NeuroClastic

Is ABA Really “Dog Training for Children”? A Professional Dog Trainer Weighs In.

ABA Therapists like to talk shop with me when they find out that I’m a dog trainer.

“I use the same prin­ci­ples in my work!” they always say eagerly. “It’s all operant con­di­tioning, isn’t it?”

“Well,” I say, “a lot of it anyway.”

I love operant con­di­tioning, and as a dog trainer, I’ve built my career around it.

I hold a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and I took every course on behav­iour mod­i­fi­ca­tion and con­di­tioning that my uni­ver­sity offered. I use it daily when training assis­tance dogs.

So you can imagine I was curious about ABA when I heard about it.

I started reading ABA web­sites, the prin­ci­ples and goals involved. The more I looked into ABA, the more I was exposed to the con­tro­versy around it. While par­ents whose chil­dren have received ABA sing its praises and describe it as the therapy that saved their child, the adult autistic com­mu­nity seems to feel dif­fer­ently.

I dis­cov­ered that autistic adults con­sider it abu­sive, and many who were sub­jected to it as chil­dren claim to have been emo­tion­ally dam­aged.

Some pre­lim­i­nary studies even sug­gest that adults who received ABA as chil­dren are at an increased risk of sui­cide and PTSD.

And quite com­monly on Twitter, I’ve seen people call ABA “dog training for chil­dren.”

When I see that, I tend to go on Twitter rants in reply to it, because from every­thing I have read and seen of ABA, it is NOT “dog training” for chil­dren.

…I would never treat a dog that way.

What is ABA?

I’ll let ABA proponents explain it themselves:

Autism Speaks says:

ABA therapy applies our under­standing of how behavior works to real sit­u­a­tions. The goal is to increase behav­iors that are helpful and decrease behav­iors that are harmful or affect learning.

Autism Canada says:

Behaviour Analysis is the sci­ence of behav­iour. Applied behav­iour analysis (ABA) is the process of sys­tem­at­i­cally applying inter­ven­tions, based upon the prin­ci­ples of learning theory, to improve socially sig­nif­i­cant behav­iours to a mean­ingful degree.

The Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) approach teaches social, motor, and verbal behav­iours, as well as rea­soning skills. ABA treat­ment is espe­cially useful in teaching behav­iours to chil­dren with autism who may oth­er­wise not “pick up” these behav­iours on their own, as other chil­dren would.

AppliedBehaviourAnalysisEdu.org says:

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the prac­tice of applying the psy­cho­log­ical prin­ci­ples of learning theory in a sys­tem­atic way to alter behavior in humans or ani­mals. The prac­tice is used exten­sively in edu­ca­tion, health­care, animal training, and busi­ness man­age­ment. It is par­tic­u­larly promi­nent in the treat­ment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), for which it is one of the only sci­en­tif­i­cally valid ther­a­pies avail­able.

Right away a few things in these descrip­tions strike me as odd.

For one thing, none of them—or any of the infor­ma­tion I’ve found from the ABA dis­ci­pline–make any ref­er­ence to the autistic person’s emo­tions or well being.

It’s all about increasing cer­tain behav­iours and decreasing other behav­iours, as if their stu­dent were a pas­sive recip­ient.

Dog trainers don’t talk about sys­tem­at­i­cally altering behav­iour as if the dog weren’t a thinking, feeling, sen­tient being.

Look at Karen Pryor, who changed the face of dog training by intro­ducing behav­iourism to the wider world. If you’ve ever heard of “clicker training”, you can thank Karen Pryor.

Clicker training is an animal training method based on behav­ioral psy­chology that relies on marking desir­able behavior and rewarding it. Desirable behavior is usu­ally marked by using a “clicker”: a mechan­ical device that makes a short, dis­tinct “click” sound which tells the animal exactly when they’re doing the right thing. This clear form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, com­bined with pos­i­tive rein­force­ment, is an effec­tive, safe, and humane way to teach any animal any behavior that it is phys­i­cally and men­tally capable of doing.

That’s a pretty sci­en­tific way to describe dog training, isn’t it? It sounds a lot like the descrip­tion of ABA.

But notice this dif­fer­ence – this descrip­tion uses words like “com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” “safe,” and “humane.”

