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

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

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.

 

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371 Responses

  1. Excellent article! And still they say that WE (autistics) are the ones lacking empathy! It’s not just the techniques but how and why they are applied. Even more frightening, I fear that his model seems to be spreading into non autistic special education programs. We’ll end up with an even greater amount of young adults that have little ability to self advocate!

    1. It is horrible the way these therapist attends at these children – they should first learn how to empathy and respect them, I don’t think this kind of therapy will bring any long term improvement to those kids lives.

  2. I found it really disturbing to watch the amount of grabbing, touching, tickling which to me seemed quite aggressive and completely not respectful of the child’s bodily autonomy along with absolute blindness to Any of the children’s non verbal gestures. Where is it acceptable when a child is quite clearly reaching to take something to ignore their hands and then ram it up their tee-shirt?

    1. That really irked me too.

      Also, while I agree with everything the articles says, in addition to that, based on the videos, it looks like the therapists don’t even have a clue about rewarding. For the most part, what’s meant to be rewarding appears to be uncomfortable for the kids judging on their body language, which is in many cases either avoidant or indifferent or resigned (just putting up with it) … so it looks like the therapists apply what they assume are rewards without even first checking out the kid’s preferences and what’s rewarding for them. The “rewards” honestly looked aversive in many cases… as you say, lots of invasive gestures and handling like touching, tickling, leaning over, hugging, starring down etc as part of both the interaction and then as “rewards” too… If this was animal training, they would all have been sacked long ago for their incompetence

      1. I thought that too! Completely daft (and seemingly showing a complete lack of understanding of autism!) Perhaps this ‘therapist’ found out the child liked tickling, but I find that doubtful.

        All autistic people are different of course, but the number of autistic people who enjoy being tickled (particularly by someone who is not a very close friend/parent, etc.) must be infinitesimally small!

      1. Thanks for this perspective. I’ve been contemplating ABA for my child, but as a mental health therapist myself I’ve always been skeptical. It seems problematic to focus excessively on behavior without regard for the emotions and neurological underpinnings of that behavior. So, thanks for your insight as an autistic person. I would love your thoughts on alternatives to ABA.

        1. Hi there,

          I have recently discovered that I am autistic ‘by accident’, when visiting a mental health professional for another matter. This has made my life history make a huge amount of sense to me.

          I have randomly happened on the concept of ABA recently when researching about autism.

          I am horrified by it, to be honest. I can’t imagine how broken I’d be, had I been put through that as a child.

          As a suggestion, in answer to your question – I wonder if mentoring by an adult with autism, might be a good idea.

          We know what it is like to have this type of brain (at a broad brush; of course all autistic people are individuals, with varying personalities, abilities and difficulties).

          As examples, – we could help children to find/demonstrate polite ways to explain (or non verbally show) that they need a time out, to recover from lots of stimulation. – We could help children to choose a list of times that it might be useful to act in a slightly more NT way (formal situations for instance), and help them to find more discreet stims to achieve this (in an ability appropriate way, of course – it could just be demonstrating different discreet stims, and encouraging them to try them out, if they want to). – In the same way, we can help them to build self esteem, and understand times when they can ‘just be wholly their autistic selves’ (when with friends and family, for instance). (It took so many years for me to work these things out by myself.) – We can help them with tips such as, if they are in a situation where it would help communication with an NT person, they can look at the spot between someone’s eyebrows (the NT person will never know that they are not actually looking into their eyes!) – Supermarket shopping lesson for teen autistics (those who find it horrible) – choose a small grocery store, and only purchase food for a couple of days at a time. Get in and out as quickly as possible! Use the self service checkouts if that is an option (self scan checkouts might be a UK only thing.), so you don’t have to waste small talk energy on supermarket shopping! [I now understand why I shop in this way!]

          All of these things could be done in an age and ability appropriate way. Looking at the spot between eyebrows for example (faked eye contact), could be practiced by encouraging a young child to choose a fun sticker, and playfully suggesting that they put the sticker on their ‘in-between eyebrow spot’ – then gently, in a fun playful way, encouraging looking at the sticker, and the mentor doing the same back (but absolutely no forcing it).

          The things that the mentor could help with would be different for each child – depending on whether a child is verbal/non-verbal, their interests, and personalities, etc. But, the mentoring would at least come from a place of broad understanding.

          One other thing to mention (whilst I have a list of complaints about ABA, I’ll stick with one) – the ‘therapy’ doesn’t seem to teach actual life skills, and ways to successfully exist in a happy way, in a majority NT world. ‘Touch your nose’, ‘pat that’ etc. I cannot see how these things are helpful skills!

          I used to play with dolls for endless hours as a child, by myself – muttering ‘the conversations that the dolls were having with each other’ out loud to myself. It is clear to me now that I was practicing my ‘conversation scripts’ by doing this.

          Surely we can assist children with actual life skills in a fun way (that suits them). We could, for example (connected to the above), help children to find ways to ‘pre-practice’ having conversations (that is fun and right for them and that is ability appropriate), in a low pressure and fun way.

          I believe I’d be much less of a ‘late bloomer’ had I had a bit of mentoring by someone who intrinsically understands.

          (Not that being a late bloomer is a bad thing – but it is very hard and time consuming, to have to work out so many things by trial and error, and thinking through things.)

          1. I don’t know that mentoring by another Asperger’s person would necessarily help. We ARE all different. Both of my parents would have been diagnosed as Asperger’s if it was around then) but neither of them really understood me. (And they BOTH though the other one was mad.)
            I was a rather lonely child and spent a lot of my time hiding from my parents. I found some other adults who seems to understand me and used them as role models.

          2. I agree that the videos chosen are not the best examples of ABA but this is a very biased article. There are plenty of other videos available that show different applications but this author is, as she identifies in her bio, an author of fiction.

          3. Many of those videos are from well-respected sites. Please, include links of “best examples” of ABA, please, if you want to accuse me of inventing nonsense.

          4. Hello! I am really interested in your comment and love it so much!! I’m a Registered Behavior Technician and want to acknowledge and address some of your concerns. A lot of what you mentioned in your examples for what ABA should provide is actually a lot of what we actually do everyday! You’re mentioning differential reinforcement schedules, which is substituting something like spitting with something incompatible with it, like chewing gum. The sticker example you said was actually used in the clinic to help someone look at the camera for zoom, and it actually helps a lot!
            We do have a kitchen equipped with everything a kitchen needs that helps many people with the life skills you mentioned like cooking food, washing dishes, or opening a refrigerator. We also learn to use naturalistic teaching techniques which is being able to get target behaviors when you’re out of a structured setting. We wouldn’t be trained if we didn’t use it every day.
            I can see why a lot of people had a problem with that first video. DTT (discrete trial training) is usually used in less than 10 minutes increments and used just as an assessment to see where someone is baseline. There are a variety of cards targeted for tact skills, intraverbal skills, receptive skills and more. It is just a periodic test to see progress and not used as a main way to teach someone how to live their life. We also use interesting reinforcers and are playful and cheerful, never grumpy like that woman.
            As an RBT, we are trained to be advocates and have respect and dignity for everyone and anyone. One specific person (a BCBA) will go over and personally talk to a caregiver or school about what is causing a problem. They will make a thorough and extensive plan including the specific behavior to increase or decrease, if they don’t like certain things, their favorite reinforcer, and so much more that is accounted for while working with someone with ASD to make sure we don’t step a boundary, and to also make sure that the person is having fun. Many, if not all, of our clients are more severe on the spectrum and usually can not advocate for themselves or do simple tasks unprompted. A lot of friends and family don’t know what else to do or have no idea how raise or interact with someone with ASD especially if they’re aggressive, self-injurious, or a harm to others.
            We do everything in our power to help bring people with ASD to their full potential as slowly or as quickly as they need. Some of our work with them is play and fun time we call pairing in order to get a better relationship with our clients, especially if they’re younger. It’s not all work and we try our hardest to give people as many options and choices to what they want to do.

          5. Autistic mentoring is exactly what is recommended! Check out the studies currently happening at DART Labs, Edinburgh University in Double Empathy xx

        2. PS – a large part of the mentoring must be listening to the child (or ‘listening by looking’ for the non-verbal children, and helping children to find the solutions that are right for them.

