young child lining up playdough in the colors of the rainbow from red to violet.

Invisible Abuse: ABA and the things only autistic people can see

11 min read

If you want to upset a self-described Autism Mom, all you have to do is tell her that ABA is abusive.

This argument breaks out on social media so many times every single day.

Autism is an unusual condition because the community is so sharply divided.

On one side you have the neurotypical parents and families of autistic children, and on the other you have the online community of adult autistic people, many of whom are parents to autistic children.

The two sides disagree on virtually everything, but arguably the most contentious subject is Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapy.

ABA Therapists and many families of autistic people hail it as the most effective, most scientifically proven way to help autistic children develop life skills such as speech, potty training, and going to the grocery store without going into full meltdown mode.

Autistic adults– many of whom have been through ABA as children– say that it is abuse.

You can imagine how that statement sounds to loving parents whose children adore their ABA therapist and who would never knowingly abuse their beloved child.

You can imagine how it feels to be told that the gold-standard treatment which is bleeding your finances dry so that you can help your child is actually abuse.

The difficulty is that when people hear the word “abuse,” they think of pain and violence.

ABA has a big history of those things, too. Its founder, O. Ivar Lovaas, used electric shocks to stop children from engaging in their obsessive, repetitive behaviours. He systematically trained them with equal combinations of love and pain to behave more like non-autistic children.

He thought he was saving them, turning a raw bundle of nerve endings into something resembling a human being.

One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is you have to construct a person. You have the raw materials but you have to build the person.

-Lovaas

Whenever ABA comes up, so does Lovaas.  Autists point out that he used these same techniques to pioneer gay conversion therapy, which, like ABA, has also been proven to be deeply harmful to the human psyche. They also point out that while fewer ABA therapists use things like electric shock, it is still used and considered important by several institutions.

“But ABA has changed,” people argue. “My ABA therapist never uses punishment. It’s all positive and reward-based.”

That is very true for many people. Most ABA therapists don’t set out to hurt children. And yet, despite making ABA therapy fun and positive, the underlying goals of ABA have not changed.

And it is these goals that, like gay conversion therapy, do long-term damage to the human psyche.

The reason parents and ABA therapists can’t see it as abusive is because they can’t see it from an autistic point of view.

Let’s take a moment to look at some ABA in progress.

 

 

 

So? Did you see any child abuse?

Probably not.

How about here?

Or here?

Sure, the child was unhappy in the first video but the teacher was patient and she recovered, right?

And in the second video, they’re trying to teach children not to be disruptive, but they aren’t punishing the child or anything.

In all of these videos the children are never yelled at, scolded, shamed, or injured. They are praised and rewarded when they get things right, and often the kids seem to be enjoying the games.

No electric shocks, no aversive, nothing to make the experience traumatic, right?

Wrong.

Allistic people can’t see it, because they don’t understand how it feels to be autistic.

Let’s go back to that first video.

While they do not address it in the voice-over, if you watched it again you would notice how often the therapists take the children’s hands and fold them into the children’s lap.

You would also notice how often the child’s feelings are ignored.

In the first video, several of the children begin rubbing their eyes and looking tired, but they do not address this.

In the video with the girl in the supermarket, an autistic person can spot that she was getting overstimulated, exhausted, and was increasingly desperate to escape this environment.

In the video with the crying child, an autistic person wonders why she is so unhappy. Is she exhausted? Overtired? Overwhelmed? And when she stops fussing and goes back to doing the work, we can see the resignation on her face.

She isn’t happier. She’s just accepted that her feelings don’t matter and the fastest way to escape the situation is by complying.

In the last, you can see that ABA therapists deliberately ignore attempts to communicate or produce behaviours that have not been demanded by the therapist.

The child wants his mother’s attention. Would I ignore my child while trying to listen to what his doctor was telling me? Probably. But I would “shhh” or pat his arm to let him know that he was heard, and I would be with him in a minute.

Notice that ABA doesn’t tell you to go back to the child after and find out what they needed or wanted.

And that is the problem with ABA.

Not the rewards, not the silly imitation games. The problem with ABA is that it addresses the child’s behaviours, not the child’s needs.

Think of those happy little children in that first video.

Now understand that sessions like this are not a couple of hours a week. ABA therapists recommend that small children between 2 and 5 go through 40 hours a week of this type of learning.

40 hours a week.

No WONDER those kids are rubbing their eyes.

My allistic eight year old doesn’t do 40 hours a week of school. He goes to school from nine to three and gets a half hour recess and a half hour lunch. That’s 5 hours a day five days a week. 25 hours of active learning. And much of his class time is actually quiet reading, playing with learning materials, gym, or talking in a circle with his peers. So make it less than 20 hours a week of being actively taught.

Imagine asking double that for a preschooler.

Now consider that ABA is designed to ignore any protests the child might make.

ABA is not designed to consider the child’s feelings or emotional needs. 

I’m not making a jump when I say that. You can go to any ABA website and read what they say and you’ll see that there will be no discussion of the child’s emotional welfare or happiness, only behaviours.

To ABA, behaviour is the only thing that matters. ABA considers autistic children as unbalanced kids who need to be balanced out, and if you balance their behaviour, they are fixed.

“…what you need to do is reduce those excesses like the self stimulatory behavior, repetitive behaviors, and increase the skills. And then what will happen is after the child really learns a set of foundational skills; then they will start relating more to other people.”
— Deborah Fein PhD

 

As you can see from the above video, “self-stimulation”, one of the “excesses” of autism behaviours, is considered a kind of boredom fidget– something useless that replaces real learning and interaction.

When they are erased and replaced with “life skills,” then this is celebrated as a success.

Any autistic person will tell you is that this is NOT what stimming is.

Stimming isn’t just like doodling when you’re bored, or throwing a basketball.

Stimming is a comforting self-soothing behaviour which helps us reduce stress, feel more comfortable in uncomfortable environments, and regulate our emotions.

Many of us feel that our stims are a form of communication — just as a smile or a frown communicates something about our internal states, so do our stims, if you would just pay attention.  Moreso, in fact, since many autistic people smile when they are anxious or frown when they are perfectly content. Studies show that non-autistic people are terrible at interpreting our facial expressions. 

If my husband sees me stimming more than usual in the middle of the day, he frowns and asks if my day is going okay.  But many times he mistakes my emotions based on my facial expressions. My stims are better at translating my emotions than my face is, unless I’m actively animating my face in an allistic way for the benefit of my allistic audience.

Which is exhausting, by the way.

40 hours a week is too much for me so I can’t imagine how a small child manages it.

Grabbing my hands when I stim the way ABA recommends would NOT help my day go better.

It would be an excellent way to piss me off and make me feel frustrated and anxious, though.

It’s one thing to stop a child from hurting themselves by banging their head. It’s another to stop a harmless stim like hand flapping. You’re causing the child emotional discomfort just because the behaviour strikes you as weird.

Go back and watch some of those videos again, noting how often the autistic children are interrupted from hand-waving, making noise, crying, or otherwise trying to express and relieve their emotions.

Notice how often they get the child to make eye contact. Many autistic people find eye contact extremely uncomfortable.  The way the children’s bodies are touched and manipulated so frequently, in corrective redirection, is upsetting the children.  Their faces reflect confusion and sometimes distress.

But learning to tolerate discomfort is what ABA is all about. 

Watch that child enter the grocery store. See how she looks all around? The noise and the lights are stressful and distracting. She wants to please her family and get the cookie pieces so she goes along with the act of putting food in the cart, but after a while she is worn out and can’t stand it anymore.

