement they are always armed and ready to force compliance with punishment. PBS says punishment is unnecessary and therefore unethical. Check out Gary LaVigna, BCBA, leader of PBS. That’s what he says. If you have an opinion about the blog, however, in favor, opposed, or otherwise, I’ll publish your opinion on the blog.

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    1. Actually you do need the individuals consent to provide the service to them, especially if they are over 18 and have the functional and communicative ability to do so. This is also highly dependent on age. Parents make many decisions for their young children, whether typical developing or those who have a disability, that is not specific to ABA.

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    2. I think that Positive Behavior Support has potential, but that it also has many of the same fundamental problems as classical ABA.

      (For instance: the assumption that it’s possible to tell through taking data what a behavior is for, the assumption that successfully modifying a behavior means you understood it, pseudo-technical terms that treat value judgements as scientifically rigorous statements, putting excessive power in the hands of behavior therapists, insufficient research regarding the perspectives of autistic people and others with developmental disabilities on the meanings of our behavior, and the use of unethical reinforcers.)

      Also, I’m not convinced that there’s a fundamental difference between punishment-based approaches and reinforcement-based approaches. PBS behavior plans tend to involve finding out what someone cares about most, then making all of their access to it contingent on compliance with their behavior plan. That doesn’t seem to me to be all that different from hitting someone for breaking the rules (or taking away their tokens for breaking the rules). (If being deprived of the reinforcer is painfully distressing, how is that not an aversive?)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments. I’ve heard of PBS, but I honestly don’t know much about it. I’ll have to do some reading before I can say anything intelligent about it. I do feel very skeptical and wary of behaviorism as a whole, though. The ABA I was part of did not include any explicit punishment in the sense of aversive consequences either (if that’s what you mean by punishment) – it was more about withholding rewards, and yet it still wasn’t right. (Real Social Skills has another good post about that here: http://realsocialskills.org/post/110819268573/why-i-oppose-aba-as-a-method-of-instruction) I’m glad to hear it at least doesn’t involve compliance training.

      I haven’t seen your blog before, but I will definitely take some more time to check it out. (I did briefly, and it’s awesome that you’re raising awareness about the Judge Rotenberg Center on it – great post!) I’ve seen Michelle Dawson’s paper referenced before, but I haven’t yet read it in its entirety. I need to do that. Thanks for posting it!

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      1. All of this stuff is really hard to talk about. Because there are all these elements of ABA that probably have legitimate applications and that are presumably being used here and there in genuinely useful ways — but all the assumptions underlying ABA professional culture are deeply dehumanizing and unethical. And that’s still true even if you’re good at taking data that helps you figure out what’s going wrong and what might help, or if you’ve figured out how to use chaining to help someone learn something they’ve been struggling with for years, or any number of other things.

        Behavior analysis professional culture is based on the assumption that behavior analysts are entitled to modify any socially devalued behavior that socially devalued people engage in, and that it’s acceptable to use almost any means that are effective.

        I don’t think it’s possible to be part of that professional culture without being corrupted by it.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. With all that research you still use the term “autistics” which is deeply insulting to parents and shows that you don’t think of them as individuals with a disability.

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      1. I understand that SOME parents might not be comfortable with the term “autistic”, BUT – many AUTISTIC people PREFER to be referred to as autistic – because it DOES define a great part of their personhood.

        Here is a link to several blog posts on the subject – I hope it helps to clarify the reasoning.

        http://autisticadvocacy.org/home/about-asan/identity-first-language/

        The best thing to do is to respect the choice of the person you are communicating with – which is what the author has done by using the word autistic.

        And a common thought from those who are on the autism spectrum – “if you have to SAY person first to SEE the person first, that’s a bigger problem”. Word choice is important – that’s why autistic was chosen, to honor those on the spectrum who are autistic and proud.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am Autistic (Kanner’s; not HFA), and I prefer to be called an Autistic, NOT “a person with Autism”. I am QUITE PROUD of being Autistic.

        And what is this crap you’re spouting: “…deeply insulting to parents…” Who cares if parents are insulted about what we choose to call ourselves? The parents of Autistics aren’t Autistic–WE ARE. Parents need to step down in thinking they know what’s best and start listening.

        I’ve been reading your responses to this article, and they trouble me somewhat; it seems as though you are viewing Autism through the lens of Psychology (folks who are not Autistic) and NOT through the lens of Autistics, the folks who experience the challenges everyone seems so bent on “curing”. See the problem?

        I highly recommend that you read blogs, books, etc. from adult Autistics’ perspectives so you might better understand us and our culture. Is Gabriel your Autistic child? If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for him, so he knows he’s not broken or that he needs to behave like everyone else; tell him that Autism is just a variation in the gamut of human expression and that he is beautiful and amazing just the way he is.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. thank you I have plan old reg autism with Learning disabilities .i don’t understand why some parents don’t want to hear from us what we had a thought was good an bad most of my therapies were good some were hard because I didn’t understand what they were asking of me .some were reward after doing things .but it wasn’t like the ABA stuff of complete what your ask or punished an then loose the treat .i rember bring made to sit on my hands to no t hit myself or others .stuff like that

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        1. I’m told I still speak an write at times in third person whatever that means .i didn’t understand first person .my friend had to explain it to me it took long time to get it .i just say I have autism an LD if someone ask me got to much going on to deal with day to day having a didabity to get caught up in east the supper close to nt ASD group think we should call us or they want to be call .

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  4. “It’s even more concerning that ABA was founded by Ivar Lovaas”….um, not quite. Ever hear of BF Skinner? Someone needs to brush up on the history of behaviorism. Lovaas is a proponent of ABA, but certainly not the “founder”….

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Patricia, Skinner created the foundational roots of Behavior Analysis. Ivar Lovaas created Discrete Trial Training (not ABA in its entirety) . The entire field of ABA is a conceptual framework based off of what Skinner created. There are many different approaches used within ABA that have been created by a variety of behavior analysts over the years. Get your facts straight.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m afraid you misunderstand and are clueless Patricia. Behavior Analysis is the field of ABA and ABA is the science of behavior.

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      3. Lets all be correct. There are several founders of ABA all based on Skinner’s basic experimental and theroretical work: Jack Michael, Montrose Wolf, Ogden Lindsey and a few others. Lovaas is to be credited with using intensive (many weekly hours) of ABA with children who were “highly involved” on the autism spectrum. He did NOT found Applied Behavior Analysis nor did he work with “high functioning” children with autism. But he is to be credited with great accomplishments in ABA.
        This whole article is full of uninformed canards.

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        1. I think we’re having some breakdown in communication throughout this thread because we’re all talking about different forms of ABA. I’ve seen Lovaas cited widely as the father of “Applied Behavior Analysis,” and what I meant when I said it was that he is the founder of ABA used as a therapy method for Autistic kids, which yeah, is a generalization. To be more precise, he’s the father of the Lovaas method/Lovaas model that may be used as part of ABA. The ABA I did definitely used much of the Lovaas method, so in my case, I believe it is accurate to call him the founder of much of the ABA therapy I’ve described in this post (such as DTT and compliance training). Broadly speaking, though, Lovaas was also one of the first to pioneer the use of behavior analysis principles as a way to “treat” Autistic kids, so he is a big part of the origins of that whole idea, and that is important to recognize.

          But yeah, a lot of other methods have developed and are also called ABA therapy. I do understand that, and I appreciate the clarifications. I do realize I’ve been using “ABA therapy” and “ABA” interchangeably, which has added to the confusion. ABA is hard to talk about it because it’s become such an umbrella term for so many different things. I’ve already acknowledged that in my post, and I tried to emphasize that I’m speaking specifically about the ABA therapy I did. I do realize that I may have made some generalizations, and I’ll take some time to figure out if I should update the wording in the post to clarify.

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          1. I would definitely reword some of this. I think your intentions are amazing, and the principles of your article are very important, but like I mentioned in my other comments, attributing this to ABA as a whole is incorrect. I think rather than bashing ABA as a whole you should encourage parents to be selective in who they choose to provide services, and make sure their BCBA is ethical, and encourage practitioners to remain ethical when providing services.

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        2. “Lovaas is to be credited with using intensive (many weekly hours) of ABA with children who were “highly involved” on the autism spectrum.” At the same time he was also using it on effeminate boys in the Feminine Boy Project at UCLA to cure their supposed homosexuality…..

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      4. This is actually incorrect. Applied Behavior Analysis is the practice of behaviorism founded on the principles outlined by B.F. Skinner. What Lovaas pioneered was research into the application of the principles of behavior to autistics and is termed Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention or EIBI. Prior to his research behavior analysis had been applied mainly to populations with severe behavioral issues such as aggression and self-injurious behavior.

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    1. Yes, exactly, Patricia. Thank you for your comment.

      Diane, you’re right that B.F. Skinner was a father of the broad field of behaviorism. ABA as an application of behaviorism is specifically credited to Lovaas, so yeah, it’s still accurate to say that Lovaas was the founder of ABA in particular.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Correction: Lovaas did not “find” ABA. It was already around before him. He was just the first to demonstrate ABA was an effective teaching tool in helping kids with autism.
        I wished you did more research than Wikipedia everything. It’s about as bad as those “vaccine causing autism” stories.

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      2. Well…not the field of ABA more broadly, no…Applied Behavior Analysis does have applications outside of autism intervention, and that has always been the case. It is true that Lovaas was a foundational figure in the history of using of ABA-based techniques in the field of autism intervention. That’s the tricky part of how using “ABA” has evolved as shorthand for “ABA-based autism intervention”–the existence of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as a wider field, with other applications for other populations, gets lost in the shuffle. Check out the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis to get an interesting [at least to me! :)] taste of other applications of ABA. And, if you REALLY want to geek out on behavior [been there :)], the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior will take you into the lab, where the basic principles of behavior are explored before they help inform intervention techniques outside the lab.
        Probably more than you wanted to know… :)

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    2. ….which makes it even worse. It’s 2015, Skinner published his pivotal book in 1953. Lovaas viewed children as organisms and the rest is a strange, weird history of some good intentions and a lot of hurtful and harmful techniques.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Fred Skinner’s work was in the domain of experimental analysis of behaviour. This work was applied by many, but one of the earliest to do so was Charles Ferster.

      If I recall correctly, Ferster came up with some interesting behaviour-analytic accounts of depression and autism, amongst other things.

      FWIW, I gather that Skinner may have refused to work with Lovaas, who (given his idea of ‘building a person inside the empty shell’) was a psychoanalyst through and through. Lovaas certainly did not – at least initially – understand the point of applying behaviour-analytic techniques: Skinner was all about improving learning outcome, not changing who people are at a fundamental level; Lovaas’ work with the Feminine Boys Project, for example, shows up this lack of understanding of this point.

      Regarding ABA: anybody who has worked for a wage has undergone the application of behaviour-analytic principles. Anybody who has done their homework to a higher standard on the basis of having been given higher marks the first time they did this – yes, has undergone the application of behaviour-analytic principles.

      It’s time we stop slinging babies out with bath-water.

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      1. I read four Skinnwr books cover to cover. Skinner was on the founding board of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. Issue 1-1, Risley (1968) of the famed ABA trendsetting team, Baer, Wolf, Risley (1968), called an a young autistic girl a deviant and shocked the hell out of her for climbing the family’s precious living room furniture! Of course Skinner was all about changing people!

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        1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755377/
          Our paper reviews and analyzes B. F. Skinner’s contributions to applied behavior analysis in order to assess his role as the field’s originator and founder. We found, first, that his contributions fall into five categorizes: the style and content of his science, his interpretations of typical and atypical human behavior, the implications he drew from his science for application, his descriptions of possible applications, and his own applications to nonhuman and human behavior. Second, we found that he explicitly or implicitly addressed all seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis. These contributions and the dimensions notwithstanding, he neither incorporated the field’s scientific (e.g., analytic) and social dimensions (e.g., applied) into any program of published research such that he was its originator, nor did he systematically integrate, advance, and promote the dimensions so to have been its founder. As the founder of behavior analysis, however, he was the father of applied behavior analysis.
          —-
          That last sentence denotes his only connection to ABA.

          As for the other point: calling an autistic girl ‘deviant’, it does not strike me as odd that you don’t understand that the word ‘deviant’ means ‘deviating from (something)’.

          All you’re doing with this quest to decry soemthing scientific is to make yourself look entirely irrational.

          People in organisations where I apply for work look up autism on the net, and find people like you. The then assume that I’m of the same mind on stuff as people like you. Then I get passed over for work for which I’m well qualified.

          People like you make it practically impossible for academically/professionally qualified autistics to get work, because of your entirely irrational behaviour.

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          1. Sir, I am enjoying the challenge of our little game of “debate chess.”

            While I do believe that Skinner was able to control human and non-human behavior of organisms by taking underweight rats and putting them in a carefully controlled experimental chamber to increase rates of lever presses contingent upon electromechanical delivery of grain pellets, I do not believe Skinnerean behavior science equates into ABA.

            ABA is a set of highly unethical models by a misguided profession who believe in punishment even though its gentle sister profession, Positive Behavior Support (PBS), theoretically, has ruled out punitive techniques as unnecessary and therefore unethical. (See LaVigna’s Affidavit against the ABA school of extremely painful electric skin shock contingent upon gettng out of seat with no ABA staff permission and upon ABA JRC staff- provoked aggression.)

            ABA is not a full-fledged science because any so-called science that only disseminates fscts that make them look good so they can pay their salaries is pseudo-science! Coverage of shock with the illegal GED 4 at ABA’s Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is practically non-existent in ABA journals! Why? Because ABA is not a science.

            It is, indeed, a cult of punishment as a last resort method of ultimate control, corrupted by huge amounts of money and chock full of abuses, so it seems!

            Here is me saying why ABA IS A CULT. In my opinion, you sir, are equally brainwashed like the rest of the lot into the easily challenged the “ABA-is-effective-science” set of of Skinnerean Moonies who have big, big control issues! Using that commonplace ABA logic, webcan also say that Adolph Hitler was “effective” in annihilating schizophrenics, autistics, gypsies, gays, and Jews. Having a desired effect, pal, is nothing to brag about!

            Check with knight! It’s your move!

            http://rewardandconsent.blogspot.com/2015/11/why-applied-behavior-analysis-is-cult.html

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            1. do forgive the necro-post but this particular autistic and psychology student would like to note:

              2-1-16 till 10-2-16

              125 days without a reply from the self professed “authority” on this thread…

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  5. Lali, it looks like you know your stuff. I had never hear the behavior analysts using the term “compliance training” as far as I can recall from my debates with them in Facebook. Then I had a little doubt about your story, so I googled “Compliance training applied behavior analyst” and I was surprised to find affirmative search results! They more commonly call this “Instructional control,” I believe. I have been criticizing their instructional control as nothing more than “submission training” in some instances, and I have spoken favorably of “positive instructional control,” which teaches entirely without punishment the steps toward how a parent or teacher can gain compliance of their children or students entirely with the consent of the youngster. So in my opinion, even though it teaches compliance, when the youngster is not forced to do something they don’t want to do, it is not necessarily a bad thing that a parent can have some instructional control. This is necessary for them to have in the event of an emergency. It is a bad thing, however, when every positive effort of a behavior analyst carries with it the threat that if the children don’t listen during positive reinforcement, then they will always punish them to enforce compliance. So in one sense instructional control in ABA is never positive. In this outlook, positive instructional control is good under the break away sister profession to ABA, Positive Behavior Support, which does not punish. Positive instructional control is bad under ABA, because it insists that punishment as a last resort is a good thing, which PBS has told them is not. PBS criticizes ABA and tells them they don’t know enough about the positive alternatives to punishment, and that punishment is not necessary and therefore unethical. On the other hand, compliance training under PBS is also questionable, if it occurs, which it may not. They do teach youngsters how to make their own decisions, which is quite the opposite of compliance training. It is “independence training.” Independent living is the major tenet of the disability community’s Independent Living Movement.” So PBS, not ABA, supports our movement.

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    1. Thanks for your additional thoughts. Yeah, now that you say that, I never heard it called “compliance training” until I started learning from Autistic self-advocates; it doesn’t seem like many people in behaviorism use that term for it. I did hear about “instructional control” a lot, which does seem pretty synonymous. I will definitely look into PBS more, and I’ll try to get back to you if I have any thoughts to share! I would also be interesting in hearing anyone else’s perspective on it.

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        1. It’s beautiful, and eye catching! What I connect with is you say that ABA seemed counter-intuitive to you at first. I taught language to my son at age 3, but never used the behavioral aspects. I am fiercely independent, and I wouldn’t want to be treated that way. I also worked at a residential ABA school fro 7 months. I could never “get” it then, either. The people you referenced here? The best of the best!

          I still can’t talk about those 7 months. It was the most confusing time of my life. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. But I know the people were good and loved the kids in their own way, and most absolutely ignored the tenets of ABA. Still, punishing time out rooms were used…and the children were treated as preschoolers.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. ABA is used in every day life without people realizing it. When you sit and twirl your hair or bite your nails when you’re bored/nervous? That’s stimming. Masturbating is another form of self-stimming.
            When you get a paycheck for working? Token economy. When you get a speeding ticket? Positive punishment. When your significant other compliments on your hair? Positive reinforcement in the form of social praise. When you ignore that annoying coworker so they don’t bother you again? Extinction.
            Parents teach neurotypical kids compliance training all the time and no one bats an eye.

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            1. Yes, basic forms of reward and punishment are used in the wider world. However, we only use this very intensive form of it as therapy for Autistic kids. Teaching kids explicitly that they must earn any enjoyable activity, and teaching them this for hours a day for 5 days a week, is very different than the way reward/punishment is experienced in the average person’s daily life. Also, there are some things that kids should not have to earn or ask for, ever, such as food and breaks. Real Social Skills explains more about why this is damaging here: http://realsocialskills.org/post/110819268573/why-i-oppose-aba-as-a-method-of-instruction

              Liked by 1 person

    2. Where did you get all this garbage from? You google everything instead of reading the literature or the research. What kind of professional uses google and Wikipedia? Punishment procedures are never used. If a child were wacking themselves in the head with a bat and the person took it away. That can be perceived as a punishment. I’ve never heard of instructional control and I’m a student. There is something called stimulus control but punishment has nothing to do with it. It is maintained by reinforcement.

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    3. Where did you get all this garbage from? You google everything instead of reading the literature or the research. What kind of professional uses google and Wikipedia? Punishment procedures are never used. If a child were wacking themselves in the head with a bat and the person took it away. That can be perceived as a punishment. I’ve never heard of instructional control and I’m a student. There is something called stimulus control but punishment has nothing to do with it. It is maintained by reinforcement.

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      1. Go to the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and search “instructional control.” You will find over 100 articles. You don’t get much more credible in the ABA research literature than the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.

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    4. I’m pulling my son from his “ABA” therapy. An adaptive preschool using ABA therapy is how they describe it online. But in person, they referred to it as compliance training. This was the lead therapist. I didn’t know what I know now. Further research shows that her training was at the lovaas center. So I’m guessing this article is spot on with regards to where my son is. It’s been 3 months. He started progressing with them, then stopped, lost affect, stopped all verbalization with them. He still has affect and verbalization with OT and ST and me. He hates going, it’s a battle every time. I have no doubts about pulling him out. And I have no doubt that while some ABA therapies may be fine, that there is also a lot of variance in what is happening with autistic kids. I think it’s important to listen to adults who have been there. They have a voice my son doesn’t have yet. And listening to their voices, helps me watch what’s happening with him to do what’s best. It’s obvious to me, I need to pull him from this program. And I’ve given them notice. My point is that there are therapists out there calling it compliance therapy. And the parents who just want to help their kids be the best they can be don’t know enough to know what is or isn’t good therapy. We just know we’ve been told to do A. B. and C.

      Liked by 2 people

    5. Instructional control does not mean “submit to whatever you are told.” It refers to whether a child can follow and attend to directions without constant redirection, prompts to stay in the seat etc. etc. Instructional control and compliance training includes behaviors like saying “no thanks” when you don’t want to do something you don’t want or like. And then there’s learning to deal with situations that you don’t like. I don’t like sitting in traffic and yet I find ways to cope since I don’t have a choice. Is it unreasonable to expect that a child ought to comply with directions without having to repeat them 17 million times? What is the alternative then? Just let the child be until he/she decides to listen? Instead of the group-bashing of some poorly designed ABA programs, I would like to hear more about other ways to teach these skills and maybe those of us who are practicing ABA can spend more time learning how to better serve the kiddos we love and want to help rather than having to correct blatantly incorrect representations of the therapy we provide.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Izzie, there is a huge difference between Positive Behavior Support’s (PBS) Positive Instructional Control and ABA’s extremely coercive “Obedience Training.” Are you a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Izzie? Can you explain to us the difference between linear and non-linear interventions, please? It’s a little quiz to see how well you know PBS, if you don’t mind.

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        1. If you are doing positive only approaches, then what you are doing, Izzie, is not ABA. You are doing your version of Positive Behavior Support, or something else. ABA depends on punishment as a last resort. It is indeed addicted to punishment to the highest extremes. PBS, on the other hand, has ruled out punishment as unnecessary and therefore unethical. Also, despite ABA’s frequent claim that PBS is ABA, such claims show a lack of knowledge into PBS and ABA. They are very different with a bit of overlap, Izzie.

