The following is a 100% true recounting of a story told to me by the mother of an Autistic child.
“We’re no strangers to love”, I told my beautiful daughter, Karen, who just got diagnosed with Autism.
After I received her diagnosis, the pediatrician immediately recommended a therapy that she referred to as the ‘gold standard’ for Autism. “You know the rules, and so do I… a full commitment’s what I’m thinking of”, she said, as she made the arrangements for me to put my daughter into a therapy known as Applied Behaviour Analysis, or ABA.
However, upon researching further and reading blogs, books, and literature produced by Autistic individuals, I realized that ABA was largely regarded as harmful by the very community it claimed to help.
However, there was a solution. Dr. Rick, a psychologist and a BCBA (Board Certified Behaviour Analyst), promised a revolutionary form of ABA that he described as new, modern, innovative, and perfectly ethical. “You wouldn’t get this from any other guy,” he promised me.
I excitedly lifted Karen up in my arms on the first day of our scheduled appointment. “I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling”, I told her, smiling, and described how excited I was for her first appointment with an ethical ABA therapist! And hopefully this one would be good enough that those pesky activists online wouldn’t shout at me for as I started my Autism Mama™ blog!
The meeting with Dr. Ricky was not what I had expected it to be. “Gotta make you understand,” he told me, “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you!” He leaned down to Karen and said, “Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie, and hurt you!”
My heart sank in disappointment as I realized I had yet again been rick-rolled.
“I’m not an ABA therapist at all, actually,” explained Dr. Rick. “I am an Autistic psychologist who works with Autistic kids through the lens of the neurodiversity paradigm, focusing on helping them develop and grow as they see fit, accepting them as they are, and constructively having them work through their emotions and sensory experiences. ABA is abuse, no matter what. You can help your child by truly listening to Autistic adults and accepting them as they are, too.”
That was a few years ago. The path has not always been easy, but through understanding my child, I am helping him navigate the world in a way that suits him, and I have learned a lot from the Autistic adult community about acceptance, understanding, and neurodiversity – and you should, too.