The mother comments that if they relented at this point and took the child out of the store, her daughter would be rewarded for behaving this way.

That is probably true. If you are in pain, and you scream “Ouch!” and someone comes running and relieves your pain, you’ll probably yell “Ouch” again the next time something hurts you.

Is that… bad?

The parents say the ABA really helped their daughter.

Did it really help the child, though? Or the parents?

The grocery store isn’t any less noisy or bright or overwhelming. And the child obviously still finds it difficult to go in. Instead, she has learned to keep her feelings to herself, to try and focus on pleasing her family, and bottle up her stress inside until she can’t take it any more.

That’s a healthy thing to teach a child, right?

With time she may become excellent at this. She may be able to go to the store, put items in the cart, and go home without a meltdown.

But the meltdown WILL come.

It will come over something minor, some silly thing that seems like nothing and pushes her over the edge where she was already teetering. And they will wonder where it came from.  They’ll talk about how unpredictable her meltdowns can be.

It isn’t unpredictable to us.

We can see it coming. We can see that her autism hasn’t been treated to improve her life so much as to improve her family’s life. And while that is important too, wouldn’t it be better to find a solution that works for everyone?

Did they try ear defenders, and dark glasses?

Did they try encouraging her to stim if stressed?

Did they teach her a polite way to let them know when she has had enough and needs to leave the situation?

I don’t know. I don’t know them. I don’t know their child.

But I do know what autism feels like.

I know that ear defenders are not part of standard ABA protocols.  Instead of teaching them to understand their sensory needs and self-advocate for having their needs met, they are taught to ignore them.

I know that ABA demands the child’s attention but refuses to give attention back when the child demands it.

I know that ABA aims to be positive and rewarding for the child, but doesn’t allow the child to tap out whenever they need to.

I know that ABA considers vital emotional regulation tools to be problems that must be extinguished.

I know that neurotypical pre-schoolers are not usually expected to learn for 40 hours a week.

I know that neurotypical children are encouraged to express their emotions, not smother them.

I know that ABA believes in removing a child’s language tool like the iPad when they are naughty.  I notice that the ABA therapist working with the 8‑year-old boy only handed him his communication tool in between “discrete trials.”

I know from activists like Cal Montgomery that even adult autistic people have their communication tools routinely taken away from them if they don’t “comply” to the demands of their therapists and caregivers.

I know that if I ask someone if they think it is abusive to remove a child’s only way of contacting their parents, or to ignore a child in distress, or to force a child into a situation that they find uncomfortable/painful, or refuse to help a child when they are suffering and overwhelmed, they will say yes.

As long as I don’t mention that the child is autistic, anyway.

Autistic kids are different, apparently.

Whenever autistic people protest ABA, we are told that we don’t understand, that we don’t know how hard autistic children are to live with. They talk about improving the child’s independence and argue that it isn’t cruel to teach a child to write or play with toys.

They don’t see how weird it is to try to systematically shape a child’s behaviour to teach them to play with a toy the “right” way.

They don’t see that 40 hours a week of brainwashing a child to put up with stress and discomfort without expressing their feelings might be a bad idea in the long run.

They don’t see how wrong it is to teach a child that their way of feeling comfortable and soothed is wrong and that ignoring your feelings and physical needs is good and gets you approval from your teachers and parents.

They don’t see that it is abusive to ignore a child’s attempts to communicate because they aren’t “complying” with a demand that makes them uncomfortable.

They don’t see how dangerous it is to teach a child to do whatever they are ordered to do, no questions asked, and to never object or say “no.”

They don’t think about the fact that 70% of people with ASD have experienced sexual abuse by the time they are college age.

They don’t think about how this person will learn to stand up for themselves or advocate for their needs when they were systematically trained in preschool never to disagree, speak up, or disobey.

Do what I say. 

Put your hands in your lap.

Don’t cry. Don’t complain.

Listen to me.

I won’t listen to you.

This is not abuse.

…But, you know, the kid gets bubbles and tickles so it’s obviously safe and totally okay.

What do we know?

Our feelings don’t matter anyway.

 

 

230 Comments

  1. Great job guys…
    You read an article about how autistic people truly feel about a therapy that’s aimed to “help” them…
    They tell you that it completely ignores their emotional health, it’s abusive and they just want to be heard.

    AND YOU WANT TO ARGUE WITH THEM?!

    NO! IT’S GREAT! BECAUSE I’M CERTIFIED IN IT! YOU’RE NOT BEING ABUSED!!!

    AGAIN, reinforcing the “Stop doing that, do this, and don’t complain about it.”

    I’m neurotypical by the way. It’s just that obvious judging from the responses in this post alone.

    Do some self reflection. This is fucking heart breaking.

    Ps: tiffany, you are not the authority in the way someone with autism experiences the world because you have a degree. Cut it out. Its obnoxious.

    1. I would like to clone an army of you <3

      Thank you. A million times, thank you for being an ally.

    2. Lol never said I was. I said that this is not an accurate depiction of what ABA is. Did not mention anything about anyone’s feelings or experiences with the world 🙂

      1. And yet, this reply, in itself is one of the most telling and accurate commentaries one could make on how an autistic experiences the world…

      2. Any and every NT person (parent, teacher, and otherwise) who believes ABA is acceptable is simply not listening. From one NT mom and teacher to another, sit down, zip it, and listen — to our autistic spouses, children, students, and adults we haven’t even met in person. Our job is to learn not to make *them* more like *us.*

        1. HOW do we KNOW how we/our child would have turned out if we had/not had ABA?
          Then I have a lot of problems we what is currently called autism as a diagnosis of any problem.
          Autism is a description of certain behaviour patterns, not a diagnosis of what is the cause of those problems.
          I have seen far too many ‘mentally retarded’ kids diagnosed as ‘Autistic’. These kids/people need help to survive in our society, maybe ABA really does help many of these people.

          1. HOW do we KNOW how black people would have turned out if we had not had slavery?

            I’ve seen far too many black people in jail who the lamestream media claims was innocent. These black people need help to survive in our society, maybe slavery really did help many of these people?

            Here’s how we know:

            ASK THE PEOPLE WHO LIVED THOSE EXPERIENCES AND STILL DEAL WITH THE FALLOUT OF IT EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIVES!

  2. I am the parent of a (now grown-up) autistic woman and I would NEVER put her through this dangerous, degrading crap. I’m NT and all you NT’s thinking “but it’s for the best to make them fit in” Just NO! You are destroying them, that is not the act of a loving parent. Don’t inflict ABA on your children!

  3. I think the end goal of every parent, especially for the parents of non-verbal individuals, should be at least attempting to get their child to learn basic self care. Toileting/Hygiene, picking up after themselves and making easy, basic food, that way, even after the parent passes on, one can be at least somewhat able to take care of themselves.

    Reducing stimming? Fuck that noise.

    Reducing non-verbal vocalizations? Fuck that noise.

    All the autistic behaviors that harm none (even the autistic individual) should just be accepted by NT’s. How does hand flapping harm YOU? it doesn’t! My stim is jiggling my leg. I don’t flap, I jiggle my leg. How does someone making non-verbal sounds harm YOU? It doesn’t, unless you have a migraine, then take your meds and go lie down in a dark room. BUT, helping one get a basic grasp of self care, goes a very long way in basic human dignity for the Autistic person. I know I wouldn’t want to be in diapers my entire life, or be bathed by someone else for my life. I would want to be able to do that myself, and I have that, so does my Autistic daughter.

