More on Behaviorism

(“More?” I hear you ask.  “Did I miss the first part?”  Nah, it’s here.)

If I had a nickel for every person who has thanked me and Emma for having the conversation yesterday that is at the link above (also this link here), I would have…many nickels.  Don’t know what I would do with them, but I’d have them.

Some things I would like to add:

Behavioral Training, Physical Damage

I gave myself hypoglycemia (still have it!) because I so often deprived myself of food for being “forgetful” or “clumsy” or “doing retard shit in public” (“retard shit,” as I so charitably called myself, included the kinds of benign behaviors many ABA programs seek to extinguish, like flapping, spinning, rocking, and giggling).

Unbeknownst to me at the time I was depriving myself of food, Lovaas recommended using a child’s meals (or the withholding of them) as reward/punishment in the context of ABA.  I need to emphasize: Lovaas did not recommend using treats as reward/punishment.  He recommended using meals.  Those three squares that kids need because growing is also their gig?  Those.  In other words, I was doing exactly what Lovaas’ program recommended to teach developmentally-disabled kids like me to “behave.”

Children Learn What They are Taught

In before “but no one else did this to you!  You did it to yourself!”: Kids learn what they are taught. Contrary to popular belief, behaviorism doesn’t teach autistic kids that certain behaviors are good or bad so much as it teaches that the world operates according to a framework: if I behaved “good” I was “good,” if I behaved “bad” I was “bad,” and that “good behavior” was “whatever someone else wanted me to do.”

After all, like most autistic people, I have pattern recognition.  “Touch nose” is “good” if the adult says “touch nose,” but it’s “bad” if the adult says “quiet hands.”  “Quiet hands” is “good” if the adult says “quiet hands,” but it’s “bad” if the adult says “touch nose.”   Ergo, the rule cannot be “touch nose good” or “quiet hands good” – the rule has to be “do what the adult says good.”  Don’t do what the adult says?  Bad.

And if I was so very bad at doing what the adults said – look me in the eye when I talk to you, don’t chatter on about stuff that doesn’t interest me, stop flapping/jumping/spinning, don’t chew that, why didn’t you do your homework, you spend too much money, what do you mean you lost it….  Well, then, I was bad.  Because there was no difference between “bad behavior” and “bad me.”  That was the rule.


Here’s One Nickel I Didn’t Earn

I also got to have one conversation with a pro-ABA…teacher?  I didn’t get the impression this person was a BCBA, but that they saw therapy going by the name of ABA being carried out in a classroom they work in?  Anyway, said person was made very uncomfortable, apparently, by Emma’s and my comments.

Said person also deleted the Facebook thread we were conversing in after I asked (genuinely – if this study exists I really wanna know) how they were differentiating between “gains kids made via ABA” and “gains kids make because developing is their gig.”  That’s the first time an ABA supporter has gotten uncomfortable enough with me to actually delete their own comments.  Achievement unlocked?

Later: The Automated Human Simulator.  Now: Food, because screw this “using meals as rewards” system.


3 thoughts on “More on Behaviorism

  1. My reasons for not eating adequately weren’t related to ABA, but… hypoglycemia as a recurring thing is something you can give yourself by not eating? That explains a lot about the past year or two. Oops.


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