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        2. Dave, I do not have knowledge about PBS. I am currently training and working towards gaining by board certification and am very disturbed by the vast misrepresentation of the science. What is your experience with ABA? I have never encountered “obedience training” That’s for animals, NOT people. What we define as instructional control is the ability of a student to follow the social and instructional norms in the settings they encounter, for example, can you follow directions from your mom to stop when running out towards the street? Can you sit in a classroom and not disrupt materials while doing an art project? This is what instructional control seeks to teach a person to improve their interactions with people in their everyday life.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for your article!! My son was dx’d with autism at 18 months. I read about different therapies…ABA, Floortime, TEACCH, RDI, Sonrise, etc. I asked myself what my son lacked, and the answer was: he really did not know people existed. So that led me to read and implement therapy models that were social based. I remember taking him to some supposedly “amazing” therapy, and enrolling him. It was ABA based, and he HATED it. I also visited a school that was strictly ABA based and was horrified at what witnessed in the name of therapy. I could not put make him endure it. It was like torture. He was smart (and stubborn!) but he made connections to people via the therapies I did use. And while he’s not the most compliant child in all the world (ha!) He is fully conversational, bright, inquisitive, and very social. I had friends that strictly used ABA and I felt that their children were robotic and lacked spontaneity and joy. My son is enthusiastic about life and the things he loves, and I am so grateful for the road we chose. Thank you for being willing to share your thoughts. I will be passing this article on as often as I can.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh good, I’m glad you found some therapy that your son enjoyed. I love hearing your description of him. I really don’t think that we should want any child to be totally compliant all the time. They need to learn to have their own autonomy and express their limits – sounds like that’s definitely the case for him!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Idiots everywhere. Incapable of engaging with the scientific literature. Google and Wikipedia is your University. Any science person knows that they are unreliable sources.

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      1. What is your evidence that she used Google and Wikipedia as her sources? You embarrass your professors, your academic program, and your university when you address people with such arrogance instead of simply setting the record straight. Professionals do not attack people by calling them idiots.

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  7. Thank you for your opinion and allow me to express mine in return:
    I can understand and in fact, empathize with some of your arguments. I even experienced some of those at the beginning of my career. In my first year as an ABA therapist I felt the same, I wondered why there are people in this world who have the right to treat children this way, why are the parents happy about bringing their children to such “specialists”, and… why am I even there? I thought of quitting almost every day. But rather sooner than later the supervisor I had at that moment left the team and a lot of things changed. I will not go through all my experience in ABA it is a nearly 6 years journey in which I learned a lot of things and changed my perspective.
    Now I am a BCaBA and founder of a center for children and there are some things I am certain about, that I would like to share with you:
    – ABA is not a tough, unethical, nonhuman method of teaching, but “bad” ABA can be. In the past the techniques used in ABA programs were rather harsh, but things had changed and most of them are not accepted anymore and are considered unethical. Sadly, many people still chose to apply them, but that does not mean that they make define ABA . Don’t confuse a science with the bad application of it.
    – ABA specialists and practitioners are not “forced” by the principles of ABA to treat people with autism in a manner that depersonalizes them. It is rather who they are as people that allows them to do so. In my experience I learned that you can successfully apply ABA and make children enjoy the time spent with you. The children in our center are treated like unique, special individuals. They’re preferences, wishes, states, needs are taken into consideration in every decision and change we make. They are eager to spend time with their therapists and happy when they meet them. They have fun, play they’re favorite games while learning, they are motivated to cooperate and they even ask about their therapists when they miss or through the weekends or holidays. They see them as friends who come to play with them and teach them new stuff. And yes, this is also ABA.
    – applying ABA is not equivalent with using punishment. The ethical code restricts the use of punishment to the last option possible, in case there are no other techniques left that haven’t been tried. Using punishment as the first option is a violation of the BA ethical code. I design ABA individualized programs for 5 years and I can tell you for a fact that there were lots of them in which I did not need to use such techniques. More than this, I would like to inform you that your example with beating a child as an efficient technique in ABA is wrong in so many ways. Behavior analysts follow a very strict code of ethics which forbids the use of punitive techniques. It is like you would say that a psychologist or a doctor would be allowed to do the same. “Do no harm!” applies in all sciences who serve human well-being.
    I am sorry for your experience and, even if sad, it is true that there are still a lot of fake specialists, without even a degree in behavior analysis who assume they have the right to do whatever with persons with some disabilities. But the truth is this is a choice one makes. If one can harm hopeless people “to prove a point” that says something about him and not about the science he claims he uses. Of course the persons with autism who claim bad experiences are right. But thinks have changed. The science of ABA changed a lot. And hopefully, the “so called” practitioners that misapply the principles of ABA will extinguish.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for reading. I appreciate your respectful response.

      There are some therapies that are called ABA that definitely don’t have the same problems as what I’m talking about. But I get the impression that the ABA I did is among those commonly considered “good ABA” (the people I worked with definitely considered it to be), and it was still very wrong. We weren’t using punishment or aversives, but that’s not enough to make ABA good. And I do hear a lot that ABA has changed and evolved, but I was working just last year, and this was still my experience. If any ABA has any of the characteristics that I’ve mentioned in this post, then it’s not good ABA, because these are things that Autistic people have highlighted as being particularly damaging to them.

      Based on my experience, I feel there’s a huge disconnect between the training BCBAs receive and the training ABA Therapists receive. I don’t remember receiving any training about the ethical standards that BCBAs were supposed to adhere to, and this left a lot to the personal judgment of each therapist, which created some very dangerous situations. Even the best of therapists can have flawed judgment, but in the worst cases, they can be vindictive or even cruel. ABA Therapists themselves need way more training and accountability instead of just being expected to blindly trust and follow BCBA programs. We had many things that were a last resort (for example, physically restraining kids when they stimmed was supposed to be a last resort), but it really wasn’t that hard to get there. People physically blocked stim on a daily basis. Maybe some ABA is better about that, but I just feel that it’s worth mentioning.

      I never meant to imply that ABA beats kids. That was definitely not my experience. That example was just meant to show that you can call anything “effective” if you’re only measuring behaviors and not looking at the psychological and emotional effects, and if you’re only measuring the outcome instead of the means of getting there. ABA is commonly considered effective because some Autistic kids who go through it master skills according to ABA criteria and have less “problematic” behaviors, but its methods of getting these results are wrong (and some of the goals themselves are harmful as well). That’s what I was trying to illustrate with that example.

      It’s a good sign that the kids are enjoying the therapy. I think it would be awesome if you hired an Autistic person on staff to consult with – or just consulted an Autistic person. It would be so helpful if every therapy place that worked with Autistic kids had connections with Autistic adults to gain their insights and recommendations.

      Also, I recommend this post about ABA from Real Social Skills that I missed in my original post: http://realsocialskills.org/post/110819268573/why-i-oppose-aba-as-a-method-of-instruction I hope you will also read more about what Autistic people are saying, if you haven’t already.

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      1. My son walks on tipitoes and sometimes flaps his hands. His BCBA said that they’re not doing any harm so just leave them. Stims are not stopped unless they hurt the child.

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    2. The BACB professional code of ethics does *not* strictly prohibit punishment, it explicitly permits it. You say first that it is only used as a last resort, and then that it’s strictly prohibited. Those can’t both be true. If it’s allowed, then it’s allowed. (And in fact, you say that you use punishment sometimes). From the perspective of the person it’s happening to, aversives are no less aversive because you are reluctant to use them and try other things first.

      And the professional code of ethics doesn’t say anything about which behaviors it’s ok to modify with punishment procedures; it only says that you have to try non-aversive methods first. It doesn’t say, anywhere, that there are things that, if you can’t accomplish them with positive methods, you should let it go and work on a different goal. So, within those rules, I don’t see any prohibition on using the aversive methods described in this post to stop a child from stimming (https://juststimming.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/quiet-hands/)

      http://www.bacb.com/Downloadfiles/BACB_Compliance_Code.pdf

      4.08 Considerations Regarding Punishment Procedures.
      (a) Behavior analysts recommend reinforcement rather than punishment whenever possible.
      (b) If punishment procedures are necessary, behavior analysts always include reinforcement procedures
      for alternative behavior in the behavior-change program.
      (c) Before implementing punishment-based procedures, behavior analysts ensure that appropriate
      steps have been taken to implement reinforcement-based procedures unless the severity or
      dangerousness of the behavior necessitates immediate use of aversive procedures.
      (d) Behavior analysts ensure that aversive procedures are accompanied by an increased level of training,
      supervision, and oversight. Behavior analysts must evaluate the effectiveness of aversive procedures in a timely manner and modify the behavior-change program if it is ineffective. Behavior analysts always include a plan to discontinue the use of aversive procedures when no longer needed.

      Is there a different professional code of ethics that strictly forbids the use of aversive punishment procedures? If there is, I haven’t seen one. And given that the JRC, which openly uses starvation and electric shock, was allowed to sponsor and present at ABAI, it does not seem to me to be likely that there is a professional code prohibiting punishment. http://autisticadvocacy.org/2015/05/asan-statement-on-jrc-at-association-for-behavior-analysis-international-conference/

      Also, even aside from that, I think that it’s standard practice to use ignoring to extinguish behaviors. For some reason, behaviorists don’t seem to consider that to be an aversive punishment, but it seems clear to me that it’s experienced as one subjectively by the person it’s being done to. Being ignored when you’re trying to communicate something is painful and humiliating. I don’t understand why that isn’t considered punishment.

      Are there any approaches to extinguishing that *don’t* involve ignoring someone who is trying to get your attention, refuse a task, or otherwise communicate something that’s considered unacceptable (either because of the content or because of the way they’re communicating)? Have you personally ever written a program for challenging behaviors that *didn’t* involve the use of ignoring to extinguish the behaviors?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. First off, if you want to learn more about the science of ABA, the BACB website is not the place to go. As an evidence-based science, research is relied upon to make clinical decisions. Programs that are written and put into place are done so with the consent of the parent. If you’re interested in learning more, the archives of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis are available for free through the NIH website.

        As for the use of punishment, it is really important to understand what punishment means in ABA. It refers specifically to any stimulus (added or removed) that DECREASES the future frequency of behavior. Things that we would consider positive, for example a hug, can actually function as an aversive stimulus! As I understand it, it was in the 70s and 80s when positive (introducing aversives) punishment was used with abandon and without regulating committees. Nowadays, if you’re an ethical practitioner, you need to get approval and oversight by another behavior analyst (peer-review comitttee) if you want to use punishment, even if it’s something as “harmless” as taking away someone’s TV time for engaging in dangerous behavior. And that is what punishment is used for and why it is referred to as a “default” technology in the field – much in the same way that surgery is considered a “default” intervention in medicine – you get it if you absolutely need it. If a behavior causes life-threatening harm to the self or others, punishment might be considered first in order to quickly decrease this life-threatening behavior. This is also why you won’t find information specifically prohibiting the use of punishment. Also, behavior analysts are bound by state laws and peer-review committees when using punishment and choosing punishers. There is only one state that has legalized the use of electric shock in therapies which is why the JRC uses it (though I don’t agree with this and I actually think that place should have been shut down decades ago).

        I hope that you find this information helpful in understanding the role and use of punishment in ABA. I think it is important to get to know the information and training that underlies what is supposed to be ABA. After all, medical training produced Dr. Mengle but we have not rejected the whole of medicine.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Have you read the ethical standards by the American Psychological Association?
            As for electric shock therapy, you make it sound like we’re all being taught that this is a go-to treatment. Where are you getting this impression? There is ONE center that uses electric shock because there is ONE state that allows it. It is supposed to be used in extreme cases like severe aggression. And this is done with parental consent. Some parents actually seek out this treatment because they are desperate. Should they allow their kids to just continue to eat their own flesh? Rip out their own hair? Smash their heads into the wall? I don’t work with these kinds of cases and have not once used punishment in the 7 years I have been practicing, but these questions scare me. What would I do if I had to work with these types of clients? What would you suggest be done? Keep them in restraints? What kind of life is that?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. From where did I reach my conclusion, Izzie, that Applied Behavior Analysis equals Rotenberg center extremely painful electric skin shock?

              Check in with your textbook guru, Dick Malott, please, JRC’s shock board ABA leader! Ask him!

              His ex-wife, as an ABA dissident told me she is, as I recall, Maria Malott, is the CEO of your mammoth professional network, Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). Ask her, not me! While you are at it, ask her why she banned me from ABAI Facebook. In email with me she alleged I misled the world and told untruths about ABAI. Then I asked her to tell me exactly what I said that was such a big sin! I still await her answer!

              Or ask the governing board and all the members of ABAI why they altogether “approve” the center of what the U.N. calls “torture,” the “ABA school of shock,” as being “aligned” ABAI’s “mission!” My link below in this reply to you proves the fact with an ABAI document! This is my blog investigatory finding.

              And ask your minor local ABA professional organization why it has no official position on ABA shock “torture!”

              And now I challenge you to show me your very own published paper against skin shock ABA torture! Please make me eat my words. I guarantee everybody here in “Why I left ABA” comments that you do not have one yet! Complicity! I will apologize if I am wrong, but I doubt I am, Izzie!

              What is your name? Are you a BCBA or a parent of an autistic child or what, please?

              ABA still does not understand how some of us advocates aim to help you with your well-deserved, pathetic ethics rap! Do not blame me or my peers and allies, your disabled and autistic victims of ABA torture and abuse. Look at yourselves!

              Just wait till the new reports, investigations, facts come out! They are lulus! Stay tuned everyone, please! We want to do them well at the outset. I am done with this page for now. Good evening.

              http://rewardandconsent.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-judge-rotenberg-center-school-of.html

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  8. ABA therapies today, if following the codes on conduct as set forth by the BACB, is not adversarial. Positive reinforcement is used whenever possible and the client always has the right to say no or choose to not do something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great that your clients have the right to say no. It’s not enough to ensure that ABA is ethical, though – if any form of ABA has any of the characteristics mentioned in this post, then it’s not good ABA, because these are things that Autistic people have highlighted as being particularly damaging to them (and there are other things that I’m sure I missed as well). Using positive reinforcement is not that impressive to me because the ABA I did also emphasized positive reinforcement, and it was still very wrong. I was an ABA Therapist last year, so this is a recent, modern-day form of ABA. I hope you will read what Autistic people are saying about their experiences with ABA.

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      1. Plus, depending on when the BCBA was trained, who trained him/her, and how well they were supervised, the methods might not be so modern. I worked under a BCBA once whose methods were, much to my dismay, quite at odds with what I’d been taught about punishment and coercion…but she didn’t think so…and we had at least one professor in common. Then, several years later, I moved to another state, tried to work again as a behavior therapist, and was shocked at the way a BCBA physically backed a young adult client into a corner and escalated his behavior. I learned that there’s a great deal of variation in the quality of training and supervision in this field.

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    2. The BACB ethical standards explicitly permit punishment: http://www.bacb.com/Downloadfiles/BACB_Compliance_Code.pdf

      4.08 Considerations Regarding Punishment Procedures.
      (a) Behavior analysts recommend reinforcement rather than punishment whenever possible.
      (b) If punishment procedures are necessary, behavior analysts always include reinforcement procedures
      for alternative behavior in the behavior-change program.
      (c) Before implementing punishment-based procedures, behavior analysts ensure that appropriate
      steps have been taken to implement reinforcement-based procedures unless the severity or
      dangerousness of the behavior necessitates immediate use of aversive procedures.
      (d) Behavior analysts ensure that aversive procedures are accompanied by an increased level of training,
      supervision, and oversight. Behavior analysts must evaluate the effectiveness of aversive procedures in a timely manner and modify the behavior-change program if it is ineffective. Behavior analysts always include a plan to discontinue the use of aversive procedures when no longer needed.

      None of which is the primary problem in any case.

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  9. Reblogged this on autisticreformedcalvinist and commented:
    As an autistic adult, I agree because ABA therapy harms people. I am hoping that people are more understanding towards autistic people. Compliance therapies like this one are unsafe for autistic children and adults.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thank you for posting! I had the same ethical internal struggle after finishing my masters degree in ABA. After I attended a lecture on RDI, I realized I could never do ABA again. The whole premise of RDI and redoing the developmental milestones by guiding children was an ah-ha moment for me. Unfortunately it would have been great to have this moment before spending $13,000.00 in grad school but none the less I had it and there was no turning back. I too have recently read Ido’s book about RPM and I cringe when I think of the ABA things I did in the past but hind sight is 20/20, the important thing is we learned and moved on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your comment – it’s very good to hear from someone else who has been through a similar process with ABA. I admire that you were able to leave even after getting your Master’s degree. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that, but that really speaks to your strength and your commitment to the kids you worked with! Ido’s book is awesome – and I’m really interested in looking into RPM more.

      Yeah, I know exactly what you mean about thinking about the past and working in ABA. It’s very hard. I wish you all the best as you move forward.

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    2. It’s *an* important thing. It’s also important to remember that what you’ve done isn’t undone by what you’ve now learned. The people you did it to are still facing the consequences. Not for the sake of beating yourself up, but because it is true and important and might mean that you have obligations related to the harm you’ve done.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I love when ABA practitioners and parents read things incorrectly. Also, code of ethics still doesn’t say anything about normalization which is one of the key points here. And no, these are not “‘so called’ practictioners that misapply the principles of ABA.” These are pretty much the key points of ABA. Normalization and whatever means you can to getting it out. This DOES NOT mean everyone will have to resort to aversives, but it does mean that ABA’s core comes from a place of inaccuracy.

    I’ve written before that I think the problem with ABA is not the science, but the ethics. Because what a practitioner may see as acceptable may be and likely is infringing on the autistic person. “Whole body listening” is a great example of something people see as no big deal. But I rarely use eye contact and I rarely have my body not moving when I’m listening, and if this were to be extinguished, I wouldn’t be able to understand what I’m hearing. Luckily, as someone who was diagnosed as an adult, I didn’t have to go through a lot of these things.

    Now as a parent, do I use some ABA techniques with my autistic children? Yes, and so do parents of neurotypical children. If they do good, they are rewarded; if they misbehave, there are consequences. But I don’t think most people would consider this real ABA but generally parenting.

    —-

    Now as for the reason I went through all the comments, I had hoped someone had brought up *why* ABA is the only research confirmed method of therapy for autistic children. Probably because it’s the oldest form. There’s plenty of developmental based therapies (some mentioned above even) that have come about since that people strongly hold on to. Problem is they all differ a little bit. There’s no hard science (multiple research studies) on their methodologies. There are some good studies on some, but research money is hard to come by to make more and bigger studies to confirm the findings. This is especially true when you see how many are vying for the same money. This is one of those things that could be studied if money went away from causation and more to services and supports.

    The other thing not brought up? ABA was originally used on “feminized boys”, ie gay boys as a way to “make them” straight. We know now that it’s not possible to do that, just like it’s not possible to turn an autistic person neurotypical.. They may look neurotypical, but likeliness is that there are other areas in their life which have suffered to keep up those outward appearances. It’s truly sad.

    With my own children, I watch every therapy, every school, every professional that comes around my children. I do my utmost to make sure they do not overstep our key tenants. Because at the end of the day, I want children who are able to grow up and live in their own home and live their own life the way that they chose (within the law). And I thought that that was the best thing a parent could want for their child.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, I didn’t even know until just earlier today about the original use of ABA as gay conversion therapy, but I’m honestly not surprised. Disgusted, but not surprised. Anyway, great points! Thanks for adding to the discussion.

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    2. ABA *isn’t* research-confirmed though. It’s research-confirmed that ABA methods can be used to cause autistic children and adults to do certain things. The desirability of doing so isn’t a claim based on research, it’s a value judgement. (And one that involves determination to avoid looking at certain evidence, like adult autistic perspectives on autism and things like stimming.)

      Liked by 1 person

    3. ABA wasn’t “originally used” to force gay men and boys to be straight. I believe you are referring to 1 study conducted in the early years of the science. Psychotherapy was also used to attempt to “scare them straight” and is still employed in some placed today. What you say in your post is key though. YOU have to be the one telling the therapists what you want and don’t want. YOU have to have a voice and the program that is implemented should be YOUR desire for your child! What is important for your child in his/her environment! Sadly, I encounter kids who are dumped from therapy to therapy in an attempt to cure autism and by the time that kiddo gets home its dinner, bed time and then repeat the cycle the next day. This is no way to live! I would say that while the practitioner has a certain (and weighted) responsibility for what they do, the parents also bear a significant amount of that responsibility too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Izzie, There is also anecdotal evidence from my elder gay friends that ABA originally did indeed try to force gays to be straight, including one report of shock. This is just the kind of thing being done to autistics today until we outlaw that, too!