    I have a feeling teaching the big three can be done without using the abusive tactics of ABA.

    1. It’s not about teaching. It’s about validating inadequate and resentful NTs.

  4. I feel bad for not noticing all this in the first videos. I’m autistic myself (although I have Asperger’s, which is kind of different I guess) and all I thought was that they’re doing everything so quickly and expect the child to keep up.
    These videos were overwhelming to watch because I really felt like the kids couldn’t breathe. Also, it’s like they’re dogs. A handle to hold the child? Just… Wow.

    1. I noticed her putting the hands down right away. It made me crazy. Then the jumping from one thing to the next!!! Why? It takes longer to process and think things out sometimes. Go slow. Flap stem. Think about it. We let our guy do what he wants in the stores. We get weird looks all the time. Honestly he’s a great kid, why would I want him to suffer.

    2. I wouldn’t treat a dog like that!! It is abusive for dogs as well as humans.
      Treat the cause, NOT the symptoms.

    3. The business of talking louder — where the hell did that come from? I hated it so much, Aspie here.


  5. This article was really interesting and informative, thank you! I’m NT and the only things I really picked up on in the videos was how loud the therapists were and how much touching and grabbing they did, which seemed like it’d be distressing to the kids. It kind of drives me crazy that this therapy is ostensibly meant to help autistic children, but when adults who’ve gone through it show up with a huge list of reasons why it’s harmful and what are better alternatives, they’re turned away as not getting how stressful it is to raise an autistic kid, completely missing the point of how stressful and damaging the therapy is to the children themselves.

  6. Thank you for this article. I always had the sneaking suspicion that this type of therapy and other methods similar to it were abusive, but it’s so so nice to have some proof. I’m not autistic, but I have SPD, which is basically experiencing senses in a different way than most people, plus being extremely sensitive to sensory overloads. To all the parents of autistic or neurodivergent kids reading this article, please dont do this yo your kids. I’m paying a heavy price down the line for complying with this as a kid. It leads to all sorts of social issues with other kids, and huge self esteem issues. This type of “therapy” tells you as a very small child that you are not good enough as you are, that you have to change to fit everyones standards. Then you spend your whole life believing them I’d you’re not careful.

    1. How do we stop it?

  7. It’s abuse. If you saw it being done to a POW or political dissident, you would immediately recognize it for what it is.
    Unless of course, you were the oppressor; then you would just call it Behavior Modification.
    But it would still be abuse.

    1. Shame truly. This entire article is just an opinion, nothing factual other than others agreeing, which is easy for people to agree and disagree. Have studies been done to make this claim about ABA being sooo extremely abusive? Probably not, as it’s pretty ridiculous to claim a service as a whole, as abusive.

      Are some companies teaching in a manner that could follow your article sure, have some expressed abuse through ABA sure, I’m not saying it hasn’t happen. But do not generalize the entire ABA industry on your experience.
      Have you gone out your way to visit different centers and see their teaching, asking to sit in, talking to the doctors who run these clinics about it to support your claims? Probably not. It’s not fair to generalize the entire ABA community , when I personally know very affectionate, loving and caring therapist on my end.

      Studies have been done though about the success rate of ABA. I work with they most amazing doctor I know, who has never once ignored the NEEDS of our kiddos.

      In fact their needs are just as important!! And yes, I’m a ABA therapists, and I LOVE each kid I work with, with ALL MY HEART.
      We don’t put demands on them when they are sick or tired. And kids who aren’t diagnosed and out in general Ed classes, still go to school when they are sick, so isn’t that abuse? By your logic.

      Are teachers abusive because they are telling students to line up and follow the rules when certainly those kids don’t want to stay in line or follow the rules?

      1. Yes. But DO you understand them???

      2. As I understand it, ABA is ‘formalised’. This is what you do “IF … “.
        All autistic kids are different. There are many reasons for a “problem behaviour” and a one-size-fits-all response is unlikely to help them.
        Maybe it is the ‘diagnosis’ that is failing these kids?
        Would it not be better to help these kids
        I got that as a kid. Nobody cared at all that I found somethings totally unpleasant./distasteful. Just do it! Then I was in trouble for all my stress illnesses. “It’s all in your head. Imaginitis 🙁 Just pull up your socks, You are so cranky.”
        Would it not be better to help these kids cope with a world they find confusing/weird/ unpleasant rather than trying to make them simply outwardly comply?
        As for ‘generalising the ABA community’ I think it is the ABA community that has generalised them selves.
        I am Asperger’s enough to know that I HATE HATE HATE inflexible rules of conduct.
        I have personally had association with the ABA dog trainers. “Do this this way! No you are wrong, do it THIS way. Deliver the food this way! Your treats are too large, too small, wrong food” and worse,
        I’ve had over 20 dogs in my life time and I know each of them needed training/socialisation in their own way.
        By the way, release from stress is NOT a sensible ‘reward’ to use. It is NEGATIVE reinforcement. It is very stressful for the recipient.

  8. This is very interesting to me. I don’t have autism but I’m not neurotypical either, having ADHD, and an array of the bits and pieces that go along with basic neurodevelopmental differences.

    I have a 3 yo who doesn’t have autism and I would never allow him to endure that intensity of interaction and control purely because it would be utterly overwhelming. Destructive in extreme because there’d be no room for him. Suffocating. Traumatizing. Erasing. Learned helplessness = depression. So 40 hours… hell on earth. I see how that’s so so abusive.

    To train key functional tasks that my child was not intrinsically motivated to learn, or couldn’t learn through modeling and encouragement, I’d use the behavioural techniques for sure. But not on that type of schedule. It’s interesting isn’t it that the recommended weekly amount coincides with 1 x FTE job… basic economics. Keeping people employed.

    Like others, I don’t think the problem is the techniques — it’s not the science. It’s how it’s applied and the implicit dehumanizing value set it can bring. Something that this post makes explicit really well. Behavior without values/choice is autopilot, obedience, subjugation.

    We need to make room for the individual to thrive and guide their development in all their uniqueness, within their own emergent value set, within any functional training program.

    1. Author

      Very well put!

  9. Neurodivergent kids are allready under more stress with operating in a world designed by the majority, for the majority. Whilst I can understand why a parent of an Autistic kid might be desperate to have their child appear to be more conforming to societies norms, there might be a few key missing points when they think this way:
    1) An autistic child is much more unique than the majority of people
    2) An autistic childs uniqueness is central to who they are and it always will be
    3) An Autistic childs uniqueness is also the core of their unique potential and talents
    4) Whilst this may be uncomfortable and challenging for some, it is a good thing
    5) Your child is already under more stress bridging their mind to the world which rarely accommodates for their uniqueness.
    6) Supressing or forcing an autist to mask the way they are will invariably have a negative impact on the child and all the potential they have.
    7) Any treatment has to invariably be as unique as the child is. There is no copy and paste solution, because of the childs uniqueness.

    So why on earth would you exert extreme stress on the child to force them go mask what comes naturally?

    So what are the answers for tools for living an independant life for some Autists (toilet training, dressing, hygiene)? The answers will be as unique as each Autist is unique. To unravel this, you need to understand what is behind everything. Do your homework, be patient, get to the root of things, Learn, think, but most of all, don’ t try and change your child just so they fit in with societal norms. Throwing money at strangers to try and fix something is bound to fail.

