Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

I decided to write a thread on this topic since it is a critical one if we're going to move toward acceptance of autistic people and, frankly, thoughts of the things autistic children are enduring break my heart.

Fortunately, I escaped clinical notice as a child in the late 60s and 70s so was never subjected to "therapy" but aspects of my experience are still relevant.

Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

I'm going to start with the single best article I've found, notable for its extensive collection of links to other resources. I have not read every single linked resource because they are ... difficult for me to get through. I can only manage them in limited doses. Please start here.

madasbirdsblog.wordpress.com/2

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

I'll start with a little personal history. Hello, I'm Scott and I'm autistic. Because I am able to type cogently on a keyboard, your first instinct may be to dismiss me as one of those "high-functioning" people who does not need and shouldn't receive any support. I'm just a bit eccentric and quirky. And isn't everyone a little bit autistic?

Please. Don't.

Just don't.

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

Part of that misconception is tied to now disproven associations between early language development, autism, and later ability with language.

I was completely nonverbal until I was 3 years old and had issues like dropped and substituted syllables until I was 5. Speech therapy cleared up my lingering issues in that area.

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

Had I been diagnosed in the US earlier than I was, my diagnosis would have been Autistic Disorder (so-called "classic autism") not Asperger's Disorder as everyone seems to assume.

In reality, there was never a substantive difference between the two except those with early language or cognitive delays or a co-occurring intellectual disability were excluded from an Asperger's diagnosis. Autistic Disorder could include almost all.

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

And as an aside, I quickly gathered around the time of my diagnosis that most of the "controversy" among autistic people (as opposed to parents) regarding the change to a single Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis reflected a lot of internalized ableism. There were a lot of autistic people who didn't want to be lumped in with "those" autistic people.

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

The way I interact with the world flowing from my own experience, I was glad I would have been filtered into the more despised group.

I was so overjoyed and relieved to discover there were people like me in the world, that I wasn't some uniquely broken type of human, I immediately saw everyone as almost my family. I wanted to stand beside and with everyone.

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

If you've explored any of the links in the article I shared at the start, you'll see how autistic children were viewed by the man who designed ABA, Ivar Lovaas. And you'll see it looks a lot like gay conversion therapy because he applied the same techniques in that arena and published research papers about it.

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

And none of those original techniques are off the table today, including the use of electric shock as punishment. "Clients" (victims) of the Judge Rotenberg Center are forced to wear their torture devices on their backs and the center recently won a court case allowing them to continue the practice.

npr.org/2019/01/23/687636057/m

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

So don't talk to me about how the "therapy" has changed. Its most brutal elements remain in use today.

But even the "softer, gentler" forms are just as abusive and recent research demonstrates its victims are also much more likely to exhibit PTSD as adults.

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

What are the goals of ABA? The sole goal of the therapy is to force a child to look and act as much like non-autistic peers as possible. The so-called "optimal outcome" is when a child is no longer observably autistic among peers from a distance. That's it. That's the most important measure of results.

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

I wrote about that because I worked very, very hard to make myself look as "normal" as I could as a child and I pretty much achieved their so-called optimal outcome. I know what drove me and it wasn't good. I wanted others to treat me like a human being. Even so, internally driven was still better than externally imposed.

faithandfood.morizot.net/2017/

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Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

@tmorizot I've seen you mention not being treated like a human several times now and I relate to that so hard. It's so hard to put into words how I was being treated. It didn't seem to fit nicely into the category of bullying, I just knew I was being treated as less than human.

Some people became my "friend" but usually treated me more like an amusing pet. I was always wary of those people.

Others just looked at me with contempt, as subhuman

Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

@tmorizot And when I see that happening to anyone else my heart just breaks from the pain I know they're feeling.
It hurts. A lot.

Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

@Laura_I Yes. Yes, it does. I recognized recently that's part of the reason I have always so strongly empathized with other marginalized groups. The process of social marginalization always involves treating the subject as less than fully human.

Autism, ABA is abuse and autistic conversion therapy 

@Laura_I I could see, as long as I remember, the ways people responded to each other.

And they didn't respond to me that way, even the ones who tried to be helpful, nice, or friendly.

And that never stopped hurting.

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