          For example, some teens may be over stimulated by rushing things. Therefore, the mentor’s job (re: my grocery shopping example), would be to help the young person find the right solution for them, and support them to practice it/try it out. (Perhaps that might mean shopping slowly, in a regimented/ordered way, whilst wearing sunglasses and noise cancelling head phones. Everyone is different.)

          I wonder if there are programmes that teach autism mentoring to autistic people. There should be, if there is not, I think.

          1. I am sitting here and rock, rock rocking. It helps me — the movement is soothing and I feel it keeps my blood and endocrine glands working. There’s SO much I want to say 🙁
            What we need is to understand HOW ‘normal people’ think. I would suspect that most of us have all these ‘autistic mannerisms, but normal people manage to keep them private.
            But we also need to learn to tell others what we are thinking and feeling. It is OK to tell people that you don’t like croweds so thatyou so much but I wont; go to your party, I will NOT join you for the NYE fireworks. Please never never ask me to be involved in a group hug. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you.

        3. One final thought (my apologies – I know this is a lot of words!) – is to try to understand your child’s behaviour from their perspective, if you can.

          My sitting alone, for 3 or 4 hours straight, holding dolls and muttering to myself, must have looked completely bizzare, and possibly unhealthy. But (as I described in my first post), I was preparing and practicing for my adult life to come.

          1. Sounds perfectly sensible to me.
            Normal People are SO boring. Boring interests boring behaviour’

        4. Honestly… the examples here are not representative of ABA, just examples, and not great examples at that. As a BCBA for a school district I worked every day to stop people putting hands on kids to control or coerce them and to teach the adults better ways of responding. Making learning opportunities accessible, fun and interesting was a huge part of the work I did.
          Almost exclusively the ABA work I have done have been helping teach adults, not with the focus of changing kids. The assumptions mentioned in the post are definitely not true of all ABA therapists. Here is an article to consider. It’s short… https://practicalfunctionalassessment.com/2021/01/26/a-perspective-on-todays-aba-by-dr-greg-hanley/

          1. The really big (HUGE) problem here is with the ‘diagnosis’ of “Autistic”.
            Autistic behaviour can occur due to great variation of causes.
            So far there seems to be no real diagnosis of its cause, therefore there can be no effective remedies across the whole huge spectrum of what in now being called “Autistic”.

        5. Autistic here, with two autistic kids and one NT. I’m glad you’re not doing ABA, it’s awful stuff and very emotionally traumatising, and it absolutely leaves you wide open to sexual abuse because you are never shown how to tell someone to stop after years of being taught your body can be pushed around by anyone and you have no rights. I treat my autistic children the same way as my NT child. They do take more time and need things shown and explained a lot more but it’s easy enough. I did have to put in work to help figure out how to stop harmful behaviours, and it took a while of trial and error working out what the behaviours were stemming from and finding a way to change the house or requirements on them or just giving them a different outlet so they would choose that over hurting themselves. They require significantly more alone time too. I’ve made one goal for their childhoods, and that is to be happy. There’s a lot of damage done to the brain by being sad as a child, so if happiness improves outcomes for NTs then it should work on autistics, so happiness is what they’ll be getting however I can manage that.

    2. I felt the same way about the amount of touching, especially since touching for some autistic people can be a trigger. It’s invading their personal space, my 10 year old son is super sensitive about being touched. We always ask before we give him a hug or something because it’s his choice, and we show him respect for his boundaries.

  3. This is why I believe ABA belongs to a courtroom docks. ⚖️⚖️⚖️
    People who know they are being called out for their ABA sessions but still keep it on with that, should face justice for child abuse.
    No sympathy for people like that. 😡😡😡

  4. If you consider ABA as abuse, PLEASE don’t spread pictures or videos of Autistics being abused. I ask you to delete these videos. You owe us some dignity.

    1. Unfortunately, those videos are publicly accessible, shared by people who don’t see them as abusive. I think it’s worth linking to them here so we can help people understand. The harm from these videos being shared non-consensually in this context is less than the benefit if parents or therapists see this discussion, accompanying these videos, and start to see what’s wrong with this approach.

      1. I think it is also important for many parents to see what actually happens in ABA. Many ABAs don’t allow parents to watch. I insisted on watching it and got through one half of a session with my son and it ended there. I couldn’t imagine how it would be okay for anyone to treat someone I loved like that. No matter what the “goal” was.

        1. This article is focused on a. Part of ABA that is practiced without considering the internal thoughts and feelings of participants. Healthy ABA following BF Skinner’s (not just lovaas) approach to ABA requires parents participation and knowing how far to go with a goal without traumatizing the participants. What you are seeing is unprofessional and unregulated ABA. This starts with good teachers and higher requirements for practitioners of ABA. They should be licensed professionals with training and experience. Many, unfortunately, have never worked with children at the interventionist level. Supervisors require more training and BCBAs are even lacking without the proper training. The field is not regulated enough to be sure that proper instruction is taking place. Until then it is a learning process.

          1. Under every ethics code, no “learning process” trial and error balderdash is acceptable to practice on children who cannot protest or who are not allowed to protest.

            I was a registered ABA behavior technician. These videos are exactly like the most commonly used training videos. Why do you think that even with rampant problems with regulation it’s okay do anything other than strongly condemn ABA for autistic children?

          2. I am REALLY REALLY NOT a fan of Skinner. His research was not done re how to treat mental/psychiatric problems, but simply investigating how animals learn re the use of aversives, punishment and rewards. AKA learned behaviour — Conditioned Reflexes .
            He did not go into hard-wired behaviours, mental problems, lack of intelligence or faults in other senses, damaged brains or . . . .
            HE studied pigeons and rats.
            PLEASE do NOT defend ABA on the grounds that it is pure Skinnerian ‘Behaviorism’/ There is a LOT more involved in behaviour than reflexive “learning”.
            PS as also a trained ‘Behavioural Dog Trainer” I am against relying on Skinner’s ‘quadrants’. They are not hard and fast divisions because their actions rely on how the intervention is perceived by he learner.
            What one child/dog loves and will work as a reward to reinforce wanted behaviour, can be seen as highly aversive by another chilo
            d/dog and introduce more problems rather than solve any.

          3. In Florida, you need a high school degree and ONE WEEK of training to do ABA. The bottom line though? Autism is neurological, and even PhDs in behavior analysis have ZERO training in neurology! It’s unethical pseudoscience!

        2. I think that a better solution would be for the ‘Therapist’ to work with and advise the parents.
          I know that still, at 77, my skin crawls if strangers of people I do not like touch me.
          And YES, I have learned to ‘hide it’ but I still avoid it as much as possible.

  5. That sad little “do this” from the little girl in the first video…

    I can imagine what she’s thinking. “You don’t care how I’m feeling. You just care about me following your commands.”

    1. They use a simple command to not confuse the child. If I was to show and teach you sign language I would be be saying “do this” over and over. It’s just consistency so everyone is on the same page and doesn’t get frustrating at a miscommunication that could have easily be avoided.

      1. I should laugh, But it is really really horrible.
        I learned Sign, and nobody but nobody said over and over ‘Do this”. I had a few teachers at school like that — I didn’t learn under them and heartily disliked them. I am also a trained secondary school teacher and we never never said things like “Do this” over and over again.
        Talk TO the child, Ask the child what they like/want. Give them what they like/want. Let them learn to adapt as best they can, doing things that satisfy them.

  6. Wow. Thank you for explaining it in a way I understand. I never really understood why it was considered abusive, but I get it now.

    1. Many of us with autism have a lot of empathy (whilst, for many of us, it may not be clear that we do, to NTs). The child may well see clearly, to echo AceMindBreaker, that the adult is not taking care of her wants, needs, and happiness (because if one has empathy, one can often clearly see where empathy is not present). The child may (due to theory of mind issues), assume the adult is able to clearly see her unmet wants, needs and unhappiness, but is ignoring them. The only logical explanation therefore to the child, will often be that this adult ‘does not care about me at all’.