Even this brief descrip­tion of operant con­di­tioning as it is used on dogs addresses the dog’s point of view (“tells the animal exactly when they are doing the right thing”) and addresses the emo­tional and phys­ical well being of the dog.

That’s a big dif­fer­ence. The lan­guage of the ABA research and its guiding doc­u­ments struck me as exces­sively clin­ical and dis­tant, espe­cially con­sid­ering that they were dis­cussing not ani­mals, but human chil­dren.

 

Behaviour Analysis Is Not Dog Training

As a dog trainer, what also stood out for me when learning about ABA was the frankly-inaccurate claims that ABA is used on ani­mals.

That’s just not cor­rect. I have a sci­ence degree in behav­ioural psy­chology and I never heard the term “behav­iour analysis” at uni­ver­sity.

If you google “behav­iour analysis,” you will only find sites that refer to autism and intel­lec­tual dis­ability. It simply does not exist out­side of the realm of “ABA.” So their claims that they took an existing sci­ence and applied it to autism is extremely mis­leading.

It is clear that ABA employs some aspects of B.F. Skinner’s rad­ical behav­iourism and this is what they mean when they say “behav­iour analysis.”

Not only is it rec­og­niz­able to anyone familiar with it, but you can also con­firm the con­nec­tion by googling rad­ical behav­iourism. Everything will tell you it under­pins ABA.

The founder of ABA as it exists today, Ivar Lovaas, who is also the father of gay con­ver­sion therapy, derived the prin­ci­ples of his ther­a­pies from rad­ical behav­iourism.

What is Radical Behaviourism?

It’s hard to make this a short answer because the real answer involves a lot of bick­ering about minu­tiae among behav­iourists, but the “tl;dr” of it all is that rad­ical behav­iourism believes that every­thing we do is a behav­iour.

  • Your thoughts are behav­iours.
  • Your feel­ings are behav­iours.
  • All of them can be mod­i­fied or altered through reward and pun­ish­ment as con­se­quences.

Radical Behaviourism is con­sid­ered out-of-date by modern psy­chol­o­gists.

While its prin­ci­ples do work and have largely been upheld in exper­i­mental research, cog­ni­tive sci­ence has found that there are some things that it can’t explain.

Language, for example.

B.F. Skinner tried to explain lan­guage using behav­iourism, but there is a lot in psy­cholin­guis­tics that frankly cannot be explained through behav­iourism.

Some things are larger than reward and pun­ish­ment. Empathy, for example. Creative lan­guage. Storytelling. Music.

So basi­cally, Radical Behaviourism is broadly seen by psy­chology pro­fes­sionals as a sim­plistic and restric­tive theory which is useful in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions but cannot sum up the entirety of the human expe­ri­ence. It doesn’t even sat­is­fac­to­rily answer some ques­tions about behav­iours seen in ani­mals.

I can under­stand why Applied Behaviour Analysts decided to rename it as “Behaviour analysis,” but a rose by any other name is still rad­ical behav­iourism.

In any case, very few dog trainers use the rad­ical behav­iourism that’s employed in ABA.

Most of the dog trainers I know mix and match behav­iourism with other cog­ni­tive sci­ence research and other methods to create a more holistic approach to training their dogs. This is because dog trainers under­stand the limits of behav­iourism on canines, because it doesn’t address the whole dog.

One would hope that someone con­sid­ering using rad­ical behav­iourism on a human being would also rec­og­nize its limits.

So if it isn’t suf­fi­cient to prop­erly train a dog, is it suf­fi­cient in edu­cating a child? Let’s take a look at ABA and the suc­cess rate that ABA pro­po­nents often boast about.

Does Radical Behaviourism Work? How is “Success” Measured?

ABA is good at accom­plishing what it set out to accom­plish. There is plenty of research demon­strating this, and ABA prac­ti­tioners point to it often. This doesn’t sur­prise me. The prin­ci­ples behind rad­ical behav­iourism are sound and well proven. You can use it to change an organism’s behav­iour.

But should you?

Dog trainers spend a lot of time debating what is moral or eth­ical when it comes to changing the behav­iour of their canine stu­dents.

They dis­cuss not only what behav­iours should be taught and which are not, but also what methods are eth­ical and which are not.

