What is wrong with us? 17/01/2016
Does Autism Exist? 20/10/2015
Does Autism Exist?
Is there something that exists, of itself, that can be described as a separate, identifiable condition?
This may at first seem to be a very strange question. Is this the rambling of another pseudoscience nut, who wants to sell some sort of Psycho-twaddle or Naturalistic Therapy? I hear you ask.
The answer to that is a most resounding ‘No’, so let me explain.
For the last 80 years or so we have become used to talking about a set of symptoms, which are found in ever increasing numbers; symptoms which can build into a very disabling condition. Yet, after so many years of intense research, the best description is that of a Spectrum of symptoms that can vary from extremely debilitating to performance enhancing, even savant level abilities.
We don’t know just what it consists of, what causes it, what defines it, what its boundaries are nor how to ‘cure’ it.
There is no single set of symptoms for diagnosis. In fact we know nothing definite about it, only what it isn’t. There is no single symptom that effects all on the Spectrum more than general areas of behaviour.
There is a common aphorism: ‘When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism’ that emphasises that no two people are affected in the same way.
It is not an infection.
It is not the result of vaccines.
It is not the effect of mineral deficiencies nor heavy metal poisoning.
It is not the result of environmental conditions.
It is not an auto immune problem.
It may be genetic, there is certainly lots of evidence that there is a strong hereditary factor, yet despite this, no single gene nor group of genes have been identified that can provide a simple explanation.
And there seems to be good evidence that it has been with us since humankind evolved, that has given rise to another common meme that it was Autistics who didn’t sit about socialising that discovered fire and developed flint tools.
So when we look at it in overview we have something that has no specific faulty gene(s), no specific symptoms that are general and common to all affected, no specific cause and no specific disability that affects all.
Indeed there are tremendous advantages that some have achieved due to their having this ‘condition’.
So what is it?
Is there anything that indicates that it is anything more than an extreme of the natural variability of human development?
Has anyone proven that it exists as more than a type that falls outside the increasingly narrow definition of what is normal?
How long before we start diagnosing those whose numeracy or literacy falls outside some societal scale for what is normal and define them as having some psychological condition?
What I am suggesting is that Autism is no more than part of the natural development variability of humankind. Basically that there is nothing WRONG with us.
But that could mean that governments would see it as a way of removing funding and support for people who really need it.
Which takes us into the whole question of education and support and Society’s traditional assumption that everyone can be treated the same way. That people are just numbers.
It is time for Society to start accepting that humankind has all sorts of wonderful variations and differing abilities and that they need to be catered for or we will lose a tremendous resource in human potential and ingenuity.
It’s easy to say to those who retain
The hurt and the shame of what’s gone
“If You can forgive, let go of the pain
Forgive and forget” and move on
“Forgive and forget?”
No, I’ve not done that yet
Forgiving is easy to do
It may heal the pain
But the scars still remain
They’re with you whatever you do
A scar is a mark recording the fact
That damage has sometime occurred
The way that You look, the way that You act
Behaviour that may seem disturbed
Because of the pain
We feel in the brain
In the heart, in the soul, in the mind
Behaviour is learned
When finger’s are burned
And actions forever defined
Forgiving the cause may help salve the pain
May bury and hide it away
It will come again, for the scars still remain
They’re fixed now, and here they will stay
The hurt once begun
Might still be undone
But the scars are now permanent
You struggle in vain
To reformat your brain
To unlearn what the scars represent
We have to release the hurt of the past
The scars we’d rather not shew
If we can forgive and not hold those hurts fast
Then they’ll take their pain when they go
What is forgiveness
but the ability to remember
without the pain
without the anger
without the self–destructive
longing for what never was
for what never could have been
and what never, ever will be
We have to accept what is
and then let it go
We can’t throw it out…
We can’t erase it…
We have to release it…
…it has to be free….
so that we
Imagine that you are on top of a high hill looking out over a wide landscape. A landscape that represents your life. Where, in the far distance are the events of your childhood, with the more recent events closer to your vantage point. From there you are able to look out and review your life history; all that has happened to you, good or bad.
A wide sweeping landscape, where we can look back and see all that we have experienced.
Each of us has our own History that may be seen in such a way. Our personal History; and in it there may be areas that are so well defined that they dominate all around them; parts of our past that remain crystal clear, cherished memories of special moments that are good to see; memories that we love to return to and dwell upon. But there are also parts that dominate all around them and bring a pall down upon all around them.
Parts that we turn from and refuse to see, that cause us pain.