  7. Just yesterday, I read a blog post by a mother who was expressing her gratitude to a perfect stranger showing kindness to her child, who was beginning to melt down in the grocery store. The man sat down with him, on the floor, and interacted in a way that settled him and made him laugh. Meltdown averted. Lots of questions there. Had she done anything to protect the child from overstimulation: dark glasses, ear muffs or plugs? Did she believe that trips to the grocery store would eventually “desensitize” the child? Did she learn anything from watching the interaction?

  8. What annoys me when “autism mommies” respond to adult autistics about this, is that we’re often dismissed as “too high functioning” so our opinion doesn’t count. Often it seems like if an autistic person manages to communicate in a way they understand, they’re dismissed as “not autistic enough.” So the only people who are “autistic enough” are the ones who can’t protest what they’re saying.

    1. Can you please stop throwing moms under the bus? I am autistic AND a mom. I know many ally mothers who are very neurodiverse accepting and supportive. Generalizing is never a great idea.

      1. Autistic and neurodiverse moms, as well as ally parents, are not being referred to when someone says “Autism Mom TM” or “autism mommies”.

      2. It’s not generalizing. Their referring to the ones who defend this practice and dismiss the opinions of adult autistics, as it says. Unless that describes you, you don’t need to worry about it.

      3. PLEASE PLEASE STOP referring to mothers as Moms. It is insulting, I don’t even like people calling me a MUM.. (Or Mam, or mammay or mama or what eever other baby word. It is belittling, I am a mother!

    2. “High Functioning” is a term created by ableist “autism warrior parents,” in an effort to shut down any autistic voices that are concerned about the way their children are treated. It’s a term often used by ablest organizations such as autism speaks, in an effort to remove the opinions of those impacted by their ableism. ABA is child abuse PERIOD, and I’m grateful my parents never subjected me to this.

      1. “High Functioning” was a term introduced so ‘they’ could lump us Asperger’s people in with all the other forms of Autism. it is insulting and well as diversive. There is a wide range of different personalities, intelligence, social behaviour and we are ALL normal.
        Some of us cope very well, thank you with those boringly average people. Some of us need help to cope, just as those with physical handicaps need help

    3. I think that I am “autistic enough” to see through this sort of bullying.
      I see our Asperger’s traits as knowing how to tell if others have any bleeding knowledge or authority to insist on what they think from their limited authority-ridden education.

  9. I am a mother of a wonderful boy who is autistic. We do ABA therapy and many of the sessions have been in our home. Many of the things they do are similar to what we do for our two other NT kids. It’s about hoping to teach them coping skills. We would never stop stimming because it is a way of communication but overall he needs to learn what to do when he is overstimulated. I see the divide and understand both sides, but what it the other option besides ABA? (Not being defensive I truely want to know) My 5 year has been suspended several times at school because when he is overstimulated he can become aggressive. I don’t have the answer as to what else we can do because the school system won’t help. I can understand him at home, but how do I help him at school? If he is playing with friends and it’s just too much for him If I’m not there (and I won’t always be) how can I help him learn what to do?

    1. Eileen have you looked at the the DIR floortime method. It is very play based and has worked wonders for my son in socialization and overall happiness.

    2. He can be encouraged to stim more, walk away and take a break, advocate for himself, not feel obligated to continue playing, wear ear plugs/weighted vests/dark glasses/soff clothing. These are things we can be encouraged to do to help us in our environment. Defending ABA and continuing it is not the answer. These things I suggested have worked for me and many other autistic folks to avoid meltdown/shutdown/agressiveness because it addresses our actual needs.

      1. I am a BCBA and work in home and at and ABA center. I actually teach my clients to request these things when they are becoming overwhelmed. They have coping skills programs. We encourage them to request their headphones if it’s too loud, their compression vest if they need sensory input, breaks from work if they feel tired. We work on understanding and expressing emotions and our therapists validate that and work on what the kids can do if they are feeling that way. Some of the kids I work with were being kicked out of school daily for becoming aggressive until we worked with them on requesting the things they needed to be okay. I don’t understand how this is abuse?

        1. Coping skills programs are great! But they are not ABA. I think it’s fantastic to work stuff like that in. It’s the basic goals and methods of ABA itself that I disagree with. There are many other great ways to help autistic children and many BCBAs seem to mix and match. If you believe that headphones and compression vests are a standard part of ABA itself i’d love to see some references because every ABA site I have read and every instructional ABA video I have seen have not mentioned that.

          1. ABA therapists (if doing their job correctly) are supposed to work as an interdisciplinary team along side of other therapies. We work closely with OT and Speech therapists as well as schools to make sure the kids are getting EVERYTHING they need. ABA is not supposed to be one size fits all therapy. The treatment plan should be client based. Coping skills are absolutely a HUGE part of ABA. Teaching functional communication to express wants and needs is one of the main things we focus on. Not all kids even do discrete trials. Some kids need to work on social skills, job training, behaviors (through teaching coping skills and functional communication). Discrete trials (as shown above) are such a tiny piece of what we do and honestly only represents a tiny portion of our clientele. It’s sad that this is the representation of what ABA is.

          2. my son is 14 and we have been doing ABA on and off for along time. asking for breaks are taught from an early age, and the choice of activity is given during breaks whether it is a trampoline or a swing or just walking around or just playing with toys. my son was also taught to cover his ears if there is a noise that he doesnt like. I think ABA is no longer what it used to be. he was never forced to have eye contact and never to stop stimming.

          3. The implementation of the vest or sensory defenses are not part of ABA, but to ask for them in whatever communication way the individual uses in times of need is ABA. I appreciate you trying to open people’s eyes to another side. But, I also want to point out that when you claim you know autism, you know YOUR autism. This entire discussion is way too over generalized for such a diverse community

          4. FYI, coping skills are part of ABA. Also, compression vests, weighted blankets, and other sensory items are used by OTs, not ABA. Parents/caregivers are a fundamental part of ABA. They learn the skills taught through ABA and apply it to their childrens’ daily lives, instead of getting frustrated with them.I know many parents that have no idea how to help their kids, and just let there kids be. In the long run, it is unfair to these kids because they have a lifetime ahead of them to deal with a community that doesn’t understand autism. Let’s give these kids a chance to learn how to navigate through life. They have the learning ability.

            I’m so glad ABA studies is now offered at many universities as a graduate program. I am also glad many schools are hiring ABA therapists to participate in the childrens’ educational plans.

          5. Thomas Edison electrocuted an elephant to death in the name of science. Do we hate lightbulbs and electric? No.

            Coping skills is ABA. I learned about teaching these skills in my required 40 hr video training and tested about it in the accompanying quizzes. That was emphasized the most. So I would also like to see where you got that information when the bibliography is completed.

            In the field I was helping teach an adult whom I didn’t know if they had autism because of HIPPA. How to take his lunch out of his lunch box, microwave and take it out safely, eat it properly, and then throw his trash away as a life skill.

            ABA methods of breaking down each step were used and it was compiled over 15 specific steps and now he can do it by himself when told it’s lunch time. How is that abuse? He is learning independent living skills not playing games.

            ABA is very complex and hard to explain the details and methods that come after the clapping and games. It also to build rapport. Isn’t that important too?
            Also centers don’t usually have sessions more than 2.5 hrs.

            As for the tickles that isn’t a reward for everyone. As part of the RBT certification is a preferences assessment where you assess about which reinforcers the child likes. It is part of a 40 hr training as well as field competencies to demonstrate that ability and also more.

            There are bad apples in every demographic and group. What about when Ivan Pavlov figured out classical conditioning. Is that tactic abuse?

            This material is completely out of date. Doesn’t matter that it’s only been a couple years. Lots have changed. It also has been mandated that insurance pays for ABA services if professionals deems it necessary.

            Also it would be helpful if you could include your sources about your information in a bibliography format as well as citations for each fact you state so everyone can understand and know exactly where info came from.

            If you could add that it would be greatly appreciated 🙂

        2. I did not read this article in its entirety. I stopped when the article claimed Lovaas as the founder of ABA. Lovaas is not the “founder” of applied behavior analysis. Period. Applied Behavior Analysis is more than “ABA Therapy.” In fact, I am not fond of that term. I am also not a fan of Lovaas. Applied Behavior Analysis is the science of behavior, regardless if you are a child, adult or any other animal, it’s how the world works. You don’t have to have a disability to benefit from it. We encounter contingencies every single day as we live. It’s a shame that ABA gets a bad name due to people out there that practice it the wrong way. I hope as time goes, professionals will continue to disseminate the science and show the benefits for everyone, disability or no disability, for businesses, private organizations as well as public. The principles of ABA naturally occur in the world for everyone, everyday of their lives.

