Many autistic children who receive ABA therapy are nonspeakers. As these children age, they gain access to better communication tools. And when they do, these autistics often report horror stories from ABA therapy.
In many cases, these children don’t report their ABA horror stories until adulthood. It takes them that long to process the traumatic events that occurred and to realize they were wrong.
We wish these horror stories weren’t so common, but they are.
This is why it’s important to make sure parents know that ABA is abusive from the start. We must listen to the countless children who have fought for the tools to share their stories.
ABA is not the only option. Alternative therapies for autistic children do exist, and they have proven successful through research and experience.
Many ABA horror stories are published on our site. Here are a few of them:
Every time they tell me to work harder, I physically can’t because of all the other children in other rooms screaming their heads off. There’s also the music on the other iPads that the other kids use, too.
I can’t handle hearing young children screaming, and it’s happening all the time. Sometimes, they have very young kids in the room with me, as young as three years old. This is not just because of autism and noise sensitivity. I never see anyone comfort the kids who are screaming.
The sound is constant, like a horror movie soundtrack. They tell me that I’ll “have to get used to it” every time I ask what the children are screaming about behind the gates.
I’m always told that I am “scripting” every time something is difficult; for example, when I said I didn’t like how something made me feel, they said, “You’re just scripting.” Scripting is repeating words someone else said, so telling me that is like saying because I am autistic, I can’t even have feelings or talk about them.
One practitioner in California went to court because the rough handling of one of her charges resulted in permanent spinal damage. The practitioner was brought up on cruelty charges, but she held up a book written by another professional and showed the judge that the method she used was described in this book.
So they let her off. It wasn’t cruelty, apparently, even though it caused severe and permanent damage, because a book said it was standard protocol.
What about electric shocks, or “electric stimulation” as the practitioners prefer to call it?
How could it be possible, in this day and age, that this sort of behaviour modification is still seen as acceptable?
Whenever I had doubts, I was always immediately reassured that [insert uncomfortable situation I was in] was helping the autistic child overall. I was told that the autistic child would grow with better, more “appropriate” behaviors as they learn from the programming, which in turn will help them socialize and be a proud member of society once they are older.
Before I go any further, let me inform readers that I am not a parent. I never had experience babysitting, and I was never in a direct mentor position for children or parents– so it’s also hard for me to judge anything about what was really happening. I had no precedent or barometer for “normal” when it came to working with kids.
I can just say, I questioned the processes and system of ABA while at the clinic, but again I was told numerous times I was really helping. I never saw how; I just saw children being uncomfortable often, and I, myself, feeling the same sentiments in exchange.
I had small children, as well. It was a dangerous situation, and I was desperate. I didn’t know what to do. I was terrified for him. I was also being told that I was the problem. I was referred to as a “pushover” who “lets him get his way.” I was told that I “spoil him.”
They said I was teaching him “learned helplessness.”
Ironically, that’s exactly what they were teaching me.
Becoming an ABA Registered Behavior Technician Before Knowing I Was Autistic: Part 1 – Restraint Training
To become a registered behavior technician (RBT), I had to take an online course that took approximately 30 hours. That was it.
For the employer, I had to attend a few trainings on the ground: HIPAA, patient rights, and some information on benefits packages and human resources. There was only one training on the whole schedule lasting more than two hours, and it was the only training specific to my position as an RBT.
I urged her to let him, but and she brushed me off saying that it would be “reinforcing maladaptive behaviors.” He went to other staff and brought them to his snacks, and everyone ignored him because he was exhibiting “attention-seeking” behavior. He manded over and over again, and it still haunts me hearing that electronic voice from his AAC device say “granola bar.”
I had enough and sat him at the table and gave him food. He continued to cry softly as he ate his snacks, so emotionally overwhelmed he couldn’t stop. I told my supervisor about the incident, and she wrote up a “training protocol” that was posted on the door of how lunchtimes were flexible.