Sometimes we deny they are there, refusing to admit that they exist at all.
Some we lock down so tight we can never go in and see them.
Some we pretend are something else entirely.
Some we take and try to push onto someone else’s landscape, denying they are anything to do with us; yet still they remain dominating all around them.
Dealing with the past and coping with my memories was a hard step to take.
I felt, at first, that the past controlled who I was. It was safe because it was known. That was the way the world was. The past was dominating me, my feelings and my thoughts. It took time to realize that that was the case only because I was holding on to it, because I was hiding in it.
The present had become unreal; and the answer, for me, has been the acceptance of the memories, of what had happened. Wishing things were different, remembering events, big and small, real or imagined, and dwelling on them, changes nothing, but perpetuates much.
I tried to let the past go. I tried to shut it out. Hiding it, rejecting it, pretending it didn’t exist could never work, for it left it intact. It was still there, waiting, looming, forever over the shoulder, behind the back, round the next corner. It still had its power of control. It still affected everything I did, everything I felt, everything I hoped for, everything I planned.
When I was hiding from it, shutting it away, denying it, I was reacting to it. By releasing it, by setting it free, I have broken my connection with it. While still being able to see it and to recognize what it is, I am no longer tied to it, bound up in it, controlled by it.
Once I could accept the past, its effects could be challenged. Then I could stop, or at least control, my reaction to it and, by regaining the initiative, choose my own direction.
Distressing memories need to be accepted for what they are. Memories.
We cannot hide them, deny them, or pretend that they are something else.
In accepting that the past is what happened, we can stop trying to rationalise it. Then we take away memory’s power to affect us, to make us react. Once we no longer respond to it, we can set it free. Once it is free we have broken the connection and we can coexist. We are no longer denying it, but can acknowledge that it is there only as a reference point.
However, we need to keep our connections to other memories for we want to react to them. They give colour and texture to the picture that is our life story
Memories only control us
when we hold on to them
and try to hide in them
using them as a shield
It is we who give memories
they have none of themselves
It is only by letting them affect us
that we give them their power
Stress lives on the conflicts
between memory and reality
Accept memories for what they are
not what we wish they were
or insist they were not
Reaction relinquishes control
Acceptance retains it
Acceptance is pro–active
allowing challenge….. and change
The past defines
who we were
not who we are…
…unless we hold on to it
…and hide in it
…or behind it
When we accept the past
we stop hiding from it,
or denying that it’s there
we break its control
Acceptance and forgiveness
are mutually dependant
Forgiveness can only happen
when the past is accepted
and blame no longer attributed
When remembering causes pain
forgiveness is still wanting
pain is a reaction…
and is, therefore, in control
the connection isn’t broken
What is Self Control?
The ability to decide for ourselves what actions we should take, how we should behave and what we should take responsibility for.
Yet, Who is in control?
Who is it that makes decisions about what we do, how we react to inputs, how we react to what is or what has been?
Who is it who sets the parameters within which we are acting? What we react to and how we react to it.
When we respond to what others have done or said, then they are in control; our actions triggered by them.
And, what is more, our responses may be learned responses that we have been taught to follow.
We have to take back that control, learn to see the past for what it is, or rather, what it was. Something that happened, something that existed. The past. Something that is no more.
We are who we are now, not who we were then. We can observe, or remember what has been; as events that happened, as objects that are part of our landscape; but only part of our landscape, they are fixed in that past.
They will not change, they cannot change; we have to see them for what they are. Once we can do that, to see them as past events, then we can leave them fixed as points in our landscape.
We know them, we know what they are, or rather, what they were and we can break our connections to them. We must leave them to exist on their own, as mere features in our landscapes; that we can leave alone, ignore, acknowledge, look upon or examine as we choose.
We can set them free and by setting them free, acknowledge that they are separate; that they no longer have any control over us, or what we do; we set ourselves free too.
Why do we cherish each scar?
Are they the icons of our hate?
And is it the hate of ourselves?
Can we forgive ourselves
For being victims?
Do we say we’ve forgotten
When all we’ve done
Is to shut memory away?
Storing it behind glass
Where it can be seen
But not felt?
We have to accept
Before letting go.
The ‘why?’ of what’s gone
is a knife
that we twist in the wound.
It changes nothing.
It answers nothing.
It achieves nothing.
But it hurts.
All the hurt that is gone
Is a complex combination
Of people and events.
That signifies nothing.
But the pain is real.
Life is not static.
Nothing is fixed.
“Time and unforeseen circumstance”
Affect us all.
