Now, I’m as much for patient rights and autism acceptance just as much as I’m for acknowledging the capabilities of all Spectrumites. All as much as the next Spectrumite. And that’s why I’m starting to get angry at a certain myth wafting around the Quora forums like that bad stench you can only get from a fake-news burrito wrapped in uneducated conspiracy theorist fecal matter.
I’m, of course, referring to the ongoing (unsubstantiated) claims that ABA (or Applied Behavioral Analysis) is some kind of torture NTs use against Spectrumites to get us to “comply.” The usual criticisms I see floating around the aether is that ABA uses electroshock as a primary method, or that ABA somehow causes emotional or physical trauma to the Spectrumite by attacking what it means to be autistic.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but I’ll try to keep this rant concise. I don’t proclaim to know everything about neither ABA nor ASD, and as a Spectrumite, I do understand that what works for one does not always work for all. This is my opinion. Solely. I do not project to speak for all the ASD communities out there in Web-Surfy-Land. Nor does it necessarily represent the opinion of the Aspie Dialogues.
The first myth I have to debunk – both because I’ve at one point in my life work studied at a center that primarily adheres to ABA and because I’ve experienced it, myself, during my early childhood – is that it involves electroshock or otherwise similar physical tortures. It doesn’t. I don’t even know where that myth even came from, but it’s 100% FALSE. I could say the pope is a green frog wearing a poofy, rainbow wig and a pair of parachute pants, but that doesn’t make it so. (Although, as a general aside, that is something I’d like to see in real life, someday…)
Likewise, just saying ABA is physical torture on the internet doesn’t mean it actually is. I’ll clarify for those of you in the back row: ABA IS NOT PHYSICAL TORTURE. PERIOD.
I don’t buy into the strictly Neurodiverse argument that it’s torture because we’re all different and we should celebrate our differences because we’re autistic and we’re just that special that we get to do whatever we want just because. I get it. We’re good at some things, but here’s the flip-side of that coin: we’re also not as good at some things and could stand to improve in those areas.
Constructive criticism is NOT emotional torture. If you’re doing something socially unacceptable (for example: hitting other people and screaming when angry), you need to stop. Being autistic does NOT give us a free pass to harm ourselves or others. ABA reinforces the idea that we are not excused from society just because of our ASD. That’s probably why the Neurodiversity movement wants it gone; it’s easier than doing the work it takes to learn techniques for managing one’s anger.
We are currently only sitting at a one-in-59 prevalence ratio. That means that we’re barely 1.7% of the population. Until we outnumber the NTs, just remember who has the majority in a world where majority rules, especially when it comes to society and social expectations.
That an NT may expect better behavior from you isn’t abuse; it’s the expectation that you have the ability to make more socially acceptable choices, which in most cases, I’m going to suggest that you probably do have. We may be special, but we’re not demigods or the like. We’re just different people with different needs. And ABA therapy is just one way of offering techniques for fulfilling those needs without breaking society.
Quite frankly, most of the authors of the posts I’ve seen online seem to be of a younger generation than I am. Most of that generation had much more resources available to them than my millennial generation had, and we had to fight tooth-and-nail for every ounce of help we got. Sometimes, it wasn’t anywhere close to enough. Sometimes, we didn’t even benefit from the resources we fought for, but at least you were able to. And here you are, throwing all those resources back in our faces because somebody suggested that you’re not a perfect being. No human is. No living thing is. Therefore, nothing we conceptualize or create will be. Ever.
If there’s a part of the system that you feel isn’t working, work to fix it. Don’t just scrap it and feign perfection. Believe me. There is still SO much more wrong with the current system, but if we give up on it, it won’t get better. Let your needs be known, but don’t spread myths and hypothetical situations wrapped in propaganda. We can fix the system, piece by piece, together. Let’s work with each other instead of against each other.
Because if I don’t know or understand everything there is to know about ASD and the various resources out there for it, then it stands to reason that not everyone else might, either. And if you don’t know something, learn about it from a reputable source. No, Google is NOT a reputable source.
Tune in next time, when I tear into the opposing side of the Great Schism of Autism. It’s not that I oppose Neurodiversity, but I do oppose the idea that we should get to do whatever we want just because we have ASD as our crutch to fall back on. I’ll get off my moral high horse when everyone else does the same. Pointing fingers and playing the blame game is not going to solve anything.
…And that is my unpopular opinion. May you find peace with yourselves, within yourselves.