Statement Condemning Applied Behavioral Analysis’s Aversive Practices

Compliance training is overrated. Learning is underrated. Challenge yourself, as a music therapist, on your own thoughts about what harms Applied Behavioral Analysis, and behavioral therapy (in general) can do to the autistic community, especially if you’re a BC-BA who is an MT-BC. It is imperative.

-Anonymous

Thanks to Henny Kupferstein, who is a fantastic autistic autism researcher, we now have a full-fledge article that continues to echo autistic voices and actually proves that ABA causes PTSD. If you’re a psychologist, music therapist, or professional reading this, please keep an open mind going into this statement. If you’re an MT-BC who is also a BC-BA, we encourage you to change your field to a humanistic approach within your own practice, through conferences, and through conversations. Topics such as planned ignoring, extinction, punishment, and many other ABA topics are just simply harmful. Based on lived experience within our own team of advocates, we do not condone abuse, which means that we will not and are not going to support the field of ABA without it being changed into something other than ABA. BCBA’s do not understand that ABA is not backed up by research that is effective and not using implicit biaseness. Autistics do not like or condone ABA, and this should be listened to and heard. Since ABA actually does cause PTSD, we have advocates on our team who have been through ABA, and do not condone it. We ask that this please be respected, especially because autistic people have the right to their therapist’s presuming competence and the right to bodily autonomy. Places such as The Judge Rotenburg Center, Autism Speaks, NCSA, The Autism Community in Action (TACA) (who used to be called Talk About Curing Autism, and still have that mindset), etc., are all harmful places and organizations that do not properly or professionally support our community. We do not condone racism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, antisemitism, islamophobia, etc.

Since 93% of autistics have, through non-medical surveys (with a result of over 2,000 participants total through all of the surveys within The Autistic Cooperative), stated that they are against ABA, BC-BAs who are dealing with shame, guilt, and other concerns should be advised to go seek a therapist. Over time, they may talk to the autistic community about ways that they can improve their field. BC-BAs should want and desire to change the field, since they systemically oppress autistics, even if they go into the field with well-meaning’d intentions. A BC-BA may want to go into the field, but if they are not listening to ALL autistic voices, then they are not helping our own community out, remaining biased, and only furthering the systemic oppression we continually face. We do not condone the use of electroconvulsive shocks, straight jackets and other restraints, physical/verbal/emotional/sexual abuse, bullying, silencing tactics, planned ignoring, extinction, forcing eye contacting, forcing and manipulating verbal speech, not listening to consent and not understanding the right to autonomy, fixing autistic behavior just because it is perceived as “wrong”, not accommodating the environment for the individual, not understanding why and how violent behaviors may be occurring , and other means of trying to suppress and teach masking to the autistic person from becoming who they are. Masking is when we are expected to hide parts of who we are to make others more comfortable, and research has lead to an explanation of why autistics are having suicidal thoughts. One of those causes are due to masking and expecting the autistic to not be autistic. 66 percent of autistics are having suicidal thoughts, and it is worrying, but sadly occurs more often than most people realize. Someone who is autistic and deals with trauma may be be more likely to have suicidal thoughts because of people within their environments not actually having empathy (sympathy, really, due to the fact that they are not autistic and cannot directly relate) and listening to them.

We want Music Therapy to take on challenges and grow. We believe that the music therapy field is capable and we believe in you all. We want to end systemic oppression and help people understand why we are the way we are. We, as a community, deserve respect, the right to autonomy, the right to presuming competence and the right to be human.

Thank you, reader, for listening to our statement.

Sources Cited

  1. Coventry University. (2017, May 24), “Rates of suicide ‘worrying’ among people with autism, say experts,” ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 11, 2019 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170524194808.htm
  2. Icke, Jane (2018, August 21), “New Research sheds light on why suicide is more common in autistic people,” MedicalXpress. Retrieved August 11, 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-08-suicide-common-autistic-people.html?fbclid=IwAR1mgRxTEh7vfBtKUAoSQv1hH3_ZmggvyDjaUF9diOC6bVodNNrHHPDkrPY
  3. Kupferstein, H. (2018), “Evidence of increased PTSD symptoms in autistics exposed to applied behavior analysis”, Advances in Autism, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 19-29. https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-08-2017-0016https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/AIA-08-2017-0016?fbclid=IwAR3oNgjQSG_XsyMoqklVo6p46truBLMJbrQNGcRXtLSolBF0wmb9J0QUWPc
  4. Mohler, L. (2019, June 20), “The Autistic Music Therapy Student: Pros and Cons of Entering the Mental Health Field as an Autistic Person,” Medium.com. Retrieved August 11, 2019 from https://medium.com/the-acting-autistic/the-autistic-music-therapy-student-pros-and-cons-of-entering-the-mental-health-field-as-an-9e9571f8ca90
  5. The Autistic Cooperative (2019). Retrieved 11 August, 2019 from https://www.facebook.com/TheAutisticCooperative/

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