Do ABA prac­ti­tioners do the same for the chil­dren in their care?

Are their goals in align­ment with the best inter­ests of the child?

Are their methods of achieving those goals humane and con­sid­erate of the child’s emo­tional and mental health?

Autism Speaks says that ABA helps:

· Increase lan­guage and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills
·  Improve atten­tion, focus, social skills, memory, and aca­d­e­mics
· Decrease problem behav­iors

Autism Ontario says that:

An ABA pro­gram should address the core fea­tures and char­ac­ter­is­tics of ASD (i.e. social skills, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and repet­i­tive pat­terns of behav­iour), as well as any bar­riers to learning (i.e. chal­lenging behav­iours, stereo­typy, etc.)

What struck me about these lists was how out­wardly focused they were. They really are teaching behav­iours, aren’t they?

Nothing about improving the child’s quality of life, relieving anx­iety, or helping the child cope with sen­sory sen­si­tiv­i­ties.

ABA is focused on shaping an autistic child to behave more like a non-autistic child, even to the point of shaping the child to play more like a non-autistic child.

Those are weird goals, quite frankly.

None of these goals refer to improving the quality of life of the child.

I sup­pose that to some it would be redun­dant. People seem to think that if you act normal, then you must feel normal. But that’s not true for people.

It’s not even true for dogs.

The Problem of Operant Conditioning in Dog Training

In my field of dog training, you can use reward and pun­ish­ment to train a dog not to bite when another dog passes by, or when a human touches it. In fact, Cesar Millan does it with great aplomb on TV.

While he talks sci­en­tif­i­cally dis­proven non­sense about dom­i­nance, what he is really using is operant con­di­tioning, the aspect of behav­iourism which ABA ther­a­pists employ. By pun­ishing “problem behav­iours” Cesar makes the dogs stop growling or attacking.

It looks like magic to viewers.

But to cer­ti­fied dog trainers like me, it looks like painting over rotten wood. Worse. It looks like burying a land mine.

We all know that we can feel angry without expressing anger. That we can smile when inside we are crying. You can stop someone from expressing an emo­tion, but that doesn’t make the emo­tion go away.

A dog who has been trained not to growl is con­sid­ered by trainers to be a “time bomb dog.”

When you read about a dog attack that came “out of nowhere” and “without warning,” it is because this sort of method was used to handle “problem behav­iours.”

Studies show that dogs trained with these sorts of methods actu­ally have an increased rate of aggres­sion, because pun­ishing aggres­sive behav­iour doesn’t deal with the under­lying fear and anx­iety that caused the aggres­sion in the first place.

Certified dog trainers help the dog get over their fear… and that uses no operant con­di­tioning what­so­ever.

Deal With The Underlying Problems Before Tackling Behaviour

Before a dog trainer breaks out the operant con­di­tioning, our first task is to ensure that all of the dog’s fun­da­mental needs are being met.

Dogs need to run. Dogs need to dig. Dogs need to chase things. Dogs need to chew things. Dogs need to play with other dogs. These are fun­da­mental needs that cannot be removed from a dog’s psyche, and that can result in a lot of “problem behav­iours” if they are not met.

If the dog is afraid or fearful, we gently encourage them to have pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences with the things that frighten them. It seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive to learn that feeding a dog who is growling at you will end the growling but it does - when the fear is gone, so is the aggres­sion. No operant con­di­tioning required.

There are many times when an owner wants me to “train” the dog out of a behav­iour and I refuse because either the behav­iour is fear-based, or because the goal of the owner is unreasonable/unethical.

Before you train a dog you need to accept that it is a dog.

Yes, I’m happy to use operant con­di­tioning to teach your dog to greet people politely at the door or to pull your wheel­chair (which they love doing anyway) or to lie qui­etly on their bed during dinner.

But when people ask me to train their retrievers not to pick things up in their mouth, or their ter­rier to stop dig­ging, or their puppy to stop mouthing them, I have to sit down with them and have a little talk with them about the fact that they have a dog.

Could I train a retriever not to pick things up? Yes. If I broke out a shock collar I could put an end to it really fast.

But I won’t do it.

The fact is that you bought a retriever and holding things in their mouths is what they love. You bought a ter­rier and they love to dig. You bought a puppy and they love to play.


