And quite commonly on Twitter, I’ve seen people call ABA “dog training for children.”

When I see that, I tend to go on Twitter rants in reply to it, because from everything I have read and seen of ABA, it is NOT “dog training” for children.

…I would never treat a dog that way.

In any case, very few dog trainers use the radical behaviourism that’s employed in ABA.

Most of the dog trainers I know mix and match behaviourism with other cognitive science research and other methods to create a more holistic approach to training their dogs. This is because dog trainers understand the limits of behaviourism on canines, because it doesn’t address the whole dog.

One would hope that someone considering using radical behaviourism on a human being would also recognize its limits.

So if it isn’t sufficient to properly train a dog, is it sufficient in educating a child?

A good dog trainer doesn’t extinguish behaviours which improve the dog’s mental health and happiness. But an ABA practitioner may not think twice before doing this to a human child.

Dog trainers understand that dogs need to chew and bark and dig, but ABA therapists don’t understand that autistic children need to repeat words and sentences, flap their hands, and sit quietly rocking in a corner when things get too much.

Source: Is ABA Really “Dog Training for Children”?  A Professional Dog Trainer Weighs In. | The Aspergian | A Neurodivergent Collective

Via: Is ABA Really “Dog Training for Children”?  A… – neurowonderful

Rising autism diagnoses lead to the growth of an autism industry that caters more for the cultural expectations of parents than the needs and well-being of autistic people on the margins of society.

Source: Taking ownership of the label – Autistic Collaboration

I am watching the US education system not very subtly invite punishment back into the mainstream classroom. This appears to be driven by the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).

Source: Defining Reinforcement and Punishment for Educators – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?

Autism therapy is attracting significant attention from private equity firms, a trend that could fund rapid expansion of clinics, but is also raising concerns about quality of care.

Source: As Demand For ABA Therapy Increases, Investors Buy In — Disability Scoop

Like EdSurge, Disability Scoop uncritically promotes marketing. A great many autistic people reject ABA as abuse. Private equity doesn’t care. We are commodities.

Behaviorism, particularly ABA, is primitive moral development used to commodify people. Reject it from our schools and companies.

Plenty of policies and programs limit our ability to do right by children. But perhaps the most restrictive virtual straitjacket that educators face is behaviorism – a psychological theory that would have us focus exclusively on what can be seen and measured, that ignores or dismisses inner experience and reduces wholes to parts. It also suggests that everything people do can be explained as a quest for reinforcement – and, by implication, that we can control others by rewarding them selectively.

Allow me, then, to propose this rule of thumb: The value of any book, article, or presentation intended for teachers (or parents) is inversely related to the number of times the word “behavior” appears in it. The more our attention is fixed on the surface, the more we slight students’ underlying motives, values, and needs.

It’s been decades since academic psychology took seriously the orthodox behaviorism of John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner, which by now has shrunk to a cult-like clan of “behavior analysts.” But, alas, its reductionist influence lives on – in classroom (and schoolwide) management programs like PBIS and Class Dojo, in scripted curricula and the reduction of children’s learning to “data,” in grades and rubrics, in “competency”- and “proficiency”-based approaches to instruction, in standardized assessments, in reading incentives and merit pay for teachers.

It’s time we outgrew this limited and limiting psychological theory. That means attending less to students’ behaviors and more to the students themselves.

Source: It’s Not About Behavior – Alfie Kohn

I updated “Eye Contact and Neurodiversity” with selections from “THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Eye Contact: For The Recipient’s Validation Only”.

“Look at me!” The mouth beneath the eyes commands. “I don’t want to, it hurts…” you think.

“This is all part of the problem you see?” The voice says to your parents who nod sadly, “Lack of eye contact, this we must stamp out. It’s a sign of non-compliance, a sign of disregard. The child’s lost, you see…?”

“What?” You think, baffled, “I’m right here!”

> Your parents sign a form giving permission for intense Applied Behavior Analysis to begin.

Forty hours per week.

Forty hours of look at me/quiet hands? No more fluttering your hands in a language only you know, no more flapping your hands watching golden drops of happiness fly from your fingertips as you hum … no more angry bolts of lightening flying from your nails as you shake your hands so hard your wrists pound.

No more you.

Forty hours per week.

