One of the most compelling complaints from parents who are seeking treatment for their autistic children is that the children are aggressive and harm themselves or other people.
Can ABA help? Short answer: No.
Autistic meltdowns are an inevitable part of autism. We can reduce them, but we cannot eliminate them altogether. Being autistic means that a person will experience meltdowns at least a few times, if not more often than that, throughout their lives.
Autistic meltdowns are the culmination of several frustrating events and a catalyst event that pushes the autistic person over the edge. Meltdowns look differently on every autistic person and may even vary based on any number of things; they may look like hitting, kicking, crying, or throwing things.
Sometimes, an autistic child may hurt themselves or another person during a meltdown, but it is not deliberate. During a meltdown, autistic people cannot control their behaviors until they are calm.
The best way to help an autistic person move through a meltdown is to try to reduce any factors that may be distressing them. Meltdowns happen because a person is in distress, usually due to overstimulation.
aggression as a means of communication
On the other hand, behavior is communication, and we should be listening and trying to understand what each communication means. Aggression as a form of communication is an indication that something is wrong, and as parents and caregivers, we should seek out the source of distress and help to resolve it.
When children who are already experiencing distress are exposed a therapy as abusive and harmful as ABA, they are trained to tolerate trauma and upsetting stimuli, forcing them to bottle up their emotional response until they inevitably explode.
“… if the ABA has done what it set out to do, your child has lost the only channel of communication available to them for expressing their pain and suffering in hopes of getting help with their distress.”Maxfield Sparrow
Seeking out what is upsetting a child and trying to remedy it is almost certainly a difficult task, but nobody wants their child to suffer.
“Don’t take away your child’s voice; take away their suffering. ABA is a cruel response to aggressive behavior. Meet that behavior with love, calm, support, and an investigative search for the source of your child’s struggle instead.”Maxfield Sparrow