    The best people to help the child are the people who know them best. The parents. Step up. Don’t abdicate.

    My Advice? Get used to our home motto. In our house, we don’t do normal.

    I am writing this as an undiagnosed adult autist, with a diagnosed Autistic Son. Was potty training hard? You bet it was. Dressing and self care. ohh yes, you bet. Is our son successful.
    Absolutely. Kind, polite, considerate, deep thinking. Tick. Extraverted?
    Tick. Stims a lot in class (yep, running back and forth across the classrom). Tick. Do teachers care? (nope, they know more is going into his head than the kids sitting down ) Mainstream schooled? yep. 5As in this years report, tick.

    And would we have ever considered a treatment to mould him into something he simply is not? No way. We chose to learn what works for the way he is, not the other way around. If we did the opposite we would be seriously emotiinally broken, low self esteem, flunking at school, getting into trouble.

    Why do I think that? Because he would be working overtime being two people, not one. Bugger that for a life

    Each to their own, I am not looking to argue any points. Just providing a perspective based on our experience and I completely recognise, each parent and each childs situation and challenges are completely unique and that our experience may not work as well for others.

  10. Im sorry that you feel that us neurotypical mums are all on the one side.… my son was diagnosed when he was nearly 10. We had both suffered incredibly and would suffer more. ABA always seemed disgusting to me because it ignored his whole body experience. I was left with nearly NO information but found Aspergers Experts and then eventually Dr Holly Bridges. Im absolutely certain there are quiet, determined, “not on social media” parents who ran from ABA and sought a love response to the gift that is their autistic child. Don’t forget about us. We have always been “other centered” love people. Seeking more for our child.

    1. If you’re against ABA, you’re not the kind of NT parent any of this is talking about.

      1. I’m an NT mom who despises ABA and wants to diminish it ASAP. How do I shut it the fuck down and replace it with something that’s funded by the government like the DIR floortime. Thoughts?


  11. I am a NT mother of a 24 year-old autistic son who just graduated from university. I did not use ABA, nor would I! I am totally against ABA! So, how about you learn about us NT mothers of autistic kids before you go around saying that we all defend ABA!! We do not! Autism is not an illness! It is not something that needs to be “cured”! Society needs to learn to adapt to our awesome kids, not the other way around!!

    1. Problem with this is, it’s a bit like the “not all men” argument in feminism. Not all NT parents are the same, for sure. Some are amazing allies. Like you (and I completely agree with your last couple of sentences, being autistic myself). But as long as the majority stamp on the minority, the minority’s allowed to complain in very general terms.

  12. Hi everyone. My son is 4yo and was diagnosed just after his second birthday. With help from our local regional center, we were able to start center based early intervention almost immediately, and ABA therapy a few months later. He started with 20 hours of ABA and is now at 14 12. I fight with the scheduling coordinator because they want him at 15, but that means a 4 hour Saturday session. It’s too much. Well, I feel embarrassed that I’m fighting over 30 minutes when I’m reading about how terrible ABA is for autistic children. And I’m feeling overwhelmed and broken hearted. Acceptance, self love and equality are extremely important to me and have been love before I became a parent. So the thought of doing something so harmful to my beautiful boy is too much to bare. And now I feel so confused. He is such a happy child, always singing and dancing, giving hugs and kisses, laughing and playing with us. ABA taught me to communicate with him when he was non-verbal. It’s taught me how to make transitions easier for him, it’s given me patience to handle and understand meltdowns. I have worked with women and men with family members and siblings who are autistic. They’ve given me so much guidance. They loved Logan and were so encouraging. I never felt like they’ve pushed him too far or overworked him. But they have said they would place less demands on him if he seemed sick, sleepy, or generally fussy. ( I’m assuming this would be the soda scenario…he woke up ready to blow). I literally have only become aware of the harm of ABA within the last couple of months. So, I feel lost. I feel scared. And I feel like I’m letting my son down after what I’ve read. So, if not ABA, then what?

    1. So how exactly has ABA been abusive to your son? I think I missed something in your write-up.

    2. The type of therapy your son is getting may not be actual ABA but may just be classified as ABA for insurance reasons. Either way though, it’s good that you’re questioning it. Are there any forms of Augmented Alternative Communication (AAC) that you’ve found helpful for communicating with your son? PECS is a really good one. With picture-based systems you may have to use actual photos of things around your house though, because some kids have trouble connecting the picture with the abstract idea that “this picture of a bed represents every bed, including mine.” So taking a picture of the actual objects can help.

      DIR/Floortime is a great alternative therapy to ABA, but you have to be careful that whoever administers it doesn’t combine it with ABA principles. Same with OT.

      Thank you so much for wanting to help your son. I can’t imagine how confusing all of this is for you. That you want to learn how to help, listen to and respect your son is already proof that you are a good mother.

    3. Don’t give up mama, it could just be a matter of changing to a different supervisor or even vendor. I was lucky to have found early intervention through our regional center and the ABA company was great. They always considered how tired my child was or if he needed a break. I always expressed my concerns and talked about my child’s feelings. My boy is doing so much better. He can comunicate better and I feel like ABA is needed, at least until you can establish a comunication system (for those who remain nonverbal). The world out there is harsh, we need to prepare the for it.

    4. Don’t fall for this my friend. Im an ABA therapist of 13 years and I have clients who thank me to this day for the work we did together. Don’t give up and ABA is not abuse. Fyi I’ve never ignored the “needs” of my clients. You need to do more research and speak with your providers.

      1. Just because some parents thank you doesn’t mean all parents feel like thanking you — or that all parents necessarily understand their problems their child is going though. it does not mean the child feels any better. Nor does it necessarily mean that you are a good therapist.
        I did ‘therapy’ as a pre-schooler because my Mother thought I was ‘mentally retarded’. SHE said I wasn’t yet talking — I thought on the other hand she was just being rude to me by pretending she didn’t understand what I was saying. I was lucky, I think, my therapist taught me poetry which I loved 🙂
        I thought other people both adults and children were very rude — I did not want to be touched, talked to or in any other way have anything to do with strangers — especially those wearing perfumes and cosmetics ad going into a hose where Ammonia was use as a cleaning agent was horrific to me. I always hos the horrors because my M‑I-L always wanted to ‘do’ the social kiss. Yuck. Why????

    5. I believe that ABA can change a life for the better if done right.  I think the key is really to find the best place to do this helpful therapy. ABA Treatment Miami has great therapists with a lot of experience working with children who find it difficult to cope in what we consider everyday experiences. I really love how sensitive they are to meet your family’s needs and how they make the environment for your child to feel so natural and happy.

  13. I can’t believe what I have watched. I have worked and lived with autism for years now. These are thinking, feeling, sensitive children .…not dogs to teach tricks to with rewards!! So called rewards… how many hyper sensory children can bare to be tickled. If you are trying to encourage a child to make decisions and choices but can’t, so grab their hands and manipulate the action (like forcing a thumbs up) quite frankly you have failed to get through or teach anything lasting. Done well, 1:1 positive game play stimulation can create a safe space to encourage better understanding of the world around an autistic child. There shouldn’t be shortcuts and there should be a core understanding of individual needs. Patience and the development of trust with a therapist brings lifelong self belief. Reward based bullying breaks down identity and we need to build up these kids!!!
    Sorry I have gone on but am frustrated at well meaning but damaging practices!!!!

