Yesterday I quoted Ido Kedar, whose book, Ido in Autismland is his account of what it’s like for him as a non-speaking, Autistic, teenager. The quotes I used were specifically about his experience with ABA, the acronym for Applied Behavior Analysis. (Ido also has a blog of the same name.) A couple of people accused me of “falsehoods” and spreading “inaccurate information”. One person wrote, “I have never read so falsehoods in one post in my life. You clearly have zero understanding of ABA or the methods used in its approach.” Except that the bulk of the post he was objecting to was made up of quotations from Ido’s book about his experiences as an autistic person.
I asked for clarification and was told, “Falsehoods being projected do not need to come as a quote from you directly. This is your blog and you are the one responsible for providing accurate information. If you are going to show a quote from a student, then maybe you should also factor in that the particular therapist the student had was not a very skilled one or a qualified one at that.” Except to make such a claim that “this particular therapist was not skilled or qualified” would be inaccurate and something I cannot possibly know as I’ve never met the therapist being referred to. Evidently telling a lie is acceptable if it’s done so in favor of another’s opinion, however quoting someone’s firsthand experience is reason to be accused of creating falsehoods.
Another commenter wrote, ” The posts regarding ABA on this blog are grossly inaccurate. Unfortunately, the author of this post (and subsequent commentary) are so misinformed on the topic that they are not able to recognize exactly how inaccurate the information is. For those of us who understand the field, this can certainly be frustrating.” Except that so many being referred to and who were commenting are Autistic. In fact a couple of those who commented yesterday are teachers and work directly with Autistic children, one is a professor and teaches disability studies to special education educators at the university level. These are a few of the people this commenter believes to be “misinformed” and even went so far as to scold, “I urge you to become better informed on the topic.” It would have been comical had it not been so upsetting to read the condescending tone and level of rage this one post and comments inspired.
I’d like to clarify a few things… Let’s take ABA out of this, I do not care what the “therapy” is being called, if it is not respectful of the person it is meant to help, if it uses dehumanizing techniques such as electric shock, restraints, isolation rooms, repetitive testing requiring the person to master an action before being allowed to move on, it is not a therapy I will ever support. If a therapy is meant to teach compliance, teach someone whose neurology and sensory issues do not make sitting still simple or easy, who cannot listen, attend and make eye contact all at the same time, I question it’s objectives. If a therapy is looking to “fix” another’s neurology, make that person “indistinguishable from their same age neurologically different peers” I will continue to speak out against it and will encourage others to do the same. If the therapy in question does not presume competence at its core and does not take into account the person’s specific neurology and sensory issues, it is flawed. If these ideas are threatening to some, so be it.
So let’s stop talking about ABA specifically, because it seems to me the conversation continues to get derailed about what ABA is or isn’t, how some practice it or do not, how it has or has not evolved, instead, let’s discuss these other concepts. And if you believe something that goes against what I’ve just said, fine, quote me in the comments section, tell me why you disagree, back up your ideas with examples, preferably with words from Autistic people and I will happily listen. Accusing me of “falsehoods”, “inaccuracy”, being condescending, lashing out and making personal attacks are not comments I will allow through moderation.
Colin sent me this graphic, something I think we can all relate to…