Behave OR Be Well3 min read

Ask any Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and they will likely tell you that ABA therapy is the go-to treat­ment for self-injurious behav­iors (SIB) IF the indi­vidual is diag­nosed with an Intellectual or Development Disability.

What they won’t tell you, though, is how ABA uti­lizes abu­sive and inhu­mane prac­tices like “blocking” a vul­ner­able child from accessing their own per­sonal self-regulatory strate­gies (like flap­ping and rocking) in order to inten­tion­ally trigger duress. They do this so they can ana­lyze the behavior in con­text of the “social envi­ron­ment” without ever fac­toring in per­sonal rela­tion­ships. Why?

Because you can’t mea­sure human con­nec­tion.

What is humane about “blocking” Little Bobby’s hand flapping/sensory reg­u­la­tion tech­nique (coping mech­a­nism) by restraining his wrists with the pre­med­i­tated pur­pose of inten­tion­ally trig­gering an episode of self-injurious behavior?

In ABA, you only ana­lyze what you observe, and you are trained to observe for one of three things to be hap­pening.

But don’t worry, no inves­ti­ga­tion is too dif­fi­cult for an ABA ther­a­pist. They all know that all behavior is almost always moti­vated by one of four func­tions:

1. Attention Seeking

2. Demand Avoidance

3. Access to Tangibles

4. Sensory Stimulation

I’ll note that although Sensory Stimulation is listed as a fourth moti­vator, I would argue that the first three moti­va­tors all have some­thing to do with sen­sory reg­u­la­tion. Hypersensitivity is reported con­sis­tently across the spec­trum, not to men­tion, neu­ro­science has shown us vis­ible proof.

When sen­si­tive chil­dren are mis­un­der­stood, dis­em­pow­ered, and patron­ized with treats like jelly beans, it dam­ages their sense of self.

It is also ABA.

A simple lens switch could pre­vent so much trauma. In mental health, for those who are not Intellectually or Developmentally dis­abled, those with Self-Injurious Behaviors (like cut­ting and addic­tion) are viewed from a human­istic point of view. What moti­vates SIB from this per­spec­tive?

1. Insecure attach­ments

2. Inadequate self-regulatory skills

3. Over sen­si­tivity to emo­tional dis­tress

Why is it that when a kid has an ID/DD diag­nosis, their inter­ven­tion doesn’t con­sider that they are human beings with thoughts and feel­ings and value? Instead, they are exposed to abu­sive com­pli­ance training, often dis­guised as “Skills Training.” The lucky ones will learn to tol­erate things that they should not have to tol­erate, and the most spir­ited end up on the…

ABA-to-Institution Pipeline.

When you look at the moti­va­tors iden­ti­fied in mental health, you see that the oppo­site is done in ABA.

From a mental health per­spec­tive, building a safe rela­tion­ship with the ther­a­pist is key.

ABA cre­ates inse­cure attach­ments because the ther­a­pists inten­tion­ally form manip­u­la­tive rela­tion­ships when they use their clients as sci­ence exper­i­ments. They use a tech­nique called pairing which asso­ciates the ABA tech­ni­cian with rewards and toys only avail­able when they’re there.

ABA ther­a­pists also inten­tion­ally block self-regulatory skills (stun­ning) and with­hold com­fort objects in order to do their sci­ence exper­i­ments.

Here is a break­down of how that works in behav­iorist…

“One expla­na­tion is that SIB may pro­duce both rein­forcing and aver­sive con­se­quences, and self-restraint occurs to avoid or escape the aver­sive con­se­quences SIB pro­duces (see Fisher & Iwata, 1996, for a detailed dis­cus­sion). When an FA [func­tional analysis] of SIB is con­ducted, if self-restraint occurs to the exclu­sion of SIB, it may not be pos­sible to iden­tify the func­tion of SIB. In these cases, blocking self-restraint may be nec­es­sary to observe SIB and deter­mine its func­tion” (Fisher, Grace, & Murphy, 1996; Lerman, Iwata, Smith, & Vollmer, 1994).

In other words, if a child is keeping from self harm by using some other tech­nique, the ABA prac­ti­tioner will have to block that tech­nique to drive the child to self-harm.

ABA therapy does not address a child’s mental health needs, but it cer­tainly causes a lot of emo­tional trauma.

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  1. Interesting. The “therapy” sup­pos­edly intended to help autis­tics “fit in” in order to avoid a life­time of bul­lying & abuse by neu­rotyp­i­cals… *con­sists entirely of bul­lying & abuse by neu­rotyp­i­cals.*
    This is my shocked face.

    Do you all really still believe this is just a coin­ci­dence? Do you really?

    The goal of therapy is not actu­ally to help any­body, there, I said it. It’s merely to enforce con­for­mity, at the expense of health or hap­pi­ness.
    Look at NT society (I refuse to include us in “society” because the truth is, we are NOT included, & we should not WANT to be!).
    Neurotypical society has been con­trolled by so-called “mental health experts” for gen­er­a­tions now, and look at it, really LOOK AT IT. It’s no coin­ci­dence that it’s chaos. The goal of “mental health & therapy” is not to make people well, it is to harm them make them con­form to a harmful society.
    NT society is nothing but a meat-grinder. And the harder autis­tics try to con­form to that, the more it’s going to hurt. We need to stop trying to be like them, & stop let­ting them force us to try to be like them.

  2. This is a good point. Taking away kids’ coping skills is only going to make their behavior more “dif­fi­cult” in the long run because the emo­tional cost is huge.

    Tearing away at emo­tion reg­u­la­tion in the name of con­for­mity doesn’t help kids fit into society; it breaks them.

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