Relieve fear instead of training the dog not to show its fear. Teach your retriever to retrieve and buy a sandbox for your ter­rier instead of forcing your dog to ignore fun­da­mental instincts.

It’s not only easier – but it’s much kinder.

How Does ABA Ignore Fundamental Needs in Children?

One of the rea­sons par­ents and ABA pro­fes­sionals get so upset when autistic people call ABA “abu­sive” is the fact that they care deeply. They gen­uinely want to improve these chil­dren’s lives. Yet the vast majority of autistic people when polled (typ­i­cally 97%) oppose ABA including and espe­cially those who went through it as chil­dren.

Why is there such a dis­con­nect?

Some of it has to do with a break­down in the way autism is per­ceived. Non-autistic people believe that “nor­malcy” is a fun­da­mental need; indeed, a stated goal of ABA is to make the autistic child “indis­tin­guish­able from [neu­rotyp­ical] peers.”

They think a child who blends into the crowd is a happy child.

When par­ents see their child engaging in unusual behav­iours such as flap­ping, or ignoring other chil­dren, they see a child who is ill or dam­aged.

When they see that child talking and working well at their desk and playing with other chil­dren, they see a child who has been healed. Helped. Saved.

If only they would listen to the autistic adults who are trying to tell them that this is not nec­es­sarily the case. Because in reality, a happy autistic person may not look neu­rotyp­ical.

Knowing how to stack blocks or how to sup­press essen­tial means of reg­u­la­tion and expres­sion (such as flap­ping) doesn’t make an autistic person “hap­pier.” Often, in fact, it makes them less happy.

When you are autistic, talking can be exhausting. Even if you are extremely verbal like I am – adults praised my pre­co­cious vocab­u­lary as a child, and I have often been called a “chat­terbox” – vocal speech is draining. My well of words may be deeper than that of most other autistic people, but it is not bot­tom­less.

Therefore, an autistic child who has been playing, without speaking much, all day may be a more rested and hap­pier child at the end of the day than a child who has been chat­ting up a storm.

A child who is given AAC or other ways to com­mu­ni­cate their needs will be more com­fort­able and better reg­u­lated than a child who has been required to speak aloud… assuming they are even able to meet this demand. An autistic child who spins or jumps is prob­ably stim­ming and/or self-regulating through movement—ways to stay calm.

Flapping and echolalia (repeating words or phrases), sim­i­larly, are expres­sions and often play an impor­tant emo­tional role as well as a devel­op­mental role. Echolalic speech helps autis­tics, many of whom process lan­guage in a dif­ferent part of the brain, to process the lan­guage they have heard and under­stand the meaning of the words.

Yet, ABA seeks to “extin­guish” these things.

A good dog trainer doesn’t extin­guish behav­iours which improve the dog’s mental health and hap­pi­ness. But an ABA prac­ti­tioner may not think twice before doing this to a human child.

In my field, when a dog loves to tug, I don’t oper­antly con­di­tion the dog to play tug less fre­quently. Instead, I play more tug and incor­po­rate obe­di­ence rou­tines with it so that the dog has a blast learning to sit and stay. And, if a dog has prob­lems sit­ting still, I see that as a sign that the dog needs to move. Some dogs are not meant to lie still. Some dogs are meant to play agility and fly­ball, not lie on the couch all day.

Sometimes I have to tell an owner that their dog’s per­son­ality just isn’t suited to what they are trying to achieve.

Could I achieve it? Yes.

I could break out the hard­core reward/punishment and using a com­bi­na­tion of learned help­less­ness and pos­i­tive rein­force­ment. I could change that dog. I could break their spirit. Crush their ability to respond to their own emo­tions.

But I won’t do it.  Because the methods I would have to use would vio­late the Code of Ethics I agreed to when I applied for my cer­ti­fi­ca­tion through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers. The methods would vio­late the rec­om­men­da­tions of every vet­eri­nary med­ical asso­ci­a­tion. The methods would vio­late the stan­dards of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Some goals just aren’t worth it.

…But as it turns out, the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board has no such guiding prin­ci­ples.

Codes of Ethics: Dog Training versus ABA

Like all cer­ti­fying bodies, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board has a pro­fes­sional code of ethics which its cer­ti­f­i­cants must abide by to remain in good standing.

