Questioning ABA Seems Pretty Rational

I just wrote a post the other day about whether treatment for autism is for the patients or caregivers. It’s a tough subject. APs are told ABA is the only autism treatment that is evidence-based. Yet I’ve already read about the person who came up with it, and the guy was scream-and-shout-when-you-read-it awful. He didn’t just test positive reinforcement which is tried and true. He actually had trouble figuring out how to get his research studies into punishment approved by oversight and ethics boards because they were so twisted. Electric shocks to children. Children with autism. For not behaving according to his idea of what was right. He tested out the shocks on his graduate students until they were sufficiently painful to motivate the kids to comply.

A few hours after I mentioned my general qualms about autism treatment, I found a pretty distrubing post. My issue is patients who can’t give consent for treatment. And much of the treatment seems intended to teach the patient to act “normal”, although self care is obviously a part of it as well. My question was what do people with autism who have had the treatment think? They are the people who matter most. Reading this made me sick.

That’s what ABA does to Autistics: it advertises a “treatment” to make us “better”, to “recover” us from the “tragedy” of being neurodivergent, and “experts” praise this as if it is not abuse, while parents fight for insurers to pay for such abuse.

Even worse are the comments where ABA therapists and caregivers argue with the writer about her own feelings with the illogical stubbornness of 100 anti-vaxers.

You can’t argue someone’s own feelings, obviously. It raises a red flag when people try to do that because it suggests that the position they are arguing requires denying opposing viewpoints. And this isn’t a debate over the best diaper pail where we can agree to disagree because it doesn’t really matter who is right. These are children and their well being. Children who can’t consent to this treatment.

As someone who missed out on treatment because I was diagnosed as an adult, I’m going to continue investigating. Who knows what I will find.

Update: It’s been an hour since I finished writing this post and scheduled it for tomorrow and I have already come across another article about how terrible it is, written by a former ABA therapist. Here’s the link.

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

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