Image is a photo of a group of human figure-shaped wooden pegs clustered to the left and a single wooden peg standing off to the right. Text says, "It is about how ABA “therapists” REALLY see Autistics. It is about them making fun of us because they see us as broken and hopeless. -Amy Sequenzia, awnnetwork.org”

ABA Providers Making Fun of Autistic People

I have already written about my thoughts on ABA. I do believe it is dehumanizing, and is used to make Autistics act in a way that pleases non-autistic people.

Image is a photo of a group of human figure-shaped wooden pegs clustered to the left and a single wooden peg standing off to the right. Text says, "It is about how ABA “therapists” REALLY see Autistics. It is about them making fun of us because they see us as broken and hopeless. -Amy Sequenzia, awnnetwork.org”
Image is a photo of a group of human figure-shaped wooden pegs clustered to the left and a single wooden peg standing off to the right. Text says, “It is about how ABA “therapists” REALLY see Autistics. It is about them making fun of us because they see us as broken and hopeless. -Amy Sequenzia, awnnetwork.org”

Many will say that ABA teaches “life skills”. I say that, if you are paying someone to teach the so-called life skills via reinforcement, you are wasting your money and risking having your child abused. And “positive reinforcement” still demands compliance.

The most important life skill anyone can learn is independent thinking. ABA does not believe Autistics should have independent minds, unless they conform to the neurotypical idea of desirability.

This post is to show how ABA “therapists” dehumanize the Autistics they purport to be helping.

A friend posted this on their Facebook page:

“A BCBA made a set of Cards against Humanity cards for ABA and they are humiliating, degrading, unprofessional, and completely inappropriate.

I have talked to many of you, the BCBAs who are reading this right now, and I know you care and are trying to do the right thing. But when we see something like this card set, it’s really hard for us to talk to any of you because it feels like such an attack and it is coming from the people who claim to be there to help us.

I don’t believe anyone should be practicing ABA on people, but still I respect your dignity and fundamental humanity. Seeing this card deck makes it so hard for me to trust that you return the same respect for our dignity and humanity.

We are not the butt of your jokes. That is not why we exist. It is not what we are for. Please call out your fellow BCBAs who are being this blatantly unprofessional.” (Unstrange Mind Facebook page)

I don’t really know what Cards Against Humanity is supposed to do, but apparently it is supposed to be offensive. In this case, it was directed at Autistics and was created/shared by ABA providers (the BCBA who shared the cards on Facebook is Behaviorbabe).

These are some of the statements in the cards (TW for language and harmful stereotypes):

“Fecal matter”
“A Rapid Method of Toilet Training the Institutionalized Retarded”
“Physical Restraints”
“Fecal Smearing”
“Sensory Processing Disorder”
“Pinch the nose to release the jaw”
“Two person restraint”
“Non-contingent electric shock”
“Self-stimulatory behavior”
“Poo on the floor, poo on the chair, poo on the table, poo on the walls, poo everywhere”
“It may be unethical but I really want to…”

These examples are things that we have been submitted to, accused of, made fun of, forced to suppress, or simply things that are part of being us.

The ABA providers know that, and they use the abuse, the shame, the bullying we experienced to make fun of who we are.

Behaviorbabe posted an (non)apology on her Facebook page – only because we complained. The excuse was that she didn’t read the cards (I don’t believe that) and after several Autistics commented on her post questioning her motives and ethics, she deleted the comments and blocked many. She later said that she blocked and reported only the comments that had swear words, or who were threatening. This is a lie and there are screen shots to prove it.

I did not comment on her post but after I saw that she had deleted the comments, I started checking her older posts.

I saw a video: “What is ABA”. It has a text that reads: ABA is “evidence based interventions aimed at producing socially significant long lasting meaningful behavior change.”

I also saw another video showing how everyone should be using TAGteach, which stands for Teaching with Acoustic Guidance. Basically, it is clicking a device every time the person “behaves appropriately”. The neurotypical behaviorist defines what is “appropriate behavior”. It is like training dogs and it is dehumanizing. It can also trigger abuse survivors. It makes Autistics dependent on the validation of a non-autistic person for everything they do.

So, after I watched the first video, I commented and asked her to define “socially significant”, and to whom it should be significant. I asked the same about “meaningful behavior change”.

Then I watched the second video. I had a comment for that one too but could not comment because I had already been blocked by her.

Remember, I did not challenge her on the post about the cards, or about her “apology”, I simply asked her to define the terms she uses to justify ABA, which I call abuse. That was enough for her to not engage, to simply block me without any answer.

