The dangers of Behavioral therapy and compliance


‘In Russia there is a huge orphanage with rooms of cribs with little babies in them. There is an eerie feeling when you walk in…. because it’s so silent! These babies have learned not to cry, they’ve learned that their voices go unanswered ‘ 

So sad, but so true. And it’s the same with ABA or any ‘behavioural approach ‘. What we are doing by encouraging good behaviour and punishing or ignoring bad behaviour, is teaching autistic people to ignore their inner self. This has so many negative implications, but one I would like to focus on is the danger that compliance training creates especially in adult relationships, as so many autistic adults are in abusive relationships as a result. 

I am speaking from experience. I was subjected to behavioural therapies as a child. Encouraging positive behaviour my parents and teachers focused on and joined forces to ignore the ‘bad behaviour ‘. So I learned to comply and mask my difficulties. As I got older the guilt and self hatred became bigger as I fought ‘the demons’ inside me. I would constantly tell myself, ‘you should be able to do this’ and was always positive in my engagements. 

I just felt that I was a bad person. I was told that I was attention seeking and I accepted that I was the one with the problem and I was the one who needed to try harder. So I tried and I couldn’t do it. So I ended up marrying at a young age to someone who abused me and I could not identify that abuse because I had learned to be compliant and I had learned to mask my difficulties and blame myself. 

This is the situation of so many autistic adults. Many are unable to identify abuse because of ‘behavioural therapies’.  Not only that, but, because they have been denied a voice for so long, they are unable to sustain healthy relationships as adults because they learned to hide themselves in fear or because they were ignored. 

To undo the damage that has been done to me and others takes a life time. Healing is an on going process and part of that healing is to speak out against such harmful therapies. Autistic adults are speaking and we won’t accept being ignored. 

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