And the effect
May be catastrophic.
– or go unnoticed.
Fate is a chimera,
An illusion grasped.
It does not, can not, exist.
We are responsible.
For our actions
Not those of others.
However much they may affect us.
How should we live in an NT world? 26/07/2014
How often do we hear, from Those on the Spectrum, that we must all learn to copy NT behaviour?
That it is so tiring and draining to do so and what a burden it is to those who manage it for some time in their daily lives, whether it be purely for work or for social occasions.
But what does it mean and why should we do it?
It means that we should try and behave in ways that are unnatural for us as individuals, to try and become, and to think like, those whose very brains are constructed differently.
It is not just a case of reprogramming – as might be the case, if a child were lost, switched at birth and then recovered, having been brought up in a different environment with different social rules or even speaking a foreign language!
For then it would be merely (and to say that is to trivialize a major disadvantage to anyone so affected) but it would be merely retraining the thoughts and learned behaviours.
But for the ASD child (or adult) it is far more, for then we are talking, not only of having to relearn and to be re-educated in the customs and social graces of a different class, but of reprogramming a brain that has not been broken, but works in a different way at the most basic levels.
Nor is it a case of trying to teach the rest of the world that we are different and that they should just back off and learn what we are about; that we are not to be feared, but are quite harmless; and that they try they should compromise their behaviour, and learn to accommodate our differences.
Not, perhaps, totally out of the question as one initially examines the situation, where those who work and live with us have ample opportunity to become accustomed to the ways in which we are different.
Yet, what of the wider world, of the less structured interactions that we may have, even with those who travel to work with us, when we are at our most vulnerable. They have little opportunity to get to know us, to see how we differ and learn to accommodate us. We would be a complete unknown for the time we are with them.
Yet this is what we hear, most often from those who insist that what we have to do is twofold: we have to learn to behave, and to speak like NTs; while they have to learn to accommodate the intricacies, of the ways our behaviour differs, from what they are used to.
Whichever way one looks at it, whichever way one thinks might work in any given situation, neither way is feasible.
No, we have to change our mindset, and I say this as an Aspie who lived the life, playing out of tune with society and with the work environment, for some 60 years before I discovered the truth about who I was.
Looking back at my life, in which I was quite successful, for more than 25 years as an adult, before the effects of an accident forced me to retire; yes looking back one thing becomes obvious, I would not have had the confidence nor the nerve, to have required everyone else to change for me, nor could I learn to be like them – my mind just doesn’t work like that. No, what I had to do; and what I did fairly successfully, was to be myself, yet at the same time, learn to accommodate the society and work environment I lived in.
YES, though I couldn’t be one of them, nor act like them; couldn’t ask them, nor expect them to accommodate me unthinkingly. (I could, and did, ask for certain small accommodations that were not confrontational and would not become big issues); BUT I had spent my life learning how to fit into their world but by doing so by adapting my own behaviours.
I achieved what they needed, but not necessarily in the way they expected; in many ways that has worked to my advantage, as it enabled me to promote solutions, sometimes to well established difficulties that had already been accepted.
Our very nature means that we will have opportunities that an NT wouldn’t because we picture things differently.
In conclusion, I would like to say that be being myself, as I knew no other way, I was able to establish myself as someone to be respected, and for whom allowances were made; because I worked within their parameters and learned to exist, and to work in and with, an NT world.
That, after all, is where we are at! As the saying goes.
This concept is simply and effectively described by the following quote:
“For me, it’s determining where I need to fit in with the world, and where I will draw the line and stand my ground.” – Tony Langdon
I love words and linguistic differences and accents and etymology though I have never learnt another language well enough to speak – so am I a Linguistic thinker?
Yet at the same time I love diagrams and think easily in three, if not four dimensions and carry maps in my head and tackle problems in a holistic manner – so maybe I Think in Pictures?
Or is it more than that?
For I would say it is thinking in details, spatially, yet all the parts have to fit together as a whole – so is this Holistic Thinking?
And I can understand emotional thinking; I love art, where it generates emotion in me; not just paintings and music but a good book or film, where I can identify with the emotion of the characters – so Emotional Thinking?
In fact, before I found my new wife and fell in love, love that still grows and increases after more than 13 years, before I found her, I would say that I only knew love second hand by experiencing it through art – so what would that be, Second Hand Emotion?
So do we think in only one way or can some of us think in several different ways, yet only one at a time? Do we have several different ‘Thinking Caps’?