I have been blocked by several organizations and people who treat us as non- people before. I don’t really care because usually their actions prove my point, and even though they continue to deceive many people, I always get messages from parents who thank us, Autistic adults, for making them understand the harm those people and organizations are causing.

One Autistic person saved from abusive practices is one Autistic person who can be who they really are, and this is good.

I don’t write every time I am blocked or silenced by neurotypical bigots. It would be impossible to keep up with the attempts of silencing me. But I am writing about this one.

I am writing this because this is bigger than you might think.
It is about how ABA “therapists” REALLY see Autistics.
It is about them making fun of us because they see us as broken and hopeless – even as they lie to parents about how important ABA is for Autistics to be “accepted by society”.

It is about their ableism, disguised as “light humor” – are you laughing yet?

It doesn’t matter that the post with the Cards Against Humanity was taken down.
It matters that the cards were created in the first place.
I have no doubt that many ABA practitioners laughed at the cards, agreeing with the statements. I was told it was shared over 1000 times before being deleted.

What matters is that parents are taking their children to sessions of compliance training, where they are being taught as dogs in obedience training, by people who, in their free time, make fun of who we are, and complain about how our existence as Autistics makes their lives so hard (they complain but still make a lot of money while abusing us).

It doesn’t matter if the Autistic child “loves their therapist”. The excuse “ABA is not like that anymore” just got debunked.

The people parents call “therapists helping their children” still follow and embrace the teachings of The Me Book, that calls us “non persons” in its introduction.

That’s what ABA is and those are the ABA “therapists”.
ABA is exactly “like that”. It is still abuse.



About the Author, Amy Sequenzia 

14 thoughts on “ABA Providers Making Fun of Autistic People”

  1. Pingback: ABA Providers Making Fun of Autistic People – Autism Women’s Network – Fire Bright Star Soul

  2. I know many autistic adults. I have never met any adult who acts in any of the ways described on these cards. Unless an adult has a physical disability, I don’t see why adults would not use a toilet.

    Sure, some children take longer to toilet train. But real, respectful language needs to be used. Use real, medical terms for body functions, body parts, and waste. Some very young children do toilet train with ABA, but keep things respectful.

  3. Hi….my name is Sherry and I’m a mother of two autistic boys age 18 and 14. My oldest is non-verbal, still in pull-ups and has severe sensory issues. He is the most loving kid. It’s hard to find something to motivate him to participate in anything. My youngest son is verbal when he wants to be to communicate and I have to listen closely bc of his pronunciation of words isn’t clear, echolalic too.. He is non-verbal as well. He is in pull-ups but uses the toilet for the most part. I think the pull-ups are like security to him. He has severe sensory issues too. He is so loving and tries being a good helper. Both boys are smart and so different with their autism and like day and night with sensory issues. I sometimes take offense to people not seeing that they are in there but to communicate what they know back to us is hard for them and most of the time …don’t. I think they are like sponges and soak up information and it’s stored in them but just can’t relay it back to us. As their mother it breaks my heart to see this. I try to place myself in their shoes and I would be more than frustrated if I couldn’t communicate my needs, wants, likes, dislikes, things I love & hate, my moods & how I’m feeling, etc. I mean I know they can but just need the tools to help them to do so. This is where I have become so confused and don’t know what to do. They deserve the best to become that person to stride in this world of chaos and negativity. I am just lost now and don’t know what to believe or who to trust that knows which path we should be taking to benefit them for their future. First, I’d like to say I’m sorry for the bullying and negativity the autistic go through. If I could take it all away I would. Breaks my heart to see people with hurt feelings and broken hearts. It affects me, deeply and if I don’t watch it I become depressed. Anyway, i apologize for ignorant, cold hearted people. I’m so against bullying and disrespect. Ok so my question to you is what is the best way to teach or work with autistic kiddos such as mine? I’m truly lost in this area. I understand where you are coming from with ANA and trying to understand it. At a point n time I thought ANA therapy was a good thing and I understood it real well I thought but I sure wouldn’t want it to be abusive to someone. That’s sad to even think about!!! Thank you for your precious time and I hope you can help me with my question. Thank you so much for sharing this post❤

  4. Corina Lynn Becker

    I find it ironic that an ABA “therapist” who claims to be an advocate and educator won’t even engage in our questions. We’re so “non-people” to them, they’re so entrenched in the mindless teachings of the cult of ABA, that they can’t handle thinking otherwise.

  5. Fantastic writing Amy as always. 🙂

    I live in France and was diagnosed as autistic (aspergers) in june.
    I was lucky enough to even before the diagnosis a couple of years ago learn about autism not by tragic pessimistic writings from allistic «expert» but by real autistic blogers and self advocate.
    I was willing go embrace both autism and self advocacy even before being diagnosed (that’s rare for most autistics I know )
    I used to read stuff around 2014 about Temple Grandin, Josef Schovanec (french self advocate).
    At the time most of my inspirations were «aspies». By now things have changed and you became probably my main source of inspiration.