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      2. As bazaare and nutty as is Applied Behavior Analys, here is the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis gearing up to target gays for ABA modification. In this lovely study they stick male penuses inside poisonous mercury filled tubes and arouse the dudes in ABA’s desperate attempt to try to figure out “scientifically” when gays got aroused. Another example of so-called “effective” ABA. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1311045/pdf/jaba00080-0017.pdf

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        1. My point is that ABA isn’t the only therapy that has been used to scare people straight. My secondary point is that this was wrong and unethical to do. My other point is that there have not been studies conducted in this area since…… the 60s… The article you’ve posted here is from 1962. There is not one article published in the RECENT literature on this topic because the science grew. People’s mindsets have changed. I’m sure there are a myriad of studies done by psychologists and psychiatrists (not aba practitioners) on this subject but I don’t see their theories or techniques being dismissed in the same way ABA is here.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for listening to the Autistic community, for having real ethics and critical thinking skills in an era where such things are increasingly rare, and for writing and posting this. I teach undergraduate psychology students, and I’ll be adding this piece to the reading list for my Professional Ethics and Critical Psychology courses.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I am just now recovering from an amazing week where I put on my first RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) workshop for 9 families with low verbal autistic kids and adults, so it was great to come across your well-written and comprehensive post (I was not the RPM ‘teacher’, I organized the workshop and brought her here). RPM is how Ido and Emma learned to communicate, and I highly recommend that you get involved in this growing grassroots community! There are groups forming across the country and in Ireland and Australia and more… it is a method that is just mind-blowing when you experience it. Just because a method is not ‘research based’ does not mean that it doesn’t work. Here is a link to Lenae Crandall’s H.E.E.D. RPM page, she is the amazing provider that just spent the week with us. Check out her videos of children communicating with RPM. She would be happy to talk with you!

    http://heedrpm.com

    and Thank You for writing about this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RPM has many advantages and needs to become more known and used.

      It also has significant downsides, and it can be a problem when people promote as the end all and be all of supporting autistic people. (Particularly when it results in attempts at AAC being delayed — two year olds can use Speak For Yourself but they can’t use RPM and communication shouldn’t wait for readiness for academic instruction).

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      1. RPM is basically FC, which has been – time and again – demonstrated to produce FACILITATOR-originated output.

        PRT – pivotal response training – is a behaviour analytic way of working that uses more naturalistic approaches to reinforcement, using keystone behaviours as something to cascade other response patterns from.

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  14. I appreciate your viewpoint but couldn’t finish your post. I’m a devout humanist and I can’t help but challenge your language – “autistic” – really? Please endeavor to see individuals first. People have autism. ASD does not define an individual’s entire personhood. The way we communicate these thoughts matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carmen, I understand why you bring up the issue of “person first”, BUT – many autistic people PREFER to be referred to as autistic – because it DOES define a great part of their personhood. Here is a link to several blog posts on the subject – http://autisticadvocacy.org/home/about-asan/identity-first-language/ – I hope it helps to clarify the reasoning.

      The best thing to do is to respect the choice of the person you are communicating with – which is what the author has done by using the word autistic.

      And a common thought from those who are on the autism spectrum – “if you have to SAY person first to SEE the person first, that’s a bigger problem”. Word choice is important – that’s why autistic was chosen, to honor those on the spectrum who are autistic and proud.

      Liked by 5 people

        1. :) I use “on the spectrum, autistic,” etc. interchangeably, but learned about the “autistic” preference from bloggers on the spectrum – before that, I used “with autism” also. It’s a learning curve :)

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    2. I can’t believe you are so ignorant and lazy as to leave this response. Autistic is the preferred usage of most Autistic people and if you had just done a second of research before speaking for us, you would already know that.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Getting caught up in language nitpicks rather than content is not a good way to promote respect. Lots of people with good ideas use less-than-ideal language to express them. (And, in fact, autistic is preferred language among many autistic people, myself included).

      Liked by 2 people

  15. In the 1950s, the American military psychologist Margaret Singer investigated the effects of brainwashing (later called “thought reform”) on US soldiers caught in the Korean War. Later, she became a leading expert in cults and sects. In her book “Cults in Our Midst” she describes six conditions for a thought reform. Among others: “A change in behavior through to revaluation of the own experience, achieved by reward and punishment under restraint and seclusion.“ And that’s what makes ABA in my eyes. Although behaviorism as primarily in the US arisen branch of psychology rejects psychotherapy, especially psychoanalytical methods, and focuses mainly on the stimulus-response scheme, ABA uses precisely these methods of psychological/social influence. Therefore ABA has something somewhere destructive and cult-like to me. And of isolation we can certainly well speak, if a client is being influenced on 5 days 5 to 8 hours long per day, as it says the blog writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. And here is a third comment by me: I have translated the above post into German (I’m from Germany), and would like to ask the blog writer for permission to post that in our German autism groups on facebook, of course with quoting the source of the contribution.

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    1. Yes, definitely feel free to post and share it. I would be honored! Thank you for spreading awareness about ABA.

      Your comment about ABA using similar methodology as cults/thought reform movements is very interesting. More food for thought.

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  17. ABA, performed properly and by fully trained analysts, is one of the most important advances in the field of educating those with severe disabilities in many many years. I am sorry that some of you have had poor experiences with it, but it doesn’t make the science of human behaviors at fault. Maybe you need to look for better clinicians, or fully trained and certified behavior analysts. In many states, there is now also the designation of Licensed Behavior Analyst. Any therapy, done poorly or without complete understanding of the science behind it, can be damaging.

    I speak as the mother of two young adults with autism who have done extremely well because of their properly designed and executed ABA programs (which continue to this day), a lawyer who fought the system to get ABA recognized in schools in New York State, and as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A lot of the people I worked with were certified. I don’t think it’s as simple as people not being certified or trained enough. Again, I know that some things are called ABA that look pretty different than what I’ve described in this post. However, that doesn’t invalidate my own experience of the field. I believe that any ABA is wrong if it has any of the characteristics described here, based on what Autistic people have said about it. They’re the ones who experienced it first-hand, so we really need to be listening to what they’re saying first and foremost. I understand that it has been a very important part of your life, but I still hope you will take some time to listen to Autistic people.

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      1. She said she had two young adult children on the spectrum who have done well with ABA. I think that counts as talking to autistic people don’t you?

        Just yesterday I received an email from a past client (now university graduate) saying hi and thanking me for my help in his education.

        I practise ethical ABA. I don’t do any of the things in your post. But what I do is real ABA. I’m sorry you had a bad experience. I’m sorry some autistic people have had bad experiences. But don’t tar us all with the same brush. It is possible to use ABA in ethical respectful ways to make a positive difference. I do it everyday.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Talking “to” and talking “at” can seem an awful lot alike, don’t you think? Especially when we’re talking about a parent/child relationship… especially when all we know of this person are a couple of paragraphs on a blog, instead of this person’s relationship with his/her parents and how they treated him/her. Not to account for this person’s internal belief system (the unconscious belief system) about not only Autism, but disabilities, in general.

          Sorry. It doesn’t count, in my book, when the only Autistics you talk to are your children.

          Talk to adult Autistics. Get a clue.

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          1. I’ve been in the field for 20 years. I’ve worked with 15 month old babies up to adults in their 50s. I talk *to* children and adults with autism every day. I use ABA ethically and respectfully. I have more than a clue.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. True, I should have acknowledged that what her sons think and feel about the therapy they’re receiving is very important. I didn’t mean to gloss over that. I still think it’s important to read the links in this post as well though, to learn about examples of harmful therapy.

          That’s awesome that your former client reached out again! And I’m so glad that you don’t do any of the things in this post. Thank you. Please know that I did put a disclaimer at the top that not all forms of ABA therapy may be as problematic as what I’m describing because the term “ABA” is used so broadly now.

          The bottom line is that the ABA I’ve described does exist. I hope you will join me in calling it out and bringing it to an end.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. No, I don’t think that a parent’s perspective on their young child counts as the kind of consultation I’m talking about. And if you don’t understand the difference, then you’re an instance of the problem in behaviorist culture that I’m referring to.

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    2. All of the things described in this post are both widespread and permitted by the BACB code of ethics. It’s disingenuous to say that this somehow isn’t really ABA. If you don’t want to be judged by association with the mainstream professional culture of BCBAs, stop associating with it.

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  18. You express wonderfully the exact reasons why we refused to let any ‘professional’ use ABA on our three children. It’s cruel, upsetting for them, and it’s never the best approach to use. I’ve found that those parents who sing its praises only want their child to ‘appear’ normal. Well guess what? A child with autism is never going to to be ‘normal’, so to speak. We’re different, not less, just different! (Yes, I have autism too!) Treating them like lab-rats just so they act as nt children do, you end up with well trained rats! If that, as a parent, is what you want, maybe you need to change and become better parents rather than changing your child.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s not always the motivation — in some cases, a BCBA is the first person who ever tells a parent that their child is capable of learning, and the first person who ever makes any serious attempt to teach their child anything. That’s a huge reason why ABA is popular.

      It shouldn’t be popular, because ABA is not a good way to teach people and the emphasis on reinforcement tends to do tremendous harm.

      And it’s important to remember that a good percentage of parents don’t know that there are better ways, have seen their child make genuine progress with ABA, can’t see that harm is being done because their child looks happy and praises the therapist, and haven’t seen anyone else willing to teach their child in anything close to a serious way.

      This isn’t all just about parents wanting a normal child.

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  19. What therapy(ies) or teaching method(s) do autistic adults support or favor for autistic adults? My 19yo daughter is getting a relaxed form of ABA a handful of hours a week directed at developing her communication and independent living skills. I’ll try to check back here for an answer, or you can tweet me.

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    1. Speech/Language Pathology for Communication with an emphasis on Assistive Technology if she’s nonverbal or limited verbal. Occupational Therapy for Independent Living Skills. Neither of those things should be taught in a behavior setting. SLPs and OTs are trained specifically for exactly those two things. That’s all their fields are about – Speech and Language and Daily Living/Work Skills.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Also, “what kind of therapy” is kind of a misleading question, because what a lot of us want is for education to stop being seen as a medical treatment. We’re not sick, and teaching us isn’t medicine, it’s education.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Melody, I’m glad to see SLP with an emphasis on AT in your list. Affirms my choice of that field! LTOVenture, there’s a blog about a parent’s use of AAC for her kids with disabilities that might be helpful for more information about that:
      http://niederfamily.blogspot.com/

      Unstrange Mind has a post to answer that question here: https://unstrangemind.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/what-does-helpful-vs-harmful-therapy-look-like/

      Amythest also has a video about that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkd0I3lTvO8

      I’m sure there are plenty of other resources, so I encourage you to seek out Autistic adults for more information. And of course, if anyone else has anything to add, please do. That’s a great question, and I wish you the best as you navigate all the therapy options.

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  20. I think you’re a bit confused. ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis is a branch of Behavior Analysis which is the study of behavior. It is a science not a therapy. You seem to be describing EIBI, or Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention. This therapy takes principles from ABA and puts them into practice. Also, I couldn’t imagine you actually did legitimate EIBI therapy due to the fact that we use people first language (people with autism) where you clearly don’t (“Autistic people”). While it would be far too time consuming to discuss all of the fallacies of this article, I would like to point out that the majority of EIBI therapies involve teaching children to speak for themselves and make choices for their own lives calling myth to several of your above points. I would like to also ask a question, what would be your alternative to EIBI?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading my post. I’m calling it ABA therapy because that’s what it was called at the place I worked. The people there also tended to use person-first language, but I’ve mostly moved away from it out of respect for Autistic self-advocates who largely prefer identity-first language. (See this page for more info on that: http://www.autistichoya.com/2011/08/significance-of-semantics-person-first.html)

      That may be true about the majority of EIBI/ABA/(whatever you want to call it) therapies, and I hope it is, though I don’t think either of us can really know that for sure. Anyway, that does not invalidate my own experience of ABA, and it doesn’t mean that the ABA that I’ve described in this post is nonexistent. The main message of this post is that any therapy for Autistic kids that has these characteristics is wrong, because these are things that many Autistic people have highlighted as being damaging to them. I hope you will take some time to read what Autistic people are saying.

      Your last question is great and very important. Please see the responses to LTOVenture’s comment above, as they asked the same thing.

      Liked by 2 people

  21. There are so many factual errors I honestly don’t know where to begin. ABA is not a method. It is inherently empathic and rooted in using science to identify assessments and interventions that help individuals reach their desired outcomes. For every blogger with autism who speaks, remember there are those who cannot. And, if some of them could, I venture to think they would beg for people, like BCBAs who could help them to stop engaging in self harm and reduce the stereotypy that interferes with their lives. No one ever brings data or studies to counter the great contributions of ABA. You hear horror stories and anecdotes about bad practices. There are bad BCBAs just like there are bad doctors but you can’t let one bad apple destroy the bunch.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are many Autistic people who don’t speak verbally and instead primarily use communication devices to express their thoughts (Amy Sequenzia, Ido Kedar, and Emma of Emma’s Hope Book are just a few of them). Many of them have blogs, and you’ll find some links to their blogs in this post if you would take the time to read what they have to say. I think it’s not only offensive to assume that you know what Autistic people would want, but dangerous. You cannot assume that. In fact, much of what they’re saying is in direct contradiction to what you’ve written.

      I’ve already written about why saying ABA is evidence-based and scientific does not mean it’s inherently ethical and helpful to Autistic people.

      Pointing out that not all ABA is like this doesn’t invalidate my own experience of it; I’ve already acknowledged at the beginning of my post that not all things that are called ABA are the same as what I’m describing here. But this form of ABA does exist. The main message of this post is that any therapy for Autistic kids that has these characteristics is wrong, because these are things that many Autistic people have highlighted as being damaging to them. Please take the time to read what Autistic people are saying.

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  22. I would like to point out that ABA is not a therapy, but a scientific field of study that focuses on learning and behavior. The teaching methods derived from it are Based on those principles. ABA simply describes and explains the environmental conditions in which we, human beings, learn and develop. These techniques will differ from person to person because they are and should be insivisualized. And as much as I agree with the fact that every child should be respected and treated with kindness, and allowed to express who they are as long as its not harming themselves or others, your point that Autistic children are absued by ABA just because they dont have a choice of what they do at certain times, or because reinforcers are withheld until they ask for them…well, then I think you are Disregarding the very simple fact that these things happen to every child and person alive on this planet. How many times has a parent withheld a toy or candy until a child asked for it correctly (“Can I have it please?”). Or when was the last time a “typically” developing child was given a choice on their bed time? Or about going to school? And even as adults, do you really have a choice to not go to work? You may say yes, but then you are punished by a severly diminished pay check. Hearing NO, or not always having a choice is a fact of life. Plus, is allowing a non vocal child to express their displeasure in a task by biting their own hand an ethical way to give that child a choice? Is that really respecting them? What is wrong with teaching that child an effective way to say no without hurting themselves? These kinds of things are simply the way learning works and to say that ABA is responsible for abusing children just because they aren’t always given a choice, or are asked to properly request for things they want, is to do the world a huge disservice. In this day and age, ABA is NOT about making people look less autistic or “normal”, but about giving children and adults the tools to make their life what they want it to be, and to succeed in their own life the best that they can. THATS what ABA is about.

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    1. I’m calling it ABA therapy because that’s what it was called at the place I worked.

      Yes, basic forms of reward and punishment are used in the wider world. However, we only use this very intensive form of it for Autistic kids. Teaching kids explicitly that they must earn any enjoyable activity, and teaching them this for hours a day for 5 days a week, is very different than the way reward/punishment is used in typical parenting. Also, there are some things that should not have to be earned or asked for, ever, such as food and breaks. Real Social Skills explains more about why this is damaging here: http://realsocialskills.org/post/110819268573/why-i-oppose-aba-as-a-method-of-instruction

      Nobody has said that Autistic kids should never hear the word no, but they should also never have to conform to someone else’s every demand. They need to learn that they have some autonomy over their own bodies and that they can express their limits.

      Of course very few people working in ABA would outwardly say that the goals are about making Autistic kids look “normal.” I encourage you to examine for yourself what the underlying reason and purpose is behind goals like extinguishing stim and teaching neurotypical play skills.

      This form of ABA does exist today. I was working as an ABA Therapist just last year. Pointing out that not all forms of ABA are like this does not invalidate my experiences of it. The main message of this post is that any therapy for Autistic kids that has these characteristics is wrong, because these are things that many Autistic people have highlighted as being damaging to them. Please take the time to read what Autistic people are saying and make sure that, if you are involved in the field at all, your therapy is not harmful. If you are about “giving children and adults the tools to make their life what they want it to be,” make sure you’re listening to Autistic people so you know what tools it is they actually want.

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      1. Tell us please “anxious advocate” where did you work? If you saw kids being abused then why didn’t you call the police? Why aren’t you revealing your identity? Why can’t you tell us where this school is and what it’s called? Surely if you were genuinely worried you would tell people so they could avoid this school. That’s a bit like a doctor botching surgery and me going on here to say stay away from medical doctors because they love to mess up your insides. They are called people with Autism because they are human-beings and individuals who happen to have a disability. You aren’t an advocate and certainly not for my son. You are a malicious person with the intent to harm.

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        1. Because none of the things they’re describing are illegal or even contrary to the BACB standards of practice. The police can only enforce the law. They can’t prevent harm that’s being done legally.

          Whether or not someone is an advocate for your son is not for you to say. That’s his call. He may agree with this blogger. He may agree with you. He may think something else entirely. It’s his call, and his alone. None of us can speak for him.

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  23. We work towards habituation. Some people learn in very different, unnatural ways. ABA contrives environments to make it more beneficial to engage in socially valid behavior. The behavior of someone with an ASD is sometimes different from the social norm — and that’s OK and I always will ask whenever possible if it is OK for us to be doing our client/therapist work. However, when aberrant, maladaptive, or dangerous behavior interferes with habituation, learning, and leading an independent life, that individual and every primary stakeholder in that individual’s life has their both own quality of life across the lifespan forever altered — sometimes positively sometimes negatively. ABA is a powerful science with many applications that can help with these issues. As a professional in the field of special education you have A RESPONSIBILITY to be caring, compassionate at all times, but you also need to be effective. I clearly don’t need to cite the efficacy and effectiveness of ABA. Good luck moving forward, but this is outright, heavily biased misinformation sprinkled with appeals to emotion.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for reading my post. Yes, some people may learn in different unnatural ways, but it’s a problem if everyone just assumes that, instead of actually consulting the people they’re trying to teach. Many things that behaviorists consider to be “aberrant or maladaptive” and to “interfere with habituation, learning, and leading an independent life” actually have very important functions for Autistic people, such as stimming and eye contact, as I’ve already mentioned. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to be connected to Autistic people themselves. Please read what Autistic people are saying. I’ve already posted links to what they’ve said about aggressive/dangerous behaviors.

      I’ve also already written about why saying ABA is evidence-based and scientific does not mean it’s inherently ethical and helpful to Autistic people.

      Everyone has bias based on their own experiences. You yourself are biased in favor of ABA, but it’s critical to examine those biases. I stand by what I’ve written, emotional appeals and all.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. all I could think of when my dog was a puppy an I had him in social skills dog trying class was this is ABA for puppy’s while it work great for him .i don’t think we should be treated the same .if I had a child like me .i do or try some other therapies as I didn’t like how that made me feel .an I wasn’t HF as a child earthier

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      1. She doesn’t use her name, there is no photo of her and she said that she witnessed kids being abused. Why didn’t she phone the police? Why is she writing an anonymous blog and refusing to say what school she worked in? I smell a lie and a witch hunt.

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  24. I couldn’t agree more with this entire article. Bravo! As a parent of a grown child with ASD, who spent 3 years in ABA therapy I can honestly say it was the worst and most damaging experience my son had while growing up. To this day at 24 years of age he still suffers from trust issues that I strongle believe are caused by those three horrible, painful years!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I’d like to know if those who are defending ABA so adamantly have read ALL of the links provided with and in this blog.

    Of course, not all ABA is bad.

    But if you take the time to read the links included here, which are written by autistics – NOT ALL OF THEM SPEAK, not that that matters because they are all AUTSITIC, and that is the important thing – you will learn something.

    Stop defending and listen.

    Of course, there is an emotional appeal in this post. Because this post is about the damage inflicted on autistic people by practitioners of ABA. YOU may not be practicing in this manner. But it happens, it has happened, and will continue to happen until non-autistic people stop and LISTEN to autistic people in whatever way they communicate.

    Read the links included here.

    Read the links.

    Stop reacting. Stop defending, and READ THE LINKS. Listen to autistic people who have EXPERIENCED ABA. Then do what you can to fix the problems. Because they exist whether you want to believe it or not.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. how should we fix the problem?

      I practise ethical ABA, I do none of the things listed here, but articles like this just tar us all with the same brush – how does that help the community?

      Why not label the clinic she worked for? why not go to them and discuss her concerns and get them to change?

      This blog isn’t going to improve bad aba clinics. But it will make less families choose a valid treatment option. There are plenty of us using ABA properly to respectfully help. Putting us all under the same umbrella doesn’t help anyone.

      What’s described here? Is bad ABA. It’s not ABA.

      All people are talking about is why they won’t do ABA.

      I went to an expo on the weekend and introduced myself to a carers agency hoping to work with them to get support for the parents of my clients – they heard I do ABA and end of conversation.

      I can’t fix bad ABA but you seem to be saying that’s what we need to stop and do.