    1. Those “therapists” putting their hands all over those kids and pushing down their hands, tickling them, poking at them like it was “fun”… the whole thing was repulsive to me. A lot of us with ASD are very touch-averse, and being touched like this is the LAST thing we want. Yet had I been diagnosed as a child, I’d have been forced to let people touch me for 20, 30, 40 hours a week? Forced to do ridiculous mimicking games for seemingly no reason? I don’t even understand the point behind most of these “games”. I can’t imagine what the children having to sit through all this nonsense must think of it.

  14. I’m not getting in the debate; I have no clue. However, as a highly observant aspie who has done far too much research, I am always bewildered at how many parents of kids on the spectrum consider themselves neurotypical. , 🤔 Some of you are, but then your partner must not be. At least one parent is on the spectrum. That’s how soyou created an autistic child. 🤷‍♀️ There is no need for all the guessing as to what we feel like or how we see things. Because at least ONE of you gets it.

  15. Thank you so much for this article. My 5 yo was diagnosed with autism a few months ago. Our OT recommended we check out the open house for the new ABA therapy group in town. The facility was lovely but when they told me they wanted 40 hours per week, or at least 20, I balked. That’s insane! I’m not giving up that time with my kid! I’ve since had some other moms recommend it and wanted to hear from adults with autism what they thought of it. This was eye opening! Those videos made me sick. There is nothing wrong with my daughter, she’s amazing. Sure, I would love for her to be better understood by peers and to more easily function in the classroom but in neither of these situations is she the one who needs to change. I would love some suggestions on therapies that are helpful and not abusive, from people who have actually been through them. I am so thankful for you and this community and the work you are doing to help autists be better understood and accepted.

    I don’t think most NT parents would put their children in ABA if they understood this. At least I certainly hope they wouldn’t. So thank you for putting this out there. Your perspective is so valuable.

    1. can’t speak for all autistic people, but my mum inadvertently did a lot of good training with me when I was young, basically because she wanted to share art and film with me. I was raised on a lot of films, from various eras and genres (As in, I didn’t realize “colour” was standard until I was about 8–9.) and, while I may be a little more dramatic or quotation-oriented than NT folk, It actually really helped me develop a base for interaction, because it’s scripts. scripts intended to feel natural. scripts I can analyse, rewatch, learn, develop to, and integrate.

      In terms of school, my mum went the homeschooling route after 5th grade, which helped, but other things before that were things like a teacher recognizing how much movement distracted me, so making a special “room” for me to take tests in (A cardboard box around a desk with drawings, tbh) A bit much, but the basic premise is sound in that she saw what was causing my lack of focus and worked around it.

  16. Thank you, this has finally put the reasons why ABA is seen as abuse in a way that I can understand it.

    I’m a late diagnosis, this year in fact, along with my 2yo son. So I understand not only how it feels to be autistic and have those feelings ignored, and how it feels to desperately want to be “normal” but not understanding why I’m not, and also how it feels to want to do everything I can to give my child everything he needs for a good life. It’s been hard for me to exactly understand what “it’s abuse” means when that’s all people generally say. I’ve had trouble my whole life understanding short blanket statements, it’s like, “yes I believe you, but I don’t have an understanding of what exactly you’re telling me.” My son is in ABA, and does love his therapist and armed with all of the things that I understood to be abusive I chose our ABA provider. They agreed that stimming is important, he doesn’t need to sit and remain sitting for an activity, he can take breaks whenever he needs, and they’re working closely with our OT whoes #1 concern is sensory needs. That being said I will be paying very close attention during his ABA sessions next week to see if I can spot any of these concerns. It probably happened even more than the providers realize.



  17. I’m surprised if people don’t see abuse in the first few videos. It’s pretty obvious I think. For starters, they’re constantly invading the child’s space… isn’t this what Autistic children are often in trouble for? Invading space?

    They are loud and overwhelming… another thing children get in trouble for.

    They’re constantly touching them… again

    They’re very repetitive… hmmm

    They keep feeding them junk.

    I wouldn’t cope with this for 5 minutes let alone 20–40 hours per week.

    There’s no consideration for those children at all, these therapists are condescending, in your face, dominating, overstimulating, repetitive, loud, way too hands on. They would never treat their allistic children this way and allistic children would never stand for it either.

    The later videos such as the shopping trip… why is this even necessary? What are they training her to be, a child slave?

  18. Thank you C.L Lynch for a well reasoned and concise summary about the effects of ABA.

  19. The author of this article is Canadian. There’s no socialized healthcare in the USA so the “40 hours of ABA a week” entirely depends of what the private health insurance authorizes and not about the clinician recommendations. What it means is that if the insurance plan is crappy , the clinician will ask for 40 hours to at least obtain 10 hours, if they ask for 10 then they would get 5. It’s rare that a private health insurance authorizes 40 hours and usually it’s because both parents work full time and daycares for neurotypical children won’t accept autistic children not potty trained and with behaviors so their only choice is to send their autistic children to an ABA clinic all day . For that many hours the therapists are actually LAZY and will only make sure the kid is safe. This author knows nearly nothing about how ABA works

    1. Upon reading this, I actually felt my IQ drop.

    2. OK so maybe there is no “socialised health care” in the USA (I presume you mean public health care which funds treatments like ABA), but that’s an anomaly in the Western world. Most countries have public health care, and 40hours/week ABA is still recommended, so…


  20. I agree with some of what you say and disagree with other points. As a mom it is my job to teach both my NT and ASD children how to behave, the proper way to play, work, communicate etc. in this world live in. So I set the same goals for both my kids. Each needed help with this and needed to to taught in their own way. But we did care (as did our therapists) about what they were feeling and what was over stimulating them. For both our kids we gave them more appropriate ways of coping with stress and a code word when they have had enough. My NT kid could pick up things by watching peers and copying them. My ASD son needed to be shown step by step multiple times. We and his therapists knew and understood that his brain just processes differently and we needed to work with that and the real world and using ABA we were able to teach him all he needed. We set the goals the same for both just took different paths to get there. Today my NT kid is a speech therapist and my ASD son is studying to be an OT. I read this article to him and his response? “It didn’t bother me. It helped me. I took comfort in the schedules, routines, and it gave me time to learn new things doing it over and over until I got it right. I can still stim but now I don’t look so different doing it. Maybe they didn’t have as good of a therapist that I had.” I hope parents and therapists can find a compromise.

  21. Invading their personal space and yanking things out of their hands over and over would never be tolerated by NTs. I know the third vid was important for informative purposes but it’s apparent that the client is aware of being filmed and objects. Has the client since agreed to the use of this video?

  22. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit at a loss as to what we *should* do. There are so many articles about what parents of kids on the spectrum shouldn’t do…but then how do we address some of these behaviors? I don’t mean stimming, my son can stim all day long if he pleases. But what do I do when he’s so anxious over everything that it’s impossible to leave to house with him? We’ve had to start homeschool because his meltdowns were that bad. Nevermind the constant stress from people telling us we aren’t socializing him but forcing him to socialize seems problematic according to this. What do we do when he won’t let me brush his teeth (they must be brushed, I’m sorry). What do we do when he will only eat 5 foods and his health is paying the price? What do I do when he wants to eat the insides of his diaper? What do I do when he has no awareness of safety? What do I do when he’s hurting and can’t tell me how or where? It’s never been about making him “normal” but about making him safer. School wasn’t a right fit, we’re on a waitlist for ABA and I’m hearing terrible things, speech would probably be deemed bad according to this author because my son hates it although learning to use his AAC is helping. I’m just. I’m at a loss. As much as I wished I lived in a world where my nonverbal son could just stay at home and eat 3 foods, it’s not possible. I won’t live forever. His health won’t tolerate some of his behaviors forever? Do I allow him to do damage to himself or do I inflict the damage with ABA?