    I might be what people call an asperger but not from my point. I refuse this. I’m not an aspie I’m AUTISTIC! Not a person with aspergers or autism, that means nothing to me anymore.
    I have the feeling that emphasizing alot on differences between aspergers and so called «low functionning» autism creats more division and force some auties into either the r word category or the trained monkey one.
    I think this division creats fake privileges for the latest category while the other gets mocked and treated like they were worthless.
    I’m not a trained monkey Sheldon Cooper/Rainman clown and I refuse these «high functionning» privileges.

    I see alot of ableist writing ad hominem remarks about one is too «low functionning» to be independant or another is too «high functionning» or «normale» to produce valid arguments in favour of acceptance.

    France is one of the least progressive countries when it comes to autism rights. It still relies on Freud’s psychanalysis and «refrigirator mothers» nonsense.
    I say it loud: we need people like you here in France.
    One of the top «autism» awareness group here (runned by parents of course) is «Vaincre l’Autisme» (translate: Beat Autism),. The head leader (NT parent of an autitic child) still claims that autism is a disease. He even argue with the fact that Neurodiversity silences «severe» autistic child and their parents (typical Neurodiversity all aspie straw man). And even respond to comments by autistics who got offended by his position by saying they don’t care about family suffering and are self centered, not acknowledging real autistics who automatically use diapers and are «slow» (a «burden» for their families).

    Things have to change!

    Anyway. Thanks for this awsome text. 🙂

  6. I wanted to encourage you in your activism. Online activism is often a lonely way to go, and because online activists don’t see the other person’s response on the other end, it seems like you are hitting a brick wall.. However you have made a “yuge” difference in exposing the therapist community.

    Everybody, both neurotypical and disabled, can benefit from some training, but training alone will not address the real issue of having to live in a neurotypical world. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I suggested that the trainers themselves need more training, on how to be more sensitive to people on the Autism Spectrum?

    Being “blocked” on one person’s account won’t hinder your message, as many people delegate others to run their social media pages anyway. For my part, I will try to send this on Facebook, via private message, to every person on the Autism spectrum I know, as well as their advocates. I hope this helps.

  7. Tonight, I just listened to one of the main proponents of clicker training, Karen Pryor, virtually crying over the fact that science has been moving away from the word of BF Skinner. She has basically whined about how “why can’t academic science and operant conditioning/dog training come together, they have been separated or too long”. To that I say, bullshit! Often, it really seems like operant conditioning, which is what ABA is, still basically is treated as the be-all and end-all in several areas, and, while animal studies have in fact been moving away from it, that is because operant conditioning fails to tell a heck of a lot of stories – there is good reason why animal training and other forms of animal science are regarded as separate disciplines; that is, if you control the animal too much, you end up accidentally “editing” over the animal’s innate propensities and abilities..

    Some tests simply can’t be done with operant conditioning. Of course, operant conditioning, including clicker training, is still given a privileged position in science, such that you sometimes may not even be able to get a study approved that is not operant conditioning, at least with some people, some of whom hold prominent positions in science. In order to get to be able to do a study that does not involve operant conditioning, sometimes you need to find the right person, one who is willing to consider non-operant studies

    And you know what? That is an awfully funny thing to say, this “requiem” for adherence to BF Skinner’s words, when ABA people (which I would consider Pryor to be a version of) are so fond of arguing how they are “not like that”. On the contrary, not only are they still like that, they wish they were even more like that. And Pryor’s tone sounds an awful lot like that of another paper I found once, which basically lamented that ABA people weren’t following Lovaas’ teachings enough.

  8. Dear Amy, I am a parent of a autistic young man. He has always from day one been encouraged to be who he is, and to express himself in any way he can.
    I am so grateful to advocates like yourself. I wish I had the information that is available now back when my son was younger. I knew I was right from gut instinct and how in the right environment and conditions my son was happy, I always said to therapist, you cannot fix what is not broke, keep up the good work, you are inspirational

  9. Hi,

    Thank you for writing this. I’m Autistic and I work in the ABA industry. I agree that a lot of what is done is abuse.

    I also got abused by my parents completely independent of ABA providers, in large part because my parents “couldn’t deal with” my Autism.

    (TLDR: I agree that these people are pieces of shit, but I feel reasonably confident that I have made some positive changes for the kids I have worked with.)