          1. If you are referring to the fact that radical behaviourism existed before Lovaas, we have a great article about that on this site too. If you stopped reading before getting to any of the main points in the article then you obviously arent interested in learning how autistic people experience or view ABA therapy.

            If you feel the people in the videos are doing it “the wrong way” I’d love to hear about it. Most of them are promotional videos from ABA schools.

        3. It isn’t? It also isn’t ABA? Like, just because you are a BCBA doesn’t mean everything you do is ABA. The stuff specifically mentioned above is abusive – discouraging harmless stims, teaching children eye contact, grabbing their hands, making them spend hours every day being systematically rewarded or ignored for everything they do…

          1. As a normal child who wasnt in ABA we didnt exactly get to do what we wanted, teachers have said straight to my face they dont care how I feel were doing it the way she said, told all the time by teacher “hey you look at someone when theyre talking to you” and last I checked we got time out or a star sticker depending upon how well we did what our teachers (instead of therapist) told us and they didnt care if things made us sad we were told to do things and expected to do them. Welcome to life. No one really cares how you feel just how can you make their lives easier. Kids are forced to do things they dont want to everyday. Its not abuse its teching them authority, a system our whole country is based on.
            What happens when that kid gets older and he cant force himself to make eye contact when necessary. He is approached by a police officer because he matches the description of a perp and request ID. The officer is going to end up screaming at this kid to look him in the eyes. The kid could end up wrongly arrested or even killed because he cant force himself to listen to authority like everyone else has been taught.

          2. So what you’re saying, Gab, is “I had an abusive teacher, therefore all children should be abused by teachers”? Doesn’t sound like a good argument to me.
            And if you’re trying to justify abuse by teachers or therapists by pointing out abuse by cops, well…
            Shouldn’t we, instead of demanding that children be properly subject to enough abuse to break them, rather demand some better standard for what cops get away with?

          3. Well, in a classroom at a random elementary school, do teachers never provide a reward for good behavior such as completing an assignment that a student doesn’t want to do? Or discipline a child for breaking a rule that a child doesn’t want to follow, such as indoor voices? Both of those are what contingencies are in a non-ABA setting.

            To provide a more applicable contingency, your replies and comments to this article are met with responses and many supporters and ‘like’s. If your article was met with complete silence and no attention from anyone, would you further invest in your article and continue this discussion even if you were by yourself? That is a contingency that is social. If your words fell on deaf ears you might not continue to discuss this topic further.

          4. That’s the thing. The author of this article didn’t write this for praise or accolades. It was an act of selfless service with no need for a reward. It was to achieve an end. Your view that egotism and tangible rewards or social status matters to autistic people is just a reflection of your own egotism. We’re not wired to be rewarded by the same things you are. We’re wired to pursue passions. You’re wired to maintain the status quo. Autistic people have no illusions about how the world regards them.

            And, autistic people are immune to your polished patronizing. The author of this article didn’t need your basic cause and effect lesson.

          5. BCBAs are literally only allowed to practice within their scope…aka ABA. These training videos are all taken out of context and are tiny parts of ABA. DTT is highly discouraged within the field. Yes, in getting our masters to be able to become BCBAs we are taught all of this stuff but naturalistic teaching is the golden standard of ABA and coping skills and functional communication MUST be a part of every intervention plan. Preference assessments are used to determine what is reinforcing (or we just ask the person if we can). I think if you want to really understand what ABA is and how it is applied you should enroll in a masters program yourself or watch more than snippet videos that aren’t very good and are very old. I can’t speak for all BCBAs or all ABA companies as i’m sure there are ones that aren’t the best. But my experience in the field is we put the clients first. A lot of what we do is parent training and parent education to shape parents’ behavior to help their child. I’ve worked on being assertive with many clients. And have spent thousands of dollars (my own money that no one reimbursed) so that I could go out and buy things tailored to each of my client’s likes to make session fun and exciting and to make any learning feel 100% natural. I understand where you’re coming from but you are greatly overgeneralizing and not looking at the full picture of ABA.

    3. There are lots of great alternatives to ABA. Some of them have been mentioned in this thread – headphones, compression vests, teaching the child to advocate for their needs. Even the “coping skills” you mention do not sound like ABA. Many ABA therapists encorporate these other therapies into their work, confusing people into thinking EVERYTHING their BCBA is doing is “ABA”. That is not true. ABA is analyzing your child’s behaviour, and then coming up with a reinforcement/extinction plan. It involves descrete trials as shown above. Teaching a child how to leave an overwhelming situation is not ABA even if it is done by an ABA therapist.

      1. The other thing I think is worth noting is that a lot of insurances only cover ABA. So some practices have started using the ABA label while not really doing ABA-type things. I understand the reasoning but it does make things harder for people trying to talk about ABA, because the term is often used where it’s not really correct.

      2. BCBAs and ABA therapists teach the communication skills for children to requests these items when they need them 🙂 we want our clients to be able to advocate for themselves and tell people when they need these things. If they can not communicate how will anyone know when they need the headphones or the compression vest?

        1. What counts as functional communication? Is it just speech, sign, or pecs? Does running or pushing away count? Do you even remember to account for the fact that they might not be able to communicate in a way that counts as functional to you?

          1. We realize most of our kids can not communicate in a way that is functional to most people. Our job is to teach them. A lot of my kids do try to run away or become aggressive when they feel overwhelmed. That is why a lot of them end up getting sent home from school daily or end up in seclusion rooms in the schools. We look for their precursor behaviors and teach them (based on their ability) to use a break PEC Or ask for a break BEFORE they escalate so they learn to express their needs rather than becoming aggressive or running away. I don’t feel that it is fair to the kids that they get to a point where they feel like they need to run away or become aggressive because they haven’t been given the tools to communicate. If they can’t communicate they can’t advocate for themselves!

          2. Well, in social settings, if you don’t want something or want something you can’t have are you banging your head on the wall or biting a person? Because that’s what my clients do to gain access to the items and activities they want. Using contingencies, I try to emphasize that when my client points to an item I can get it for them. I think the pointing sounds a lot more functional than banging your head.

          3. You make me bang my head against the wall, too. I don’t blame the poor kid.

      3. I am in no way trying to be argumentative, but you need to do more research. I am a BCBA and have worked in private, home and public school settings. When a student/child is having a hard time, the main goal is to figure out why and how we can get them to communicate his/her needs so we can help them. There’s a ton of research on “functional communication training”, which is an ABA method. I also have recently used “behavior skills training” to teach a student who was making sexualized, inappropriate comments to another student in school to take a break, or write down his thoughts in a journal because the school kept giving him detentions. After a few sessions of behavior skills training, he hasn’t had any detentions and has been able to use the skills we practiced when he sees this particular peer.

        ABA goes well beyond discrete trial training. I urge everyone that reads and agrees with this article to please do more research and see the other side.

      4. Those examples are ABA. I have seen them used in the field..

        Therapy should be challenging and encourage a child out of their comfort zone, but if they’re very upset more often than not, that may be a sign that it’s not working out for them.

        Many therapists practice a different form of therapy or a very heavily modified version of traditional ABA. If you’re seeing warning signs with your current therapist, I strongly encourage you to look for another ABA therapist who utilizes better, more respectful methods of teaching your child.

        Bottom line is, not all ABA is terrible, and you can find a good therapist who can get results while ensuring your child is respected.

        First of all, do your research. When “shopping” for a new therapist, ask around about their policy, values, beliefs, and practices. If it matches the damaging therapies I described above, make a U-turn and walk away.

        It’s also important to ensure the individual is certified to provide ABA (yes—scarily enough, there are individuals who practice it without having been properly certified!). Make sure they are currently documented as a BCBA or BCABA, are properly trained (i.e. have had 1,000 hours of hands-on training by an actual BCBA with no less than 5 years of experience in the field), and have evidence of their qualifications.