      Instead I’m going to continue to respectfully treat my clients and show them the sky is the limit and I am here to support them on their journey. I’m going to listen to the families that are grateful for my help. To the kids (some now adults) that I have treated over the years who keep in touch and thank me for the differences I have made. They’ve experienced ABA too. ABA done well. ABA done right. It exists. Whether you believe it or not.

      The author and her advocates keep telling us to speak to autistic people – I do – every day. I help them find their voice and treat them with respect and dignity as every person deserves.

      I am sorry some people have experienced bad ABA. But this blog is not going to fix that.

      http://www.autismclassroomnews.com/2015/03/applied-behavior-analysis-what-it-is.html

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did go to them and discuss my concerns. I talked about it in my post.

        I understand your frustration about criticisms of your field, but please realize that these are very valid criticisms. You yourself may not practice ABA therapy in the exact way that I’ve described. I’m glad if that’s true. But that doesn’t change the fact that many other people in the field of behaviorism and ABA are doing these exact things. And I’ve already acknowledged so many times that there may be forms that are less problematic. I’m really getting tired of BCBAs and behaviorists derailing the discussion by explaining that not all ABA therapy is similar to what I’ve described here. Regardless, the therapy I described still exists, and *that* is the problem.

        The code of ethics for BCBAs explicitly states that aversives are okay as a last resort. That is a problem endemic to the field. You personally may not be practicing that way, but you’re still part of a field that uses those methods. I don’t like it either, but it’s just a fact. The form of ABA therapy I did *is* considered ethical under those standards. ABA therapy that uses electroshock is still considered ethical (look up the Judge Rotenberg Center). And these are huge problems that continue to this day. The Judge Rotenberg Center is going to be featured at the ABA International conference, for god’s sake (https://www.abainternational.org/events/annual/sanantonio2015/exhibitors.aspx). That’s why I wish you would join me in calling out abusive therapy and bringing it to an end instead of being offended by my criticisms of it, but to me, your post makes it sound like you don’t care that it even exists.

        I believe that harmful, abusive therapy is far more dangerous than no therapy. And ABA therapy is far from the only option for Autistic kids.

        I also want you to know that it’s completely disrespectful and irresponsible to brush off Autistic people’s accounts of the abuse they’ve suffered as a result of the ABA therapy they went through. Please read this post before you comment again: http://realsocialskills.org/post/99822366632/if-you-want-me-to-believe-youre-a-good

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You are judged by the company you keep. If you don’t want to be associated with those practices, why are you a member of a professional association that permits them and a professional culture that encourages them?

        Like

  26. So if not ABA then what do you use as aka gushed intensive program for high functioning children? What to you use to curb tantrums, sensory seeking behaviors?

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    1. Hi Cindy – here’s a link that might be helpful for you re. the tantrum issue. If it’s a tantrum, that’s different from a meltdown, and needs to be handled differently.

      http://ollibean.com/2015/01/13/autistic-meltdown-or-temper-tantrum/

      Re. sensory seeking behaviors – have you read The Out of Sync Child? Sensory seeking behaviors serve a purpose in some cases, and are a sign of disregulation in others. An OT should be able to help channel the sensory seeing into other things.

      Do you have examples of the behaviors that you find need to be curbed?

      The issue is the kids who are sensory seeking NEED the (what we consider) extra sensory input. Channeling them into socially safe ones is ideal, but the need is real – you may want to look into some sensory toys, etc (stimtastic.co has great stuff) that can give the needed input.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I am appalled and surprised that you were apparently working in the ABA field without exposure to functional analysis and functional behavior assessment or even ABC data collection? The first thing we do as BCBAs is look at the reasons behind the behavior and help the child figure out a more effective way to get his or her needs met, including how to communicate independently “no” and to ask for an escape/break from demands (via sign language, vocally, picture exchange or an iPad program). I find it troubling that the “autistic adults” you refer to so often state that they speak for/represent the autistic community. Their experiences are just that, their experiences, and don’t reflect those of my family member or others who overcame extremely dangerous – literally life threatening -behavior problems. My family member has become an extremely happy adult through the use of properly implemented ABA.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We did do functional analysis and and functional behavior assessments and ABC data collection. But still many of the kids were not allowed to stim, were forced to make eye contact, and had to learn neurotypical “play skills,” despite having valid reasons for why they either did or didn’t do those things. I’m glad that you do teach the things you’ve mentioned, but please realize that the ABA therapy I’ve described does exist. I was part of it. Just because your experience was different does not invalidate my own.

      Every Autistic person’s experiences are going to be different, obviously, but it’s a pretty big red flag if many of them are writing about how harmful the ABA therapy they received was. It’s completely disrespectful to simply brush that off. You have an obligation to read their experiences, and I hope you will. And if you also disagree with the ABA therapy I’ve described in this post, then I hope you will join me in calling it out and bringing it to an end.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I’m awfully sorry about your experience in ABA. Just as in any profession there are the good and bad.

    I’m currently in early intervention where a blend of DTT, errorless learning, naturalistic learning and Montessori/Teacch are being used with wonderful results. I’m proud of the work I’m doing and noticeable differences I’m making with my children daily.

    The field of ABA sadly has grown tremendously to meet demand. I have seen the unethical side of practices but for the most part I’ve seen more good than bad. Partnerships in all areas therefore are based on solid relationships. Seek to understand before assume is important in all facades of our life.

    I hope others can agree. And again I’m sorry to learn about your experience.
    http://www.fromthistothatearlylearning.com

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You yourself may not practice ABA therapy in the way that I’ve described (and I’ve already acknowledged so many times that there may be forms that are less problematic). I’m glad if you don’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that many other people in the field of behaviorism, including ABA, are doing these exact things.

      The code of ethics for BCBAs (http://www.bacb.com/index.php?page=57 and http://www.bacb.com/Downloadfiles/BACB_Compliance_Code.pdf) explicitly states that aversives are okay as a last resort, which could include electroshock (look up the Judge Rotenberg Center). That is a problem endemic to the field. You personally may not be practicing that way, but you’re still part of a field that uses those methods. I don’t like it either, but it’s just a fact. The form of ABA therapy I did *is* considered ethical under those standards. Behavioral therapy that uses aversives is still considered ethical. And these are huge problems. The Judge Rotenberg Center was just featured at the ABA International conference, for god’s sake (https://www.abainternational.org/events/annual/sanantonio2015/exhibitors.aspx). This is not a matter of a few bad practitioners violating the ethical standards, it’s a matter of the ethical standards being flawed in and of themselves. So please, join me in calling out abusive therapy and bringing it to an end.

      Please read this post by Real Social Skills:
      http://realsocialskills.org/post/99822366632/if-you-want-me-to-believe-youre-a-good

      Like

  29. She doesn’t use her name, there is no photo of her and she said that she witnessed kids being abused. Why didn’t she phone the police? Why is she writing an anonymous blog and refusing to say what school she worked in? I smell a lie and a witch hunt.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Very heated commentaries in response to someone’s opinion on a treatment method. The interesting thing is that the argument is about using behaviour as treatment method for a neurological disorder. The core focus should be on the cause – how do we get both sides of the brain to integrate and not think/process so linear. I believe one researcher dubbed it the extreme form of a male brain. If this is the case what can be done neurological to correct this (hemispheric patterning).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very heated commentaries indeed. It’s worth pointing out that a lot of Autistic people don’t even view Autism as a disorder, but instead as a natural variation in the wiring of the brain, and therefore a lot of them are against finding a cure or correction, as you put it. I encourage you to look up the neurodiversity movement for more information.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. From studying abnormal psychology years and years ago…I recall the behaviorist was Pavlov back in the late 1800’s…studying animal behaviour. There were adaptations to human behavior where Skinner came into play then Lovaas.

    There were others inbetween too but then we go too deep into the history of psychology. I love the diversity of opinions.

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  32. This anxious advocate is throwing the attention on to ABA. However, everyone is too busy arguing this out than to get some straight answers fro her/him. I am uncomfortable listening to this person detailing horrific abuse at a school. I for one want her to report it to the police. I might contact the police myself and they can find out her IP address. If she hasn’t reported this horrific crime then she in turn must be arrested.

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    1. I don’t think you have read this blog accurately. No where did she describe “horrific abuse at a school”… Can you quote me a place where she did in the actual post? Surely you can give me an example. If not, I hope you can stop trolling because it’s pretty annoying to read.

      Now to withhold my treat because I fed the troll.

      Liked by 4 people

  33. People need to understand that this article is inaccurately describing what “ABA” actually is. ABA is the science of behavior. Each and every person utilizes or is controlled by the science of behavior on a daily basis. Does your employer not pay you until after a day’s work? That’s ABA. Do you not give your child dessert unless they’ve eaten their vegetables? That’s ABA. Do you pick up your baby when they cry? Whether you do or don’t, you guessed it… It’s ABA. ABA should never be pigeon-holed inti the tactics in this article. For example, DTT, which every BCBA will admit is not always appropriate or necessary for every child. Look into incidental teaching, which I guarantee if you saw a video of it, most novice viewers would have no idea they are witnessing “ABA”. Can the tools based on ABA be applied incorrectly or ineffectively? Of course. That’s the problem here… Not ABA itself. It’s ineffective practitioners who are incorrectly implementing programs and inadequately training staff.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, basic forms of reward and punishment are used in the wider world. However, we only use this very intensive form of it as therapy for Autistic kids. Teaching kids explicitly that they must earn any enjoyable activity, and teaching them this for hours a day for 5 days a week, is very different than the way reward/punishment is experienced in the average person’s daily life. Real Social Skills explains more about why this is damaging here: http://realsocialskills.org/post/110819268573/why-i-oppose-aba-as-a-method-of-instruction Also, there are some things that kids should not have to earn or ask for, ever, such as food and breaks.

      I’ve said this so many times and in the post itself: there may be forms of ABA therapy that are less problematic than what I’ve described here. I still believe that everybody working in the field of behaviorism and ABA as a whole needs to read about these experiences that Autistic people have had to ensure that their therapy is not part of the problem. Even the people I worked with considered their own ABA therapy to be good. Please do take the time to read the links in this post and listen to what Autistic people are saying. And if you disagree with the ABA therapy that I’ve described here, then please, join me in calling it out and bringing it to an end. Because it does exist.

      Like

      1. I just try to get though each day an a good day for me is not having a meltdown or some sencorey thing to make me upset .really can’t think about all the words everyone wants to be call .as long as someone just dosent assume I’m dumb or whatever I’m good .got to much just living with plan autism an ld

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      2. My biggest concern about ABA professional culture is the assumption that having a BCBA certificate, working hard and meaning well somehow make it impossible to do serious harm. Every single pro-ABA comment posted so far has expressed that attitude.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve just finished watching all of the videos. I’m glad that you’ve sought out Autistic people and their opinions of ABA. That’s very important. I do still want to encourage you to read the links in return that I’ve provided in this post so that you get a well-rounded opinion from other Autistic people who haven’t had the same experiences.

      I completely respect the opinions of the people in these videos. People in the Autistic community have said that everyone has a different relationship to their Autism. However, until a child is old enough to fully understand and articulate their feelings about being Autistic, I think it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to therapy that is meant to normalize. Eli doesn’t seem to mind that some ABA programs champion indistinguishability from peers and normalization, but many other Autistic people have specifically identified those things as being very harmful. In one of the other videos, for example, Alex mentions that he doesn’t believe ABA should stop kids from stimming or that it should have the goal of “curing” Autism. It seems that Eli disagrees and doesn’t consider these things problematic, which I respect, but since that’s not the case for every Autistic person, I don’t think we should ever assume that an Autistic child wants to go through therapy that’s meant to normalize them. If there’s even a chance that they can develop post-traumatic stress from that kind of therapy, and many Autistic people have said that they have, then I would be very careful about making that decision *for* a child. I personally am against those kinds of therapies because, overwhelmingly, it seems to have very negative effects on Autistic people’s self-esteem (again, see the links).

      Apart from that, the details of their ABA therapy is not clear for most of the videos. I already acknowledged that some ABA therapy may not be as problematic as what I’ve described in my post.

      One thing I noticed is that a lot of them emphasize the skills that they learned as the result of ABA, but they don’t really speak to whether it helped them feel accepted and accommodated for being Autistic, which I would have been interested to hear more about. I also think it’s cool that Eli is going into ABA, and I’m very interested to hear what his experiences of the field are.

      Anyway, please read the links in this post as well. I respect these views, but I still stand by what I’ve written.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. The points brought up in this article are valid, important, and should be considered and understood by all ABA professionals; however the ultimate anti-ABA stance/bashing of this article is irresponsible and possibly damaging. I have worked in ABA for nearly 10 years, and I have indeed witnessed unethical programs, such as the one the author was a part of. HOWEVER the way in which certain individuals implemented the ABA techniques does NOT represent ABA. Applied Behavior Analysis IS a science as the Author stated, and it is a very effective science that consists of several different techniques that can be implemented in many many ways. The techniques of ABA are not inherently unethical, and in fact, many Behavior Analysts place a huge emphasis on being ethical in our decisions. In fact, as an example, I have a 14 year old individual I am working with who threatened to stab his step father. A huge part of my assessment included speaking with the individual about his concerns, how he feels he is mistreated by his family, what his goals are.

    The author of this article (as well as the people with Autism that were referenced) very likely worked with people who were using the principles and techniques of ABA in an inappropriate and unethical way. My opinion, as I stated in the beginning, is that the points brought up in this article are ESSENTIAL to understand and be aware of when practicing ABA, but the stance of this article is dangerous. This article may deter people from seeking ABA who really need it. Individuals with autism who want to learn to communicate in different ways, or individuals who engage in very dangerous aggressive or self harming behavior. Furthermore, I feel that the Author’s decision (from the stance of wanting to help individuals with autism) was made in ignorance (not meant in an insulting way, and was irresponsible. The more mature and responsible decision, if the author had the goal to continue in the field of helping individuals with disabilities, would have been to recognize these malpractices, and set out to make a change in the field of ABA, to bring awareness and make a change. As I said, the points in this article are very important, but a better stance would have been, rather than saying “ABA is terrible and unethical” saying, “ABA can be very beneficial, BUT ABA practitioners NEED to keep these points in mind”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Some of us even ask people about their perspectives when we put them on behavior plans” is not exactly an argument leading me to reconsider my position on the nature of ABA professional culture.

      Like

  35. Reblogged this on Irma Zoulane and commented:
    Reblogging this view from the inside of the field by a former ABA practitioner.
    A must-read article, including numerous links to testimonies by adult autistics, and the real deal on why ABA is detrimental to people who simply function differently: beyond “efficiency” for superficial behavior modification, ABA is hurtful.
    To me the baseline is this: if you wouldn’t do it to a non-autistic kid or adult… then don’t do it! Thanks for this article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I normally don’t bother to express my opinion on someone else’s blog- but ‘institutionalised child abuse’ ? I have to respond to defend what I am seeing working brilliantly for my son- he’s not in any institution but in hike with me & he only attends a mainstream nursery with his typical peers.
      I am not an ABA professional, but a medical doctor. I live in the UK where ABA is not offered in the mainstream (NHS or most local authority schools) unless parents legally challenge the local authority to get it funded.
      So when my son got a diagnosis imagine my shock when most research I did showed ABA as an effective early intervention for Autism , but it wasn’t provided by the state health system or education system…. What they offer is intensive interaction as its ‘cost effective’- is it effective for my son? Well no one assess or knows what else to do if we stuck to the state services ! So in the 4 group speech therapy sessions we were offered when my son didn’t engage much but wanted to run around, play with light switches / curtains etc I got told ‘oh let him run, wait for him to come back & just play alongside him, don’t actually talk to him’. But I didn’t go straight for ABA as I read about this PTSD you are talking about & did not want my son to experience any psycological trauma in future.
      So there I was knowing my son could say a few random words once in a blue moon, have some non verbal communication (different crys/ grunts) but mainly remain silent & aloof.
      The SLT suggested PECS (which uses ABA principles) and I was amazed at how quickly he went from stage 1 to stage 4… This made me look into ABA again as he was doing so well when he was reinforced with what he wanted…
      Luckily I found ABA VB- no one promised us a recovery but we decided to try it anyway-
      I wasted 3 months post diagnos deciding wether or not to do ABA… Having started ABA- VB We haven’t looked back- my non verbal child is now requesting verbally & adding more & more words to his vocabalary. He is more attentive of things going on around him, what we say to him. He’s also gaining self help skills- from toilet training to dressing & undressing, he’s learning phonics, colours, shapes ‘.. All these have been specifically targeted & thought to him…. I have not even seen anything close to ‘abuse’.
      Be enjoys his ‘ABA play’ sessions – he actually is a keen learner who didn’t know how to- but now that we break the skills down its easier for him to grasp & he’s also showing us his strengths…. We enjoy lots of activities together – baking pizzas & cakes, parks & shopping, messy plays & water plays…. We involve his baby brother as much as we can & he’s generally getting more tolerant….
      Even he’s more aware & responsive to his peers in nursery… We have a long way to go, but we have already come a long way from tantruming, just running up & down & jumping all day, still in nappies 3 yr old we were upto 4 months ago….
      I read through your article looking for specific instances where you felt you were asked to ‘abuse’ kids- all I read is ‘happy clients’ but then in the evening you going & reading about other autistic people’s experiences of ABA…. If you saw abuse you should have reported it rather than feeling sorry for the ‘kids I care about still in ABA’- have you actually had experience of parents abusing their child? I have as a medic & the first thing i do when I encounter any suspicion of abuse is get the appropriate authorities involved & ensure the safety of the child.
      You see here in UK we have a shortage of ABA therapists- I had to recruit mine from university & nursery & train them with the help of our BCBA…. My son gets along well with them & actually greets them with big smile… Its successful pairing….
      So it’s disheartening that blogs like this are being shared all over my FB page- your post claiming to be your experience as ABA therapist warning others not to enter the field? So what no one should do ABA & kids like mine should never be helped? Or rather we left an untrained TA to ‘babysit’ him because he isn’t going to learn the way his peers do?
      I agree we shouldn’t punish someone for being different ( I won’t use the word ‘neurotype’ as it implies it’s something like a different phenotype- there is no such neurotype has been identified in autistics or non autistics- it’s a developmental difference not a different type of neurome) By denying my child an education that suits his learning style especially in the early years & by expecting him to imitate & learn from his surroundings like his typically developing peers – that is when I believe he’s being punished for being differently abled. As for the voices of autistics who speak against ABA they should definitely be heard – but also kept in mind get are talking about ABA as they experienced it- it doesn’t imply it’s ABA as every child experiences it. And as for your claim that children shouldn’t be forced to do what they don’t want – am presuming you don’t have any children autistic or otherwise -young children need to be guided- taught what to do to an extent- so say my non autistic son doesn’t like math – should i let it go& say he doesn’t want to learn Math, so let’s not teach him?
      And in terms of abolishing stims- we
      Don’t do that if the behaviour has a purpose & is not harmful- my son jumps excitedly when he is happy/excited- we let him express his happiness that way…. But he also likes to put rasins up his nose- this I stop as it can be dangerous.
      And I do not think you have even given a thought to the parents who genuinely want to do the best for their child- I hope you don’t end up having an autistic child – because if you do & you follow your own advise you are going to deny him effective education just because he/she is autistic.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s great to hear about all your son’s accomplishments in his ABA program. I’ve already acknowledged that there may be some forms of ABA that are less problematic than what I’ve described here. However, the kind of ABA therapy I described does exist, and many Autistic people have described those forms of ABA as abusive. That’s what I meant when I used the term “abuse.” Reporting it to the authorities wouldn’t do anything because this is a legal therapy that’s actively encouraged and paid for by insurance companies.

        About compliance training: yes, kids are going to have to sometimes do things they don’t like, but there should always be a good reason for why they need to do it and they should get *some* say in decisions about them. A child has to learn some math skills because it’s necessary to live in the world. However, in the ABA therapy I did, kids had to follow a therapist’s *every* demand simply because they demanded it. That’s way too extreme and teaches a child that they have absolutely no autonomy over their own bodies. That’s what I mean when I say I’m against compliance-based therapy. It doesn’t mean kids get to do whatever they want. It just means I’m against compliance-based therapy, because it can send the message to kids that they have no control whatsoever. I recommend watching Amythest’s video about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_ETWtD1_Dk

        I don’t doubt for a second that you care deeply about your son, and this post was never meant as an attack on any parents. I’m not a parent at all, so that’s definitely not my place. I just want parents to be fully aware that there is harmful therapy out there, and sometimes it’s not always apparent that it’s harmful. That’s why I would still encourage you to read the links I’ve posted here. A lot of kids may make progress through ABA therapy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not harmful to them emotionally and psychologically. They may be learning very valid skills, and yet still feel devalued or invalidated for who they are in the process. Just wanted to mention that. But, if your son is truly enjoying the therapy and it’s making him feel accepted and accommodated, then that’s great, and I’m happy to hear it.

        In addition to Amythest’s video, I recommend that you start exploring the links by also reading Unstrange Mind’s essay about ABA: https://unstrangemind.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/aba/

        I wish you and your son all the best.

