I first time I heard of ABA, it was a newspaper article about parents of autistic children fighting the Irish government, trying to get funding for their children to attend ABA schools. At the time, I thought of it as a classic ‘David vs. Goliath’ situation, and I was naturally on the side of David. But, because my son was just a baby at the time, and I knew very little about autism, or that we were autistic, I didn’t think very much beyond that.
How things have changed. I’m now grateful that the Irish government won’t automatically fund ABA. Now, I’m not naive and I realise this is more about cost-saving by the government, as ABA is very expensive. But I’m still grateful as it limits the number of autistic Irish children being exposed to this so-called therapy.
My first realisation that ABA is not the wonderful thing it was made out to be in that article, was when I started reading books and blogs written by autistics. The first such book, was an anthology published by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, called Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking. The title is a reflection of the ABA demand for “Quiet Hands”, where autistics are forced not to flap or wave their hands, often by making them sit on them. It was a very eye-opening, and heart-breaking, read.
And this, another traumatic account by the parent of an autistic child.
And this from yet another parent.
And then there’s this. From a website dedicated to busting myths about autism.
And here is another piece written, with advice for parents and for therapists.
And this by Sparrow Rose Jones is a very well written piece.
This piece is an answer to parents who say ‘but my child enjoys ABA’.
This piece is written by a professional who teaches autistic children to communicate.
And here is a piece written by a former ABA therapist.
And for those who go on about ‘Old ABA’, this was written in 2015. So, not long ago at all.
There are many many many more.
My final link is by Michelle Dawson. It’s very long but very thorough, about the ethics and science surrounding ‘treatments’ such as ABA.
I recently got some fight-back and defensiveness from parents of autistic children, who are big defenders of ABA. And my question to them was ‘why do you think autistics are against ABA? We’re not saying these things for the fun.’
Unsurprisingly, I never got an answer.
UPDATE: I have just come across this wonderful post with many more links than I have here. Not only on ABA but on ‘social skills’ and ‘compliance’ and ‘indistinguishability’ training. I urge anyone with any interest at all in ABA to read these posts.
UPDATE AUG 2017: Seems ABA has given rise to an offshoot, PBS (which an autistic friend suggested stands for Punish Bloody Stimmers!). Do not be fooled, this is ABA ‘rebranded’ to appear less harmful. Here’s a brilliant blog post about it.
[image of the words: ‘Abusive Bullying of Autistics’ in red]