Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why I am leery of ABA....Permission to Pass Please?

There are some good reasons I am...

Out of the horses mouth:
"Applied behavior analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior."
I understand, that many parents have felt that ABA is a godsend, and I agree in principle that it can be employed to change behaviors where all other therapies have failed, but I would like to look at this theory in a deeper fashion.

"...improve socially significant 'behaviors'..."  the keyword I wish to focus on is behaviors.  What we call behavior is an outward appearance, an external activity to the individual in question.  Treat a child like a dog, manipulating it's outward behavior so that it passes for "human" yet never reaching the child/individual within.  This science used to be referred to as behavioral modification.  Skinner, who was a staunch behaviorist denied the psychological lives of individuals and believed that they were entirely a product of behaviors.  Skinner taught that "psychology should concern itself with the observable behavior of people and animals, not with unobservable events that take place in their minds."

On many levels Skinner's observations have been included in the modern psycho-therapeutic approach, but his main premise that the "mentalism" as he called it, the personality, the individual as they come to know themselves in thought but cannot be observed is meaningless; this is rejected by modern psychotherapy.   In his view a human being is purely an animal, comes into the world a tabula rasa or a blank slate to be written upon and molded as it's parents see fit.  The psychological world of the child (or individual) is not taken into account.

What I fear and have reservations about is just that, that ABA works.  Like a marionette a human puppet, we can get our child, or an individual to pass as neuro-typical while never working to alleviate conflicts, encourage creativity, personality, short caring more for performance than personality, to adherence than understanding.

As an adult with ACC and an ASD, I have learned to pass as "normal" for the most part.  It is exhausting, like walking on eggshells, every moment of my life.  It is, for me, being something other than who I really am.   Through the school of hard knocks, I've learned how I'm expected to behave, what the appropriate responses are supposed to be, even while not understanding why they should.  

ABA works, sure, but at what risk?  Are we not just covering over the problem with a band-aid?  The reason it seems to work so well (spotty results really) with autistic and ACC children is because we are generally weak in the area of Theory of Mind, that "I have thoughts, you have different thoughts, and these are not us, but things or activities of mind."  So many thinking this so, abandon the popular therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (talk therapy) and swing in the complete opposite direction of behaviorism.

I do not think this necessary...

What ASD and ACC children actually need,  in my opinion are tools, skills, and methods to discover Theory of Mind and its implications.  Many call this mindfulness therapy.  In mindfulness therapy, a person learns to focus their attention on the present moment, which impedes ruminative thoughts and emotions. This therapy has recently been modified for people with autism, taking into account their information processing characteristics. A clear merit of this intervention is that it requires few theory of mind and communication skills, since thoughts and emotions are not analyzed. During mindfulness training, meditation skills are taught, which the individual can utilize in their everyday life, in order to reduce rumination and symptoms of distress. The skills can be applied in any situation a person encounters in their life. 

There are concrete reasons that autistic and ACC people have difficulty with social interactions, but "going after" the social interactions first and trying to "force skills upon them" do nothing to alleviate these causes.  Largely those on the spectrum live in a state of constant sensory over-stimulation, and exist in a "fight or flight frenzy" in their waking hours, because they haven't learned to identify, objectify and work with their emotions, bodily sensations and stimulations.  Nor have they yet identified in a meaningful manner the sense of self that is behind all of these things.  Once they have done this, then they can approach the learning of social skills.

Mind you, these are only my observations, so take them with  a grain of salt, but I'm sure that research would back me up.

Granted there are times in adult society that we must "go with the flow" but I tire of having to be who I am not.  If you allow my quirkiness and different way of doing things, and don't judge me from the outset, I might surprise you.  But force me down, pigeonhole me, jam my square peg into your round hole, and you'll likely just get an empty set of behaviors with no understanding of them and no rapport with me.

It's no surprise that the diabolical group "Autism Speaks" believes in the staunch use of ABA, they deny the autistic person, they do not speak for autism, but for their own pocketbooks.  You will find absolutely no autistic adults on their board.  AS  is all about saving embarrassment for parents of their "damaged" child, we are seen as a problem to be fixed, not an individual to be loved and nurtured. AS' rhetoric goes as far as the talk seen in past centuries of genetic cleansing, wiping us out as if we are a disease.

(Can anyone tell this post got me heated?)

Anyhow, thanks for listening...take what helps and leave the rest!


1 comment:

  1. Dear Joseph, I' mother to a delicious 5 months HCC baby girl. She's dong fine for now but of course we're worried about what the future holds for her.. I just want to thank you for this blog, which is an invaluable resource!! Your words are amazingly clear, deep and touching, given your condition I imagine you've really worked hard inside yourself to get to this point and yes you defintely help others.. Reading about your childhood let me think about the huge responsability we will have while parenting our special little girl, helping her face difficulties that may be hard to uderstand and detect and not forcing her to fit a "social model" but still trying to let her find her own way to live an happy and meaningful life...
    I'm really grateful.