You can read them here.

I was amazed when I read it, because while it goes into great detail regarding what cer­ti­f­i­cants may do with regard to the busi­ness aspect of things, right down to detailed guide­lines on what you can do and say in the media, there is vir­tu­ally nothing about the wel­fare of the therapy’s recip­i­ents.

The Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), by con­trast, ded­i­cates almost the entirety of its code of con­duct to what, when, and how you interact with the animal. While it also covers eth­ical busi­ness prac­tices, its pri­mary con­cern is the well-being of the “learner”.

First of all, the CCPDT has an entire policy ded­i­cated to spec­i­fying in great detail what sorts of methods are con­doned and which are not. The Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers policy is called “Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive” and is referred to in the code of ethics by its acronym, LIMA.

This policy also lays out the “Humane Hierarchy” which advises which methods to start with first (ensure basic phys­ical and emo­tional needs, then redesign the envi­ron­ment to remove antecedents, then employ pos­i­tive rein­force­ment, then use dif­fer­en­tial rein­force­ment of an alter­na­tive behav­iour, and so on), and which methods are only accept­able as a last resort.

The CCPDT Code of Ethics refers fre­quently to this policy which forms the back­bone to the board’s entire frame­work.

If one applied the dog trainer’s code of ethics when working with an autistic child, there­fore, one would first ensure that the child’s basic needs were met. If the child seemed to be under-exercised or lacked suf­fi­cient play­time for an average child’s needs, they would rec­om­mend trying that first.

If that failed to make an impact, one would then pay atten­tion to what sit­u­a­tions impact the child, such as loud and noisy public places. Following the dog trainer’s code of con­duct, one would then rec­om­mend reducing expo­sure to these places, or pro­viding the child with ear defenders and sun­glasses, or gentle expo­sure based on the feed­back of the child.

One could not even con­sider other methods until these had first been tried and found unsuc­cessful. For example, counter-conditioning or desen­si­ti­za­tion could only be con­sid­ered if one could not simply keep the child away from the sit­u­a­tion and if ear defenders, sun­glasses, etc. were not proving helpful.

One cer­tainly could not deprive the child of play­time past the point needed by neu­rotyp­ical chil­dren as part of any training plan, because that would vio­late one of the first steps in the Humane Hierarchy.

This step-by-step guide pro­vided in the CCPDT’s Code of Ethics is designed to ensure the dog’s emo­tional and phys­ical needs are con­sid­ered first and fore­most and to pro­vide a clear guide of accept­able training con­duct to its mem­bers.

The Well-being of Humans, The Well-being of Dogs

The Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (BACB) does not con­sider the well-being of the child through policy or guide­lines.

In fact, in the entire Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s pro­fes­sional code of ethics, a 24 page doc­u­ment, there is only one small sec­tion which refers to the behaviour-change pro­gram, and most of that involves how the plan is doc­u­mented.

It is inter­esting to me that this doc­u­ment uses the word “client” to refer to the learner and the employer (par­ents or care home) inter­change­ably, which means that when it dis­cussed “client con­sent,” it does not specify whether the actual learner has to con­sent.

The way it is written, the learner could give no con­sent at all and the ana­lyst could still be within guide­lines as long as the employer con­sented, regard­less of the learner’s age, intel­lec­tual ability, or com­mu­nica­tive capacity.

Only three sub­sec­tions in the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s pro­fes­sional code of ethics even address the well­being of the learner:

  1. Subsection 4.08 requires that rein­force­ment pro­ce­dures must be pre­ferred over pun­ish­ment pro­ce­dures.
  2. Subsection 4.09 requires that they use the least restric­tive pro­ce­dures nec­es­sary. This is mean­ing­less, how­ever, because it does not define what is con­sid­ered “restric­tive” or lay out a clear guide­line on this.
  3. Subsection 4.10 warns against harmful rein­forcers which could adversely affect the client’s health (pre­sum­ably the learner, not the parent).

None of those three ensure that the pro­ce­dures will be humane, for a few rea­sons.

First, “rein­force­ment” and “pun­ish­ment” do not mean “good” and “bad” in behav­iourism.

