“Human dignity is inviolable”
(Article 1 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany)
Several times I sat down and tried to write this article and again and again anger came up.
Anger that the individual personality of people with autism is neither respected nor tolerated.
Anger that the dignity of people with autism is being violated.
Anger that an approach like ABA, which contains exactly these points, is so popular.
Anger that there are not more critical voices.
The view of the child in ABA
At this point, I do not want to go into Lovaa’s despising view of children with autism (co-founder of ABA). Instead, I have looked gain at how exactly the view of children in the ABA approach nowadays looks like:
- Incompetent persons
- Their personality is defective, unacceptable and disruptive
- They are not able to see the world as it is seen by the majority of society
- They do not understand the general rules and virtues of society
Suppression of personality, needs and interests
In time-consuming ABA sessions, the child undergoes a drill in which is no space to explore and understand the world. The child is told a specific view on the world.
A self-learning process is thus prevented from the beginning, and thus also the possibility of understanding the world out of intrinsic motivation.
Children with autism in ABA therapy are denied the right to build up their own personality and identity. Children are not supported, but are told to be quite. Their ability to express their own personality is suppressed.
The child’s own point of view is turned upside down, it is conveyed to him:
“Your view of the world is wrong”
In ABA a child learns adaptability
The child is put into a box because of his diagnosis “autism”. It has to adapt to the shape of the box, even if it would flap his hands to regulate himself. There is no space in the box for that.
The child is thus subjected to a generalized structure which suppresses his individuality.
A certain behavior is trained, that is unnatural and other-directed.
Why is adaptability so important?
To make it easier for adults. A child who is constantly rocking his body on the floor in the classroom, screams and moves wildly back and forth, is disruptive. Therefore, he must adapt. Sit still. Be quiet. Otherwise, it is not tolerable in class.
There is always communication – it’s just different
In ABA, it is emphasized that this therapy is very successful in terms of communication. At the same time, one of the most fundamental elements of communication is not considered in ABA:
One cannot not communicate!
According to Watzlawick (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Watzlawick), we always communicate, not always verbally, but we communicate. With gestures, facial expressions, body language. A non-verbal child is therefor able to communicate – in his own way.
It is up to parents, therapists, everyone who is in contact with the child to observe, study and learn how the child communicates.
ABA is a (relatively) fast learning process. Learning the language of a child with autism can be time-consuming. But the advantage here is that we learn the unique language of the child and get to know its associated personality.
Focus on the environment
The environment should be closely observed and altered. Inclusion does not mean that people with special needs have to adapt to the people in their environment.
Inclusion means (in my opinion) that both sides take a step toward each other.
Every child, whether with or without special needs, should have the opportunity to be a part of the community and society without having to give up his personality.
Reflect on your own perception
Be empathetic and try to understand the world of people with autism. From Joe, I’ve learned to be aware of the little things in my environment.
In the beginning, he reacted very sensitively to the change of sun – clouds – sun.
When you are on a meadow, observe how your environment changes through this natural spectacle. Shadows arise, lie down on trees, hedges, just to disappear again and bring back rich colors.
For a child who is not able to process this flood of information, it can mean the end of the world.
Anxiety is triggered, panic attacks can occur. Inside a room where the light is constantly changing, through sun and clouds, children with autism can lose their connection to their environment and feel like they are falling.
The strong need arises, for example, to lie down on the ground or to seek protection in narrow, small spaces.
This is not allowed in ABA. The child MUST remain sitting at the table during the sessions. An anxiety situation is thus strengthened by denying the child’s need for protection and safety.
In the ABA sessions, self-regulation is abolished for children with autism and they are conditioned to socially desirable behavior.
If we expose children to a drill, they learn. When we feed them with treats, they learn to be addicted to a reward and show the desired behavior … because the brain will always ask for the sugar kick.
In this conditioning process, the child is re-trained. An artificial personality is created with artificial, unnatural behavior for the child, which corresponds to the ideas of the society. The child is not allowed to be himself.
At an early age he experiences:
“If you do not adjust, you are not worth anything,
then you have no value for our society.
Your behavior, your whole personality is unacceptable
and needs to be reshaped by therapy.
Only then you can be part of our community”
Thus ABA therapy creates the ultimate paradox:
People with autism should be included, with the help of ABA.
People with autism need to exclude their personality with the help of ABA,
to be a part of society!
A positive view of people with autism
Away from ABA, towards a view that recognizes and accepts the unique personality of people with autism. Recognize them how they are: a valuable part of our society, because they enrich through their diversity.
Surely many people with autism need more support than others, but should a person lose their value and dignity because of this? No!
My conclusion: No to ABA!
If you don’t have enough yet and want to get more information and insights on experiences with ABA, click here:
„Our son now carries a dual diagnosis: autism and POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)”
„You still have PTSD today from things that may have been done with your best interests at heart but were actually quite damaging”
“Strong opinions on both sides of the issue abound. Meanwhile, parents like Quinones-Fontanez are caught in the middle.”
“The child is still autistic and is naturally inclined to act in one way, but you are telling them that this behavior is unacceptable.”
“Can you imagine people saying, today, that homosexuals should be abused until they became heterosexual, and such practices being openly advertised, mainstreamed, praised and covered by insurance? That’s what ABA does to Autistics”
“Applied behavior analysis, widely used in the US, aims to boost communication and social skills but some critics say it ‘denies kids the right to be who they are’ “