        Second of all, if you already have a therapist, do not be afraid to question them.

        Many people, have had the attitude, “They’re the professional, not me. They know what they’re doing and they know what’s best.” That’s not always the case, though. There are good and bad therapists out there.

        Third of all, you might consider watching out for some of these red flags:

        1. The therapist does not allow you to sit in on your child’s therapy session. It doesn’t matter what reason they cite—this is a huge warning sign!

        2. The therapist uses compliance to force the child to do something against his/her will.

        3. The therapist does not allow breaks even when the child is visibly distressed

        4. Your child is visibly distressed; if they are frequently crying, screaming, trying to escape, flopping on the floor, going limp, or showing other signs of fear or anxiety, that’s a bad sign.

        5. The therapist insists on “normality” rather than focusing on life skills or coping skills—for example, forcing eye contact and prohibiting or punishing non-harmful stimming. Many adults with autism cite the phrases “quiet hands” and “table-ready hands” as triggering, so that’s definitely something to watch out for.

        6. The therapist does not respect your child’s communication unless if it is verbal. They ignore, disregard, or belittle nonverbal communication.

        7. The therapist focuses more on the negatives of your child’s behavior than s/he does the positives

        8. The therapist does not listen to your child and respect their wishes, whether communicated verbally or nonverbally

        9. Have your child’s best interests at heart—not society’s

        10. Give your child breaks to calm/cool down, especially when distressed

        11. Set boundaries on physical touching—they don’t touch your child without their consent

        12. Accept all forms of communication—verbal and nonverbal—and listen to both

        13. See behavior as a form of communication and try to work out what your child is saying through it

        14. Don’t force your child to do something distressing

        15. Don’t punish when your child shows a distress signal (i.e. stims)

        16. Allow your child time to process a request or task rather than expecting it right away

        1. WHY should we be forced out of our comfort zone????? This sounds like ill-treatment to me.
          Surely we should be helped to expand out comfort zones??

        2. The BCBA bills the insurance for their time, then turn around and pay the RBT, who only has a high school degree and 40 hours of training! It’s a huge money-making scam. Florida Medicaid has been investigating ABA as fraud.

      5. That’s really not accurate – you’re confounding some common old programming (still used admittedly, such as glancing as a form of request) within ABA itself – we constantly create novel programs based on client needs, and leaving/avoiding a problematic situation is a skill that is taught, as is putting on headphones or other skills. ABA is not a codified set of programs, it’s the application of behavioral science to any behavior with constantly changing instruction based on research and new concepts; there are some limitations based on boundaries insurance providers set but not the field itself as long as it is consistent with the basic science. Things that aren’t taught usually have to do with field believing there isn’t enough evidence to support it and we’re not supposed to implement non-research based interventions, though often we still will if it’s clearly benefiting individuals on the ground level and the research just hasn’t caught up. A lot of the work I’ve done is specifically on teaching the child how to request what they want, and how to request getting rid of what they don’t want; I’ve worked with clinician’s that dive deep into safety and autonomy; we teach the kids to say ‘no’ and setup the environment so it’s rewarded. I’ve also steered many families away from trying to obstruct stimming behaviors and have only intervened when those behaviors were endangering folks with the aim of finding an effective replacement. But still, I really appreciate this article because there is clearly some major problems and significant harm being done despite good intentions. But I’ve also experiences child’s lives significantly improving and I mean this focusing on their own happiness, growth, communication, and ability to take care of themselves. There needs to be collaboration in identifying what are the right goals, what are the right coping and self advocacy skills, what are the things not to teach because they misunderstand the experience/senses/emotions of the learner involved. I think the solution is in collaboration.

    4. The article has been interesting to read, and it has been very insightful. You point out a lot of important problematic aspects to ABA. This includes reducing/total removal of stim behaviors, lack of autonomy/self determination, over reliance on compliance, and lack of acknowledgement and appropriate response to needs. I do have to say that ABA is a very broad discipline with a variety of practitioners at varying levels of training and philosophy. I think, as you have pointed out, that a major problem is a lack of underlying philosophy in rights and individual understanding in addressing behavior. The fact of the matter is that we have to work behaviorally with all students, and we will always have to work behaviorally with students. Unfortunately, people using ABA use a lack of ethical philosophy in its underpinnings as a way to produce ends to make people comply and appear “normal”. As a result, individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities get too intense and inappropriate use of intervention. As a result, we should maintain behavioral science but perhaps scrap ABA (at least as it is currently). Every good discipline has a good base theory. ABA currently does not consider an individual’s rights and needs as extensively as it should.

      Currently, I am training to be a school psychologist, and I have worked with children with ASD and other developmental disabilities for the past six years. At first reading this article, I was defensive. I have used ABA (or at least I thought I have) with success. Here’s another problem: ABA has such a broad definition that it covers a wide domain. I was actually using a form of ABA called Positive Behavior Support (PBS). This was developed in the 80s, and it has some major key differences. First, it has a strong human rights and individual needs philosophy. It is the core. That is a huge part missing from traditional ABA, and practitioners weasel their way around it. PBS does not allow this. All aspects of the individual must be considered and understood. All behavior has a function (reason), and we must truly understand the reason for that behavior. This includes biological, cognitive, social reasons for behavior. This means that within the ethics that stim behaviors cannot be removed, since stim behavior is used as a self-soothing biological mechanism. In PBS, these behaviors are often left alone, whereas ABA would seek to remove it to make individuals appear neurotypical. I do have to say that PBS may address these behaviors if they negatively affect someone’s functioning. For example, if someone were to flap their hands all day, then that is not conducive in a job or school setting. ABA would further see this as a problem and remove it. A PBS approach may be to encourage the individual to conduct the behavior at a certain time/place, maybe flap with one hand while working, or perhaps take breaks to stim in between work. It is more ch more adaptable and choice based.

      Another hallmark to PBS is choice and autonomy. During work, teachers teach students to ask for help, ask for breaks, and select their own rewards and provide choices. Again, we have to work behaviorally with children. That’s just a reality. It’s how we approach it and value children in the process. Now, there will be sometimes where behaviors will have to be eliminated. This is where core parts of ABA and behavioral principles come in play. Behaviors should be addressed that involve self injury, injury or rights violation of other individuals, feeding issues, or behaviors severely affecting ability to function at their academic or work level. This is where functional behavior analysis (FBA) comes into play. If someone has done ABA without doing an FBA, I would consider looking into that for legal reasons. All ABA practices (especially intensive) must have a clear understanding of the behavior before applying an intervention. An FBA involves taking baseline data, gathering information, determining the intensity of the behavior, determine the cause, and identifying appropriate interventions. In PBS, everything is similar to ABA, but the difference is in intervention.

      In ABA, often the goal is just to stop the problem behavior. PBS, builds skills and regulatory systems in individuals to cope and advocate for themselves. Additionally, PBS offers supports and environmental modifications. For example, I worked with a student who would bite herself. After performing an FBA, we found that the computer in the classroom was giving off a high-pitched sound, which frequently annoyed her. After too long exposure, she would be annoyed and bite herself. In traditional ABA, a practitioner would sit down with her and perhaps have the the computer blaring in the background. The practitioner would see that the child is getting annoyed. He would then give the child a gummy for working hard and focusing on the work. He would continue. The child’s needs were not met. The computer is annoying her. She just complied. Now let’s talk about what we actually did using PBS. We would be working in the room. Sometimes the computer would be on and sometimes it would be off. It’s a school, so it was usually periodic. The student was annoyed after the computer was on. We taught her to raise her hand and ask for help. Yes, we would give her a gummy for raising her hand because it was an appropriate replacement behavior compared to biting her arm. After she raised her hand, we would ask her what she needed. She would either point to her ears, computer, or say “ears hurt”. We would then offer her some options depending on what we could do in the moment. We could work in another room, turn off the computer, take a break, or wear headphones. She usually picked headphones, and she would successfully and happily finish her work. PBS also offers prevention. We could anticipate her needs by turning off the computer, placing head phones readily next to her, or even beginning the lesson outside the room. Even better, she was able to generalize the skill. Another student was annoying her, and she was able to raise her hand and ask for help. This is some life long self advocacy in the making. PBS also gives emotional work and strategies. It advocates for students to communicate needs and feelings.

