Professionals typically urge parents of newly diagnosed autistic children to enroll them in early intervention therapies like Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).
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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has established an upper limit on the number of hours spent in intensive therapy for young children, recommending up to 40 per week.
Parents are cautioned about “missing a developmental window,”We are informed that these treatments are supported by decades of study, and that they will preserve our children by making them “indistinguishable from their peers.”
If a family is new to autism, or in full-blown panic mode due to continual cultural derision of it—as I was—they may become desperate for expert advice. They also prefer to do what they are instructed: they place their kids in ABA programs. As I did.
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What most parents are unaware of, and what I only learned recently after working with both autistic individuals with ABA and studying contemporary ABA research, is that autistic children require supports and modifications rather than applied behavior analysis or conversion therapy.”Early treatments” and, especially, ABA are completely backwards for young autistic children.
“I’ve bitten my tongue wanting to ask whether they thought it was because we’re naturally rigid or because we’ve been through compliance training for as long as we can remember,” comments autistic parent Carol Greenburg.
Autistic children require their parents to comprehend that many of their “manifestations” are actually rational in origin.
That when we allow ABA therapists to “extinguish” flapping, echolalia, and other behaviors, Covert punishment of autistics is a type of therapy that aims to make a kid appear less autistic by disrupting the brain’s natural processes for learning.
This occurs because covert punishment is applied in situations where other strategies, such as teaching or behavioral reinforcement, may not be effective.
Autistic children see this as unjustified chastisement since they don’t.Children who appear to be in pain or in discomfort frequently ARE in fact distressed, and rather than instructing them to hide their feelings, we need to find the source.
Researchers have found that ABA can traumatize autistic children, teaching them, “Compliance, learned helplessness, food/reward-obsessed, and magnified sensitivity to sexual and physical abuse,”
According to the article, “therapeutic ABA is linked with many negative side effects, including according to the study. low self-esteem, decreased intrinsic motivation” and other concerning characteristics.
Investigation further revealed that there is “poor evidence” that ABA improves cognitive or adaptive skills and that basic repetitive exercises are detrimental for autistic learning styles.
The third pillar of ABA is evidence-based practice. This pillar makes use of the “experts” (often academic psychologists) to back up therapies that are being used by parents and caregivers in their efforts to modify destructive behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
However, this claim is contradicted by conflicts of interest in research.
Why aren’t more parents of autistic kids against ABA therapy? I would guess that it’s due to a lack of awareness. I certainly wasn’t aware of any better.
Yes, I was aware of how terrible the origins of ABA are, and that its creator, Ivar Lovaas, literally tortured his child test subjects.
Lovaas thought that executing his idea to the letter would be effective. I was certain he intended for these kids to be beaten and shocked with electricity in their faces, bellowing at them like a maniac.
I knew Lovaas believed “forcing [an autistic child] to act normal” could help push him toward normality.
But my child’s ABA was not like that: It used techniques like Pivotal Response Treatment (as seen on Supernanny) and was completely devoid of “aversives.”
However, it was replaced with a drill-driven conditioning that focused on getting my son to complete tasks because an adult instructed him to do so, rather than learning how my son learned best as an autistic person—or why goals like learning to make eye contact make no sense.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have to face the charge against ABA until my son was 13 years old. More significantly, my ignorance is not unique.
Most academic and writing condemning ABA is either disabled rights-oriented or critical of ABA, thus it isn’t on the radar of most parents.
To which parents new to autism are frequently referred, dominant autism organizations like Autism Speaks often promote ABA as a “best” treatment. In the mainstream media, criticism of ABA is uncommon—and if it does appear, it’s part of a “both sides” debate at worst.
There are no parents among them. Michelle Dawson, for example, criticizes ABA’s idea that “if autistic children must be treated ethically, they will be doomed.”The NQA has stated that “behaviors have no inherent meaning,” and they’re completely wrong.
ABA techniques like positive punishment are only used to obtain compliance in order to promote the position of behaviorism over other types of psychology (which is false). They don’t realize that according to Association for Behavior Analysis International.
Many parents are also unlikely to interact with autistic people who can speak about their ABA experiences, and so they don’t realize they could be harming their children by doing so.
While autistic accounts that support ABA do exist, they are frequently internalised ableism: fixated on normal social norms, dismissive of autistic perception and processing, and unaware that autistic people don’t require ABA to learn skills like toileting or to take turns.
Because it is highly regarded and offers a degree of flexibility few other treatment approaches can provide, ABA also happens to be one of the most misunderstood therapies.
Is it any surprise that—irrespective of questionable adoption motives—”rehomed” autistic three-year-old Huxley Stauffer was put in, and did not “respondWhat could Huxley’s experience teach us about the relationship between adoptive parents and their children with Asperger’s Syndrome or other forms of autism?
Is there anything ABA may have made his life more difficult as a disabled transnational adoptee? Huxley’s narrative is a warning to expectations for, and treatment of, our autistic.
How can parents provide support for autistic children without using ABA with them? We must first understand autism, as well as how the interaction of autistic processing, motor, and sensory factors affects behavior.
This book is accessible and user-friendly, with a cast of characters the reader will like. It offers helpful information and strategies to enhance communication while most importantly emphasizing the importance of empathy.
The way that an autistic child’s brain operates may make common performance and adaptive tests irrelevant to his or her quality of life or “outcome.”” This will help parents understand why ABA is ineffective for autistic learning.
