If you’ve been following my posts for more than a few minutes you would know I received my diagnosis as Âûtistic formally in 2014 and self-diagnoses a year or two before that. And so I would like to preface this with the disclaimer that I do not pretend that my experiences that I present are of the same ilk as those of my tribe who have experienced ABA proper in all its horrors and fullness.
A few snippets….
Sitting at the dinner table having difficulty with particular foods, forced to eat them on pain of a hiding with the wooden spoon.
Arriving home from school after being chased by the local bullies and making it to the driveway, turn around and declare victory, only to met by a fuming mother who destroys the victory with an infliction of said wooden spoon.
Can’t sit still need to pace to move made to stay in room for hours on end.
Eating at the table jigging the leg, stop that jigging or go without, leave the table and go to your room
You will sit still or I will smack you. You will not run or I will get the wooden spoon. You will not speak or I will slap your face. If you want to read that book you will comply…
I feel as I have written this that it is a little pathetic and it pales into significance to the experiences of so many of my fellow Âûtistics that have experienced the full gamut of the Pavlov/Skinner/Lovaas inspired bullying of ABA therapy. I truly do not want to minimise that experience of anyone.
I think what i am attempting to articulate here is that I spent formative times in my childhood being forcibly encourage to stymie (pun intended) my natural autisticness and effectively passing as a neurotypical person. In a sense being what would be considered an ABA success story.
Yes I was able to for much of the time appear to be neurotypcial or indistinguishable from neurotypical – well to a point. There were always those times of being the weird one, being the one that missed the joke, being the one who said the inappropriate thing, the one that couldn’t keep any friends, the one who couldn’t hold the job, couldn’t get the girl, couldn’t get the words out. I think you get the idea.
Not only was it a thing that only kind of work there is a huge cost. A massive cost. These lessons were learned for me at a very young age wrought in fear and trembling. So many spankings, so many hours wasted away isolated in a small bedroom. By the time I was starting school I was an incredible anxious ball of nerves and anxiety.
The thing about schools is schoolyards are places where the experts at identifying the vulnerable abound. The ability for the bully to identify the one with victimhood written all over them is of the highest order, there is unmatchable prowess at work.
A few consequences for me personally was a belief that there was something very wrong with me, that something about me was very wrong, very strange and very much was not allowed to ever be seen in public. The flow on is that the period of school, university, in fact every public space was one of concentration to ensure that true character, traits etc were not displayed. That what I now know were stims were not brought out.
Of course it’s not hard to see what the outcome of this is. A school life that was not just one of being bullied and never understanding why, but one full of contradiction. The contradiction of somehow knowing you were intelligent but continually failing because you were never able to be mindfully present in the situation.
My employment history has been patchy at best. Many jobs, never at the potential of what I am actually capable of. Continuing to get fired or leave jobs due to not being able to understand the social politics of the water cooler conversation. Essentially failing in the social contract so bad that near meltdown events occur causing a firing or knowing it is that close to happening so the solution is to walk out before being thrown out.
A failed marriage entered into because you find a person that will have you, and it turns out that person is not a very nice person at all but is something of a cutout of the parents you grew up with. More years of not being able to reveal the self that you really are.
Again I don’t want to pretend this was of the same level of the horrible compliance training of ABA, but I do present it as something of an example of what sort of consequences we can expect. So imagine what consequences can occur for my fellow Âûtistics who endured this compliance therapy of ABA for hours upon hours a week.
Thankfully I am well and truly out of that. One thing I am noticing is that as I embrace my Âûtistic nature I seem to embrace also my Âûtistic traits anew. I am gradually becoming the Âûtistic I was meant to be. I am going to be the best Âûtistic I can be. I am #DifferentNotLess #ActuallyAutistic and #IDontNeedACure
For those that are interested in learning more about ABA, its working, history and impact there are others far more qualified than me who have written about it. I include some links below:
Here Amethyst Schaber speaks about it on Ask an Autistic. Be sure to read her description where she links to more info as well as some information on the PTSD links.
Here is a very good article Think Inclusive
UnstrangeMind blogs about it here
A former therapist Socially Anxious Advocate blogs about it.
There are many more quality sources out there and it doesn’t take much to find them. Please follow it up if you want to know more.