ABA is Heart-breaking:
BBC4 (Iplayer) programme on ABA
‘Autism: Challenging Behaviour’
On 27th February, BBC 4 repeated ‘Autism: Challenging Behaviour’ which explored the controversies around ABA and looked at views of people in favour of ABA (such as parents and ABA therapists and staff) and those against ABA (such as academics, psychologists and teachers). Whilst it is no longer available on iplayer, there is a live link below. The programme features include an independent ABA therapist and Treetops, the first ABA school in England.
We think it is reasonable that a child’s educational experience should strive to make them feel safe, accepted and competent, regardless of neurology. Part of this is for a child to feel the adults around understand them.
Even if you only have the chance to watch the first few minutes, we think the start sets the tone. Please note some of the programme is quite disturbing.
– By staff at Treetops : ‘All you need to do to change behaviour is reward those you want and not those you don’t want’ (which we feel may be a rather simplistic approach when internal drivers come into play?). ‘To follow through may take 5 minutes or 3 hours, then you get a child compliant in your demands’ (which left us believing that perhaps the child ends up complying because of the aversive situation rather than the reward, although if that is the case, it would breach their education competences framework which can be viewed on the UK Society of Behaviour Analysts website (the link is in the comment box below).
– By the independent ABA therapist who concerned us because of the view he had of autism and how this will then impact the autistic child as well as his relationship with his parents: ‘I don’t see anything good about autism. I think we should fight against it’. ‘He is angry with me when I offer him chocolate, which is not nice of him when I offer him something he likes’. (The young child by now had had 4 months of ABA and perhaps the ABA therapist focusing on the ‘reward’ is missing the point about what the boy actually needs.)
– By the then Depute Head of Treetops: ‘it’s the child’s right to say no…but we believe they don’t really know what they are saying “no” to’ (which raises the question of whether it’s the staff or child who does not understand the reason for saying no and the ethical question of actually giving the child their right to say no as a result).
– By one parent who was about to send her son there: ‘He is very intelligent, but I don’t understand what he is trying to tell me’ (concerns us as we know children have problem behaviour when they are not give a means to communicate. Would a speech and language therapist have been appropriate, rather than subjecting the young boy to intensive 1:1 learning via behaviour modification techniques for his school years?)
By Prof Liz Pellicano, Director, Centre for Research in Autism & Education, UCL ‘If there is not one development trajectory, should we not accept and then support, without fundamentally trying to take the autism out of them.’
– By Damian Milton, an autism activist and academic: ‘Autism is an intrinsic part of who someone is’. ‘ABA is a science based on increasing or decreasing behaviour deemed autistic or not by non-autistic people. It gives the message that they are not ok like they are and have to act differently to be loved by people around. ‘