    …not a NT mom, but not on the spectrum either.

      1. I can’t believe you’re actually posting a link to this utter shite. The author of this article is disingenuous at best. I’m pretty sure there’s actually an article here analyzing that precise post.

  23. How many of you on the spectrum complaining about ABA would be non-verbal, incontinent and not able to complain about ABA if you hadn’t gone through an ABA program? Not all ABA therapies are abusive — like anything else it depends upon who is doing it and how they are doing it. Would you rather be indignant and injured by ABA and be complaining about it or in a diaper and unable to talk right now? Life isn’t perfect and people do the best they can in difficult situations. If YOU had a child diagnosed with autism and was non-verbal and low-functioning would you just let them sit there undisturbed or try to help them? The worst form of abuse is neglect and warehousing. Autism spectrum disorders cause lots of problems and people with even mild symptoms of autism have a tough time of it but it isn’t all the fault of parents trying to help their children. My son, who went through ABA is now going to graduate school and is a professional musician — life isn’t perfect for him but he wouldn’t be living independently if it wasn’t for therapies we did that included a form of ABA when he was small.

    1. And by the way, I am on the spectrum myself.

    2. Dear Sue,

      You are making a sharp distinction in which you seem to think that anyone who says ABA is abusive is saying to never do anything with your child and simply allow them to decay. Which no one has EVER said. There are multiple alternatives to ABA that are not abusive dog training. Presuming competence also matters. I was nonverbal until I was nine and I was never put through therapy that was so dismissive to my feelings and perceptions — but here I am, with a law degree.

      In short, fuck your ableism in the face. How’s that Stockholm Syndrome treating you, Schrodinger’s autist?

      Bite me,
      an autist with the wild idea that we’re people


  24. I don’t know — but the ABA interventions shown here would have totally freaked me out as a child.
    I never could stand Adults treating me rudely like this. Keep your hands to yourself and TELL me what you want.
    I’ve never considered that I needed ‘changing’.
    But I have as an adult and on antidepressants learned to cope with rude and intrusive behaviour from others. Still don’t like it.

  25. OK. Stop knocking “NT” people. There is a very very wide range of “Normal”. Though maybe we should say “Within the Normal Range”. And the normal range is not a flat graph but a 3 dimensional ‘mound’.
    At what percentile in any direction do you decide that something is NOT normal?
    Surely one ‘treats” what is a problem, for the individual (and being totally reliant on others to care for you IS a problem for adults).

    1. Or “Do not do unto others what is hateful to them.” Do NOT touch us! Do not make us do things that we find unpleasant or highly stressful. If what we are doing bothers you then you can leave the room — or let us leave the room and do NOT call us back and tell us how horrible we are.


  26. Please don’t lump all ‘autism moms’ together. We all come in different flavors just like our kids. Ever heard the saying ‘you met one autism mom then you’ve met one autism mom’? No, because it doesn’t exist but it’s still true. I would never send my kid to ABA.


  27. What am I thinking? I’m no longer sure, I feel so apart from myself, it’s become painful to be just myself, the parts that are truly me have been suppressed, and ripped away with the words “this is the way you do it not this way”, “this is the right way, that way is wrong”. I’m a woman in my mid 50’s, trying desperately to learn how to take control of my life! When we are not taught to make choices because it may take to long or because it may be politically incorrect for our physical demonstrations of self expression, the what is it w.d. become? With each year that I became older I also became more compliant, a robotic transformation of everyone else. After everything we learned it wasn’t that I couldn’t communicate, it was you who couldn’t communicate at my level, I felt too much, and couldn’t cope with all of it at once! This pressure way of teaching was not my choice and by brainwashing me with the way yo believe I should be taught you took away my ability to protect myself, you taught me to comply, you did not teach what shouldn’t be done to me, you didn’t teach me to keep myself safe, all you did was teach me to be a pet because I was never right! My future became that of someone who learned to pretend everything and I am good at it, but who am I now, you also left me open to others to molest me, physically abuse me, psychologically abuse me, and when that doesn’t cover what you gave me, you taught me to be an outcast!
    I am not all people that are autistic, but I believe I am not so alone in feeling this, and I am slowly learning to reach my own emotions and not that of others, my gift of autism to me is my overwhelming emotional intelligence, to question everything and everyone no matter how many times people want to assume the worst!
    It took longer for most “normal” people to develop their emotions, but to use psychological abuse to suppress ours is an assumption that’s been made for too long!

    1. I am so sorry for you — having been told as I child what was WRONG with me, and how I could change IF I wanted to.
      However one thing I have found out is that we must learn to like ourselves.
      It came about when I was teaching, and some kids were being horrible to another — when I spoke to them they said to me “But, Miss, she loves herself!”
      My response was immediate and from the heart. I said “I should hope so. If you cannot love yourself, how do you expect others to love you?”
      It took even me aback a bit. But since then I’ve also learned that ‘be kind’ to yourself is important.
      You are NOT horrible because you are cranky — you are tired and stressed.
      You are NOT horrible if you don’t enjoy noise and jollity.
      There is NO REASON to make yourself do things you’d rather not do (going to the dentist/doctor, renewing your drivers licence, etc, excepted 🙂
      You don’t even need to make excuses. “No, Thankyou,” is sufficient

  28. I am a little confused by the comment made, Maybe you can clarify what you think I meant! Thank you very kindly!


  29. F*** ABA therapy!!! These aba people are crazy! In addition to the horrifying explicit abuse of ABA, let’s also center in on the disgusting principle of conditional attention. Doesn’t that sound like an abuser?? Someone who pretends to love you when you do what they want. F****** *** they are innocent children!!! Bringing candy is so wrong too. And awful for development not to mention!!! And the autism diagnosis has CHANGED! LOVAAS ABA WAS PROVEN EVIDENCE BASED FOR THE 1990 DEFINITION OF AUTISM, NOT THE NEW COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GROUP OF THE AUTISM SPECTRUM!!!!!

  30. Thank you. While I wasn’t treated with ABA (didn’t get diagnosed till I was 37) I was actually abused into normal and the physical was so much easier to deal with then the mental and emotional. And that was the SAME. Exactly. My needs ignored, my trying to communicate, my meltdowns were all treated as things to be trained out of. And it hurts, still. 40 years on. Thank you.



  31. I have “high functioning” autism and I am also a teacher of autistic kids. Most of my student would be classed as “severe and profound” as many of my students often have other disabilities. Very severe behaviors, such as self-injurious behaviors or injurious to others (trust me, I have scars I can show you.) I have been trained in “ABA” practices and I rarely use them. I do believe that all behavior is communication… and if the behavior is “negative” (such as self-injury or injurious to others, etc) I determine what causes the behavior. Then I design approaches that can help the child reduce behaviors. Maybe they are stressed about schedule change, maybe they don’t like a noise, maybe they are bothered by the brightness of something, maybe there’s a smell, maybe they don’t understand a concept… etc. When I teach in my room, if my student doesn’t understand or “get” something, I assume that it was a failure on my part and not the student’s. I try to engage in a high rate of natural environment and play based teaching. I try so hard to have blocks of the day where it is student driven… get down on the floor and play with kids and follow their lead. I don’t like reward systems (feeding kids treats for doing a great job like in DTT) … I don’t know… I’m constantly trying to improve myself and make sure I’m the best I can be for my students. My goal is not to “make them normal” or less autistic and I’m always upfront with parents. My goal is to reduce severe harmful behavior and increase communication needs. I just worry… I want to do the best I can.