      It is awful in traditional ABA that we would force students to comply and be uncomfortable. Yes, it produces outcomes, but it violates some serious human rights. I need to stress again that we cannot remove behavioral work. It’s how we engage and work with all students, especially in early youth. What we can change is the approach, target behaviors, and underlying philosophy. I think PBS in it’s current standing is a good model for addressing individual and systemic needs of students. There’s so much more to say, and I’m sure that I haven’t covered all the areas. I will attach some links. Please ask questions. Give me concerns. I would love to hear some perspectives.

      Links:

      Underlying philosophy of PBS with a video. It discuss ABA’s connection. Just know that the science of ABA is sound, but it’s application is horrible and unethical. PBS aims to alter this.

      https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/pbs

      This provides an overview with a case example. In the case example, you will see clear causes and descriptions of behavior. Instead of an ABA approach with just elimination of behaviors, it provides a continuum of support. This includes prevention, skills development, and a plan for when the behavior has been reached. In each phase, the child is given options and skill building opportunities.

      https://challengingbehavior.cbcs.usf.edu/Pyramid/pbs/index.html

      This link is an introduction of autism and PBS. It shows the use of modifications and accommodations to bring about academic performance.

      https://www.naesp.org/principal-november-december-doing-more-less/positive-behavior-support-students-autism

      Autism and PBS

      https://bestpracticeautism.blogspot.com/2012/11/positive-behavior-support-pbs.html?m=1

      1. “Stimming” should be accepted the exception being if it is self-destructive. If it is disturbing others them let the child leave that environment.

      2. This is great info – I’ll only add that most of the PBS concepts have become interwoven into general ABA education – at least amount the places I’ve worked and how I was trained, but that’s owing to the philosophical movement, research, and work of PBS folks and others. This may be the sort of post-generation that came to the field with these new developments folded in – including Pivotal Response Training, Early Start Denver Model, Relational Frame Theory, ACT, Positive Behavior Supports, and Verbal Behavior Approach. That said, there may be some universities or providers still locked in harmful out of date mentalities, and we may still be making mistakes in our assessment of what skills will truly benefit the child or adult we are working with. Philosophically our goals aren’t to make people appear neurotypical, or teach absolute compliance with adult requests – we’re trying to teach language/communication, ability to learn from watching and listening to others, skills for coping, problem solving skills, self-advocacy.

    5. I totally understand. In my son’s case, school seemed to be a place of constant torment by people who were clueless about his condition.

    6. This is a great question. Does he have short breaks built into his day? This can be part of his 504 accommodations or IEP. If he doesn’t have one, please request this immediately. Accommodations are a right granted by law, anything that can help him be successful in education. Our school had a sensory room kids could use and other ways to take a break. Usually it’s 5 minutes or so with a calming tool like a stuffed animal, iPad games, a rocking chair or exercise ball, or reading. Whatever he needs to release the stress. Sometimes it’s even just a drink of water and a walk to the office.

      Check out this group. Their website is great and you can call and talk to one of the owners for more information or advice. They are great at advocacy and thinking outside the box for kids with autism and different abilities. http://www.cfc-stl.com They are located near St. Louis, but can always work with you through email or phone.

      For playing with friends, just keep teaching him to recognize the signs of stress or even ask to shorten his recess time if it happens regularly. He should start to self-regulate better as he matures; I noticed my son did as he grew older. He also used to bite and hit when frustrated. Perhaps he needs a 10 minute time on the playground, then 10 minutes in a quiet space, rather than the full 20 minutes outside? You could also ask for an older “buddy” who could help distract him when he notices the stress building. Older kids can be great at this, as they love to feel important and helpful.

    7. Alternatives to ABA are relationship-based developmental approaches that follow the child’s lead. Either therapist directed – DLT/Floortime, SCERTS, Early Denver Model or parent directed – Relationship Developmental Intervention & SonRise Program. I prefer the parent-directed programs because then the parents are empowered to develop a strong relationship with their child and can incorporate lifestyle approaches throughout their day to maximize their child’s learning and comfort.

    8. Circle time, music therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy. Help the child to cope with a NT world. Don’t make them be more NT.

    9. There are other options. Floortime is a play-based method. PLAY Project uses floortime and now is evidence based as well. Much better! Check is out.

  10. I am non-autistic mother of an autistic boy and I have always hated ABA. When I first heard about it I was horrified. It is brainwashing. as you explained, it doesn’t help the child to learn about his anxieties and how to cope with them, it is just forcing them to conform to Neurotypical behaviour and ingnoring their needs and emotions. It is based on operant conditioning. It’s the same method as training dogs.

    1. Actually, modern dog training is much more advanced, better and kinder than ABA – this blog has another great article about that, which I warmly recommend! (I’m studying dog training/behaviour myself and am on the spectrum, so I love that article). Operant conditioning is the way we all learn skills, whatever the setup is, and classical conditioning is the other “leg” of the learning process, and always at work in any situation – whether or not anyone pays attention to it. Classical conditioning is an organisms emotional associations with any given situation/cue/set of cues, which determines their psycho/somatic state and mind state when exposed to the cues/situation.

      This is why a dog trainer worth their salt would never try to teach a dog that’s in a mental state of distress, and would always consider the dog’s mental state first, and adapt (abandon if needed) whatever the plan was – and this is why, if you replaced the ABA therapists in the videos with modern dog trainers, you would see a totally different approach, where finding out what the individual is comfortable with, what they like and dislike, what kind if setup works for them, and working within that frame would be the basis for any teaching. You would see the traditional ABA table & chairs setup gone in most cases, because the whole set-up isn’t based on the kids comfort but the therapists convenience, and encourage a form of communication that isn’t well suited for most autistic kids. If you consider classical conditioning then you *can’t* treat your learners the way the therapists in the videos treat the kids, because (besides the welfare concerns and ethics of the situation), this intrusive, compulsive setup (not to speak of, pushing on while some of the kids are in a state of intense stress, totally disregarding their feelings) will facilitate a “fight/flight/freeze” mind state that isn’t effective for learning.

      Drilled enough times, YES the desired results will likely be gained anyway sooner or later, but what are the side effects? My guess: learned helplessness, OCD, anxiety, depression and similar psychological problems. Also: learning happens much faster & more effectively when an individual isn’t in a “fight or flight” state of stress, or shut down. Hence (I’m guessing) why ABA therapy programs require so much time in order to work – around 40 hours per week I’ve heard, that’s an insane imposition on a toddler, especially for autistic kids … we need a lot of downtime to process & recover from social demands.

      To clarify, ABA as seen in the videos, is similar to traditional dog training (today typically advertised as “balanced” dog training) it focuses solely on compliance using operant conditioning, and largely overlooks classical conditioning/the emotionally associative aspect, and the psychological side effects that can come from that. Traditional dog training is still in business (to see an extreme version, there is Cesar Millan’s “The Dog Whisperer” TV show on National Geographic’s channel) albeit the modern dog training practices are gaining ground (almost) everywhere, so I can understand your impression

    2. ABA is NOT changing someone with autism to be neurotypical.

      The behavior being addressed are NOT forcing an autistic person such girls to love pink, knowing and using SAT words such as persnickety, plethora, or uncouth, girls having to wear only dresses and boys wear pants and ties, and being able to do mental math.

      Those are also common beliefs by some people in society that are required to do in order to function in society.

      All the things I listed are things I do not do or unable to do and do not want to change who i am as a person.

      The behaviors that are being addressed during ABA sessions are things that isolate a person with autism from or ANY people neurotypical or not.

      I’ve seen individuals with an IDD doing extremely disruptive SSBs such as a constant echolalia of screaming of words or sounds on the top of their lungs was actually upsetting my client that has autism. So should I allow my client to suffer and be upset because I do not want the other person with an IDD to conform to a neurotypical behavior?

      Autistic people have sensory sensitivity as everyone reading this knows. There are numerous times where their SSBs annoyed and upset each other. The only one performing the SSB has a valid reason for the behavior and all that needs to happen is to channel the need towards something that is compatible for everyone.