        Like

        1. I’m still unsure of how enforcing compliance within an ABA program is different to any parent/teacher enforcing compliance on a neurotypical child… where/when does ‘schooling’ become the abuse you have written about? Asdhope gave you the math example to make this point and you came back with a vague response about the autistic child needing to meet the therapist’s ‘every’ demand – implying that some demands constitute abuse. Can you give us some clear examples where demands made by following ABA become abuse please, as I’m struggling to see how the requirement for autistic kids to follow every demand of their therapists is different from the requirement of neurotypical kids to follow every demand of their school teachers. When providing your examples please also explain for each of them why that example typifies ABA.

          Now I expect you’re going to tell me to read the links. So let me save you the time – I have. They make for an interesting collection of anecdotes and amateur hypothesis. I’m afraid the fact that many of them come from autistic people does not change the fact they are anecdotal or hypothetical and not grounded in science. Unstrangemind hypothesises that the compliance element of ABA will create an adult more open to being exploited or abused. It’s a reasonable theory – a thought that has crossed my own mind many times as a parent of a little boy undergoing a successful ABA program – but the truth is that there is no empirical data to support that theory. Meanwhile, the counterargument that ABA develops skills that will serve to defend the autistic person against exploitation or abuse would seem at least equally valid; and there is strong data to evidence that ABA does develop those skills.

          As others have stated, your presentation of anecdotal experiences to make a case does not stand up to the scientific data and meanwhile there are an overwhelming collection of positive anecdotes one could add to the debate – but which you choose to ignore. I prefer to rely on the scientific evidence and would encourage others to do the same.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’ll do my best to explain compliance training better. (Huge trigger warning to any Autistic people who are reading and may have been through compliance training.) Yes, as I’ve said, the whole idea is that a client has to follow a therapist’s every command. This is a problem in and of itself, because a child needs to know that they have some autonomy over their own lives. If a child is taught that they must obey every adult in their lives no matter what the cost to themselves and no matter how they try to communicate the valid reasons that they don’t want to do something, then that takes a very big toll on their mental health. And this is especially dangerous to teach to kids who may already have difficulty understanding interactions with other people.

            However, it’s even worse when the things that therapists demand are actively harmful to the child. Some examples of things that are harmful to the child are not allowing them to stim and, for many kids, forcing eye contact (the posts I’ve linked to describe this in more detail). These things may actually cause the child physical pain and exhaustion because they’re not being able to regulate or move in a way that helps them cope with overwhelming sensory input. If they try to communicate that – by crying, refusing, acting out, whatever – adults just completely steamroll over them because they’re so caught up in not reinforcing “bad behaviors.” So you can’t “give in.” In fact, by this logic, a child getting upset by a command is just all the more reason to make sure that they do whatever you’re asking, not a sign to step back and reconsider whether you should even be asking them to do it in the first place. A non-speaking child may ONLY be able to communicate that something is painful, anxiety-provoking, or unnatural to them by crying, refusing, or even being aggressive. But too many BCBAs and ABA therapists practicing this kind of therapy never take the time to really research why a child doesn’t want to do something, or that what they’re asking might be harming the child. And maybe some of them just don’t care.

            This also goes for every single thing a therapist teaches, no matter how silly the demand. So if you’re singing a song and you tell your client to clap like you are, then you have to make sure that they clap, just because you told them to. Or if you’re teaching neurotypical play skills and you tell them to make a horse jump, then they *have* to make that horse jump, because you told them to. If they don’t follow your command, then there are all kinds of creative ways that therapists use to force compliance. A lot of times, you’ll just end up physically taking their hands and doing the action for them. Sometimes you’ll just repeat the command over and over and over again in a monotone. Sometimes you’ll repeatedly tap their hand. If you’re using aversives, maybe this is a time where you’ll spray them in the face with water as punishment. You’ll likely remove all rewards and attention, even refusing to look at them, as part of coercing them into compliance. And this may go on for hours, because usually treating kids this way makes them even more upset (and rightfully so), but you can’t give in, so on and on it goes.

            Anyone who treats neurotypical kids this way is just as wrong, but there’s not an entire therapy that actively advocates for such an approach. That’s reserved especially for Autistic kids. This kind of dynamic is completely different than the way neurotypical kids are treated in an average school. Yeah, sometimes kids might act out if they don’t want to do something and teachers might have to discipline them, but it’s just not done in a way that completely invalidates and dehumanizes that child. I hope that makes sense. This is a good quote about it from a post by Real Social Skills (http://realsocialskills.org/post/110819268573/why-i-oppose-aba-as-a-method-of-instruction):

            “It’s dangerous to make a kid do things that make no sense to them over and over and over while relying on extrinsic reinforcement. That teaches them that people in positions of power can do whatever they want to them, and that they have no right to protest or understand or influence things. ABA leaves people subject to it very, very vulnerable to abuse. Extreme conditioned obedience is dangerous, and it’s the most persistently reinforced behavior in ABA therapy. It’s generalized to other environments, and does not go away once therapy ends.”

            Yes, ABA is scientific and evidence-based, based on the fact that some kids progress rapidly, acquire many new and useful skills, and (oftentimes) come out looking “less Autistic” because they’ve been taught to suppress stim, make eye contact, and whatever else. If that’s your only basis of defining whether a therapy is effective, then yes, ABA is effective. However, I’m of the opinion that a therapy can’t truly be called effective if it can cause someone to feel self-hatred, to feel that who they are is inherently wrong, and maybe even to develop post-traumatic stress. I don’t care how many useful skills that child learns – if they’re being taught those skills in such a way that their emotional and psychological health suffers, then to me, that therapy cannot be considered effective. The ends do not justify the means. Here, again, is my example of how any method can be considered “effective” under that definition:

            “If someone beat a child to prevent him from doing something they didn’t like, he would probably stop doing it, and they could then say beating is an “effective” method. They could even take data as part of a scientific study to show you that their child’s behaviors decreased after they started beating him. But obviously, that doesn’t mean anyone should beat a child. That doesn’t mean it’s not abusive when a child is beaten. That doesn’t mean that child will grow up feeling healthy and happy about who he is. Abuse is never okay, and science cannot address the ethics of a method.”

            Maybe someday, someone will send a questionnaire to Autistic people about their experiences in ABA therapy, collect and score the responses, anaylze it, and reveal that many, many Autistic people have had very bad therapy experiences. They’ll get it published in a scientific journal, and because you can now call it a scientific study, maybe people will finally stop invalidating their experiences. Maybe people will put more stock into the reality of abusive therapy because it now has the word “science” attached to it, even though that’s what Autistic people have been saying all along.

            I know not all Autistic people have had the same experiences of ABA therapy. You’ll see that someone sent me some examples of Autistic people who described ABA therapy as a positive experience, even the kind that had normalization at its core, and their experiences are just as valid. However, the fact that so many Autistic people have had abusive experiences is still a huge red flag. If there’s even a chance that a child can develop post-traumatic stress from that kind of therapy, as many Autistic people have said they have, then I would be very careful about making that decision *for* a child. I personally am against those kinds of therapies because, overwhelmingly, it seems to have very negative effects on Autistic people’s self-esteem.

            Again, the science supporting ABA is only looking at outward measures of success, in terms of acquired skills and reduced behaviors. It’s not looking at the inward effects, on how the ABA therapy I’ve described affects a person’s emotional state and view of the world. Thankfully, we have Autistic people to provide that perspective. If you’re comfortable using science to completely brush off all the accounts of the abuse Autistic people have suffered as a result of ABA therapy, then I don’t really know what else I can say to you. That’s your decision.

            Like

            1. It’s important that any parent considering early intervention does so based on evidence and logic, not supposition and emotion, so I’ll do my best to explain why the strength of your conviction does nothing to validate it.

              You hypothesise that ABA puts autistic children at long term risk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You base your hypothesis entirely on an opinion that ABA is inherently abusive and evidence drawn from a relatively small number of anecdotes from autistic adults who underwent ABA programs earlier in life.

              The counterargument is that (i) ABA has been shown through science to afford access to real skills for many autistic children (ii) there is no scientific evidence linking PTSD with ABA interventions and (iii) there are (at least as many) anecdotes from autistics who cite ABA as a positive experience.

              You have conceded the points made in the counterargument but you mitigate your concession with the counterview that ‘if there’s even a chance that a child can develop PTSD’ then ABA should not be entertained as an intervention.

              This kind of thinking is deeply flawed. Ostensibly you are saying that if just one autistic claims that ABA left him/her traumatised then no other evidence is important. But that would mean one could draw the same conclusions you make about ABA to anything that any individual has ever reported as traumatic. I know many neurotypical people who would say that school was a traumatic experience for them – nobody would suggest education should be abandoned as a result.

              Turning again to your opinion that ABA is inherently abusive, you base this entirely on the requirement of the child to comply with the instructions of their adult therapist. But your comparison to child–beating is offensive and you have said nothing to explain how the requirement of compliance is different from what is expected of any child under adult supervision. Have you never watched ‘Supernanny?’ All children are expected all the time to do things they do not want to do… they react all the time in ways like crying and acting out… and responsible parents do not accept those behaviours. Yet we do not live in a world full of passive, traumatised adults.

              I remember when we first embarked on ABA with my son when he was three and a half. He had to be physically forced to sit at the table. That was the first day, but by the end of the first week he would come running over when called. If we had listened to your advice we would have stopped on that first day, fearful of the damage we were doing. And today our five year old would still be unable to look me in the eye… or use the toilet… or feed himself… or say ‘I love you, daddy.” He would not be top of his class in reading and writing. Instead of singing he’d still be stimming… instead of laughing he would still be crying. That is the potential that ABA unlocked in our son but you would prefer it if we had left him shut off from the world. I’ll let others decide which approach is the more abusive.

              As a final comment for any parents reading this I’d urge you – don’t listen to the author’s emotive anecdotal words and don’t listen to mine. Instead place your trust in the validated evidence – the link below should provide a useful summary for you.

              https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/13979

              Liked by 1 person

            2. regarding the ‘beating’ aspect: that was done to me while I was growing up. Granted, the people in question were most likely ‘personality disordered’ (NPD, ASPD) but still.

              Look up ‘Screams, Slaps, and Love’. Early ‘ABA’ / Behavior modification used *physical* punishment / torture, if the article was indeed correct; and, I can verify that it DOES cause ‘changed behaviors’.

              It also causes PTSD – which I have an abundance of. Self-hatred, the same. Feeling that I don’t belong in society – in spades. Feeling that I’ll never be good enough for ***Anyone***…

              As I’ve said before, I suspect to no small degree that causing autists to feel in this precise way is one of the explicit yet unstated goals of ***most*** current ‘therapy’ directed toward people like me. If you wonder why, think upon the following question:

              Why do bullies do what THEY do?

              (answer: because they derive intrinsic and extrinsic benefit from doing so. Namely, there’s a LOT of social profit in bullying – just like there’s a lot of social profit in making autists act as per the will, unstated and otherwise, of those who see themselves as their betters.

              Just like what BULLIES do.

              “I own you. You are my property. When you obey me, regardless of consequences, and that simply because I wish it – then you worship me as GOD.”

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              1. Agreed: Applied Behavior Analysis is a cult of bullies. It is not science since they pnly disseminate what makes the look not as bad as the worst facts about them. Well said, Dennis. Dave

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  36. I was a special education teacher for 14 years and used ABA in my classroom. Now I am a behavior analyst. The practices that you describe are not at all the practices that I have used in my career nor are they what I was taught when I was taking courses or working with ABA practitioners prior to becoming certified myself. Practicing ABA does not excuse one from understanding basic child development, best practices in education, or ethics (though the behavior analyst certification board has a very strict code of ethics that prohibits many of the practices that you described). I am very sorry that anyone has been negatively impacted by a science that can be very beneficial when applied correctly. I hope that instead of negating the entire field people will instead seek practitioners who choose to work in an ethical, caring manner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also, I received some of my training in ABA from professionals who worked with Dr. Lovaas on the UCLA Young Autism Project. While yes, they did use aversives-including electroshock-in the early days of the project, this practice has LONG been extinct, and you have to consider the types of interventions that were being used in other fields in medicine, psychology, and behavior around the same time. The practice has evolved with the times.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m glad to hear that this has not been your experience. As I’ve said, there may be forms of ABA therapy that are less problematic than what I’ve described here. I still believe that everybody working in the field of behaviorism and ABA as a whole needs to read about these experiences that Autistic people have had to ensure that their therapy is not part of the problem. Even the people I worked with considered their own ABA therapy to be good. Please do take the time to read the links in this post. But yes, I also hope that people will seek caring practitioners.

      I didn’t receive training on the ethical code for behavior analysts. I’m going to say that upfront. However, I’ve reviewed the ethical standards on the BACB website (http://www.bacb.com/index.php?page=57 and http://www.bacb.com/Downloadfiles/BACB_Compliance_Code.pdf) and I don’t see how anything I’ve described is a violation of those standards. Even aversives (I know some places use taste aversion sprays) are allowed under the standards as a last resort. If I’ve missed anything, though, please let me know because I’d definitely be interested to hear if there were ethical violations in any of those procedures. It would be easy if it was just a matter of a few “rogue” practitioners that are defying the ethical standards, but I just don’t think that’s the case. Some behavioral therapy places are still using electroshock to this day just as Lovaas used to (look up the Judge Rotenberg Center).

      Like

      1. It’s pretty terrifying to think that electroshock is still being employed. Obviously this is a very rare occurrence and I would never be associated with a center using such an archaic practice. As I mentioned, those who worked with Dr. Lovaas are no longer using or encouraging that practice.

        Here is an excerpt from the BACB code of ethics. While it does not expressly forbid aversives, it STRONGLY cautions against their use. Families and individuals must be well-informed and give consent before these actions are employed. Punishment is always a last resort.

        4.08 Considerations Regarding Punishment Procedures.
        (a) Behavior analysts recommend reinforcement rather than punishment whenever possible.
        (b) If punishment procedures are necessary, behavior analysts always include reinforcement procedures
        for alternative behavior in the behavior-change program.
        (c) Before implementing punishment-based procedures, behavior analysts ensure that appropriate
        steps have been taken to implement reinforcement-based procedures unless the severity or
        dangerousness of the behavior necessitates immediate use of aversive procedures.
        (d) Behavior analysts ensure that aversive procedures are accompanied by an increased level of training,
        supervision, and oversight. Behavior analysts must evaluate the effectiveness of aversive procedures in a timely manner and modify the behavior-change program if it is ineffective. Behavior analysts always include a plan to discontinue the use of aversive procedures when no longer needed.
        4.09 Least Restrictive Procedures.
        The behavior analyst explains program modifications and the reasons for the modifications to the client or client-surrogate and obtains consent to implement the modifications.
        4.10 Avoiding Harmful Reinforcers. RBT
        Behavior analysts minimize the use of items as potential reinforcers that may be harmful to the health
        and development of the client, or that may require excessive motivating operations to be effective.

        Another thing…unfortunately I have witnessed that many ABA therapists use discrete trial teaching as their main delivery method. I have never thought nor have I been taught that DTT is THE way to do applied behavior analysis. It is one method in a very long list of methods used in ABA. It is very unfortunate that this has become a widely accepted way of thinking. I have always employed and encouraged those I worked with to use ABA in a much more naturalistic way.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Additionally, as part of my program “aversives” and punishments were considered things like taking away a privilege (which I would consider reasonable, as this is a method that would also be used with a typically developing child, and the privilege could of course always be earned back), not a physical punishment, taste aversion spray as you mentioned, lemon juice (I’ve heard this as an example) or other. I have not known any behavior analysts who used such methods. Additionally, it was part of my training that basic rights such as food, sleep, etc. should NOT be withheld.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Sorry to keep going on, but I also wanted to say…while I haven’t had time to look at the links yet, I will. I do not doubt that there have been many people who have had negative experiences with ABA. I do not doubt that you encountered unethical and negative practices. It is just very frustrating to know that my entire field is being construed as negative, unethical, and disrespectful of those with autism. As I mentioned, I taught special education for 14 years before becoming a BCBA. If I had chosen to leave my career based on negative experiences that I read or heard about, well…I never would have started my career in the first place. Actually, I would be hard-pressed to find any career that I could not find lots of negative comments about online. Again, this is not a criticism of you or your post, but just me stating that I know that I choose to treat in an ethical manner, always putting the person and their needs, wants, etc. first and I would hate for anyone to think otherwise based on the actions of some of my peers.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Thank you for listening and thank you for recognizing the importance of reading what Autistic people are saying. I understand your frustration about criticisms of your field, but please realize that these are very valid criticisms. You yourself may not practice ABA therapy in the way that I’ve described (and I’ve already acknowledged so many times that there may be forms that are less problematic). I’m glad if you don’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that many other people in the field of behaviorism and ABA are doing these exact things.

              I read that part of the code of ethics, and it explicitly states that aversives are okay as a last resort, which could include electroshock. That is a problem endemic to the field. You personally may not be practicing that way, but you’re still part of a field that uses those methods. I don’t like it either, but it’s just a fact. The form of ABA therapy I did *is* considered ethical under those standards. ABA therapy that uses aversives is still considered ethical. And these are huge problems. The Judge Rotenberg Center is going to be featured at the ABA International conference, for god’s sake (https://www.abainternational.org/events/annual/sanantonio2015/exhibitors.aspx). That’s why I wish you would join me in calling out abusive therapy and bringing it to an end instead of being offended by my criticisms of it.

              Please read this post by Real Social Skills:
              http://realsocialskills.org/post/99822366632/if-you-want-me-to-believe-youre-a-good

              Like

          1. This is appalling, it is also not specifically an ABA company. I don’t see anything on their Web site about being an ABA company, there are no job postings related to ABA under careers, and the majority of their Board of Directors are psychologists. I do see one BCBA-D on their Board of directors and I plan on emailing him to ask about this electro shock issue.

            But yeah overall, this is not an ABA company.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. This is a good example though that Behavior therapy or behavioral therapy is not synonymous with ABA. Just because a therapy or company uses the word Behavior or Behavioral, it does not mean that is ABA. Psychologists also do forms of behavioral therapy that has nothing to do with, and is sometimes even contradictory to ABA.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. I don’t think anyone has said that behaviorism and ABA therapy are synonymous. When I use the term “behaviorism,” I’m using it as a blanket term that encompasses all behavior-based therapies, including ABA. But I just went to the Judge Rotenberg Center website (which I never in my life wanted to do), and they state on their home page that they use “ABA based treatment plans.” They’re also going to be featured at the ABA International conference (https://www.abainternational.org/events/annual/sanantonio2015/exhibitors.aspx). So they definitely have some association with ABA therapy. But yes, thank you for emailing them! That’s what needs to be done here.

                Like

      2. Thank you so much for responding! I’m sorry, I know this is long, but please read it all :)

        Here are some of the Ethical Codes for ABA that apply to the individuals. It does state that the individuals need to consent to services, and that the service should be explained in detail, and that they can and should at any time report inappropriate or unethical services. While it may not address the specific procedures you spoke of, it does give a picture of what ABA really says about how to treat individuals. If a client is of the functioning ability to be able to understand and communicate their wants and needs, then they should be a part of developing their program, and MUST consent.
        Aside from just these ethical codes, BCBAs are required to obtain Continued Education Units to maintain our certification, and a certain amount of these CEUs are required to be Ethics. In these Ethics courses we talk about issues such as the ones you have posted here. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar with my colleagues that talked about treating individuals who are at the age of puberty. In this seminar we talked about the fact that this is a difficult time for people, about how we need to treat them with respect, and basically the whole seminar was based around those concepts, of how to navigate the situation ethically

        I understand that there are ABA companies out there doing things wrong, and it is very important for this discussion to happen, and for people to be made aware so that change can occur for those companies. I just want people to understand that this is what ABA is, as a whole, and that the negative treatments described in your post do not represent ABA, but rather represent the inappropriate use of ABA strategies. The point is that ABA is not bad, in fact it is extremely effective and necessary for many people, BUT as you mention, we must respect the people we serve.

        Yes there are bad ABA companies and practitioners out there, but there are also bad pediatricians, bad doctors, bad psychologists, bad SPLs, bad special education teachers….it is not isolated to ABA. The points of this article can be applied to ALL professionals working with Autistic individuals, or any individuals with any disabilities.

        I personally make a point of talking to families about the rights of the individual to be who they are. In fact, I just had a parent training session yesterday where I talked to the parents about making the distinction between personality, or things that might just annoy the parents, and ‘problem behaviors’. I talked to the parents about the fact that their child has his own personality, and that some of the behaviors they were concerned about were not because of his Autism diagnosis, but were just his personality, and some of his behaviors just having to do with the fact that he is a 14 year old. I was able to talk to them about communicating with him out of respect.

        There are many parents who I have worked with who see everything they don’t like, or that annoys them as a ‘problem behavior’ that we need to stomp out, often times simply because they have no other children or experience to compare their child to so they panic. With my experience and training as a Behavior Analyst, I can talk to them about allowing their child to be an individual.

        Furthermore, to further prove that there are AMAZING ABA programs out there; my current company places an emphasis on how we treat the people we serve. My manager actually required that our new direct care staff attend a training outside of our company (I believe it was taught by Richard Smith, BCBA), which the company paid for. The primary focus of this training is how to treat the people we work with ethically, and respectfully.