The more I become absorbed by the theory of what it is and how it works, from a purely Autistic view, the more I am convinced that the basic underlying framework is quite simple and fits together well.
That is taking the evidence of what works and what the experiences and personal triumphs, of those who break-the-mould by achieving communication through the barrier of non-verbalism, show.
The brains of those with Autism develop more white connective tissue. Our brains have areas that work like a higher power processor. We think differently because we can process patterns, visualizations, and complexities beyond the range of other people.
Depending on where this extra connectivity exists the effects can be very varied.
In some it comes at the expense of over stimulation and the inability to dampen that overload, leading to difficulties in communication, muscle control etc.
While at the other extreme the difficulties are more subtle, yet just can be extremely debilitating too. We seem to be able to process the world and to make our way in it, able to achieve a university education and good careers, make scientific discoveries or build business empires; but don’t be fooled, for we too experience over sensitivity in an intense world where we can have too much to process in personal communication where we can be flooded with information we have to tune out.
At one end of the scale the problem is how to enable those who struggle to communicate at all; yet it seems they have much to teach us from their experiences and the practicalities of how it works for them.
Then, for those called higher functioning or Aspergers, there is a whole new set of problems many of which come from the fact that at first sight we don’t appear to be disadvantaged by our Autism. The unseen toll for some trying to function as automatons where every interaction is a learned performance. When so much information is received that we don’t know how to sort it or so it seems, when the stresses mount up until meltdown comes except for those few that seem to have come to terms with being different and who make that work for them – for the most part. For there seem to be a few (or is it the majority who we never see or know about – secret Autistics) who can find or build an environment in which they can be accepted for who they are.
Our difficulties in communication is trying to determine what is meant when we are bombarded with so much information, tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, hidden meanings in the words used. We tend to shut out what we cannot process and resort to taking the words at face value – taking everything too literally and being unable to look at faces or make eye contact.
Short term memory and the ability to multitask are often compromised by the intensity of focus that can be a real advantage at times but also be a real barrier to associating with others, as it can so often lead to our becoming lost in our thoughts, bringing all our power to focus and finding that when we are ready to speak, the conversation has moved on.
Is it surprising that we find that when we do have someone’s attention we have so much to say that they can’t get a word in?
We are not more or less intelligent any more than any other section of the population, only with a different way of thinking and addressing issues.
Learning to connect to those disadvantaged by non-verbalism, by building on the interests, obsessions, activities and strengths they show, building on what they can do, is what we learn from those whose experiences are open to us; rather than trying to fix them into a rigid framework, teaching them to perform like trained seals; building up has to be a better way forward than tying them down with chains of ABA.
We have to realize that inside there are intelligent and often quite brilliant minds that only need a way to connect, to demonstrate it. Just consider how many ‘non-verbal’ children teach themselves to read so that when the opportunity to connect arrives they are able to grasp it)
Then there are the repeated claims of ‘cures’ of the one who ‘grow out of it’. What should we make of such claims when we know that once the brain has developed it cannot be taken apart and rebuilt?
This is, unfortunately only to be expected with the basically useless approach of the DSM and its authors. With diagnoses made purely on the numbers of symptoms from a list is only to be expected.
Consider, a diagnosis is not made on any underlying molecular, cellular or developmental differences, but on symptoms alone. And not measurable symptoms but subjective evaluations of them. It is hardly surprising therefore, if one day a subject is deemed to meet the criteria, while on another they fail to be judged sufficient and a ‘cure’ is declared! (When they have perhaps learned to better manage their symptoms or just because they are not so much in evidence, when retested).
Add to that the number of cases that will inevitably occur when symptoms arising from another cause are matched and a diagnosis is given when the underlying condition, disease or trauma is not Autistic brain development.
For such cases a cure or remission may occur but it is not Autism that is being cured despite any pontifications by medical professionals, particularly those trying to make a name for themselves.
I for one do not feel there is any reason why a complicated theory is needed, when a fairly basic set of principles explain everything.
It is particularly interesting to discover that Kamila and Hanry Markram’s Intense World Theory gives a well fitting explanation of how such processes work in a simple and all inclusive theory.
Applied Behaviour Analysis 10/05/2014
I had to stop and take the time to see what ABA is all about and once one strips away all the histrionics and examines what ABA is then it all becomes straightforward and the different opinions, predictable.
At its most basic ABA is dog training applied to humans, usually children: do what is wanted and receive a treat/praise or reinforcement or refuse to do what is wanted and be penalised/punished.