    I just hope I’m doing the right thing when I use some concepts of ABA.

  32. So here’s my question. As a parent of an autistic toddler, we want what’s best for the child. We live in a judgmental society regardless of if you are autistic or not. They judge you based of race, religion, sex, age, etc. We all go to school and have guidelines to follow as a society. Raise your hand to and wait to be called, be quiet in an auditorium when a speaker is talking, etc. We have rules in society and you are judged, talked about, frowned on, etc if you do a non-social act. If you are saying ABA is not the right tool because it is a form of abuse, then explain what the right way is. There is a reason why statistically we have a higher suicide rate for autistic people due to the non acceptance of their behavior in society. We all conform to life around us and to say well people should just accept us is great. But reality is that is not the case with this world where everyone is judged. So tell me exactly what is the best way to direct an autistic child in a way that they are accepted in our world as they are without feeling judged everywhere they go. What guidance center exist that is geared towards developing autistic kids that not only strengthens their individuality but prepares them for social acceptance? All I see is ABA centers, but there is nothing else. There’s where the problem lies. There is simply nothing else available that is state funded or even privately created that we can go with. Please provide solutions instead of saying one way is not it. Because at the end of the day, I am not qualified or certified to know which development center to go with.



  33. If I’m being honest there valid points to this article. I agree, in the videos it was not shown that the children’s feelings were being taken into account. However, it was also not explicitly shown what transpired beforehand with the children that caused their reactions or the reactions of the therapists.
    Using the videos for analysis is a great move and isn’t being dissuaded, but the statements of what the Child might be feeling is also an opinion since no one can say what a person is feeling from one moment to the next with 100% certainty.
    Is ABA always great? No.
    Is it always harmful? No.
    There are highlighted points and deficits to ABA.

    I want to give a quick hypothesis: Let’s say the child from the video with their hands held in their lap repeatedly is a child who rips their hair out of their heads, causing contusions, tissue damage, blood loss, and ruptured skin prone to infection. Is this behavior stimming or an precursor to feeling overwhelmed or satisfying a need? Debatable, but unknown. However, the immediate problem in this scenario is the injury caused to the child. What would you do in this situation?

    Let’s unfold what has been attempted:

    The child continuously injures themselves, asking them to stop hair ripping and explaining the concept of hair pulling dangers has failed. Inquiring why they do the hair ripping has be inconclusive and the ripping continues. Offering distractions and facilitating options to empower the person to make an alternative non-dangerous decision has failed. Finally, blocking their hands for physically completing the motion to pull hair out has failed and has agitated the child and may have increased the hair ripping behavior.

    This hypothetical situation is a common issue addressed in current ABA 2020. Though the year of the video is irrelevant for this hypothetical scenario, the 2020 ABA response would be to redirect the child’s hands continuously to their lap protect them from hurting themselves. Maybe in this scenario the child doesn’t mind or even enjoys the sensation of the hair ripping. The reason this scenario has the child’s hands in their lap and continuously held there by the therapist is to stop injury. This scenario given could be similar to how a medically licensed physician would block a child with PICA from ingesting non-food, harmful objects.

    My point isn’t to change your mind about ABA, but to point out that there is good and bad sides. To ignore the child’s feeling in ABA is wrong and a negative connotation. To control them is even worst, but for a second let’s consider this:

    Same scenario, but instead the child pulls someone else’s hair.

    Unfortunately, the reverse scenario is a commonality in ABA. In that moment, the child is pulling someone’s hair. You’ve tried the aforementioned approaches, but unfortunately the hair ripping continues, so the child’s hands are put into their lap whenever hair maybe close enough to pull. Unfortunately now, the kid is being controlled in order to not hurt others who’s feelings aren’t or cannot be considered by the child.

    Now, on this reverse scenario the kid has grown up into a 30–45 year old adult. Who has just ripped someone’s hair out. Yes, this child aged into an adult is considered neurodivergent, but in this moment have injured another person. In that moment, yes there may have been things affecting this person seen and unseen. However, now someone else is also hurting. What happens now that assault has happened?

    Best Case Scenario: The person who was assaulted knew enough intricate information about that the adult who ripped their hair out. That they were neurodivergent, overwhelmed and or fulfilling an internal need, and perhaps very apologetic afterwards. Crisis averted.

    Worst Case Scenario: The person is a stranger; completely unaware of all of these details and is now in immense pain, knee jerk reactionary, and retaliates by causing grievous bodily harm to the adult who ripped their hair out for virtually no perceptible reason from their perspective.

    If the worst case scenario is actualized, then you have two hurt people in a alarmingly escalating situation.

    Since you have tried to teach through other methods to stop the hair ripping, and it persists…wouldn’t the logical thing be to attempt muscle memory teaching that child turned adult not to rip hair by physically reminding them that when hair is present, put your hands in your lap?

    I respect the practice of putting the client’s feelings first is health professional’s duty. I agree with the notion that having your feelings diminished is toxic and harmful. However, its sometimes situational in my opinion. Feelings and rights are to be protected and respected regarding the person being empowered/living a life of their choice, but not at the endangerment of the self or others.

    The ABA in 2020 has shown to focus more on teaching:
    ‑Basic survival skills of clothing, bathing, and feeding one self
    ‑How to navigate the unbalanced, unequal tribulations of life (emotional regulation in the face of adversity)
    ‑How to communicate (whether by sign or method comfortable yet understandable) needs, wants, desires, and goals to the external world
    ‑Basic cognitive development skills (like critical thinking and puzzle solving skills)

    Than control.

    As a modern ABA therapist, coming across this article really broke my heart. I wholeheartedly would like people have experienced ABA in the past to share their experiences with those currently in the ABA field so we can improve the shortcomings. Shock therapy was once used as the main “cure” for depression, but it was obviously not flawless. However, electro-convulsion therapy does help lessen seizures. If parts of ABA don’t work, parts that do can be similarly converted into a hybrid interdisciplinary cross-field practice to make better therapy in my opinion.

