I have been doing a lot of research into B.F. Skinner and ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) in order to justify and articulate our feelings in regard to Jonah, and not wanting a strict ABA course of action for therapy with him. ABA has never sat right with us, though his school uses it some, and I think it’s fine, and as effective as any other therapy used there.
But I have been chatting with adults with autism and taking their opinions very seriously. And I want Jonah to be a happy person above all else. I don’t think it is right for our family to have the kid at school 5 1/2 hours a day and then make him work more at home too. We want him to have time to just be a kid! Sometimes I think we NTs (neurotypicals, as the autistic community refers to we “normal” folk) have a difficult time realizing that just because we want auties ( individuals w/autism) to behave like us doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do.
Auties externalize a lot of their stress by flapping, rocking, or behaving in other “strange” ways. Jonah is a spinner. Something inside me, that inner voice everyone is always telling you to listen to, tells me that he needs to do this. To squelch the behaviour is to force it to be internalized, and in God knows what way or with what consequence. I’d rather he be strange than be a well-trained autie taught to behave like an NT but never really being one.
There are classes offered on acquiring language skills via ABA. Of course the argument for these classes is an easy one: who wouldn’t want their child to talk? But I do not believe that word production = comprehension. You can teach a parrot to talk but that doesn’t mean the parrot knows what it’s saying. And I believe Jonah will talk, in his own time. Just because his developmental schedule doesn’t match other kids doesn’t mean it is bad, or wrong, or should be forced. Besides, he DOES talk to us…not in words, of course, but you’d be surprised how well! They say 90% of communication is nonverbal, and after “talking” with Jonah for four years, I believe it.
I realize I could be wrong about all of this, and that’s the hardest part. But we have to follow our hearts with our precious only son, and we are (thank God) on the same page about this, and so we forge ahead as best we can by choosing teachers we trust — and then entrusting them to teach Jonah using holistic methods that do not seek to squelch his adventurous spirit or turn him into something he is not. We are not sitting back and doing nothing to help our child, and neither are his teachers. Our son loves his school and has matured greatly over the past year. We are confident that he is in the right place to continue on a journey toward a self-sufficient, happy adulthood.
We want Jonah to be the best individual he can be. We do not seek to “cure” his autism or “defeat” it. In fact some auties I have spoken with see this as tantamount to genocide.
I also fully agree with the statement that every family has to do what feels right for them and their child. But we refuse to feel guilty or pressured into treatments or therapies that don’t “jive” with us.
And so I will continue to research, and find answers, and ask questions, and learn, and love my son!
Here is an article called The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists
The author articulates much of this better than I.