What does ABA have to do with routines?
Parents see their autistic child’s routines as abnormal. They seek help from behaviorists to “correct” this behavior. What they don’t understand is that the autistic brain isn’t a “defective” or “disordered” normal brain. It’s working exactly as designed by its creator. Thus, ABA treats the autistic child in a massively abusive manor. The majority of adult autistic self-advocates equate ABA with “gay conversion therapy” – seeking to condition the autistic brain to perform in a way in which it was not designed. “Gay conversion therapy” is illegal in several US states whilst ABA is not.
As an aside, here’s an interesting article on the controversy caused by an ABA-pushing university program and their advertising campaign in the NY subways. One of the adverts said: “We have your son. We will make sure he will not be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives. This is only the beginning.” It was signed “Autism.”
What does this have to do with holidays and routines? Hold on, I’m getting there. I need to set the stage with a bit more historical context.
The behaviorists, Thorndike, Pavlov, Skinner, are all from a time when the eugenics movement was gaining steam. The eugenicist’s goal was, and still is, the perfection of man via science. Read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to get a glimpse of what the eugenicist saw as the future, treating Huxley’s satire as a blueprint. Read also Edwin Black‘s rebuttal to the eugenics movement in War Against the Weak.
Adult autistic self-advocates like myself continue our war against the eugenicists. We cite the high rate of PTSD in adult survivors of ABA. But, parents continue to give their children over to the eugenicists to be “cured” or “fixed.”
But, not all is doom and gloom. There’s another way. There’s another informative theory – Glasser’s Choice Theory. It’s the theoretical construct that informed my dissertation, studying the high attrition rate of autistic college studentS.
“According to Choice Theory, all individuals are driven by genetically (and epigenetically) transmitted needs that serve as instructions for attempting to live their lives.”
The needs are equally important, and all must be reasonably satisfied if individuals are to fulfill their biological destiny.
These basic needs are:
a) the need to survive,
b) the need to belong,
c) the need to gain power,
d) the need to be free, and
e) the need to have fun.
The ways in which we fulfill psychological needs can be summarized as follows:
· We fulfill the need to survive in our search for food, shelter, and safety.
· We fulfill the need to belong by loving, sharing, and cooperating with others.
· We fulfill the need for power by achieving, accomplishing, and being recognized and respected.
· We fulfill the need for freedom by making choices in our lives.
· We fulfill the need for fun by laughing and playing.
As an example, my research into autistic college student retention found that autistics were more likely to remain enrolled when power needs were satisfied (e.g. achieving, accomplishing, and being recognized and respected). This manifests itself in a rather specific way. The autistic person may arrive at college entirely more knowledgeable and up to date in their field of interest than their professors. Professors are not used to being questioned by young skulls full of mush. Professors may disrespect the student in the interactions in class by not recognizing the student’s knowledge of their chosen subject. Why stay when the Prof’s a jerk and doesn’t know as much as you?
Choice theory suggests the existence of a “Quality World“. Glasser’s idea of a “Quality World” restates the Jungian idea of archetypes. Glasser’s “Quality World” and what Jung would call healthy archetypes are indistinguishable.
Our “Quality World” images are the models of an individual’s “perfect” world. Knowingly or not, all humans constantly compare their perception of the world with how they would like it to be, their current Quality World picture. Consciously or not, they determine if their current behavior is the best available choice to take them in the direction they want to go. These behaviors are what we call routines. Yes, everybody has them.