As a human, autistic adult, and board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) dedicated to ethical and humane treatment of others, this research is a high priority to me. I am highly interested in ensuring that the data taken is accurate to the experiences of those who have received formal ABA services. As such, I would love for the dissemination of this study’s research to be far reaching.
Certainly there is a part of me that is concerned about the information this research will present. But what is more concerning to me is that there is so little research which has been conducted in this area, and what has been conducted has largely been disregarded by behavior analytic practitioners with some notable exceptions.
For all that read this, I encourage you to disseminate this study to those who have experienced ABA services within the criteria listed. For those that participate, I encourage you to be honest and direct. Regardless of the results of the research, I look forward to being able to learn how my field, the field of Applied Behavior Analysis, can improve.
Brian Middleton, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, the “Bearded Behaviorist”
Disclosure of relationships: Brian is friends with one of the researchers in this study. His friend, Louis Stay, is autistic and is a senior psychology undergrad student with an interest in autism counseling. Louis has worked as an RBT and has a desire to improve outcomes for all learners, but especially individuals receiving services for ASD.
Brian does not have a relationship with any other member of the research team nor has he received payment for advertising this study.
I made a meme. Shocker if you know me, I know (sarcasm), but in its making it made me think. Here’s the meme first.
Now that you have seen the meme, to the last point.
I recently found out that my efforts as a special education teacher to create a positive reinforcement environment/system in the school I recently left has been systematically been dismantled.
The token economy system, the self monitoring system, the rewards for effort and the other positive behavior supports I and my wonderful peers had in place for my students and the other kids who I took under my wing because I was more worried about their success than silly classification systems have been torn apart by short-sighted administrators.
I have been told that key people have been told to be “less nice” and that “there needs to be consequences” (code for punishment) for “behaviors”. In short, all of the practices that took me 5 years to put into place that showed DATA DRIVEN RESULTS for not only reducing socially significant behaviors, but also for improving outcomes for my kids on all levels from academic to social have been taken apart because “reasons”.
I understand that there NEEDS to be scrutiny of ABA. We hold a lot of power and that power can (and has been) abused. It’s why I am so on board with trauma-informed care and the #dobetter movements. Like with any profession where we hold such power over another person’s life, we need to be careful with how we use this power. Yet the 💩 I hear that schools and school districts do is insane!
To be clear, I’m not talking about those amazing, dedicated teachers who would do anything to help their kids succeed either. I was one of them. And the only reason I stopped being that teacher was because I was literally killing myself trying to help kids and running into the iron curtain of administrative push-back at nearly every turn. But in behavior analysis I have in less than 2 years made more of a meaningful impact than in 7+ years as a teacher. Behavior analysts LISTEN TO ME when I share my prospective as an autistic. In education, I could HEAR the eye rolls! Schools grab kids, punish them, use aversives, shame and traumatize them because “that’s how it is” and then punish the kids some more when they stand up to bullies or have a sensory meltdown for being placed in extremely aversive conditions without consideration to WHY! Children who are clearly ASD are refused IEPs because “they have passing grades” while 504s are ignored when convenient. Nearly the entire system disregards the longest and most effective study on academics and behavior conducted in history, Project Follow Through, which had behavior analytic backing, because of the next fad program pushed by politicians and administrators, only cherry picking what they want to use.
I am all for ABA being held to a high standard, but I am tired of seeing and hearing of literal abuse by schools and school districts which is ignored while being criticized for being abusive for using DTT when the individual saying these things doesn’t even understand what DTT is. I’m tired of being told that I am “masking” my autism (I am not!) because I have learned actual skills that have improved my life when my students are literally being punished for asking for help by the people who supposedly are there to help them.
I will continue to advocate for trauma-informed care and #dobetter, but I really, really, really wish that the well meaning folks who are so adamant and vocal about their concerns about ABA would 1) learn about what we are doing right WHILE continuing to oppose bad practices (yes, I think that there are practices we should rarely if ever use within ABA, and in fact our ethics code generally outlines this), and 2) be more vocal about schools fixing the very serious and abusive systems that are in place for their students AND their teachers. Actually training for teachers. Actual systems of supports for teachers and students. Actually FOLLOWING THE LAWS OF THE LAND (ADA, IDEA 1999 & 2004, etc).
I am a teacher. I am autistic. I am a behavior analyst. I want actual change. I want trauma-informed care to be the default. Change starts here. Speak up for change.
Sister Viktorine Zak was a nun who worked with Doctor Hans Asperger at the Vienna Hospital to help, and study, autistic children in
Her efforts lead to her deep love and care for the children she served. A love that ultimately was proven out through the ultimate sacrifice.
When the Allies were bombing Austria and Germany, the hospital were Sister Viktorine was at was hit as well. The last time she was seen alive was her throwing her body over that of one if the children she served and loved. Greater love hath no woman than this, that she lay down her life for her friends.
Sister Viktorine was a friend to the autistic neurotype long before it was understood as being a neurotype. Her love and care stands as a beacon to how we should treat each, regardless of neurotype.
Puns and sayings are among the Bearded Behaviorist’s favorite things. Since Brian has a beard, the name makes a certain amount of sense, but when you add in an old saying, “to beard the lion in its den” the pun and story come together better. The term means to face an issue or problem head-on. It’s origin comes form the Old Testament about King David when he was a shepherd, before he gained his fame. The story goes that when a lion took one of his lambs, he followed the lion into it’s den, grabbed it by the mane or “beard” smote it, thus rescuing his lamb. So, while the name Bearded Behaviorist does refer to the creator’s beard (a mighty fine one it is too), it also refers to the practice of address the challenges we face directly and with evidence-based approaches.
Brian Middleton started Bearded Behaviorist as an effort to make understanding behavior fun and interesting. Dedicated to open-source education, Brian is a founding member of the Open-Source Educational Resources special interest group of ABAI. His social media pages and website are dedicated to dissemination of behavior science as well as pushing for inclusion of trauma-informed care standards in Applied Behavior Analysis and other human services. He is the host of the Oh Behave! Podcast, and open-source licensed podcast. Brian is a proud autistic adult, loving husband, avid lover of sci-fi/fantasy, a “nerd” with something better to do, enjoys the great outdoors, cooking, musicals, puns, spending time with friends and dogs, and making up silly songs. He is also the Chief Creative Officer for Legend Masters LLC, a print and design company. He holds a Masters of Education and a Post-Master Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis. He also does not enjoy writing in the third-person and really wants to stop now…