The Truth About ABA

Being the parent of an autistic child can be very difficult, especially in the type of anti-autistic or “find a cure” society we currently live in.  Most parents are simply trying to love their child and with the influence of society and the media who present autism in an unacceptable manner, they may easily feel that they must try to find some sort of cure or way to alter the behavior of the child.  Currently, many people claim that ABA intervention is an appropriate cure.  They claim that there are dramatic improvements to behavior and that the majority of children see almost a full recovery with intense and time consuming therapy.  Although this therapy is based on behavioral psychology, something I believe has significant uses, I think that in this case, it is sorely misused.  Based on the extreme measures that are needed to make this therapy apparently affective, it blurs the line between abuse and intervention. It is in no way acceptable to withhold food from a child until they become hungry enough to comply with behaviors in order to get fed.  It is also important to realize that although this therapy can sometimes develop learned behaviors, it is in no way curing the individual of a neurological difference such as autism.   You cannot teach a person to perform a behavior or set of behaviors for three years and expect their neurons to rewire to become non-autistic.  It is also believed that although this training my modify behavior, it is not changing how the child wants to act.  The child is still autistic and is naturally inclined to act in one way, but you are telling them that this behavior is unacceptable.  Image yourself being told that you cannot do something you naturally are inclined to like scratch your finger when it itches, just because it is apparently an unacceptable behavior.  These children are also forced to live as something they aren’t.  This can be very emotionally traumatizing for the child. This treatment can sometimes result in long lasting problems such as PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which could itself need treatment.  Besides all the downfalls for the child with this therapy, it is easy to see that many parents will be emotionally effected by this therapy.  It is extremely time consuming, becoming more like a full time job rather than a therapy.  It can also be hard for a parent to put their child through such an emotional experience. It is hard enough for many parents to deal with the pleas and cries of taking care of a “normal” child, let alone put them through hours of repetitive resistance to behaviors that may be painful or uncomfortable for their child.

Although parents may try to turn to this therapy in order to help their child, they need to be aware of the disabling qualities it can have.  It has not proven to be very effective after thorough meta-analysis and has a great chance of not be effective at all for your child.  It is more important to accept your child for who and what they are instead of trying to change your child.  That, in itself, will show your child that you love and care about them and their future.

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