We know what children need to grow and learn, right? The environment should be happy, nurturing, loving, and filled with many opportunities to learn and explore. The people in a child’s world should be warm, caring, loving, and supportive, right? If you walk into any preschool or elementary level classroom, there are lots of toys, colors, positive images, and opportunities to explore.
What happens when you walk into the majority of “ABA” classrooms?
There is very little on the walls…”children get over-stimulated and can’t focus” they are not encouraged to explore, they are reinforced to ignore.
If a child turns toward the sound of someone entering the room, they are immediately corrected by having their face physically turned back toward the teacher.
If a child jumps out of their seat with curiosity and excitement about the book a teacher is reading, they are “punished” for getting up and corrected.
They must EARN their play time…and are most often left alone during that time, because they “earned” that time. Think about that! One of the most important parts of healthy development for every child is relationship development through play. Many programs NEVER have that between a “therapist” and the child they are working with. They don’t play! This means there is never imagination, exploration, working together and enjoying each other! Children with autism need to earn the right to play. When they do finally earn that privilege, no one interacts with them. Most times their play is cut short because their “therapist” says, “they don’t really play, they only stim.” Back to the table for more trials…
When most children are encouraged to look at books, a child with autism must earn their right to see the same book.
When they want to play with their blocks in a different way than what they are taught…they are not encouraged to try and see what happens. They are typically redirected to the script they were taught at the table.
The very essentials for positive healthy development are ripped away in this environment. Their basic needs to establish trust, emotion, curiosity, and confidence are no longer present.
Are we teaching them to be autistic? We can control their behavior by using behavior modification.
We can control what they know and how they use what they know. They are only taught what we CHOOSE to teach them. Is this really what society thinks is best for children with autism? We take a science which has been proven through lab testing and hundreds of research articles which show we can control behavior…and we turned it into a therapy. Is it really therapeutic? What is therapeutic about it?
Are we encouraging relationships, independence, growth, exploration, learning how to learn? Are we forcing children to do what we think they should be doing? Shouldn’t we be teaching, nurturing, loving, and guiding them on how to grow?
-Stephanie Hicks, M. S., BCaBA email@example.com