Parody: 50 Shades of ABA3 min read

Editor’s note: Emily Wade is a board-certified behavior ana­lyst (BCBA) who vol­un­teered to write this article at the request of The Aspergian. She is not autistic but is involved in efforts col­lab­o­rating with the autistic com­mu­nity to try to bring about mean­ingful reform to the field of applied behavior analysis.

Travis James was tired. He had spent the day protesting out­side of an autism ther­a­peutic prac­tice which pro­vided, among its many ser­vices, Rapid Prompting Method as a method of teaching spelling to com­mu­ni­cate.

He felt the burn in his biceps, fatigued from holding up signs warning people that— if souls existed— RPM would steal those souls. Travis had done his duty as a skeptic and punched pseu­do­science in the face.

As usual, he immersed him­self in fine lit­er­a­ture to unwind. He pulled out the latest edi­tion of JABA and began to leaf through its crisp pages. He felt his heart rate rise when he saw an article on meta­science and machine learning. Just like people, Twitter algo­rithms could be con­di­tioned.

He was so immersed in his reading that he almost didn’t notice the warm hand softly mas­saging his shoulder. He put down his journal and looked up into sparkling eyes and coquet­tish grin of his wife, Mattilda.

In order to make sure her ini­ti­a­tion of a social inter­ac­tion con­tacted rein­force­ment, he needed to deter­mine the func­tion. Ever the dili­gent behav­iorist, he got up and strode to the oak bar­rister book­shelf in the corner, pulling from it a binder labeled, “A‑B-C Data: Mattilda,” located the tab marked, “Tactile,” and scrolled through the alpha­bet­ical list of behav­iors of interest until he landed on the page enti­tled, “Soft squeeze of shoulder with con­cur­rent grin.”

Scanning the previously-recorded data, Travis noted that when he responded by smiling back and engaging in rec­i­p­rocal behav­iors indi­cating affec­tion, the resulting behavior chain often cul­mi­nated in sexual activity. Satisfied that he had iden­ti­fied an appro­priate response to rein­force Mattilda’s behavior, he turned back to her and smiled while holding out his arms to hug her.

She sighed deeply and rolled her eyes, asking, “Do you really need to do that every time?” Travis ignored her inap­pro­priate attention-seeking behavior and con­tinued to hold out his arms. Shaking her head, Mattilda said, “You are so weird,” but walked into his embrace. Pulling away for a moment, Travis made sure to look in her eyes to say, “Thank you SO MUCH for hug­ging me back Mattilda! GREAT JOB!”

“Please shut up,” Mattilda mur­mured and kissed him gently on the lips. Travis kissed her back, then nib­bled gently on her ear. She pulled back slightly and chided, “You know I don’t like that.” Travis imme­di­ately let her go and exclaimed, “That reminds me!”

He ran off to his office while Mattilda stared after him in con­fu­sion. He returned shortly with a lam­i­nated sheet of paper with the words “Travis’s Token Board” on the top and 10 spots for “tokens” with pic­tures of kiss marks on them.

Travis explained to Mattilda, “I made this the other day when you got mad that I don’t remember what you tell me. Now you can give me a token every time I do some­thing you like and take one away when I do some­thing you don’t like. And when I get all 10…” he wig­gled his eye­brows sug­ges­tively, “then you know what hap­pens.”

Mattilda shook her head and mut­tered to her­self, “I knew I should have run when he broke out a visual schedule for our dates.” Resigned, she took the token board from him. Travis wrapped her in his arms and kissed her neck, then looked at her expec­tantly.

Mattilda duti­fully placed a token on the board. Travis frowned and scolded, “You need to pair the tokens with social rein­force­ment! For example, you could tell me I did such an awe­some job…but in a really sexy voice.”

“You know what? I think I’ll just call it a night,” Mattilda snapped as she stormed away, mut­tering, “Mom was right. I should have found a nice SLP or an occu­pa­tional ther­a­pist to marry.”

The Aspergian
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3 Comments

  1. Oh Wade,

    the moment when there was that exchange of the expec­tant look.

    And I swear up and down that Travis James is a real person — those two first names [Travis in par­tic­ular].

    Now go con­di­tion these algo­rithms already!

    Oh — the cyberpsy­chology of my youth could never handle a candle to this.

    Does he ever call her Mattie or Tilda affec­tion­ately?

    This is my round way of saying: “This is the finest parody of the last fif­teen years because it goes at the truth and Truth”.

    1. I like you, Adelaide. Very much, haha. You see a lot and you See a lot.

      Yeah, the names were quite pur­poseful.

  2. I adore this. Funny, satir­ical, yet under­neath, sin­ister. Telling the truth as only us Aspies can. 😉 😛

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