Autism awareness, autism acceptance and why I am not participating in Autism Awareness Week

Jigsaw puzzle pieces

Monday 30th March to Sunday 4th April 2020 is Autism Awareness Week with Thursday 2nd April being Autism Awareness Day. I am autistic and I will not be taking part. Here’s why:

ABA therapy

ABA therapy,(Applied Behaviour Analysis) often rebranded as PBS (Positive behavioural support) or EIBI (Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention) is a form of treatment for autistic children. I became aware of ABA therapy through the documentary Asperger’s and Me by Chris Packham (Link at the end of the blog, please watch.) I find that the section on ABA starting between 27:30 and 33:40 to be very distressing, especially the scene where a boy having a meltdown which is brought on by being held down to a chair, around the 30-minute point in the documentary.

The thing I do not like about Autism Awareness week is its connection with Autism Speaks the American charity that which claims it wants to get rid of Autism and claims that should be through ABA. They use a blue jigsaw piece as a logo. “Light it up blue,” is their slogan.

The use of a puzzle piece implies that autistic people are a problem to be solved. I do not wish to be solved.

This is how ABA therapy was founded (Taken from a mid-March Twitter thread by Ann Memmott):

“You see, You start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense – they have hair a nose and a mouth – but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials but you have to build the person.”
Ivar Lovaas, a founder of ABA

“I just reached over and cracked her one right on the rear. She was a big fat girl so I had an easy target
… Then she hit herself again and I really laid it on her.
… So I let her know that there was no question in my mind that I was going to kill her if she hit herself once more, and that was pretty much it.”
Ivar Lovaas about his work with autistic children.

It looks very much like bullying to me. Testimony from autistic people who have been to university, got good degrees and then find they cannot hold down a job. The ABA has given them a mask so that they don’t appear autistic, do not appear as they actually are. Eventually the mask slips. I got sacked from one job because I had a meltdown at work. But autistic people very often have the ability to deeply concentrate on something, I was never happier than when working in quality control.

Autistic people are not listened to in areas which affect them out of a mistaken belief that we are not human, cannot empathise or other reason they believe. Look at this:

Emotional responses. For all participants, emotional engaging was defined as engaging in whining, crying, screaming aggression, self-injury, attempts to escape from the procedure/physical resistance (i.e., pushing the therapist away during the initiation of a procedure, turning body away, pulling away from the procedure, dropping to the floor).

A wide survey of autistic people by Autistic not Weird showed that those with autism are mostly against ABA therapy and even those of us who are non-verbal and have learning difficulties do not wish to be ‘cured’ of their autism. Click the images to enlarge.

Coronavirus COVID-19

Not to be confused with the British campaign to light buildings up blue in support of the NHS and the great work doctors, nurses, radiographers anaesthetists and others, down to porters, cooks and cleaners, are doing putting themselves on the front line in this time of pandemic. So if you so wish do light it up blue for the NHS, if people see a blue building in the UK they will think NHS not autism, due to the publicity.

Asperger’s and Me by Chris Packham

One thought on “Autism awareness, autism acceptance and why I am not participating in Autism Awareness Week

  1. I find it offensive (and I am not autistic) that people treat autistic people as ill or in some way in need of ‘cure’. To say someone is in any way autistic should be considered in the same way as saying some is introvert/extrovert/cheerful/shy.

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