        I am very sorry that you worked for a company that did not treat the people it served appropriately, and that they didn’t listen to your concerns, but please know that this does not represent the field of ABA, and that ABA really does help many individuals, and there are so many people (not only with Autism but with many different diagnoses) who need ABA therapy, and that discounting and bashing Applied Behavior Analysis as a whole due to one bad company can actually cause harm to many people. In addition, ABA is VERY different than it was when many of the Autistic individuals you cited received therapy. People who are adults now received ABA therapy maybe 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. ABA is constantly growing, ever changing, and articles like this, and people who advocate for the rights of others can only help to grow the field.

        I saw that you mentioned that some ABA companies use electro shock therapy, this is very false. There is not an ABA company that uses this treatment, and if there is, they should be reported to the BACB, and they will lose their certification. ALSO you cite Behaviorism, and Behavioral therapy; these are NOT ABA!!!! ABA evolved from Radical Behaviorism, but Behaviorism encompasses other practices! In addition if you search ‘Behavioral Therapy’ you will likely find things on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is NOT Applied Behavior Analysis. Just because something has the word Behavior or Behavioral, does NOT mean it is Applied Behavior Analysis.

        My challenge to you would be to not discount the field of ABA, but to do your research on what ABA really is, the foundational principles, and set forward to make a change in the field. When the principles and techniques of ABA are used appropriately, ABA is very beneficial, and necessary for most. ABA can do so much good, especially in school districts, where the services available to Autistic individuals are virtually non-existent. With your passion and convictions, I think you could do a lot of good! Even if you do not go into the field of ABA, you should stay in the field of helping those with special needs, and rather than working AGAINST ABA/BCBAs, work with us to help create change in the field where you see it is needed!

        2.05 Rights and Prerogatives of Clients. RBT
        (a) The rights of the client are paramount and behavior analysts support clients’ legal rights and
        prerogatives.

        (d) Clients and supervisees must be informed of their rights and about procedures to lodge complaints
        about professional practices of behavior analysts with the employer, appropriate authorities, and the
        BACB.

        3.03 Behavior-Analytic Assessment Consent.
        (a) Prior to conducting an assessment, behavior analysts must explain to the client the procedures(s) to
        be used, who will participate, and how the resulting information will be used.
        (b) Behavior analysts must obtain the client’s written approval of the assessment procedures before
        implementing them.

        4.01 Conceptual Consistency.
        Behavior analysts design behavior-change programs that are conceptually consistent with behavioranalytic
        principles.
        4.02 Involving Clients in Planning and Consent.
        Behavior analysts involve the client in the planning of and consent for behavior-change programs.
        4.03 Individualized Behavior-Change Programs.
        (a) Behavior analysts must tailor behavior-change programs to the unique behaviors, environmental
        variables, assessment results, and goals of each client.
        (b) Behavior analysts do not plagiarize other professionals’ behavior-change programs.
        4.04 Approving Behavior-Change Programs.
        Behavior analysts must obtain the client’s written approval of the behavior-change program before
        implementation or making significant modifications (e.g., change in goals, use of new procedures).
        4.05 Describing Behavior-Change Program Objectives.
        Behavior analysts describe, in writing, the objectives of the behavior-change program to the client
        before attempting to implement the program. To the extent possible, a risk-benefit analysis should be
        conducted on the procedures to be implemented to reach the objective. The description of program
        objectives and the means by which they will be accomplished is an ongoing process throughout the
        duration of the client-practitioner relationship.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I appreciate the efforts you’ve made to really listen to your clients and ensure you’re treating them with respect. That’s so important. Further, I understand your frustration about criticisms of your field, but please realize that these are very valid criticisms. You yourself may not practice ABA therapy in the exact way that I’ve described. I’m glad if that’s true. But that doesn’t change the fact that many other people in the field of behaviorism and ABA are doing these exact things. And I’ve already acknowledged so many times that there may be forms that are less problematic. I’m really getting tired of BCBAs derailing the discussion by explaining that not all ABA therapy is similar to what I’ve described here. Regardless, the therapy I described still exists, and *that* is the problem.

          I agree that you can find an example of harmful therapy in any field. But the code of ethics for BCBAs explicitly states that aversives are okay as a last resort, which could include electroshock. That is a problem endemic to the field. You personally may not be practicing that way, but you’re still part of a field that uses those methods. I don’t like it either, but it’s just a fact. The form of ABA therapy I did *is* considered ethical under those standards. ABA therapy that uses aversives is still considered ethical. And these are huge problems that continue to this day. They are not products from ABA’s past. The Judge Rotenberg Center is going to be featured at the ABA International conference, for god’s sake (https://www.abainternational.org/events/annual/sanantonio2015/exhibitors.aspx). And I was working in ABA just last year, so please don’t try to discount Autistic people’s experiences by saying they happened years ago. All of this is why I wish you would join me in calling out abusive therapy and bringing it to an end instead of being offended by my criticisms of it.

          I believe that harmful, abusive therapy is far more dangerous than no therapy. And ABA therapy is far from the only option for Autistic kids.

          I’m definitely going to be working to change the field, and I would love to work *with* behaviorists, but again, that’s hard to do when everyone is so defensive about their own therapy instead of working to end the harmful therapies.

          Please read this post by Real Social Skills (and then read the others):
          http://realsocialskills.org/post/99822366632/if-you-want-me-to-believe-youre-a-good

          Like

        2. The things that we’re talking about are being done by fully-certified BCBAs who are members in good standing and do CEUs. We’re not talking about uncertified and uneducated people fraudulently implementing something awful and calling it ABA.

          And none of the autistic people speaking out about this are talking solely about our own experiences.

          If this is all in the past, why does the DynaVox symbol set have seven symbols for quiet hands? Why is stimming explicitly listed as a legitiamte target behavior in the BACB practice guidelines for autism therapy?

          It’s normal for behavior plans to call for ignoring undesired behaviors, even when the person doing them is in obvious distress and trying to communicate that to you. How is actively ignoring a child in your care anything other than an aversive punishment?

          (Also, I don’t think that using rewards rather than aversive punishment procedures is actually a hugely meaningful difference anyway. I think it’s largely aesthetic.)

          Like

  37. Dear sociallyanxiousadvocate, thank you for your permission to post and share my translation of your contribution into German. If you ever happen to be able to use it — here it is:

    “Warum ich mit ABA aufgehört habe”

    22. Mai 2015, von sociallyanxiousadvocate

    Als ich ABA-Therapeut wurde, war ich anfänglich freudig erregt. Ich würde tatsächlich meinen Psychologieabschluss verwenden können, mehr als den Mindestlohn erhalten und vor allem etwas Positives im Leben autistischer Kinder bewirken können. Oder wenigstens dachte ich genau dies.
    Jetzt blicke ich zurück, und das Jahr, das ich mit der Arbeit für ABA verbrachte, führt zu meiner einzig großen Reue.
    Als ich das drangab, war das keine Entscheidung, die ich über Nacht traf. Es war ein langer, schwerer Prozess, voller Verleugnung und Verwirrung. Ich spreche nicht gerne darüber, weil ich so viel Falsches gemacht habe, das sich auf das Leben von Kindern auswirkte, und ich will mich da wirklich nicht reinwaschen. Aber ich möchte, dass Sie ein Gespür dafür erhalten, wie dieser Prozess aussah, falls jemand zufällig in der gleichen Lage ist wie ich.
    Ehe ich weitermache, möchte ich sagen, dass ich der Autistengemeinschaft so dankbar dafür bin, dass sie Dinge aus ihrem Leben und ihre Erfahrungen mitgeteilt hat. Wahrscheinlich würde ich heute noch mit ABA arbeiten, wenn sie sich nicht unermüdlich bemüht hätte, es Behindertenfeindlichkeit zu nennen, was mir half, das in meinem Leben und in meiner Arbeit zu erkennen. Auf ihre Stimmen und ihre traumatischen Erfahrungen mit ABA zu hören, ließ mich damit aufhören, und nichts an der folgenden Kritik an ABA stammt von mir. Ich erfuhr alles von Autisten, und ich werde hier viele ihrer Schriften und Videos, die meine Entscheidung, aufzuhören, beeinflussten, verlinken.
    Da ABA sich an vorderster Stelle auf das Leben von Autisten auswirkt, sind ihre Stimmen der wichtigste Teil dieser Diskussion, und es ist wesentlich, dass Sie auf das hören, was sie ausdrücken.
    Und natürlich sind die Links in diesem Beitrag nur eine kleine Auswahl aus all den unschätzbaren Informationen, die es in der Autistengemeinschaft gibt – Sie können so viel lernen, wenn Sie weiterhin nach autistischen Schreibern und Sprechern suchen. Ehe Sie weiterlesen, empfehle ich Ihnen, die FAQ-Seite über Autismus von Autistic Hoya und das Video von Amythest Schaber anzusehen, weil es bereits so viel Fehlinformation darüber gibt, was Autismus ist. Und es gibt keine bessere Fachperson über Autismus als einen Autisten selbst.
    Ich möchte auch, dass Sie sehen, dass viele Therapieformen für autistische Kinder sich „ABA“ nennen, aber nicht alle würde man als das herkömmliche ABA betrachten, und so mögen sie weniger problematisch sein als die Formen, die ich in diesem Beitrag besprechen werde. Oftmals wird eine Therapie nur deshalb ABA genannt, damit die Krankenversicherung sie bezahlt. Darum kann es einen verwirren, über ABA zu sprechen, weil der Begriff verwendet wird, um eine breite Vielfalt von Lehrmethoden zu umfassen. Bitte verstehen Sie, wenn ich in diesem Beitrag über ABA spreche, dann rede ich darüber aus meiner eigenen Erfahrung. Diese Seite […] ist eine gute Zusammenfassung der Arten von ABA, die ich durchgeführt habe (obwohl ich nie dort speziell gearbeitet habe), zu denen das Discrete Trial Training (DTT), das Natural Environment Training (NET) und das Irrtumsfreie Lernen gehören.
    Als ich als ABA-Therapeut zu arbeiten begann, hatte ich vorher kaum etwas über ABA gehört, und es war für mich etwas uneingängig. Ich habe es gegoogelt, und ich fand Seiten über Seiten mit glühenden Berichten von Familien darüber, wie sehr ABA ihren autistischen Kindern geholfen habe. Ich sah, dass Autism Speaks, die größte und bekannteste Fürsprechergruppe über Autismus in den USA, ABA förderte. Ich sah, dass ABA eine evidenzbasierte Praktik aufgrund wissenschaftlicher Forschung sei, und dass es die am meisten verbreitete Therapie für autistische Kinder in Amerika ist. Leute, die als „Autismusexperten“ gelten, empfahlen es sehr. Ich ging mit dem Gefühl los, es sei ein großes Werk, was ich da tue.
    Doch ich machte auch die erste kleine Bekanntschaft mit anderen, kritischeren Sichtweisen. Ich wusste nicht, wie ich mit den nonverbalen Kindern umgehen sollte, mit denen ich arbeitete, und das veranlasste mich, etwas beiläufig über die Erfahrungen von autistischen Menschen nachzuforschen. Schließlich fand ich Ido Kedars wunderbares Buch über seine Erfahrungen als nonverbaler Autist, und er lehrte mich, dass die Fähigkeit zu sprechen nichts über die Intelligenz von jemandem aussagt. Ido kritisierte ABA offen, weil es unter anderem nicht diese einfache Tatsache anerkannte, und er schreibt in seinem Blog oft darüber, wie sehr er von seinem ABA-Team unterschätzt wurde (wie dieser Beitrag). Seine Erfahrungen hinterließen einige Zweifel bei mir über dieses Feld, aber eine negative Ansicht konnte nun wirklich nicht all das Positive um ABA herum wegwischen.
    Und das ist es großenteils, was ich in den folgenden Monaten tat. Ich nahm mir einiges an Idos Kritik zu Herzen und hatte die Sorge, ABA sei für nonverbale Kinder nicht immer eine gute Option, doch es hatte immer noch den Anschein, als könne es einigen helfen. So konzentrierte ich mich darauf, zu lernen, meine Arbeit gut zu machen und zu versuchen, die Art von Therapeut zu sein, die niemals an der Intelligenz eines Kindes zweifelte. Ich meinte, das reiche.
    Nach einer Weile beschloss ich, mehr Meinungen über ABA von Autisten selbst zu erhalten. Ich ging wieder zu Google und begann, eine lebendige Online-Gemeinde aus Autisten und ihren Verbündeten zu entdecken.
    Als ich anfing, mehr Blogs und Artikel von Autisten über ihr Trauma als Ergebnis von ABA zu finden, war ich so entsetzt, dass ich sie kaum zu Ende lesen konnte. Dieser Eintrag […] von Unstrange Mind war einer der ersten, die ich fand, und er ließ mich echt an meiner Arbeit zweifeln.
    Aber ich war auch schnell mit einer Rechtfertigung für mich dabei. Was immer ich las, es wäre leicht, etwas über die Erfahrung eines Autors mit ABA zu finden, was anders als meine war. Ich redete mir ein, das ABA, das ich ausübte, sei nicht dasselbe, weil wir keine negativen Verstärker verwendeten; oder weil wir Optionen für positive Verstärker hatten, die die Autoren nicht hatten; oder weil einige Kinder so große Fortschritte machten; oder weil mir die Kinder wirklich am Herzen lagen.
    Dieser letzte Grund war für mich der tröstlichste. Ich glaubte, weil ich mich um das Wohlergehen der Kinder kümmerte und den starken Wunsch hatte, ihnen zu helfen, müsse daher alles, was ich tat, in ihrem besten Interesse sein. Das hat mich besonders unempfänglich dafür gemacht, dass ich Fehler beginge.
    Sich kümmern bedeutete, ich könne ihnen keinesfalls schaden. Jetzt erkenne ich, wie gefährlich diese Vorstellung wirklich ist. Ich habe vielen Menschen geschadet, die mir sehr am Herzen lagen. Sich um jemanden zu kümmern oder gute Absichten zu haben heißt noch lange nicht, das Beste für ihn zu tun.
    Aber ich war überzeugt, ABA könne nicht schaden, weil es erfunden wurde, um zu helfen – das glaubte ich jedenfalls damals. Das Ergebnis dieser Denkweise ist, dass autistische Kinder wiederholt gezwungen werden, Dinge zu tun, die unnatürlich, uninteressant oder sogar schmerzhaft für sie sind, und das alles im Namen der „Therapie“ – und alles mit Lächeln und lebhaften Attitüden seitens der Therapeuten, die das fordern. Die Kinder mögen weinen. Sie mögen wegzulaufen versuchen. Sie mögen sich widersetzen. Aber sie müssen es tun, weil wir entschieden haben, das sei gut für sie und wir würden ihnen ja helfen. Vielleicht sind sie ja gerade einfach nicht in der Lage, das zu sehen oder zu verstehen. Real Social Skills schreibt sehr pointiert über diese Art von Haltung bei Therapeuten in diesem Eintrag […].
    Dieses Gesamtkonzept nennt sich Gehorsamstraining, und es ist ein vielen ABA-Programmen innewohnender Teil. Die Regel ist, wenn man als ABA-Therapeut einen Befehl erteilt, muss man ihn befolgen, egal worin er besteht. Versucht ein Kind, zu weinen oder wegzulaufen oder in andere „Verhaltensweisen“ zu verfallen, dann darf man nicht nachgeben, denn dann bestärkt man nur sein schlechtes Verhalten und macht es wahrscheinlicher, dass es künftig darauf zurückgreift.
    Hoffentlich können Sie sehen, wie verstörend diese Vorstellung ist, wie ich es nun tue. Gehorsamstraining lässt für das Kind keinen Weg zu, „Nein“ zu sagen, wenn ein Therapeut einen Befehl erteilt, weil jeder davon ausgeht, das Kind habe keinen hinreichenden Grund, sich zu weigern, etwas zu tun. Dieses Video von Amythest Schaber […] (alias Neurowonderful) erklärt, warum das so schädlich ist.
    Wie Amythest erklärt, sendet das Gehorsamstraining eine verheerende Botschaft an autistische Kinder: sie dürften nie „Nein“ sagen. Es sagt ihnen, ihre Gefühle gälten nicht, und am Schlimmsten: etwas stimme mit ihnen überhaupt nicht, wenn sie durch Dinge verletzt oder genervt werden, die uns nicht verletzen oder auf die Nerven gehen. Als bedeute „neurotypisch“ automatisch, dass wir irgendwie wüssten, was das Beste für ein autistisches Kind ist.
    Gehorsamstraining wird doppelt gefährlich, wenn es nicht in einem wirklichen Verständnis der Erfahrungen autistischer Menschen wurzelt. Häufig ist es ein vielen Zielen von ABA zugrunde liegender Grund, den Kindern beizubringen, weniger autistisch auszusehen und zu handeln. Wenn ein Kind Verhaltensweisen zeigt, die den Neurotypikern in seiner Umgebung „repetierend“ oder „obsessiv“ erscheinen oder einfach nicht verstanden werden, dann versuchen Behavioristen oft, dies zu ändern. Stimming ist das bekannteste Beispiel dafür, aber es könnte alles mögliche sein. Auf Zehenspitzen gehen, zu oft über dasselbe Thema reden, Echolalie verwenden, ein intensives Interesse haben, keinen Augenkontakt herstellen, die Ohren zuhalten, nicht in spezifischer Weise mit Spielzeug umgehen – alles, was Behavioristen als „unangemessen“ betrachten, wird oft zum Ziel, woran das Kind arbeiten muss, um es zu ändern. (Wenn Sie nicht wissen, was Stimming ist: Amythest hat zwei großartige Videos […]. Sie können auch den Eintrag von BjforShaw lesen.)
    Das Problem ist, dass diese Art von Zielen vollkommen die Tatsache abtut, dass jeder einen Grund dafür hat, etwas zu tun. Dass jemand anders nicht versteht, warum ein Kind mit den Händen schlägt oder sich die Ohren zuhält oder irgend etwas anderes tut, heißt noch lange nicht, dass es dafür keinen hinreichenden Grund gibt.
    Da zu Autismus auch häufig besondere sensorische Empfindlichkeiten gehören, ergibt es völlig Sinn, dass Autisten anders auf die Welt reagieren als Neurotypiker. Tatsächlich haben viele Autisten bereits erklärt, es gebe einen Grund für ihr Stimming und andere repetierende Verhaltensweisen, die Neurotypikern vielleicht als merkwürdig erscheinen – zum Beispiel ist das ein natürlicher Ausdruck von Gefühlen und hilft, überströmenden sensorischen Input zu regulieren, wie Amythest in ihrem ersten Video über Stimming es erklärt. Dinge, die ein Neurotypiker kaum bemerken würde, zum Beispiel flackernde Leuchtstoffröhren oder leise Hintergrundmusik, können für jemanden mit erhöht reagierenden sensorischen Systemen erdrückend sein. Das heißt, einem Kind das Stimming zu verbieten – das oft in einem Unterbrechen oder Verhindern besteht, indem man mit körperlicher Gewalt die Hände an seine Seite oder auf den Tisch zwingt –, könnte für das Kind körperlich schmerzhaft sein. Julia Bascom schreibt darüber, wie entsetzlich diese Erfahrung ist […]. Beim Augenkontakt ist es ähnlich; viele Autisten haben auch gesagt, direkter Augenkontakt sei eine sehr erdrückende sensorische Erfahrung, wie Judy Endows in einem Eintrag […].
    Gehorsamstraining und schädliche Therapieziele sind bei vielen Formen von ABA die beiden größten Probleme, doch es gibt eine Vielzahl von Befürchtungen, die Autisten und ihre Verbündeten nach ihren Erfahrungen erhoben haben. Es folgt eine keineswegs vollständige Liste, doch dies sind weitere Befürchtungen:
    • Der Gebrauch ausdrücklich negativer Verstärker, um aktiv inakzeptables Verhalten zu unterbinden (siehe den Eintrag von Ink and Daggers).
    • Alle Belohnungen zurückhalten, bis das Kind darum bittet oder sie verdient, einschließlich Nahrung, Unterbrechungen und Zuwendung.
    • Keine freien Zeiten oder nur kurze Pausen bei 5-8-Stunden-Tagen (wiederum der Eintrag von Unstrange Mind, der im Einzelnen auch weitere Probleme bei ABA erklärt, darunter die Ziele, die Kinder „normal“ machen sollen).
    • Das Nichterkennen motorischer Apraxie, die den Anschein erwecken kann, ein Autist verstehe einen Befehl nicht, wenn er in Wirklichkeit vielleicht nicht in der Lage ist, seinen Körper dahin zu bekommen, ihm zu gehorchen, weil er eine Fehlverbindung zwischen Sinn und Körper erlebt (siehe nochmals den Eintrag von Ido Kedar, den Eintrag von Amy Sequenzia und den Eintrag in Emmas Hope Book).
    • Es erlaubt Behavioristen zu viel Macht (siehe den Eintrag von Real Social Skills).
    • Es verwendet verbale („ruhige Hände“, „“liebe Hände“, „Hände herunter“) und körperliche Aufforderungen, um Kinder vom Stimming abzuhalten (siehe nochmals den Eintrag von Julia Bascom).
    • Es benutzt Benennungen von Funktionen, um die Fähigkeiten eines Kindes zu definieren (siehe diesen Eintrag […] bei Musings of an Aspie und dieses Video […] von Amythest Schaber).
    • Es verwendet routinemäßig physische Einschränkungen als Lösung bei Kindern, die gewalttätiges oder destruktives Verhalten zeigen, anstatt als allerletzte Möglichkeit bei Verhalten, das als schädlich erkannt wird (siehe diesen Eintrag […] von Real Social Skills und diese Checkliste […] bei We Are Like Your Child, um Quellen für Aggression zu identifizieren).
    • Man nimmt nicht an, Kinder seien kompetent und hätten, verwandt damit, keine adäquaten Kommunikationsmittel (siehe diesen Eintrag […] bei Emmas Hope Book und diesen Eintrag […] von Ido Kedar).
    Von diesen Dingen hatte ich bei ABA bis auf das Erstgenannte Anteil an allen.
    Als ich in dem Bereich eingebunden war, erkannte ich nicht völlig die behindertenfeindliche Denkweise, die so vielen der Programme für Kinder zugrunde lag. Andere hatten jahrelang auf dem Gebiet gearbeitet und sprachen mit Zuversicht über die von ihnen benutzten Lehrmethoden. Eltern vertrauten ihnen; und einer Menge wurde vermutlich das Gleiche gesagt wie mir. Die Menschen, mit denen ich arbeitete, behandelten mich freundlich und rücksichtsvoll. Ich hörte wiederholt, es sei die einzige wissenschaftliche, evidenzbasierte Methode für autistische Kinder und auch die effektivste, daher vertraute ich dem die Zulassung für Verhaltensanalytiker erteilenden Gremium, das die Kinderprogramme schrieb, und nahm an, es gebe einen guten Grund, warum wir taten, was wir taten.
    Natürlich ist Unkenntnis keine Entschuldigung. Ob ich mir die Zeit nahm, Autisten zuzuhören, oder nicht, die ABA-Therapie, die ich ausübte, war für diese Kinder schädlich. Ob ich das wusste oder nicht, änderte nichts daran.
    Es dauerte eine Zeit, bis ich völlig erkannte und akzeptierte, warum viele Autisten gegen ABA sind. Ich pflegte aufzuwachen und zur Arbeit zu gehen, entschlossen, weitere Gründe zu finden, warum mein ABA gut sei. Ich fühlte mich glücklich, wenn ich meinen Klienten sah, und achtete darauf, dass auch er glücklich war, mich zu sehen. Ich war mit Leuten zusammen, die ich bewunderte und respektierte, ich hörte von den Fortschritten der Kinder, und in diesen Momenten fühlte sich alles, was ich am vergangenen Abend gelesen hatte, nur wie ein schlechter Traum an. Dann ging ich nach Hause, suchte nach Weiterem, was Autisten über ABA zu sagen hatten, und musste mir wiederum einreden, mein ABA sei doch anders.
    In dieser Zeit versuchte ich alles mir Mögliche, um zu sehen, ob es einen Weg gab, mit ABA zu arbeiten, ohne ethische Probleme zu bekommen, aber ich fand wiederholt, dass ich eine Entscheidung zwischen ABA und meiner Achtung vor dem Kind treffen musste.
    Belohnungen zu verweigern gehörte zu ABA. Kinder zum Reden oder zu Zeichensprache zu bringen, selbst wenn das deutlich nicht die beste Kommunikationsweise für sie war, gehörte zu ABA. Stimming auszulöschen, Augenkontakt zu erzwingen, neurotypische Spielfähigkeiten beizubringen gehörte zu ABA. Gehorsam zu erzwingen gehörte zu ABA. Wenn ich dies alles nicht tun wollte, dann hieß das, ich konnte kein ABA-Therapeut sein.
    Als ich schließlich begann, meine Zweifel gegenüber den Personen, mit denen ich zusammenarbeitete, zu äußern, war die häufigste Verteidigung, die ich hörte: ABA ist eine wissenschaftliche, evidenzbasierte Methode, und wir müssen uns mehr auf wissenschaftliche Studien als auf anekdotische Erzählungen von Autisten selbst verlassen.
    Doch diese Worte sind bei vielen Fällen von ABA nicht so eindrucksvoll, wie sie zu sein scheinen. Ja, die Methoden bei ABA sind „wirkungsvoll“, aber nur in dem Sinne, dass eine Menge Autisten, die ABA durchlaufen, später „weniger autistisch“ aussehen. Das heißt, ein autistisches Kind wird wahrscheinlich lernen, autistische Verhaltensweisen zu unterdrücken, wenn es ABA durchläuft, das ein Normalmachen zum Ziel hat. Aber das sagt nichts darüber, wie sich ABA auf das Selbstbewusstsein eines Autisten auswirkt, auf seinen emotionalen Zustand und sein Weltbild. Es sagt nichts darüber, ob ABA ethisch ist. Wenn wir es daran messen, ob ABA Autisten hilft, sich in einer großenteils neurotypischen Welt sicher, angepasst und akzeptiert zu fühlen, dann ist ABA gemäß den überwältigenden Aussagen aus der Autistengemeinschaft sehr wirkungslos.
    Hier kommt ein Beispiel. Wenn jemand ein Kind schlägt, um es an etwas zu hindern, das er nicht mag, würde das Kind wohl damit aufhören, und dann könnten Sie sagen, Schläge seien eine „effektive“ Methode. Man könnte als Teil einer wissenschaftlichen Studie sogar Daten erheben, um zu zeigen, dass die Verhaltensweisen des Kindes abebbten, nachdem man anfing, es zu schlagen. Doch offenkundig bedeutet das nicht, dass jemand ein Kind schlagen sollte. Es bedeutet nicht, dass Schläge keine Misshandlung sind. Es bedeutet nicht, dass das Kind gesund und glücklich darüber, wer es ist, aufwächst. Misshandlung ist niemals in Ordnung, und die Wissenschaft kann die Ethik einer Methode nicht ansprechen.
    Noch besorgniserregender ist, dass ABA von Ivar Lovaas begründet wurde, der unverhohlen sagte, er glaube, Autisten seien gar keine Menschen. Dies ist ein wörtliches Zitat von ihm: „Sehen Sie, Sie beginnen eigentlich ganz von vorne, wenn Sie mit einem autistischen Kind arbeiten. Sie haben eine Person im physischen Sinne vor sich – sie hat Haare, eine Nase und einen Mund –, aber es ist kein Mensch im psychologischen Sinne. Ein Weg, die Aufgabe zu betrachten, autistischen Kindern zu helfen, ist, es so zu sehen, dass man einen Menschen konstruiert. Sie haben das Rohmaterial, aber Sie müssen die Person erbauen.“ Lovaas verwendete auch Elektroschocks bei autistischen Kindern.
    Natürlich würden heutzutage nur sehr wenige Leute bei ABA offen dem zustimmen, was Lovaas über Autisten gesagt hat. Die meisten kennen das wahrscheinlich nicht einmal. Aber sein Denken wird bei vielen Aspekten von ABA immer noch sehr deutlich – zu viele Behavioristen tun die Tatsache ab, Autisten hätten gute Gründe, die Dinge auf ihre Weise zu tun, auch wenn es jetzt eine ganze Gemeinde von autistischen Eigenanwälten gibt, um die eigenen Erfahrungen zu erklären.
    Wenn es Ihr Ziel ist, einer bestimmten Gemeinschaft zu helfen, dann ist eins der ersten Dinge, die Sie tun sollten, sicherzugehen, dass Sie in Kontakt mit der Gruppe sind, der Sie zu helfen versuchen. Ihre Stimmen sind wichtiger als die eines jeden anderen. Und doch bleiben viele ABA-Programme völlig von der Autistengemeinschaft abgekoppelt.
    Als ich einmal erkannte, dass sich nichts ändern würde, nachdem ich meine Zweifel äußerte, konnte ich mich schließlich nicht mehr herausreden. ABA war falsch, und ich musste da heraus. Ich stellte eine Liste mit vielen der Anti-ABA-Artikel zusammen, die ich bei der Autistengemeinschaft gelesen hatte, schickte sie per E-Mail an meine Supervisoren, redete noch einmal mit ein paar von ihnen, warum ich ABA aufgab, und dann ging ich nichts wie der Teufel da raus.
    Ich bin so froh, dass ich da weggehen konnte. Aber es gibt immer noch weitaus zu viele autistische Kinder, die nicht weggehen können, egal wie sehr sie es möchten.
    Kinder, die mir am Herzen liegen, sind immer noch bei ABA, 5 Tage pro Woche 25-40 Stunden lang. Und sie könnten mit Leichtigkeit ein weiteres Jahrzehnt oder mehr von ihrem Leben dort verbringen. Viele werden in dem Gebiet aufwachsen und die Botschaft verinnerlichen, sie seien fehlerhaft, nur weil sie mit einem anderen Neurotypus geboren wurden. Einfaches Faktum ist, dass viele Autisten, die ABA durchmachten, es als Misshandlung schildern, und einige haben daraus sogar eine posttraumatische Belastungsstörung.
    Wenn Sie mit Behaviorismus oder ABA arbeiten – wenn Ihre Tätigkeit einige der oben erwähnten Merkmale hat –, dann nehmen Sie sich bitte die Zeit, zu lesen, was Autisten sagen, und schätzen Sie wirklich ab, ob Sie helfen oder schaden. Reden Sie mit Ihren Supervisoren oder Kollegen über das, was Sie bei Menschen in der Autistengemeinschaft gelesen haben. Fragen Sie sich selbst, ob Sie sich wohl dabei fühlen, mit einem Autisten über Ihre Arbeit zu sprechen. Ich weiß, dass das beängstigend ist, und ganz ehrlich: Es ist nicht leicht. Es war nicht leicht für mich. Aber ich habe es geschafft, und das können Sie auch.
    Und vergessen Sie auch nicht, dass es nicht um Sie geht. Es geht nicht darum, was für Sie am leichtesten oder bequemsten oder am besten für Ihre Karriere ist. Es geht hier um autistische Kinder und Erwachsene, die mit dem Gefühl von Trauma und Entwertung aufwachsen. Es geht darum, Autisten damit zu helfen, unsere Gesellschaft sicherer und alle Arten von Neurotypus akzeptierend zu machen und sie an sie anzupassen. Stellen Sie sicher, dass Sie für dieses Ziel und nicht dagegen kämpfen!

