Trigger warning for autistic individuals re. ABA therapy mentioned, though not in detail.
I recently had a conversation with someone who has a disappointing view of disabilities in general, but especially of Autism Spectrum Disorders. I’ll cut to the chase on this one and talk about the part that bothered me most.
We were talking about IEP’s and special services. She was trying to advocate for ABA therapy for my daughter, and not the gentle kind that done properly by a properly trained and compassionate ABA Therapist. The kind that is traumatizing and is advised against by every autistic self-advocate I’ve ever heard from.
Her belief was that for any sort of therapies and services, the end goal was for the children to learn to pass as neurotypical aka non-autistic, through learning “appropriate behaviors” as deemed by parents and teachers and therapists. [If you’re not sure what this means, it’s kind of like people who are not white but are born with light enough skin and European features to “pass for white.” ] She believed that this was best because otherwise life would be too hard for the child and it would make finding a job far too hard, and in helping the child learn to pass as typical then it would help other people learn about her better.
I said, instead of throat punching them, that there was another explanation for IEP’s and special services. The point of services wasn’t to teach her to “pass” as non-autistic or how to be non-autistic; it’s not for the benefit of others that she receive services. Services include responsibilities of the parents to learn more about their child and how to communicate with them on their child’s level. The goals are to teach independent living skills and strategies for learning various subjects so that we can figure out how she learns best and communicates best, and to try to teach her ways of communicating outside of her comfort zone when she feels capable of it. Our goals are to help her with her challenges and encourage her in her talents. Our goals are never to teach her to be someone else because we love her as she is, and want her to “stay autistic.” She was suddenly at my side hugging my arm and saying, “Yes, mmm hmmm” and nodding her head.
I find myself having this conversation a lot lately.