Wednesday, October 23, 2013
This isn't your mother's ABA (it's mine)
Trigger warning: ABA
[Disclaimer: when choosing a program for your child, investigate carefully and think about what the aim of the program is and what methods of teaching are employed. Many ABA programs and other programs are unsuitable and CAN / DO / WILL CAUSE anxiety and PTSD.]
My mom works in ABA. It is not like the ABA that traumatized you. It is not like the ABA that tried to erase you. It is not like the ABA that forced you to "use your words."
They do not "quiet hands" children.
They do not talk about "table ready" hands.
They accept verbal and nonverbal communication. They do teach verbal communication. They also teach children to use PECS and encourage the use of sign language if that mode is most useful and comfortable for the child.
They do not refuse to listen simply because a child is not using one of these aforementioned modes of communication.
They try to understand what a child might be saying with gestures or speech-like sounds. They model speech while doing this.
They do not force language.
They do not invalidate a child's method of communication.
They view behavior as communication.
They consider what might be causing a behavior. Is the child hungry? Thirsty? Overwhelmed?
They encourage sensory exploration. They never force it.
They guide children into eye contact. They do not force or demand it. They do not require it. They teach it as a game, so that the children will have fun experimenting with occasional eye contact.
My mom personally does not speak to a child who is making eye contact, and she encourages her coworkers to follow her example. She understands that processing speech while making eye contact can be difficult for an Autistic child.
They never force a child to do something that is painful or distressing. That would be abuse.
They never punish a child for exhibiting a distress behavior.
They set limits while respecting and maintaining physical autonomy and boundaries.
They give children time to process a request, if needed.
If your child's ABA program is not like this, ask yourself what impact it could be having on your child. There are many, many Autistic children and adults who have been traumatized by the physical, emotional and sensory abuse they endured in ABA and similar programs.