When I used to train ser­vice dogs, for example, some of the older trainers still used the old-fashioned, no-longer-recommended method of training a dog to retrieve: they dug their fin­ger­nails into the sen­si­tive tip of the dog’s ear until the dog screamed, while holding out a dumb­bell. As soon as the dog’s mouth closed on the dumb­bell, they stopped pinching the ear.

I refused to use this tech­nique and now, if I were to do so, I would be barred from the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers for doing it. But — and it is impor­tant to under­stand this — it is a “rein­force­ment tech­nique.”

The dog is rewarded for grab­bing the dumb­bell by the trainer ending the pain. That makes it rein­force­ment.

If the CCPDT used the BACB’s code of ethics, I could use that method without breaking their code of con­duct.

The BACB says nothing about inflicting pain. There’s nothing in the BACB ethics code says you can’t use elec­tric shock. In fact, it doesn’t say any­thing at all about what type of “aver­sives” are accept­able.

4.08 - 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.

As long as the aver­sive pro­ce­dure is effec­tive and accom­pa­nied with training and super­vi­sion, under the ABA model you could hypo­thet­i­cally do any­thing.

In fact, in a 24-page doc­u­ment detailing eth­ical codes of prac­tice for working with human beings, including chil­dren and dis­abled adults, the word “abuse” is used zero times.

The word “humane” is used zero times.

The word “pos­i­tive” is used zero times.

All this despite the fact that using behav­iourism on a human being – espe­cially a child – can easily ven­ture into the realm of emo­tional and phys­ical abuse. For example, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies defines emo­tional abuse as:

exces­sive, aggres­sive, or unrea­son­able demands that place expec­ta­tions on a child beyond his or her capacity. Emotional abuse includes con­stantly crit­i­cizing, teasing, belit­tling, insulting, rejecting, ignoring, or iso­lating the child.

And yet the BACB does not warn against or estab­lish a cri­teria regarding the use of ignoring to punish a child, which is actu­ally a com­monly rec­om­mended strategy in ABA.

The BACB does not warn against asking a child to sit still or work beyond the capacity expected and rec­om­mended for a child of their age.

The BACB, in other words, con­siders vir­tu­ally any­thing accept­able so long as it is within the law and well doc­u­mented.

I find that incom­pre­hen­sible.

 The Rights of All Living Things

All sen­tient beings deserve to have their needs met, and their lives enjoy­able. All sen­tient beings should be able to be them­selves and still be cared for. All sen­tient beings should be treated with kind­ness and respect.

Modern dog training takes its codes of prac­tice from the rec­om­men­da­tions of many animal wel­fare bodies, and it pri­or­i­tizes the needs and emo­tional well being of the dogs.

I don’t believe ABA focuses on the emo­tional needs of autistic chil­dren. Nor do I believe that it incor­po­rates rec­om­men­da­tions from child psy­chol­o­gists on basic needs such as uncon­di­tional love, the need to play, or the right to say no.

The emo­tional needs of chil­dren are too often left entirely out of dis­cus­sions about autism. This should be shocking to anyone who under­stands chil­dren, behav­iour, or how emo­tions and rela­tion­ships impact us.

Nor does the field listen to autistic people about autistic emo­tions, which may be dif­ferent from those of neu­rotyp­ical chil­dren but are worth of respect nonethe­less.

Dog trainers under­stand that dogs need to chew and bark and dig, but ABA ther­a­pists don’t under­stand that autistic chil­dren need to repeat words and sen­tences, flap their hands, and sit qui­etly rocking in a corner when things get too much.

ABA assumes that the key to hap­pi­ness is changing their behav­iour to be more in line with non-autistic chil­dren.

It focuses on training chil­dren by holding their sources of hap­pi­ness hostage and using them as black­mail to get the chil­dren to meet goals which are not nec­es­sarily in the best interest of their emo­tional health.

And like I said…

I wouldn’t treat a dog that way.

Carol Millman B.Sc., RAHT, CPDT-KA, CTDI is an autistic dog trainer with seven years of post-secondary edu­ca­tion and a decade of prac­tical expe­ri­ence. She appren­ticed as an instructor at Pacific Assistance Dogs Society in Burnaby, BC, and now trains dogs pri­vately. She spe­cial­izes in training assis­tance dogs for people with a wide range of vis­ible and invis­ible dis­abil­i­ties.