  34. I was born premature to a single mum (father had visitation couple times a year or so), and I was suspected to have prenatal alcohol syndrome. Combine that with (potential) speech development issues around the time I was 2–3yo, I had already figured out that I wasn’t like other kids, but I was somehow different. Went to shortly after me having a tantrum at a Catholic School, of which I was practically expelled from due to that (along with quote “me having took a stapler and stapling my arm.” When in reality all I did was take a few individual Staples and just poked my arm with it while the principal was talking to me about my said tantrum as I was unhappy about something or something like that, I don’t really remember it that much… but needless to say, mum took me to a doctor and a therapist, and I was diagnosed with ADD, was put on meds that did NOTHING but make whatever my “issue” was/is worse. My mum being disabled/WC bound around the time I turned eight years old didn’t help either, as then I was partially raised by my grandparents/had to help my mom with physical therapy and helping her go to doctors offices and hospitals to take care of what she had to take care of, at least until she passed away in 08 or so from a blood clot that I had coincidentally told one of her visiting home nurses that she had a blood clot, as I had just watched a documentary on Discovery health about blood clots and she was literally exhibiting all of the symptoms of one, to which I was ignored and even mocked. At least she passed away in her sleep…Granted, I know they all had the best intentions for me, but to me it felt like they weren’t addressing ME, there were addressing my behavior issues. And crap like this ABA, all the therapists, my family who wouldn’t address the CAUSE of my behavior, be it from being raised in a broken home with a disabled mum or not having a traditional two-parent household raised by mother and father… I just feel like all of these “professionals” tried to turn me into a “normal person”, but eventually went with the developmental problem diagnosis to the point that I was actually put into an Autistic classroom (per doctor’s orders 😭), where I excelled up and even helped some of the autistic kids in the class with some of their issues, well at least up until 3rd/4th grade…Then IT ALL WENT DOWNHILL! From then on, was told that I had either a learning disability to mild autism or even Asperger’s, mathematics disorder and ADD/ADHD, from multiple therapists/doctors, in different states/organizations like TEACH @UNC (in all honesty I think teach was probably the one that got it right, but I have no idea because I still have no f****** idea what’s wrong with me lol. That was all back in the 90s/00’s. Now that I’m an adult, even though NOTHING helped at all with my continuing problems that I know exist because I’ve never felt right per se…More so in that in the back of my mind I know that there’s something about me that isn’t necessarily normal as society would like me to be but all the resources for adults with autism or whatever are lackluster to say the least and are absolutely no help at all. Hell I don’t even know if I have f****** autism cuz damn doctors and therapists f***ed my mind/brain up (I suspect chemically, but again I don’t know, and at the rate I’m going I will probably never know…) and the didn’t even address as to WHY I was acting out (which I honestly attribute to me feeling unhappy or something like that because I didn’t have mum AND father around in a traditional family style unit… Go figure, huh?). As a result of all of that, I was a bad kid and did some bad things and hurt my mum in more ways than I care to admit, hurt my grandparents in more ways than I care to admit, and I practically ruined my father’s financial stability with medical bills, child support, etc…IDK, just feel unlike a normal person in general…
    I DO KNOW that I wasn’t treated like an individual, I was treated like a statistic, or even a number on a piece of paper. I do not have the financial ability to hire therapist, I quit taking prescription medication when I was 17yo of my own fruition, because they were interfering with my education (was sleeping in class, and it wasn’t due to insomnia). I’ve had the pills (I think I started off with ritalin, that made me have like a slow-motion acid trip or some crazy s*** I don’t remember but it was weird as hell, then tenex and risperdal, then I want to say abilify and…something spelled like bupropion(?)), and the patches (Do they still use those medicine patches? LOL). OH, and I was in what I can only call a clinical trial for ADHD medication where doctors pricked my finger on an almost daily basis me for blood tests, put me on at least I believe three or four different medications at various intervals during my time there, and one time when I acted out or had a tantrum or something like that and I wouldn’t calm down, I was thrown into a white padded room by myself with nothing but a drain on the floor and an overhead light above me. I don’t know how long I was in there…It could have been 10 minutes, it could have been 30 minutes to an hour I do not remember…but I do remember pissing down that drain because I begged and pleaded and cried and banged on the door and rolled around on the floor…I practically became an uncontrollable animal all because I had to fuckin piss and I was not allowed to leave the padded room and go to the bathroom. I told em as much and that I was going to piss in there if they didn’t let me out. So I did and they let me out then LOL. Although, I wasn’t necessarily a loner during my school years, but I definitely did not have the social skills or any skills really to fully integrate into society. To this day I have trouble looking people in the eyes. I used to stim when I was a kid by rocking back and forth (mainly in the car, for some reason) but since I got weird looks I eventually stopped it myself, cuz I didn’t want to be that “weird kid/dude”. However, I still will occasionally wake up and find myself to have been rocking back and forth in my sleep…I don’t know why…I cannot go outside without fear of being made fun of because I f***** up saying something stupid to somebody, I’ve been in fights with friends and ex-girlfriend over miscommunications on my part or adverse reactions that aren’t socially acceptable, like laughing when somebody is mad n yelling at you when you messed up or whatever, I can kind of read body language but that doesn’t really help me any because no matter where I go or where I’m at I never feel like a normal person in public…I’m just tired of not being listened to, not being taken seriously by people because of whatever the f*** is wrong with me, I can barely hold down a job for more than a year that doesn’t involve me f****** up the job to the point that my only source of income right now is Doordashing…I’m sick of all the f****** b*******, man. Funnily enough, I’ve lost most of my faith in people at this point and now I’ve been leaning on God as of late… MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE HE’S THE ONLY ONE WHO LISTENS TO ME ABOUT MY PROBLEMS! Everybody else that I try to talk to about it, I’m either told that it’s in the past and it doesn’t matter now and to get over it and move on, or to just shut up and suck it up cuz they don’t want to hear it, or how they have lives to live and can’t deal with me and my problems, or how I’m just someone who uses people because I’m selfish…And yet none of them address my actual needs…Well…Now that I think about it, I don’t even know what I need…I have no f****** idea. Everybody’s always told me that I need to be productive member of society, but how the f*** can I be a productive member of society if nobody will teach me the things that I need to learn to be a productive individual!? Parents didn’t do that, school didn’t do that, people at jobs don’t do that, nobody has f****** done it. And now I’m youtubing everything and trying to learn as much as I can by myself, and I’m bitches at for it cuz I’m always on my phone. I’m always on my phone cuz nobody f****** takes me seriously and at least people online will actually talk to me and I can have conversations without people ignoring me or jumping into a conversation with someone else when they get bored about what I’m talking about or whatever man f****** ridiculous and I’m trying to change myself if I don’t know what’s wrong how the f*** can I better myself?! So f*** it I’m just going to do what I can with what I got try to find a job that pays relatively well so I don’t have to be a burden on anyone else cuz that’s all I felt like for 29 years is a f****** burden, even though I was my own burden for doing stupid bad s*** as a kid/young adult that I shouldn’t have done now that I look back on it but at the time I didn’t think about anything I just did stuff with very limited self-control…Oh crap I’m rambling now…I’m probably going to get s*** on here for posting this on here but you know what f*** it I don’t care, hopefully someone can learn from my mistakes and have a better life because of my…I was going to say story but I guess you can consider it an essay, but whatever, if you read this thank you and God bless you.

    1. So sad 🙁 I do worry about this labelling of children, which then seems to determine how they will be treated, instead of helping the individual.
      We are all individuals and no two of us are every exactly alike. Autism is a DREADFUL diagnosis because it ends up with being “boxed” and expected to behave in certain ways and resong in certain way to a formulated treatment of the ‘diagnosis’.

  35. I had been warned so much about ABA and how insidious it is. I was tricked into working for an ABA program — I didn’t know what it was when I started, and was horrified once I found out. ABA teaches instructors to ignore a child’s feelings in order to focus on the desires of the NTs who put them in the program. Clients were always too loud/quiet/affectionate/distant. No matter the behavior, it appeared we were there to only discourage them. They couldn’t flap their hands, rock back and forth, repeat phrases, stroke the chair, nothing. They were to sit and be quiet like obedient little robots, and in return they got a puzzle, a piece of candy, a video, a toy. It’s absolutely awful. This doesn’t mean the clients didn’t like us — my clients were always delighted to see me. But in the brief time I worked there, I knew that it was harming them, and I cried every single day.

    ABA is so evil and it’s so easy to trick even the most well meaning NT people into thinking it’s helpful. To disguise it as something it’s not.

Talk to us... what are you thinking?