Parents must also locate autism experts who not only understand these aspects of being autistic, but who are also aware that autistic people find prolonged interactions with non-autistic persons tiring.—
Parents should learn to be picky about the therapies they choose, rather than subjecting their children to nearly every accepted autism treatment for periods of time that non-autistic kids would never be expected to endure.
Parents must also become selective with regard to methods they accept: Even if your children qualify for specific therapies such as speech therapy or occupational therapy, you must remember that those treatments should be sensitive to, rather than hostile to, the autistic mind.
It might be difficult for parents who see their children advance while using ABA to listen to criticisms of a technique they may consider “the only thing that works.” Some parents may believe that learning such abilities without being subjected to exercises is simply not possible.
Personally,I saw my kid learn to pull up his pants and use a visual schedule, and I declared ABA a success. But now, years later, I’m concerned about some of my son’s less adaptive traits, worry that they may be developed as a result of his years in an ABA program, and regret not knowing better from the start.
I’m concerned that parents are using ABA too much. When things are tough, I want people to consider whether doubling down on more ABA tactics might make them worse.
I’d want parents to think about how stressful it is for an autistic kid in a rage, no matter how irritated he or she is. If parents have never been given a framework to recognize their child’s communication or experience,
if the youngster hasn’t been given the tools to inform his or her parents just how distressed they are, and if as a result the kid has probably lost faith in the adults in his or her life, any “acting out” is frequently that kid advocating for themselves.
So, be wary of parents who claim to be victims of having autistic children while at the same time embracing ABA. Such individuals are unable to acknowledge that when autistic kids have “behaviors” while in ABA, it is usually because they are justifiably distressed.)
Stories like this have been the norm for most of her life, and she has never had the resources to cope or feel safe in an autism-unfriendly society. Be wary of stories from parents who claim they gave up on their older children since they “tried everything,” with the implication that their children are still autistic. Stories blaming the kid’s.
We must listen to autistic individuals with first-hand knowledge of the harm caused by being neglected and misunderstood in order for us all to do our part in ensuring that autistic children are treated properly.
These are not always simple talks to have. Consider what disabled autistic advocate Cal Montgomery said to me, “We don’t know what autism looks like in most autistics.””I want to be able to advocate for myself and ask questions without feeling bad about it,” says my friend.
“And I want them to see who we are—not just the labels that other people would put on us.” We’re not only mentally scarring children with autism, but we’re also ignoring the needs of those who don’t fit.
We need to speak with autistic individuals about the benefits of early intervention. Because my son doesn’t have these conversations, I spoke with Grace Trumpower, a pre-med college student on the autism spectrum.
When Grace was a small kid, their parents were encouraged to undergo sensory exposure treatment, which teaches someone to endure distressing stimuli. It was initially enjoyable for Grace, but it quickly became distressing. And the therapists not only deliberately disregarded her suffering, but they also concealed it from her parents.
According to Grace, the sessions made them feel like In the end, when it came down to it, a treatment room packed with therapeutic things like noise-canceling headphones and weighted blankets that would have actually assisted them cope—but that was not the therapists’ objective.
If we’re going to do right by autistic people at all intersections, we need participatory research—research done with autistic individuals.
There is a tremendous amount of money, effort, and attention being given to the study of people with ADHD rather than those on the autism spectrum. In social and mental health research, participatory study is already becoming more popular.
Behavioral research in autism should catch up now. We should also consider how epidemic hero Dr. Fauci, with his own history of ignoring and then integrating AIDS activists, may help us learn from his past experience: Realflow doesn’t happen until you collaborate with the community you’re trying to assist.
ABA instructors’ and supervisors’ education is based on bad premises. The majority of these experts are motivated by a desire to help disadvantaged youngsters.
However, because they come from a different educational and professional background than those who specialize in behavioral therapy and have no prior experience teaching children with ADHD, it’s difficult for them to see why their theories are so faulty.
And while I’ve encountered ABA “technicians” that are both under-trained and under-committed (euphemism), Despite the bad framework in which the learning occurred, many truly wonderful individuals have worked with my son and taught both of us a great deal—despite the fact that they were working within an edifying environment.
However, if early intervention professionals truly wish to benefit autistic kids,Then, after their children demonstrate that they are capable of learning from what they have learned, parents must transition to better ways to teach our autistic youngsters, methods that do not crush their spirits and hearts.
I can’t reverse the years my kid spent in ABA, but I am now honest with anybody who works with him about why I don’t allow ABA-type techniques.
I let them know they are not permitted to request eye contact or quiet hands, He may not be forced to sit in a chair for extended periods of time. He should not be forced to complete unneeded activities. Unnecessary busywork exercises should not be done.
His voice, requests, and boundaries must all be recognized. He will create his own visual schedule and get periods of rest when he needs them. As a result of this change, he has come to believe that the adults in his life can hear him out and have his back.
He is undoubtedly a happier individual now because of it.
When we want autistic children to enjoy the kind of lives they deserve, professionals must cease promoting stress-triggered ABA and early intervention therapies that tell parents to see their kid as broken and unable to learn any other way.
Instead, help parents learn how to best support and accommodate autistic youngsters. Unless something is done, the next generation of our community’s children will grow up believing that how they react to the world is incorrect, rather than unique.
“I had a lot of stims beaten out of me and my speech therapist was always giving me bonuses for eye contact and ‘quiet hands,'” wrote autistic writer Finn Gardiner.