ABA Therapy and PTSD

I was called “unethical” by a professional colleague today.
The reason may surprise you—I said “ABA is abuse”. My peer was naturally taken aback because they are an SLP-BCBA and “would never dream of abusing a child.” I always find this rebuttal interesting because we usually don’t hear about people walking around admitting to abusing people; even overt predators somehow convince themselves that they are helping their victim. The sanctimonious SLP-BCBA told me that it was the “old ABA” and not “new ABA” that was harmful, and then only a small fraction of the time. She accused me of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” (I still don’t really understand how this idiomatic expression applies here) and she further went on to insist that there is “no way ABA could cause PTSD in people with Autism.” (She really meant “Autistic people,” I am sure.)

Rebuttal to critique of “ABA is NOT Effective: So says the Latest Report from the Department of Defense”

“The DoD/TRICARE report isn’t a study in any real sense of that word.” This is FALSE. In fact, they included 3794 participants who had received at least 18 months of ABA services; 2,183 from the eastern region of the United States, and a replication in the western region of the United States with 1,611 participants. As such it is not merely the largest study of the effectiveness of ABA, it is the only large-scale test of ABA . And they determined that ABA services do not meet the TRICARE hierarchy of evidence standard for medical and proven care..

Why We Model Language and Honor All Communication, instead of Using PECS®

Today in a virtual Zoom therapy session, the parent asked me why I don’t use PECS® in speech therapy (with non-speaking or minimally speaking Autistic children). After watching her child laugh, dance, and have fun during therapy, after watching them imitate action verbs, and spontaneously communicate a desire, spontaneously point to my assistant and me on the screen, and smile at us all, it became clear to this parent that there are different kinds of therapy sessions. This kind isn’t all about compliance.

Avoiding the “Good Job!” Habit

“Good job!” is a phrase used frequently during treatment sessions with autistic children. What message does a child receive from hearing, “Good Job!”? We hope they hear our interest, encouragement and approval. However, when “Good Job!” becomes a habit, is it still successful in conveying this meaning? Or, does it simply signal that the adult is in control, with specific goals in mind and is directing the child towards those behaviors, regardless of the child’s intention? Can frequent “Good Job!” responses undermine a child’s initiative, creativity and broader learning? Does it interfere with a more robust engagement?

TBI in Service Members – Real-life effects & the need for Empathetic, Compassionate & Trauma-informed Care:

Beginning in around the year 2000, the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has included Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) among their ever-increasing scope of practice, claiming that ABA is “one of the most effective treatments for managing mood, behavioral and other mental disorders associated with brain damage”.3 ABA, in its simplest form, treats the behavior associated with TBI, rather than treating the underlying neurological reasons for that behavior.

ABA: Modern-Day Brainwashing

Terrifyingly, ABA has infiltrated our healthcare system, schools, military, hospitals, and nursing homes. But you wonder, how can you even tell if someone is brainwashed? Here are common symptoms that you or someone you love has been brainwashed:

The Problem with PECS®

PECS® uses Operant Conditioning, which is a behavior technique that can be used to target and increase a behavior by pairing performance of the target behavior with a positive or rewarding outcome.[2] Per Andy Bondy, inventor of PECS, “Skinner’s analysis of Verbal Behavior forms the basis for teaching particular skills at specific points in the training sequence and also provides guidelines for how best to design the teaching strategies.[3]” PECS uses picture-based prompting and reinforcement tied to error correction in order to teach language skills. The method allows the trainer to artificially cause frustration through the withholding of highly desired objects or food until the targeted behavior is achieved, even if the communicator becomes upset or angry. It is not a natural or nice way to teach language.