A well known and well respected method of training for animals who cannot be reasoned with. Nothing necessarily cruel nor unpleasant involved. WHEN IT IS USED PROPERLY TO THE BEST STANDARDS. Yet it IS only a method of training animals. Using rewards to instill good responses to commands.
Once those methods are applied to humans though we seem to automatically use the ‘stick’ as well as the carrot and we should NEVER use the stick on a dog, never mind on a child!
OK, it isn’t ever a real stick – or is it? (The Judge Rotenberg Educational Centre and its electrical shocking of inmates comes to mind). The important point here is that punishment of any kind, such as withdrawal of privileges should NEVER be used. Particularly with vulnerable children who cannot express themselves easily)
Given its wide spread, uncontrolled use, it is inevitable that two major problems will occur with the implementation of ABA; it will be applied to the wrong subjects, whose difficulties will not be addressed and careless or bad-minded therapists will go far beyond positive reinforcement into the totally unacceptable realms of cruelty and even torture, mental or physical, to cow the subjects into blind obedience.
Used badly or for inappropriate subjects it becomes one of the worst forms of cruelty.
What is the relevance of ABA for treating those O(n)T(he)S(pectrum)?
In broad terms those OTS can be divided into two groups often referred to as High functioning (HFA) and Low functioning (LFA).
These labels are in many ways misnomers which confuse the way the subjects are seen, understood and treated.
HFA individuals are, broadly, those who speak well, are seen to be of at least average and often superior intelligence, regardless of whether they were diagnosed as Aspergers (learning and using language early, even precociously, or Autistic (having delays to their use of language but having caught up and subsequently using it well).
While LFA individuals comprise those who have restricted language and attention to an apparent complete absence of any language ability or control of their bodies.
ABA or therapies that take the name of ABA in order to receive funding, can be used for those in the HFA group as a teaching aid, to teach them how to react in specific situations and used in a loving, caring way, that they buy into, in order to learn how to cope with specific situations, it can be a useful therapy.
For those in the LFA group, however, it is a very different situation.
It is only now becoming apparent, through the numerous books about and by non-verbal Autistics that many if not most are in fact intelligent and have learned to understand speech, yet are prevented from responding by the complexities of their condition.
Some have likened the use of ABA to torture! Saying that they knew the answers to the endless round of the same boring questions or instructions, only their body control issues prevented them from giving those answers. Even giving the wrong answers or actions despite their best intentions. The body disobeying the mind and taking its own course.
ABA has resulted, how often we don’t know, although potentially it could be only the tip of the iceberg: yes, ABA has resulted in the subjects being subjected to years of learning their abc, simple arithmetic and simple actions, by rote.
While they are wanting to progress into advanced mathematics, or are writing poetry in their heads but are unable to communicate this.
The difficulty that has to be addressed for those in the LFA group is learning to communicate; teaching them how to express their thoughts and relate to the outside world.
Karla’s ASD Page
With respect to therapies, and choosing therapies, this is why I think ABA and Social Thinking type programs are ultimately the most risky/dangerous types of programs you can chose for your kids. Both therapies are dogmatic about the definition of good behavior and both are punitive to anyone outside their specific definitions. This teaches your Autistic kid (at best) that they are not a good person and (at worst) teaches them that they are not allowed to say, “No”. These are the sorts of therapies that destroy when done incorrectly and guess what…. There is nobody watching to make sure they are done correctly except YOU the parent.
When I get involved in situations where a child is being violent, I can always so far (100% of the time) fix the violence by removing the child from these destructive types of therapies and teaching the child that it is okay to say, “No” again. The parents who take this leap of faith (and it is always a BIG leap) are rewarded ultimately with a better understanding of their child as an Autistic being. The child, is ultimately empowered and with empowerment comes healing.
Again this is not 100% of all ABA and Social Thinking courses. SOME of them have excellent teachers and can be great resources for both child and parents to learn. MOST of them are not. My message is to warn parents to keep eyes wide open and to watch carefully that your child is empowered and happy with whatever therapy he is being subjected to and most importantly that he is able to advocate for himself and just say, “No”.
Now though, there are a few individuals and small groups who have recognized this and are addressing the real problem with a lucky few; while the overwhelming majority of therapists still cling to trying to teach them to tie their shoe laces which they will never be able to do because of their control issues.
ABA is the principle therapy that is in use today and we are subjecting intelligent young people who desperately need a means of communication, to be trained like dogs to do things which they find impossible because of body control issues NOT because they lack intelligence.
How many non-verbal people today are still desperately wanting to communicate when we give up, stop any sort of therapy and effectively institutionalize them whether it be still within the family or in a real institution.