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  38. Where’s the scientific journal articles and appropriate literature referenced in this document? All I see are wikipedia and google articles which invalidates any argument as mere opinion.

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  39. Hi Steph, thank you for writing this! I am a mom of a very smart non-speaking 12 year old Autistic boy (he self identifies as “Autisitic”). We have a blog which I started, but he has pretty much taken over it. I wanted to share a blogpost about how we also left ABA behind and never went back. My reasoning was that even if ABA had all the scientific backing in the world, if it didn’t help, we had to find a method that did. For us, that method is Rapid Primpting Method (RPM) which is the same as Ido’s. In just the 3 years he has been communicating with the RPM method, we have seen a transformation in his life and our family. We treat our son, not by our reactions to how he acts differently, but as an intelligent human being. Philip communicates beautifully and is on track to mainstream education. Not only that, but we have seen an increasing peace and happiness in his countenance, a maturity to try new things, and we have seen Philip set goals for himself which he can realistically achieve. He wants to be an advocate and writer- things he is already doing at school and through his blog. There truly is a better way than ABA. Here is a link to how we switched from and ABA school to public school: http://faithhopeloveautism.blogspot.com/2014/01/changing-schools.html

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    1. Rapid Prompting Method?

      So, let’s all be anti-ABA (despite the plethora of studies that demonstrate at least moderate success rates in enabling kids to acquire and further develop skills) in favour of a pseudoscientific thing that has very littly (if any) high-quality evidence to support it.

      Because autistic people apparently are worth real bloody science.

      http://www.science20.com/countering_tackling_woo/blog/why_rapid_prompting_method_still_doesn%E2%80%99t_pass_evidencebased_test-68146
      —–
      Now, if you begin to get a bit critical as to whether this is actually a valid way to teach and what to do if the child doesn’t begin to respond on his own, here’s a sure sign that what’s going on may not be a legitimate sign of actual learning going on:

      “Prompt dependency is preferred to the alternative of allowing no response or no learning to occur. In most cases, once motor skills are learned, the need for and frequency of prompts decreases.”

      In other words, if the child doesn’t respond, do it for him and keep doing it. It won’t be the child’s communication, though.

      Let’s say you have an extremely noise-sensitive autistic child and you decided to do a Soma-style RPM. You crowd the child, because that’s always a good thing to do with space-sensitive people (and many autistic children are; let’s ramp up their anxiety), then let’s start talking rapidly and constantly and begin to rip paper. Repeatedly. Then let’s hold their left hand so they have to use the right (hell to a left-handed kid), because, after all, “Soma encourages right-hand response to stimulate left-brain learning, and to curb a student’s stimming with the left hand. Occasionally a student picks both choices using both hands. Then it becomes necessary for the teacher to hold the left hand just to have the child pick one choice.” Then, don’t allow them to not respond; force the response, instead. Why on earth would someone who is empirical and rational think this is designed to get a productive response out of a child?

      Rapid Prompting Method has been around about a decade. There are no studies whatsoever on this method. There are testimonials. That’s it. There is no way to assess whether autistic individuals who are the recipients of RPM really benefit and gain skills from this method. There is no way to assess whether responses are a result of the prompter’s co-opting.

      I’m fairly sure of one thing. If it were me, and I had an adult doing RPM on me, and I could learn to type, respond, communicate, I sure as all get out would do it as fast as I could just to make the noise and the personal space crowding stop. And I’d have a fair bit of trauma as a result of the experience. But that’s just me.

      Soma and her ardent supporters insist that she really has helped hundreds upon hundreds of autistic kids. We’ll never really know, though, if she really helped them. I mean, if RPM hasn’t undergone testing in a decade, is it really ever likely to? Especially as long as she can make a good living from it? Soma and her supporters insist that it will undergo and is undergoing scientific testing.

      Rapid Prompt Method doesn’t pass the evidence test because it has never been subjected to the rigor of a scientific study. It’s unlikely that it would, either.
      —–

      And don’t anybody tell me that using unproven stuff on autistics is even close to ethical.

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  40. You are an idiot. As you admitted, you have no experience in the REAL aba world. Do you even know what ABA is founded on? How dare you try to convince families who are desparate for help to stray away from a SCIENCE that is proven effective to improve the quality of an individual and their families lives. ABA isnt specific to autistic kids. Behavioral analysis is based off HUMAN and animal behavior. It is the science of the way ALL people and animals learn. We are all reinforced and punished in life which teach us to increase or decrease a particular behavior. We go to work to get paid. We do our job so we don’t get fired. We go the speed limit to avoid tickets. We respect authority to avoid chaos. Autistic kids are no different in the learning process. Shame on you for scaring parents away from an option which can change their families lives for the BETTER. Clearly, you have no idea of the struggle these families endure. It takes a lot of time, energy, and tears, but ABA works if its done correctly. You must not know how to implement treatment appropriately – looks like YOU are the problem. By the way, verbal behavior is a part of ABA.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Good for you for getting out, and thank you for writing about why. I inadvertently went to a talk by an ABA therapist once, and was utterly horrified at the reductive and punitive relationship her approach suggested I establish with my own son.

    To your critics here, if listening to autistic critics who experienced ABA is unconvincing, a couple of other things you might consider reading: “A Review of B. F. Skinner’s VERBAL BEHAVIOR,” and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. Reblogged this on Normal Is Just An Average and commented:
    Working on a sizable post myself, but this article deserves special recognition.

    This is such an important post for people to understand. I am an Autistic that grew up PTSD, hating myself for being broken. That lasted until I was 31, thankfully my parents had nothing to do with how I felt. I was not exposed to ABA, I was simply tormented by others for being the way I am. Not that different of an end result, and it is easy for me to empathize. I’ve had a lot of people that genuinely wanted to help try to “normalize” me instead of understand me or accept me as I am. I’m also working to try to get high profile allies to help shut down the The Judge Rotenberg Center, because it could have easily been me in that place.

    My challenge to behaviorists is to forget the studies they automatically defer to, and rationalize it to the best of their ability in their own words without using those old studies as a crutch.

    Check out where JRC is showing up now: http://autisticadvocacy.org/2015/05/asan-statement-on-jrc-at-association-for-behavior-analysis-international-conference/

    Honestly, I don’t think much is going to change as long as Autism Speaks doesn’t change. Why on Earth are they not be sounding the alarm on JRC?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Because the two organizations have similar end goals, and hence they have an informal (or perhaps it only LOOKS informal) ‘alliance of convenience’.

      Namely, they both have as ultimate goals a fully-synchronized monotonic state of humanity, one in which all who live are extroverted and socially adept, with hard-coded tribalistic notions of dominance-and-submission manifesting as variable levels of dark-triadic behavior and suitable ‘tailored personae’ – with each organization having its own fully-controlled and totally-owned fiefdom, with the current leaders enshrined as Dieties therein.

      Until that end state is reached, they both plan to milk and bilk ‘the stupid public’ of as much social and monetary profit as they can get away with, and in the process, destroy every ‘useless feeder’ they possibly can.

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  43. Unfortunately, I think what you’ve experienced is “bad ABA.” I follow many ABA principles in my treatment with individuals with Autism, but not like you described. Yes, I believe in compliance training, but you also need to teach alternate responses…like asking for a break or help after a demand is given. If a child does that instead of engaging in inappropriate behavior, I am often more than happy to delay the instruction, etc. .Good ABA should focus heavily on antecedent interventions so the child/individual is not trying to escape as much. Breaks = frequent, positive pairing/fun times = throughout the day. I’d encourage you to experience quality ABA services and treatment. It’s a great experience to see children make progress, be more happy, and provide families with hope for continued growth in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. I keep reading posts on here from parents. The “my child’s ABA doesn’t look like that” comments are probably very very accurate. But I wonder for how long that will continue to be the case, especially for those with young children.

    I have a friend (permission granted to speak about this) whose daughter was in an ABA that didn’t “look like that.” Well, it didn’t look like that until she started mastering goals that helped her be more independent. Then suddenly, the therapists started trying to write goals towards normalization. They started pressuring the mom to allow them to do these things. In the end, the mom removed their child from ABA. I’m so thankful to her that she was willing to listen to me that this might happen. She was prepared and she did what she could by removing her child from this ultimately damaging practice of normalization.

    But most parents probably wouldn’t recognize those changes. They would start off with ABA that “doesn’t look like that” and end up with exactly this kind of ABA. It’s so terribly sad. But after you have a child able to communicate and having their needs met, normalization is the next natural direction in ABA. Because it’s then “Well, let’s try to make them not stand out.” or “Let’s help them not be picked on.” Which is really saying, “Let’s tell them that the way they behave is wrong.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Also, how it looks from the outside isn’t necessarily how it looks from the inside. People forget that happy affect is something that you can reinforce for. People who know that they will be treated better if they look happy and praise the people with power over them will tend to do both of those things.

      You can do a lot of awful things to a smiling child in a room full of fun toys.

      Liked by 2 people

  45. I am so impressed by how you have fielded these comments, again and again. You have stayed calm and continued to try and educate commenters in such a professional way. I could never have done this! Thank You! It saddens me to hear the comments.

    I watched children ‘behaving badly’ in an RPM workshop this week. As they ‘protested’ and struggled with their bodies, they continued to spell beautiful thoughts on a letter board. Their ‘behaviors’ were ignored, the RPM provider ‘presumed competence’ and trusted that the student wanted to continue to learn and to communicate. She presumed that each of the students were already working diligently to control a body that would not listen to their mind. The ‘behaviors’ subsided as the student’s anxiety decreased with an improvement in letter board skills.

    Here is a blog post where several non-verbal autistic young adults describe what it feels like with their mind and body ‘disconnected’.

    https://growingkidstherapy.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/the-body-and-brain-disconnect/

    Like

  46. Dear BCBA’s/ABA practitioners:

    You care. You want to make a difference in people’s lives. Then please, PLEASE, listen to the voices of the people whose lives you want to help. HEAR what they have to say about what has gone wrong. Listen to the voices of parents who sought help and care for their children and wound up with children suffering from PTSD as a result of treatment.

    YOU can be the catalyst for change. YOU can make sure that “good” ABA is the only ABA, but only if you can acknowledge that there is BAD ABA, and that it is being done to people who are unable to protect themselves. Please.

    Someone earlier asked, what can we do to change things. You can’t change anything if you deny it’s an issue. As was stated earlier, abuse does happen and continues to happen.

    The Judge Rotenberg Center, which CURRENTLY uses electric shock aversives, is an EXHIBITOR at the 2015 ABAI conference – https://www.abainternational.org/events/annual/sanantonio2015/exhibitors.aspx

    The Center is embroiled in controversy. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/controversy-over-shocking-people-with-autism-behavioral-disorders/

    There IS a problem. You can’t fix it if you deny it.

