Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Autism and ABA - A Realistic Picture (Video)

Across North America parents of autistic children continue to fight for ABA services for their autistic children whether it be American parents seeking to have private health insurers provide coverage of ABA treatment or parents in Ontario seeking to have ABA introduced in the school system or get their pre-school children off waiting lists for early ABA intervention. Yet the anti-ABA activists would have you believe that these parents are gullible, stupid people who have been misled by an evil ABA industry into believing that ABA will turn their autistic children into "normal" children.

Very few of the anti-ABA activists ever describe any personal experiences they have had with ABA. (There are exceptions, some determined anti-ABA activists are parents whose children apparently did not receive ABA from competent ABA therapists). Even Michelle Dawson, who intervened in the Supreme Court of Canada proceedings in Auton to offer an "autistic" perspective and to oppose government funding of ABA treatment for other people's autistic children, did not describe any personal experiences that she had with ABA. Nothing I have read in the writings of most anti-ABA activists refers to any personal ABA experiences on which they based their opinions. Nor do their descriptions of ABA reflect any real first hand knowledge of ABA.

The absurd rhetoric of the anti-ABA activists often paints a false picture of ABA as being abusive. Some resort to an old video clip of an aversive (hand slapping) being used in an ABA session to portray ABA as abusive. ( Such commentaries invariably ignore the once widespread use of a particular aversive "the strap" that was once used on ALL school children, including me in Grade 1, when I was strapped for kicking a soccer ball around the classroom during a brief absence by the teacher. I never did it again).

Parents really should ignore the ill informed, prejudiced, anti-ABA activists and check out for themselves how ABA is being provided today to autistic children in their area. I have said many times that my son enjoys receiving ABA. The following video from the NJ Star Ledge site presents a realistic picture of modern, non-aversive, ABA methods being used with an autistic child:


Mom on a Mission said...

Harold: This is an excellent post and ABA video. In case you didn't know, those little silver boxes the boy is using in the video are actually mini 'talking' picture frames you can rig up with an extra piece of velcro so that when you tap it it will play the recorded word or phrase (without opening it). I've used those with my own kids and other kids in therapy. You are so right about anti-ABA advocates: their personal experience with programming is either none-existent or substandard. I think there needs to be a regulatory body in Canada to ensure the proper delivery of ABA services. I've seen one too many 'bad' program where the children are not progressing (nor having fun!) and the parents are disillusioned and discouraged. Thanks for posting this!

Barry Hudson said...

Hi Harold,

The anti-ABA crowd, and indeed the poorly informed, always refer to the distant past or a particularly bad current day practitioner. These parties never recognize that ABA has evolved greatly since its beginnings.

Just like all things scientific there is a period of learning that some times can be very challenging (gee, don’t know about others but I am kinda glad that medical science did not give up after the sure fire treatment of blood extraction [ie: taking a pint or two out of you] was the zenith of health care for the ill).

These people also do not have a clear understanding of what “table time” is for. Table time is for two specific purposes: 1) obtain instructional control and 2) teach a defined skill via discreet [scope limited] trial/repetition. Instructional control is needed to teach – if one is not focused on the experience very little can be learned (gee, I guess it is only my son that had issues with focus). Instructional control DOES NOT mean submissive compliance – when I went to university my professors had instructional control over me and by paying attention I learned. Teaching a skill discreetly is one of practicality for ASD individuals.

Below is a youtube link for part of an ABA session my wife did with my son. Clearly there is no sadness from my son (the crying in the background is his younger brother). This clip is over a year old and at that time we were using edibles for reinforcement, edibles are no longer required and social praise (and the therapy session itself) is the reinforcer. The table time exercises are actually done on the floor – the use of a table is not a requirement for effective delivery. This clip is maybe four months into his ABA program, which coincidentally is four months after our clinical psychologist told us not to have much hope for our son’s ability to ever speak. He improves daily.


Penny said...

ICK. That's what we left behind when our program fell apart.

walking said...

I have not chosen to use ABA for my daughter, but not due to the negative reinforcement issue. I think that thinking through positive behavioral support is helpful because we scaffold our children in difficult environments and situations in a way to help them to get by. I think where ABA is missing the mark is that the teachers end up doing all the thinking for the children. When situations arise outside of the script or prompt-response pattern learned, our kids are not competent in thinking on their feet.

A good illustration of what did not impress me in that clip was the dancing. The teacher is motoring the boy through dance moves, and he seems to like it and go with the flow. But, he is more like a puppet being directed by her. A true dance involves slight variations that are mutually pleasing to both partners. That is not what I saw in that clip. He does not seem motivated to add his own variations, so he is not really dancing with her. He is not even following her moves either.

farmwifetwo said...

A video is not "proof".

I had this same "slap" from Michelle Dawson and other's around the web. It's amazing how someone else's opinion isn't "valid" b/c one does not have proof - having researched it, learned about it, read about it, watched it being done for hours a day in one's living room... but I'm still "unknowledgeable". But if it's your POV then the lack of proof is ok.

Where's the peer reviewed journal article??

And Glaser's you are correct. It's 100% mimicry. There is no opportunity to actually learn outside the box as they call it. It's all "do this", "sort", "match". The child can point to all kinds of words that they have learned to memorize but not actually learn their meaning. Then the ABA therapists claim the child can "read"... no they can't. It's like memorizing a picture of a tree and learning it's called "tree". Memorizing the letters in the word "tree" and knowing that's "tree"... In neither case you know what a tree is.

I can teach you how to read French, but just b/c you can read it, doesn't mean you understand it.

But what do I know... I think children should actually LEARN, than LEARN to mimick... and be "trained".