This is not in anyway a criticism of loving parents doing their utmost so much as a criticism of the professions who refuse to learn beyond what they were taught in their training; who cannot see beyond what they have been told.
Some individuals can express themselves and do so in what ever way they are able, often in the field of art, and are seen by those who love them as having a greater intelligence than they are thought to have, that shows through in
How many, I wonder of those that arrive at adulthood still unable to communicate have given up trying?
But all is not lost for successes have been achieved as is told in those books I list below; where communication has been established through those abilities and interests the subjects obsess about. Where therapists and family throw themselves into sharing those obsessions and establishing trust, communication is often started about the interest and gradually that interest is left behind as a necessary aid as a whole new world opens up.
Probably the best example, or at least the best known, is Temple Grandin, Whose mother worked incredibly hard against all the advice of the day to break through her barriers and look at the result! And then there is Jacob Barnett, whose transformation from not being able to tie his shoelaces, to a potential Nobel Prize winner for his new theory of relativity while still a teenager, is probably the greatest example of the benefit of learning to communicate.
His story is told by his Mother in the book: The Spark. A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius and she goes on to describe how applying the same process of following and enabling the passion of son to other Autistic children showed it to be a good general approach.
In conclusion I would venture to say that ABA sensitively used, may be useful and indeed achieve great success with some OTS children, it only has a place in some very special circumstances for those with particular issues. While the majority of LFA children require help to achieve communication, whether it be via cards, computers, or any other method; and for whom achieving an ability to communicate will open up the whole world to them and let their intelligence shine through.
The Spark. A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius – Kristine Barnett
Carly’s Voice – Arthur Fleischmann
I might be you: An Exploration of Autism and connection – Barb Rentenbach and Lois Prislovsky
Ido in Autismland: Climing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison – Ido Kedar
The Reason I jump: one boy’s voice from the silence of Autism – Naoki Higashida
Thinking in Pictures – Temple Grandin
And Ethan Shkedy’s youtube video: Ethan’s Story – Breaking the autism glass ceiling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evjbx9_RiMY
and this report:
When used to help a child who wants to learn how to cope with specific challenges, and when used lovingly, caringly and sensitively, when used wisely it can be a beneficial approach, but still the greatest care must be used.
Training dogs can be very harsh, brutal and sadistic when done badly, yet it can also become a welcome, exciting game that the dogs look forward to when exercised with love.
BUT, when it is no more than training children to ‘perform tricks’, with no understanding of why they are doing it, it is no better than training dogs.
Surely we should be teaching our children – NOT TRAINING THEM?
i’m not sure this is ABA at all, but rather, Nazism:
“I’m sorry, but that’s not earning your token…”
I have been working with the autistic demographic for the better part of the last decade. When I first started in this field, I was a “behavioral tutor” at a popular treatment center. Their programs were based in Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA.
ABA is regarded as THE autism intervention. It is often the only thing covered by insurance, state-mandated therapy programs, and other service providers. But what does it consist of?
This is what my work looked like for several years. Children were supposed to sit for thirty minute sessions, up to six a day, and work on a specific program, such as color identification or event sequencing. Children were rewarded when they worked… with tokens, tickles, stickers, candy, etc. Kids on “higher levels” had to wait longer for this “positive reinforcement.” Children were given a “discrete trial” and were expected to not only perform the task in a timely manner, but “sit with hands and feet down and a quiet voice” for three seconds. Children who failed to perform to these precise standards did not earn reinforcement… no exceptions. When children consistently failed to perform or acted out, they were often punished. Punishments, or “aversive consequences” as they are called in the industry, could get creative. At this treatment center, we screamed “NO!” at children, sprayed water in their face, made them stand up and sit down repeatedly, put them in time outs, and used what are euphemistically called “taste aversions.”
A taste aversion is what is pictured here. Vinegar was the most common, though we also used wasabi, cayenne pepper, and whatever else was found to be effective.
I was told this was the only evidence based intervention available, and without it children would suffer more. I was told the brutality was necessary. Not until finding the adult autistic community did I learn this was not true.
Sometimes when I talk to others in the field about this, I’m told it’s “not real ABA” or “that’s not how it’s done anymore.” That is a bold pack of outrageous lies. Don’t believe people who tell you this. It’s real. I participated in it. People have trauma because of it. Please stand up against these types of compliance-based interventions.
Learn more about applied behavior analysis here… http://www.sentex.net/~nexus23/naa_aba.html