I often see posts by parents defending ABA. They emphasise all the “positive” changes in their child’s behaviour. Call it a “miracle” and praise it to high heavens. Many write glowing testimonials on ABA websites. Very satisfied customers. Money well spent.
If I buy new shoes for my kids, and I love them, because they make my kids “look good”, but they hurt my child’s feet and they hate them, should I leave a glowing review on the shoe shop website? Does it matter that I personally will never wear the shoes? Will never have that experience foisted on me? Would you, as a parent who wants their child to have shoes that don’t hurt them, want to read my review? Or would you rather hear what my child thinks of the shoes?
In reading positive reports about ABA, myself and others have looked out for “reviews” written by those who have actually experienced it. We are not as interested in what their parents think of it. And while we have found many reports by people who have been harmed by it, we haven’t come across many “glowing” reports.
The few I’ve seen (I think two in total), have been full of internalised ableism, using Person-first language, functioning labels, and viewing themselves as “disordered” until ABA came along and “fixed” them. These people seemed to have very low self esteem and certainly weren’t an example of the type of autistic adults I hope my children will become.
With ABA, the usual meaning of “customer satisfaction” has been changed dramatically. The child, the person who has ABA done to them, who has to actually endure it, is not the customer, or “client” as they call it. That word is reserved for their parents. The ones paying the money. And as long as the parent is happy, the myth that ABA helps people persists.