What’s up with the blind spot?

Trigger warning: discussion of ABA, and mention of sexual abuse.

There’s something that I keep seeing, specifically on posts regarding the issue of ABA, and, as a neurotypical parent, I honestly can’t wrap my brain around it.

It’s the inability of some neurotypical parents and BCBA’s to empathize with or stretch their understanding to consider the validity of the negative experiences that MANY autistic people and parents of autistic children have gone through.

I’ve seen it on discussions on autism related message boards where most of the commenters are non-autistic professionals/parents. I saw it on a very well balanced, well written post by Unstrange Mind. I just don’t get it.

It starts like this – autistic person talks about their actual experience with ABA, normalization, forced eye contact, quiet hands, quiet body, quiet everything, etc.  A parent whose child benefited from ABA (or what is called ABA but may be more floor-time-y) or ABA practitioner jumps immediately to the defensive and tells them they are wrong about ABA, with the insistent “I don’t do it this way”/”My child’s therapist isn’t like this” reaction.

Great – you don’t suck. Great – your child’s therapist respects them and understands their autism and is working to help them function more effectively in a neurotypical world. Fantastic. I’m glad for you.

How does that change what the blogger has experienced? How does that change what OTHER bloggers have experienced? How does that change what other parents have witnessed happening to their children? How does that change the PTSD that adults and children have and continue to experience as a result of what amounts to treating autism as a behavioral issue rather than a neurological difference/disability?

HOW?    Your lack of suffering in no way negates another person’s experience of suffering.

Let me put this another way.

If someone tells you they were molested by a family member as a child, what is your reaction?

Do you respond by saying “well, I never molested anyone” or “well, my family members never molested me”?

No – you listen, you sympathize, and hopefully you are now aware of an issue you may not have thought about before because it hadn’t happened to you or those you love. You perhaps keep that awareness in the back of your mind so if you see warning signs, you are more able to act on/deal with it.

So why does this not happen re. ABA? Is it so sacred that it can’t be questioned? WHY?

The irony of the lack of empathy displayed by these parents and therapists is astounding.  Just because YOU have not experienced it, does not mean it has not occurred. Just because you don’t do something, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done.

Stop pretending it doesn’t happen because it hasn’t happened to you.

Stop telling people they are wrong because their experiences don’t match up with yours.

Stop, Listen, Think – then commit to making sure that this does not happen to others. If you don’t do it, make sure others don’t – call them out when you see it happen. If your kids aren’t experiencing it, keep making sure that they are cared for in a respectful manner. Make sure other parents who seek your advice know what to look for and what to beware of. Use the words of autistic people who have experienced traumatic therapy to prevent it from happening to others.




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