Forty hours of look at me/quiet hands? No more fluttering your hands in a language only you know, no more flapping your hands watching golden drops of happiness fly from your fingertips as you hum … no more angry bolts of lightening flying from your nails as you shake your hands so hard your wrists pound.

No more you.

Eye contact, who’s it for? It’s not for the autistic child. It’s for the recipient. It’s for their own validation to reassure them that you know they exist. That you are aware they are speaking that you comply. That you acknowledge them.

It’s not about the child; it’s no benefit to the child to do something that in many cases is painful.

Intrusive.

It’s for them.

They don’t understand the avoidance of eye contact, the rapidly moving hands, the hum and the bounce of the feet.

The rhythmic rock you employ to comfort, a rock that’s universal if they would only look back to a parent rocking a babe: safety.

Predictability.

Source: THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Eye Contact: For The Recipient’s Validation Only

I also moved this embedded tweet toward the beginning of the post.

I am watching the US education system not very subtly invite punishment back into the mainstream classroom. This appears to be driven by the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). Recently their governing body started to loosen the reins on the therapeutic application of aversive stimuli and intervention plans have since started including everything from “exaggerating sadness to correct misbehavior,” “misting the face with water,” to “basket holds.”

To compound this, many school districts are allowing ABA therapists working with autistic students into the classroom. They follow the plan approved by parents – which often does include “applications of aversives” (positive punishment) or “removing preferred/motivating items from the environment” (negative punishment) contingent to student behavior.

Source: Defining Reinforcement and Punishment for Educators – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?

No. This is abusive and unethical. Listen to disabled and autistic people. Resist this.

Mindset Marketing, Behaviorism, and Deficit Ideology

See also,

I updated “Mindset Marketing, Behaviorism, and Deficit Ideology” with selections from “PBIS is Broken: How Do We Fix It? – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?”.

PBIS is Coercion

This is an argument usually used for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), but it applies to PBIS as well. Because PBIS emphasizes the use of tangible rewards and teacher praise to motivate “appropriate” behavior, it often escapes this description.

The overall focus of PBIS is obedience or compliance with rules leading to a reward. The flip side of that coin is there is a lack of rewards or outright punishment administered for noncompliance. The pressure of complying with this system turns kids into ticking time bombs. Having to focus on compliance with school-wide and classroom rules stresses kids out and causes them to enter a state of anxiety when they come to school. In fact, I have seen this escalate to the point the school building itself was a trigger for panic attacks.

And, take my word on this, no one can identify and rebel against an unfair system as efficiently as a kid or adult with ID, except perhaps an autistic person. They know the system is unfair!

Source: PBIS is Broken: How Do We Fix It? – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?

PBIS also ignores human nature by demanding everyone maintain a positive mood and hide any frustration with a student’s naughty behavior.

My more in-depth interpretation is a reiteration of my earlier post on PBIS as well as my posts on classroom management. The PBIS method is far too easy to get wrong. It is far too easy to use consequences or the threat of consequences to motivate behavior (e.g., threatening a kid that they will not get a reward unless they comply). For individuals with ID, reinforcement has to be 100% correlated with good behavior and if there is punishment it has to be 100% correlated with the inappropriate behavior. No deviation and no gap between behavior and consequence. Otherwise, the system falls apart.

Importantly, if a system is based on using external rewards/stimuli to motivate behavior, falling apart takes the form of behavioral outbursts and frustration from the student or client.

Unfortunately, this type of asymmetrical reward is a feature, not a bug, of PBIS. PBIS uses asymmetrical reward as a motivational tool, to the detriment of the students that struggle with their comportment. And, take my word on this, no one can identify and rebel against an unfair system as efficiently as a kid or adult with ID, except perhaps an autistic person. They know the system is unfair!

PBIS is Coercion

This is an argument usually used for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), but it applies to PBIS as well. Because PBIS emphasizes the use of tangible rewards and teacher praise to motivate “appropriate” behavior, it often escapes this description.

The overall focus of PBIS is obedience or compliance with rules leading to a reward. The flip side of that coin is there is a lack of rewards or outright punishment administered for noncompliance. The pressure of complying with this system turns kids into ticking time bombs. Having to focus on compliance with school-wide and classroom rules stresses kids out and causes them to enter a state of anxiety when they come to school. In fact, I have seen this escalate to the point the school building itself was a trigger for panic attacks.

Source: PBIS is Broken: How Do We Fix It? – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?