      I find it when any special needs, IDD, ASD, anything of that sort is interacting in a group and or closed setting with each other they get set off by each other’s SSBs and or problem behaviors. Doesn’t that also remind you of being forced to do projects with people you don’t like or agree with? Everyone has to deal with what’s going on and move forward.

      **Fun fact: EVERYONE HAS AND DOES SBB’s**

      Do you like bouncing your leg, twirling your hair; tapping your fingers or an object to make noise, or enjoy clicking a clicking pen over and over. Congratulations those are SSB’s 😀

      How does it feel when you do those behaviors? Soothing right? That’s how they feel too. ABA therapists are trained to replace their soothing behavior with another soothing behavior. NOT forcing any sort of conformity.

      Those are what are considered normal behaviors in society to an extent..

      Ex. My client with autism had an SSB where he takes off a bottle cap and taps it loudly over and over on his desk. So instead of completely eliminating the behavior (which is soothing as discussed before) she gave him a tactile object very similar to the cap and he was was able to tap the same force and speed as before BUT wasn’t disruptive to anyone. The switch was quick and he continued doing the SSB and just as happy as he was before but now he’s doing appropriate behavior where it opens up opportunities to interact with others in a positive way because everyone is comfortable with what’s happening.

      ABA also addresses self harming behavior.

      Ex. A child is hitting/scratching their eyes over and over a behavior therapist comes in and uses techniques to teach the child to speak up for themselves that the light is too bright and then find a solution. So is the alternative to let the child do that because we don’t want them to conform to a neurotypical behavior of not hitting their eyes repeatedly?

      A really problem behavior I dealt with was an individual with an IDD whom would ask everyone over and over every few seconds during movies, quiet time, dances “Who is your best friend?” And if you didn’t answer “you” she would ask if you if you both could be best friends but still continue to ask “who is your best friend?” And couldn’t have any other conversation than that. Her friends with autism IDDs etc. would tell me that they have to avoid her because she drives them up the wall. Or a nonverbal client that’s always open to conversation and having people in her space being so overwhelmed where she ended up pushing and yelling at that person. Then gesturing to her ear and making negative eye contact with that person.

      I apologize from the bottom of my heart but this article contains cherry picked, false, and outdated information. I encourage people to do their own research but at the same it’s still important to hear and understand a person with autism’s experience and opinions on ABA such as this author.

  11. I’m a 35 year old male, my Bluetooth headphones are what gets me through a shopping trip these days. What that girl went through looked like a nightmare!

  12. As a non-autistic mother with two non-autistic children, this looks horrible. I would have been terrified if someone would treat me like in the first video, using cartoonish gestures, the yelling, invading my space while forcing me to do silly tasks. Are the tickles supposed to be a reward? They did not seem to be welcomed by the child. I do not like to be touched by people outside my “inner circle”, and as an adult I have the option to leave if the situation is getting awkward or uncomfortable.
    I really felt the stress from the shopping-video as well. Going to a big mall often leaves me mentally exhausted for hours afterwards. If the kids are with me even more so, and at the worst when I start to feel overwhelmed I have felt this extreme need to just get out, right now, I am done and never mind we did not get all we need but I cant stay for a second longer. It just have to feel so much worse for somebody on the spectrum.

    1. That’s how I felt about the videos too. I’m an adult on the spectrum and don’t have kids, but I also thought this kind if treatment would be aversive to almost any kid (and adult) – that any sensible person should be able to see that it isn’t OK to treat kids (or anyone) like that.. and the fact that the kids are autistic just makes it even worse, because autistic kids are not exactly MORE tolerant to being invaded, touched, starred at, yelled at, constantly overwhelmed with pointless tasks, not be given enough rest and free time (40 hours of this torture every week!!!) etc

  13. Eileen, a lot of so called ABA therapists don’t actually do ABA or do very mixed things rather than pure ABA. This is because insurance pays for ABA and not other therapies. You’d think this would be good, but the thing is that it leaves parents unable to distinguish, and it means many parents think ABA is something different than it is and thus they become vocal defenders. If the therapist is using mixed methods then you don’t know when the therapist will bring that kind of behaviorism to a behavior they just don’t like. Coping skills are not a behaviorist goal, but changing behavior so that lack of coping is disguised is.

  14. I am very grateful to you for sharing this article from your perspective as an adult with autism. I am a speech therapist working in public schools for 30 years. I use a combination of ABA, Direct intervention, social skills training and other strategies to help my students connect more with people in their environment and to develop learning readiness skills and functional academics. All of the work I do with my students starts with building trust and helping them to feel safe. I look for cues from their facial expressions, body postures, etc to assess what might be driving a “behavior” and help them through it. I believe that with that type of connection, some ABA is involved and some discrete trial teaching of particular skills is required. Applied Behavioral Analysis means looking at something that is happening and analyzing why it’s happening – what function it serves for the child, if something deeper is going on, etc. ABA itself is not harmful, in my opinion, unless it’s all cut and dry protocols all the time and the child’s emotionality is not considered. Sadly, I recognize that this can often happen. The other piece of this is, in addition to helping my students feel safe and loved, my goal is to help them assimilate into society when needed and to learn to deal with challenges and stressors in as positive a way as possible because their parents won’t always be there and they won’t always have the benefit of being surrounded by people who are patient and are looking out for them with understanding. My one third-grader is this really funny, sassy joyful girl who loves fashion. She is a frequent flapper and shared that she does it when she is happy, thinks something is funny, is thinking about something she really enjoys. We talk about the fact that it’s okay to flap, but she can try to remember to flap her hands under the desk or more to her side because it is distracting to others and hard for them to concentrate on what she is saying. We’re not trying to change who she is. We are trying to help her find ways to adapt so that she is still honoring who she is, but in a way that is more well-received by her neuro-typical peers. We all have a “face” we show to our friends, our peers, our family, our boss, and society in general. For me personally and the professionals i work with at my school, that is what we are after for out students. Not changing who they are.

    1. As the dog training article that The Aspergian also recently published points out, behaviourism itself is not always bad and can be useful. The problems show up when the goals of the behaviourist do not take into consideration the feelings of the student. And very very very often autistic people are misunderstood and are taught things which SEEM helpful but are ultimately harmful.

    2. But you are changing who she is. Whether you realize it or not. You’re telling her that flapping -is- something to be ashamed of every time you tell her to do less of it/hide it so that she will be “more well-received” by her allistic peers. Why do they need to “receive” it better? What is preventing them from adapting? Why are they unable to learn to listen and concentrate when people are moving? How many things do you think this child deals with on a daily basis that are distracting to her and make it hard to concentrate? How many times do you make NTs change for her? Or are the things that are hard for her considered ‘no big deal’ because they are ‘small distractions’ to you, so they should be for her too?

      This child is full of joy, and expressing it in the most freeing way for her. She is -happy- and you are teaching her to hide that emotion; that full unfiltered chest-filling joy. The movement that tells someone how she feels, what she’s experiencing. The movement that allows her to connect. The movement that helps her process her feelings to fullest. The movement that is an intrinsically woven into fully feeling that emotion. You’re taking something away from her, in order to make things even -easier- than they already are for the allistics. You are telling her that her happiness is not as important as theirs.

      Imagine that every time you were happy, truly happy, truly joyful, truly enjoying something, I came over and pulled on your hair. Not a quick yank and it’s over, just pulling so that it hurts and you can’t ignore the dull ache. I’m not preventing you from feeling happy completely. But it’s not the same any more, because you are distracted by something, you are hurting, you are focused partially on your hair and being uncomfortable, and partially on what’s joyful. I’ve changed the emotion for you and weakened it. Eventually that spot on your head will become numb, you’ll learn to compartmentalize, you’ll adapt. But the pain hasn’t gone away, and your way of feeling this emotion has been changed. You’ll forget that old feeling- the true one. You’ll wonder what people mean when they talk about how -they- feel the emotion. You’ll wonder why it is that you don’t feel it like that, what’s wrong with you? Why don’t you get to have that same experience that others seem to have?

      Hopefully one day she will be in a place where she is able to realize that her happiness is just as important as everyone else’s. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll realize that who she is is okay, that flapping is okay, that there was a time when joy and happiness were real feelings that she experienced, and ones that she deserves to experience again, in their purest form.