    YOU do not get to define abuse. You did not EXPERIENCE the abuse. Your NOT experiencing or administering abuse in no way discounts the experience of others who DID experience the abuse.

    Please stop being dismissive.

    The Catholic church is only beginning to recover from the damage done to it by denial/enabling, etc. that was done to “protect” abusive priests. These people were able to continue to abuse – even though the majority of their brethren did NOT abuse – and damaged countless lives, because the abuse was not acknowledged by those in power, was denied by those who didn’t behave in this manner.

    ONLY when courageous, caring, people decided to do the right thing – even though THEY did not do the wrong thing – were the abuses recognized for what they were and dealt with.

    For those who use the “scientifically proven” argument to discount the lived experiences of those who received ABA treaments and did not benefit from it, I recommend this link – http://gernsbacherlab.org/wp-content/uploads/papers/Gernsbacher_Scientifically_Proven_JDLD_2003.pdf

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    1. Patricia,

      I don’t think anybody on the pro-ABA side of the debate is condoning abuse. What we’re dismissing is the author’s central tenet that ABA as an early autism intervention is inherently abusive. The author has not been able to present a coherent argument in support of that claim.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know if it’s inherently abusive. I do know that dehumanizing attitudes towards autistic children and dismissive attitudes towards autistic adults are a fundamental part of BCBA professional culture as it stands right now.

        Do you speak out against these practices as vehemently as you tell critics that not all ABA is like that?

        Liked by 1 person

            1. Mercifully, my every thought and action is not recorded on the internet. But if you like I am happy now to vehemently condemn any extreme form of punishment of a child. The withdrawal of treats is about as dehumanizing as our program ever gets.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Aversives are a secondary point in this post and in every post I’ve written on this issue. Using treats and ignoring as your primary reinforcers doesn’t solve the problems we’re talking about.

                Like

            2. “How? Can you link me to a place where you have done so?”

              Interesting how yo’re asking for evidence of how someone else behaves regarding something. Have you ever provided a single scrap of evidence of PTSD caused by ABA-validated interventions.? Because I haven’t seen you produce a single documented case.

              I’d like to see – for any claimed case of that happening – the following:

              1- the name of a psychiatrist or other appropriate diagnostician who has made the diagnosis;
              2- the date of assessment and of diagnosis, and where the diagnosis was made;
              3- which criteria of the diagnosis were fulfilled;
              4- which aspects of the child’s ABA-validated intervention link to which criteria of of the diagnosis of PTSD;
              5- probability calculations, based on epidemiological/demographical studies and using a structural equation model, demonstrating that any claimed causality is more than a chance level and/or cannot be explained by other phenomena.

              Reason: PTSD can only be diagnosed by someone competent to diagnose it; contiguity of assessment and diagnosis is important, and no parent would waste time getting a child assessed for (and diagnosed with) it; a good diagnostic report will specify criteria fulfilled; a good diagnostic report will relate criteria to events in real life; a good diagnostic report will contain details of things that might go against the diagnosis, in cases where doubt can reasonably be cast on the certainty of that diagnosis being correct, and will seek to offer evidence-based accounting for these things.

              So, whilst you’re expecting someone to run around finding evidence – just for you, mind – that they have “vehemently condemn any form of dehumanizing behaviours or those who do not consider the opinions of others”, you’d better be damn well prepared to provide some accurate evidence yourself for the claims you make. Speculation is piffle. Evidence is paramount.

              And I reckon, being the autistic psychologist that I am, that you’ll not be as willing as I am to providing such evidence.

              People on the spectrum who think it’s okay to make up our own ‘facts’, without regard to evidence, are an embarrassment and a liability to us all.

              Like

              1. Is this guy trying to disrupt the group? Is this conversation being moderated? He is using personalized ad hominem character assassinations. He does not make his profesdion look too appealing, to say the least.

                Like

        1. This is not a true statement at all, I have been working in ABA for 8 years, and I can tell you that dehumanizing anybody with any disability is NOT inherent to BCBAs in any way. In fact as a community we try to make sure we always help the people we serve maintain their humanity and human rights. It is offensive that you would insult people who dedicate our lives to helping others for meager pay in such a way.

          Nobody who disagreed with the stance of this blog That ABA is inherited abusive thinks that we should turn a blind eye to abuse. We are simply stating that the statements of this article do not represent the field, which is in truth comprised of people who chose a career and dedicated our lives to helping others and trying to make a difference.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Choosing a career dedicated to helping others doesn’t make you infallible. Making personal sacrifices doesn’t make you incapable of doing harm. Doing right is an action, not an identity, and you can only do right if you take seriously the possibility that you are doing harm and listen to the people you have power over. That’s the point of this post.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. To those of us who have seen widespread human rights violations and who have had to help people pick up the pieces from experiencing or committing them, statements like yours sound like “who are you going to believe? Me, or your lying eyes?”.

            I know what I’ve seen and I know what people I support have been through. I know what’s on the conscience of formerly passionate advocates and practitioners of ABA who have now rejected the field. If you’re not willing to acknowledge that your colleagues do the things we’re describing with full approval from your professional culture, I’m not willing to believe that you are any different from them.

            Liked by 1 person

  47. Thank you. Even aside from specific concrete issues, the most disturbing aspect of ABA professional culture is what you describe here:

    I thought that because I cared about the kids’ well-being, because I had a strong desire to help them, everything I did must therefore be in their best interest. In my mind, it gave me a special immunity to making mistakes.

    BCBAs do not take their human fallibility anywhere close to seriously enough.

    Like

    1. Student of behavior analysis looking to work outside of autism (and currently assisting in anxiety research) here. I’ve always thought it odd when I read research involving attempts at reducing stereotypy for the sake of reducing stereotypy (though the results of many of those studies have helped clinicians find ways to reduce self-injurious or aggressive behaviors). I think I have been lucky to have professors who have encouraged me to question the ethics of such endeavors, as it appears many practitioners may not have their client’s best interests in mind.

      But my gloating about how great my university and the autism center attached to it is will not undo any damage, nor will it prevent any. I will continue to encourage my peers to keep the interests of their clients in mind, and work to help their clients build towards their goals, and to be wary of attempts to extinguish or punish behavior that is not harmful. And, should circumstances push me in the direction of working in autism therapy, I will keep in mind the words of those who have been harmed by malpractice.

      PS: Be wary of anyone who says they can “cure” autism, no matter what methods they claim to be using.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Behavior therapists that use a pathological approach in their programs tend to have problems helping clients make meaningful progress or building self-efficacy.

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          1. A complicating factor is that a BCBA may well be the professional in someone’s life who has the least contempt for them. Often, no one else thinks that a child (or adult) can learn at all. In that situation, the person who thinks that they can learn to dress themselves and make basic requests through PECS and DTT may well be the most respectful and supportive teacher they have.

            Which says a lot about how terribly our culture treats people with developmental disabilities.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, I agree completely. I didn’t even realize I had that attitude until I started reading criticisms of ABA – I remember reading your post in particular about “Nice Lady Therapists” and realizing how true it was. But before that, it was almost subconscious, which is frightening.

      Thanks for your comments here, and thank you so much for all of the posts you’ve written about ABA as well. Again, your writing really helped make me aware of what was wrong with my job, and everything that you’ve said about ABA has been absolutely true in my experience as an ABA Therapist.

      Liked by 2 people

  48. My son started ABA at 17mths old. 7 days a week 8 hours a day until he was over 3yrs. It was certainly not cruel or harmful to him at all & Without it he wouldn’t be where he is today at 4.5yrs and has completely normal integration and he also wouldn’t of been eating solid food as he never learnt to chew food properly. Without the speech pathology and ABA hand in hand working together we certainly would have never received the results we have today.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this! It is such a sensitive topic and I can see there has been some backlash but you’ve handled it so well and I’m glad this is out there. My son is 8 with severe autism, he is completely non-verbal but last year he started communicating on a letterboard using RPM. Before that he could only use single signs to request things or press single buttons on proloquo2go to request things. Someone sent him this article and asked what he thought about it. I’ll say upfront that his school experience was very traumatizing (he’s now homeschooled) but I know that experience did a lot of damage, I never thought his ABA experience did as much damage as it did. I know it taught him way below his level now that I know how truly intelligent he is, so I knew that must have been frustrating knowing things but not being able to show what you know, but I didn’t understand how much it hurt him. He seemed to like his therapists and they seemed to like him and he didn’t resist it. So after I read him the article he wrote a note to the person that sent it and here is part of what he said: “HAPPY TO READ THAT YOU DON’T LIKE ABA EITHER. I AM HATING ABA BECAUSE IT ALWAYS IS TEACHING ONLY BABY THINGS. ABA ASSUMES AUTISTICS ARE PEOPLE THAT CAN’T LEARN AGE APPROPRIATE THINGS NOT ACKNOWLEDGING THAT WE HAVE BODIES THAT DON’T LISTEN TO OUR MINDS. NICE PEOPLE TEACH ABA AND I KNOW THEY LIKED ME BUT IT IS HARD TO ALWAYS BE TALKED TO LIKE A STUPID PERSON. NO ABA IS GOOD I AM LEARNING SO MANY INTERESTING THINGS NOW. I HOPE ABA STOPS FOR ALL AUTISTICS. IT IS HORRIBLE I FEEL SAD TALKING ABOUT IT.”
    He cried as he was spelling this out. He also told me earlier this week when I asked him what his earliest memory is from when he was younger “I AM EACH DAY ABAING AND I HATE IT”
    It’s the presuming incompetence in ABA that did the most damage, making him prove he knew things beyond a shadow of a doubt before he can move on when he doesn’t have a cooperating body did a lot of damage. You just can’t make assumptions about a child that can’t express themselves. It makes it even harder when it’s nice people that act like they care about you treating you like this. Anyways, thanks again for posting this, it was Ido’s book that inspired me to learn RPM and all of the blogs you linked to helped me understand autism better before I could talk to my son about it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The thing about presuming competence is that it’s really, really contrary to what ABA professional culture thinks of as evidence based. Which says a lot about what “evidence-based” means.

      And the thing about seeming to like therapists is… They are good at using reinforcement to get what they want, and they want to believe that their clients like them and are being helped. They reinforce behavior that makes this appear to be true.

      Or, put another way: They teach you that there is no escape, and then they treat you better if you act like you like them. So of *course* a lot of people are going to act like they like them.

      In that power dynamic, willing affect is not meaningful.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. When an alleged ABA expert says a good point in a good debate about ABA is “baseless” – that ABA is the same as dog training, which it is in many ways, since non-human “organisms,” as they may call us, organisms, have verbal behavior also – then that ABA expert is then, automatically, your “subject” of investigation, if you can look at it that way. It is treating you inhumanely! Those objects, ABA inhumane practicioners, are empathy-disabled, because technically, to those robots, the feelings of other people are unobservable, uncountable, and uncontrollable, as they cannot possibly modify things inside others they cannt see; your feelings are not, therefore, officially, ABA “data” in their cruel scheme of life!

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        2. huh what is baseless mean .do you get help or had behavioral therhies .i still do but it very diff from when I was younger .

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  50. To those saying that what sociallyanxiousadvocate is describing “isn’t real ABA”:

    Here’s a reinforcement inventory, for use figuring out which reinforcers are likely to be effective:
    http://www.aba-instituut.nl/back-site/upload/content/reinforcementinventory.pdf

    The rubric for children includes (among other things): reading, looking at books, kidding and joking, talking to others, helping others, playing a musical instrument, being hugged and kissed, learning a new language, taking piano lessons, being read to, individual conference or counseling, and opportunity to masturbate.

    The list for adults includes (among other things): computers, fruit, listening to music, singing, bagels, wine, aerobics, vacations, having others listen, visiting friends, looking at books, and putting on makeup

    Using something as a reinforcer means that someone only gets it if they comply with the therapist’s instructions.

    Do you consider these to be real ABA?

    It is ok to make a teenager’s opportunities to masturbate contingent on meeting therapy goals? What about their access to reading? What about their access to counseling?

    What about adults? Is it ok to control an adult’s access to food in order to get them to cooperate with therapy? What about their access to their friends? What about their access to books, makeup, and magazines?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “It is ok to make a teenager’s opportunities to masturbate contingent on meeting therapy goals?”

      Well, if the goals of therapy in that issue are the identification of a suitable place to do it, then yes – it IS okay to do that.

      Unless you want autistic teens just going around wanking all over the place in public.
      Which is what you’ll get if you don’t teach the identification of a suitable place in which to masturbate.

      What bit of this is too difficult for you? Because – to me – that much is just plain bloody obvious.

      Like

    2. You’ve posted that reinforcement inventory a lot here. And that’s great. But do you even understand how it is used? Just because there is a list of things on there, doesn’t mean that each and every thing is “exploited” to MAKE someone do what you decide to do! What if the favorite food is chocolate? Is it responsible to allow free-access to chocolate whenever the child wants? What about the adult? If an adult is receiving services, more likely than not, they’re in an institution or group home where their meals are provided for them. Also, their days would be proscribed for them as well. So is the opportunity to earn some extra of your favorite treat for some hard work an ethical dilemma? Let me put it to you this way: If I pick up an extra shift so I can go skiing next weekend, is THAT an ethical dilemma? Skiiing would be on my list of reinforcing activities on this inventory, and it would certainly be withheld if I 1) couldn’t afford it or 2) didn’t have the accrued time off to take the trip!

      As for “advocating for the use of punishment.” I have seen this touted over and over again. The JRC flashed around as a presenter at ABAI as demonstrative of the evil ABA empire. Well, let me just sit here and say it. Yep. Behavior analysts use punishment. With oversight. With CONSENT FROM THE PRIMARY CAREGIVERS. For DANGEROUS, LIFE-THREATENING BEHAVIORS. It’s not in the ethics code explicitly because it’s in our literature. It’s in our classes. In our ethics classes, in our concept classes, it was repeated in every damn class I ever took – every behavior analyst has advocated against the use of punishment UNLESS the person is trying to kill himself or others. Or blind himself. Or eat his flesh. You want case reports on these things? Look it up! As a culture, we shut cases like that in institutions where we don’t have to hear it or see it, but there are brave people out there, who take these cases and say – hmm.. Maybe they don’t have to spend 80% of their day in restraints. Maybe they can get out of that padded room. Maybe they can be treated more HUMANELY. If you see a BCBA today using lemon spray to teach compliance or electric shock to engage in “normal play,” call the behavior analyst certification board. Get their license revoked. You don’t believe that we’re policing our field? Just check out the website. As a science-practitioner model, the field is constantly growing. Let’s do something productive to help it grow! Nobody should ever have to suffer, but to say that “ABA is… (fill-in with any statement that I have read over and over again!)” is the same as me sitting here saying that “occupational therapy is bunk because in my experience, all they ever did was have kids jump to stop tantrumming until it escalaes to the point that kids smash their head through a window because they never learned to wait their turn.” Yup. That was MY experience of witnessing OT. Now do I go around town telling parents that OT causes life-threatening aggression? Bet you guessed that I don’t. Rather, I pocket that experience to make sure I watch what is going on to prevent harm like that from ever happening again.

      I’m not here to discount anyone’s experience as I have myself been a victim of poor therapy. It just angers me when facts are presented in ignorance. Every instance of our evolutionary, cultural and social history has context. All of it. Facts outside of context are just meant to incite emotions, blur thinking and destroy the possibility for rational conversation.

      Like

      1. Correction: The Ass. of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) not only lets Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) extremely painful electric skin shock “torturers” present programs at its events, ABAI also officially “approves” JRC skin shock as being “aligned” with ABAI’s “mission.” This is the kind of dissemination which led me to conclude that ABA is pseudoscience. True science is open about all the facts, not only the facts that make it like look good in practice. ABA is big business, not science! Furthermore, what about the dissent of the child who wants the punitive behaviorist to get of her face, when JRC parents are free to have sex with their partners without their troubled children getting in the way who are imprisoned at JRC and shocked for popping their pimples and getting out of their seats?! http://rewardandconsent.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-judge-rotenberg-center-school-of.html

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  51. there a big on going investigation at the sped Ed privet school I went to on abuse there were some staff that were supper nice if you did everything you were told you got treas like takin out for ice cream an do on .so aba is dangouis in the way that no child will say anything or think it wrong when special treats and gifts are involved all way check behaviors not everything is from autism

    Liked by 1 person

  52. So, where is this Autistic Community that you speak of? Is it in Europe? North America?, or its own island? He continually puts autism in front of the person, community, etc… and shows a complete lack of knowledge on what the correct basic language is, when speaking about people with disabilities… Which, in turn makes me question his knowledge of more complex information. Unfortunately, I do not feel as though this article/ blog was written by an actual BCBA with the proper education to actually be a skilled behavior analyst.

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    1. Kiki – what exactly are you asking? Are you asking where to find the autistic community? I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are actually interested in connecting with the community, but your answer is dripping pretty heavily with sarcasm, so it’s hard to be sure.

      If you are ACTUALLY interested in understanding what autistic people are discussing, interested in, commenting on, and connecting about, then you need to click on the links embedded in this post, because they are the actually autistic people/community you are inquiring about – and seem to be dismissing.

      Regarding the use of “autistic person” vs. “person with autism”. Yes, the “professional community” prefers to use the term “person with……x…..”. The fact is that, in this blog post, The author uses “autistic person” because the autistic people whose words she has read/listened to PREFER THAT. Here is a link, which includes additional links, explaining the difference between IDENTITY-FIRST and person-first language:

      http://autisticadvocacy.org/home/about-asan/identity-first-language/

      Click on the links. Read the words that autistic people have written. Listen to them. Because if you don’t listen to the words (written or spoken) that the people you’re proporting to help are sharing, then you’re not helping.

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  53. I found this article via Kathy Snow’s Disability Is Natural website. I find the discussion enlightening and thought-provoking. Full disclosure here that in PT school ABA was not viewed very favorably. It’s variations and lack of consistent practices made it suspect, as well as some of the claims to “cure” autism.

    That being said, after reading this piece and several of the links I think that there are two extremes being presented. On the one hand, it appears that some are advocating no consequences or redirection for children with autism. Hitting oneself, screaming, and engaging in other aggressive socially inappropriate behaviors is not okay. No one would tolerate that kind of behavior from neurotypical children and it should not be tolerated from children with autism. Children with autism are still children. Simply ignoring or worse allowing the behavior to continue is not preparing these children to be independent individuals. The approach may be different with children who have autism. Modifications/adaptions in the environment/schedule based on the child’s sensory needs may be necessary, but poor behavior still must be addressed.

    On the other hand, spending forty hours a week on eye-contact is a non-functional activity. How does eye-contact really make one more independent? It does not. Additionally, no child should be subjected to 40 hours a week of intense therapy in my mind. When do they have time to be a child? When do they have time to practice skills in a natural environment with peers? What about a normal childhood for these kids? The focus should be on helping children managing/ replacing their stimming behavior, not forced eradication. After all, neurotypicals engage in stimming behaviors we just don’t notice it (anyone click their pen repeatedly? bounce their leg when sitting?).

    As therapists (of all kinds) we do have to encourage children and adults (depending on practice setting) to engage in activities they may not want to do. We are like coaches or personal trainers in that respect. Sometimes we may even have to push people beyond their comfort zones at times. But there is a fine line between coaching and intimidating and pushing someone to do their best and breaking someone’s will. We need to look for cues, respect a child’s no, and understand when they have reached their limit.

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    1. Hi Pediatric PT. You make a lot of good points – but there’s one bit in your post that I think highlights the disconnect that the author is pointing to:

      ” Hitting oneself, screaming, and engaging in other aggressive socially inappropriate behaviors is not okay. No one would tolerate that kind of behavior from neurotypical children and it should not be tolerated from children with autism. ”

      There’s a great post on one of my favorite blogs – http://adiaryofamom.com/2014/03/19/just-what-these-kids-do/ – that speaks to an important assumption – that these “behaviors” are JUST socially inappropriate, when in fact, they are often MORE – which is what the autistic bloggers referenced in the links are trying to say.

      We neurotypicals make assumptions ALL THE TIME. We need to stop and shift our thinking, because we’re not autistic and we’re NOT experiencing the world in the same way. A neurotypical child does NOT experience the world the same way an autistic child does, so to say the behavior wouldn’t be “tolerated” really doesn’t fit, because chances are, the “same” behaviors are happening for completely different reasons. For example – a tantrum and a meltdown are COMPLETELY different. One is controllable and selfish, the other is a reaction to situation/stimuli that is beyond the control of the individual experiencing it.

      Self-injurious, screaming, aggressive, etc. behaviors aren’t “just because”, they are happening for a reason, and should not be behaviorially modified, but investigated. One autistic author created a checklist to help people understand WHY this is going on and to dig deeper, not just try to stop it because it’s “not socially acceptable”, but to stop what’s CAUSING it. http://wearelikeyourchild.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-checklist-for-identifying-sources-of.html

      Sure, autistic kids need discipline like other kids. It’s not ok to throw things or scream when you’re frustrated. BUT we can easily ask a speaking child what’s up.

      Behavior is communication – for all children. But when the communication pathways are scrambled or otherwise impacted, assuming that “inappropriate” behaviors are just what autistic people do and that they have to be fixed is at the heart of this issue.

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