As my planned Novena to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary for Autism Awareness and many other Autistic issues approaches, I have been considering adding an ending of ABA Treatment to the list of petitions in this Rosary Novena. But before I do, I want to take a closer look at ABA, and get a fuller understanding of what it really is before passing judgment on it. Pretty much 100% of what I’ve heard about ABA was bad, and it seemed to be based off of philosophies totally contrary to Catholic Faith; but I want to make 100% sure of this before I petition the Queen Herself about this. As I search through this, I figured I’d start this sort of journal or commentary on what I’m finding, in order to spread the word about this, and gain feedback and the like to thus make sure I’m on the right track with this. So here is my first entry of ABA Under The Microscope, and here’s what I’ve found so far.
Now before I begin, I should clarify how exactly I’m going to be approaching this topic. Obviously I’m going to be approaching this topic through the lens of my own Catholic Philosophy, in fact, I actually have my own Catholic philosophical speculation on how Autism actually works, which I’ve discussed in the following thread; (Catholic Philosophy and Autism: your thoughts) but more generally, I’ll be approaching this topic through the Catholic philosophical understanding of the human person which my speculation was based off of, namely, that the human person is made up of three components, an intellect, a will, and a body. (In the Bible, these three components are symbolized by the head, the heart, and the bowls respectively.) Viewing ABA through this lens already reveals huge problems with it, because as we are about to see, ABA focuses almost exclusively on the body.
The first red flag I saw regarding ABA, which I in fact saw long before studying this treatment, is the philosophy that it’s based off of; when you base something off of bad philosophy, there’s pretty much always going to be bad consequences that follow from it. ABA is based off of behaviorism, a philosophy that denies the spiritual aspects of the human person that is, the person’s intellect and will. (I believe that a proper understanding of human nature is all but essential to achieving Autism Acceptance, as well as righting many other ills in society and civilization today) Now, if we’re employing a therapy an Autistic person, that’s based off of a philosophy that denies a key aspect of the human person, we must ask ourselves, what are the logical implications of that? The disturbing answer is, that the Autistic person’s humanity is denied, as the philosophy itself denies crucial aspects of human nature; indeed, perhaps we Autistic people even pick this up when we go through ABA, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so traumatizing for us. (I should clarify that I, myself am not certain whether or not I went through ABA treatment; I may have been subjected to tastes of it here and there in my unhappy childhood, but I certainly wasn’t subjected to the hours of ABA treatment everyday, that other Autistic children go through) Already, just by looking at the philosophy underlying ABA we see a huge, harmful problem with it, and this is before we actually take a look at the treatment itself, and how these philosophical beliefs themselves are applied; within the first few seconds of exploring ABA, I immediately got the impression that there was something seriously wrong with it, and I’ll get to what that problematic impression was at the end of this entry. For now, we’ll continue with the dehumanizing nature of ABA.
Ivar Lovaas, the man who finalized ABA had this to say about (I hope so-called level 2 & up) Autistic people:
“You see, you pretty much start from scratch 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.”
Heh, I kind of want to set some time aside and just like, dissect and deconstruct this quote; I don’t know what Ivar Lovaas’ (God have mercy on his soul.) religious and philosophical beliefs were, but because he practiced this behaviorist approach to Autistic people, this quote reeks of repressed spirituality, he’s spiritualizing other aspects of the human person, because he’s rejected the actual spiritual aspects that are there. (As I explained in linked-above my Catholic speculation on what Autism may be, all human socialization is actually physical in nature) Because Lovaas has spiritualized the social aspect of the human being and rejected the actual spiritual aspect, Autistic people become condemned as “not people in the psychological sense;” this is the dehumanizing nature of ABA, and as many Autism Advocates have pointed out, this alone should be enough to reject ABA Treatment as harmful to Autistic people. But of course, there’s much more to ABA that I plan on examining in this series, so stay tuned for more coming up in the future here.
However before I wrap things up here, there is still one more thing I want to address regarding the actual practice of ABA, namely that bad impression I got when I first started exploring it. As I’ve discussed above, because ABA denies and/or ignores the existence of a human being’s spirit, his/her intellect and will, it focuses almost exclusively on the body. This is something that especially Catholic and other Christian parents should be really concerned about, why? The Bible itself teaches that Christians are called to subject their bodies to their spirits, that is, their intellects and wills; I have come to suspect that ABA does the exact opposite, it subjects an Autistic person’s spirit to his or her body. This means that ABA is not only harmful, it’s actually dangerous, it’s a threat to Autistic people’s souls; and I actually know of a disturbing account of an Autistic person’s life being ruined by ABA, which I may or may not share later on in this series. For now, I’ll conclude by pointing out the obvious, that we’ve only just begun studying ABA Treatment, and already we’re seeing just how bad this so-called “therapy” is. ABA is not something any good Christian parent should risk employing on his/her Autistic child; how bad can ABA get? Are there any redeeming qualities to it? Well, we’re about to find out.
Glory to God
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