  15. I am a BCBA and this article is very confusing to me. I am wondering if some people are having different experiences with ABA therapy. I actually teach my clients to request their headphones if it’s too loud, their compression vest if they need sensory input, breaks from work if they feel tired. Everything we do is revolves around teaching the kids to advocate for themselves and communicate their wants and needs. We work on understanding and expressing emotions and our therapists validate how the kids fee and work on what the kids can do if they are feeling that way. Some of the kids I work with were being kicked out of school daily for becoming aggressive until we worked with them on requesting the things they needed to be okay. I don’t understand how this is abuse? I would love to hear from some of the people on this page who do have autism about their experience and what made it feel abusive because that is not the goal of ABA.

    1. I wonder too because my experience with ABA is amazing! Our family is less stressful from meltdowns and going on vacations.

      1. Parents do love ABA because it eliminates challenging behaviour. But if your child’s ABA involved decreasing repetitive behaviours, teaching eye contact, grabbing hands and putting them in the child’s lap, ignoring crying/distress… then your child was being abused into behaving.

        1. If you look up ABA and coping skills you’ll find a lot of information on coping skills and Autism. I pasted just one that I found very interesting that talks about the correlation between Autism and anxiety. I am so sorry it seems like you had an awful experience with ABA but a few videos on Discrete Trials is not a fair representation of what ABA is as a whole.

          https://www.albany.edu/autism/files/Learning_to_Cope_revised.pdf

          1. Tiffany, I looked through that presentation and read most of it. While I agree with what I read, I didn’t see the term ABA or any terms that are specific to ABA. I saw, maybe, some similarity to DBT or CBT. What is your definition of ABA?

          2. ABA is Applied Behavior Analysis. This means we analyze the function of someone’s behavior and create an individualized plan to address the behavior. For example, if I have a client who is screaming, crying and becoming aggressive every time he/she has to sit down for math class, I am going to analyze why he/she is acting that way. Is the work too difficult? Are they becoming sensory overloaded with the number of questions on the page? Is the math classroom too loud? Based off the function, a behavior analyst would create a behavior intervention plan. A lot of us use visuals for emotions like a feelings scale or something similar and then teach replacement behaviors like asking for help or a break. Instead of screaming and ripping your page, using a break card or requesting help. ABA is simply the analysis of behavior and creating a plan to teach more appropriate behaviors. I am interested to know what some people think ABA is because many people on here seem to have a very narrow perspective of what we do.

          3. I understand that that’s how you define ABA, but can you explain why you are linking that presentation that doesn’t refer to ABA, as an example of ABA–but you don’t agree with the author using these self-identified ABA videos to talk about ABA?

            I believe that there are self-identified ABA providers who don’t do abusive things, but I also know that many do. I’ve seen these things in an ABA school myself, and I know other people who have experienced and seen these things, either as a provider or a client. Even though it’s great that some providers/programs are not abusive, it’s a big problem that others are abusive and that this is normalized. Since the post is about analyzing these specific videos and pointing out how they are abusive, wouldn’t it make more sense to respond to that content in your comments, instead of just saying that this isn’t what you do in your work, as if that would make these videos and these children’s experiences cease to exist?

            In your comments, you seem focused on the idea that people might think all ABA is abusive, or all ABA is DTT, and it seems like this bothers you more than the fact that abuse is a problem in the ABA world. In fact, while you assert that you don’t do these things in your work, I haven’t seen you actually acknowledge, “Yes, what’s happening in these videos is wrong,” or, “Yes, there are some terrible things going on under the name ABA, but–”

            Doesn’t it bother you that these things happen?

            You’re annoyed that people might think these videos represent ABA, but let’s say this type of thing represented only, say, 20% of ABA practice–that would be a huge amount of abuse, and a huge problem.

            What’s going on that you don’t have a reaction to the abuse discussed in this post, and are more concerned with defending your field?

    2. I often see comments like this from ABA providers on posts criticizing ABA. But you’re not really engaging with the original post.

      The author is analyzing and describing the specific things that happen in the videos, which are pretty common and normalized in the ABA community. The fact that they’re normalized can be seen from the mere fact that these are all posted as educational and training videos! The people who made/posted these videos didn’t feel any guilt or shame about the content. They thought it reflected positively on their work.

      You can’t deny what’s happening in the videos. The author explained why they think these specific techniques, that happen in the videos, are abusive. If you don’t agree with that, you could say why you disagree–but you haven’t.

      You are just saying that this isn’t what you do in your work, and other people’s experience of ABA must be different from yours. This may be true, and it’s good that you don’t perpetrate this type of abuse, but it isn’t really a counter to the author’s points.

      To put it another way, say the original post is someone pointing out problems with public transit in their city. The buses are always late, fights break out on the bus, there are never enough seats. The author has videos and articles to support this. Then you comment and say, “But I’m a bus driver in your city. I’m always on time, my bus isn’t crowded, and everyone is polite. I don’t understand your post–how can you say that my bus is crowded and late, when it isn’t?” Even though your bus may be an exception, that doesn’t mean the original post is wrong, especially when they have many examples of there being a widespread problem.

  16. This article has been “eye opening” for me. We just found out in July that our 12-year-old AD is on the spectrum. ABA has been suggested but has never felt right to me. Our local school district doesn’t even recognize her diagnosis. They do their own “educational diagnosis”.
    No one talks about helping her cope. It’s more about getting her to conform.
    This has given me a direction in this journey. It’s not about behavior as much as it is about coping.
    I get that now. Just need to figure out how and what to implement that will help her and not be overwhelming.
    We have trouble going out to eat, going on vacation, shopping or even going on the walking trail. She just can’t seem to control herself.
    I don’t know if different voices, pacing, laughing oddly or talking loudly are her way of stemming but are things she does a lot.
    We have a lot of learning to do!

    1. Please don’t allow the videos above to deter you from researching more on ABA therapy. ABA focuses a lot on coping skills and functional communication. I am posting a link below. ABA therapists teach about emotions and understanding how you are feeling and learning appropriate ways to handle it and ask for help. The videos above focus on discrete trials. Typically, older children don’t even use this type of trial. They focus more on life skills and independent living!

      https://www.albany.edu/autism/files/Learning_to_Cope_revised.pdf

  17. I think everyone has there own opinions on ABA. I haven’t seen any abuse or inappropriate behaviors as yet in two years of his services. My child doesn’t kick, bite, or hit because of ABA. He is using his words and taking breaks on his own. I love intercare therapy. They definitely help!

  18. Love the article and feel ABA Therapy is recognizing the emotional needs of a child. I am a speech language pathologist and work with students on the spectrum.

  19. What a clear and brave piece for you to have written. THANK YOU. It took me one day to realize that ABA was something I would never subject my young autist daughter to. I have shared your article to a large forum I am a member of and expect all kinds of backlash for it – but that is OK! This needs to be talked about throughout the entire autism community and by society at large.
    Thank you also for your very well thought out responses to all who have commented.

  20. It seems to me that lack of concern for how someone feels is a cultural phenomenon not reserved for poorly practiced ABA or for autistic children, but for many, many children, women, people of color, or anyone at all, really. All of us are not far from the time of “children should be seen and not heard.” My parents ignored me or rejected me for negative emotions, and most of the kids I knew were raised similarly. I see neurotypical parents do some version of this to their nerotypical children daily in the present. I’m not saying it’s right. It is systemic, however, and a very real part of our everyday world.

  21. The first and most obvious thing I see in this videos is this horribly artificial, high pitched voice of the instructors as well as their exxagereted praise (“well done!!!” “good job!!!).

    Who would ever consider this an appropriate way to communicate with human beings? Would you ever talk like that to adults? Family? Friends? Colleagues? Neurotypical children? Even if you are showing/ teaching them something? They would probably think you have gone mad….

    Just the way these instructors talk show how they don’t accept autistic children as valuable others.

    1. Personally whenever I was/am spoken to that way or I see other autistic teenagers like me I get resentful real fast. Talking to me with the high voice is the BEST way to earn my hatred, it’s awful. I’m not 3!

      1. Exactly, Jack! Thank you for visiting our site. I always wonder if we ever get any teens coming through. <3

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