    I think the issue is a little different than presented here, though. I think it has more to do with what happens when neurotypical people are given unregulated control of Autistic people, and ABA increases that effect because it is capable of changing the way people behave. I have used ABA to make myself reach a 7 minute mile and a healthy diet, and people use it every time they say thank you or smile more when someone does something they like. I believe that the technology of behavior is too powerful for one group to have and it should either be distributed to everyone or no one. Unfortunately, it’s already been given to one group.

    Some positive things I personally have done are:
    -Teaching a kid to point at things when she wants them instead of hitting her head until her caregivers provide things
    -Teaching a kid to count by counting cups and then the “positive reinforcement” was just me pretending to drink from however many he decided to count at the same time
    -Getting parents to accept and use an AAC device
    -Getting parents to stop yelling at their children and increase the amount of attention they pay their children in general
    -Teaching a kid how to ask questions to other people (using planets & solar system facts) so that he can access social interaction that is meaningful to him
    -Teaching a kid to code in python using prompt fading
    -Teaching a 16 year old to tie his shoes and ask people for sensory stimulation
    -Teaching a kid how to show people his drawings. He picked this up very quickly and generalized it to talking to people about compass directions!

    Things that ABA has done that I have read about:
    -Helped an infant stop vomiting up all her food and instead swallow it (basically allowed her to live since no medical professionals could do anything)
    -Helped people with bruxism not grind their teeth down to stumps.
    -Prevented kids from detaching their retinas due to prolonged head banging

    On the other clearly not helpful side of things, some things that I have been asked to do, but have not done/was “bad” at:
    -Blocking a kid from using his AAC device to repeat words that he liked multiple times
    -Stopping kids from hand-flapping
    -Physically moving kids hands to make them clean up (I try to make clean up look fun instead)

    A few of the things I have seen other people do in schools or the home:
    -Barking orders at kids
    -Using sounds to call kids instead of their names
    -Threatening with losing privileges kids should definitely have access to
    -Punishing kids based on a rule the kid didn’t know about
    -Saying “good girl” or “good boy” instead of something humanizing
    -teaching them to use polite language when their space is being invaded (luckily this was a coworker and not a boss so I could tell the kid they are allowed to yell all they want if someone touches them and they don’t want that, and I just got a very pissed off coworker instead of fired)

    I’m also currently studying for my BCBA (so that I can be a supervisor and make sure kids are getting helped and not controlled), and there are a lot of things they could put on cards that target parents and BCBA’s instead of a vulnerable population. Off the top of my head:

    I took a seminar on ____ for a continuing education credit.
    I forgot about _____, so none of my supervision hours count!
    Parents think they’re giving a time out, but they’re really creating a _____.
    The tiger repelling dance
    1 hour intervals
    Hundreds of interns coding videos

    (TLDR: I agree that these people are pieces of shit, but I feel reasonably confident that I have made some positive changes for the kids I have worked with.)

    If you have any feedback or comments, I would love to hear them.

  10. I have a friend who is trying to get a degree in SpEd. She’s neurotypical (I’m autistic, which I realized shortly after my toddler was diagnosed), and I don’t think she’s ready to go into the field. She still holds some views I find backwards, old-fashioned and at times uncomfortable. And putting aside her own views, she has told me a story of some of the questionable behavior of those she works with (very similar to this article), and it’s incredibly disappointing that she felt uncomfortable speaking up,

    Even if she didn’t want to say anything to her co-workers, that some of the bosses are clique-ish with them and that she can’t speak up is frustrating but also very worrisome and distressing. These are the kind of people that are trying to “help” autistic and other children with disabilities. I don’t think they’re an ABA group exactly (I have a hard time understanding the structure of the companies she works for, which makes me question them even more), but how common the basic values, structure and mentalities are is enough and it’s a huge issue.

    I appreciated your previous article on ABA a great deal. My husband and I were uncomfortable with it when we started our daughter (the company and BCBA were nice enough, but still didn’t sit right), and the article/post you made before gave me a lot of comfort and confidence. Some of the comments were frustrating but also illustrating; and for what excuses and opposition those people made to you, their point of view has only been shut down here. It’s just too common that neurotypical people in general don’t entirely take ASD (or other disabled) people seriously, and working in the field should make one more empathetic and wise, but it clearly doesn’t make much difference.

    With so many autistic voices coming out and giving their opposition, I really do hope we can begin to move past ABA, and a focus on helping ASD people (esp youth) that goes through a NT lens.

  11. So, I am not a fan of ABA (which is saying it lightly), but I had not heard of this instance. Thanks for publishing it and shedding light on such a horrific event. These attitudes are not acceptable, and more than that they are so degrading and hurtful from the very people who hold themselves out as being helpful. Disgraceful.

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