Challenging Behaviour: The weaponisation of Autistic existence
Challenging behaviour. It’s a term we have likely all heard. It projects images of violent children, unruly and disruptive to the children who behave in the way expected of them. However, this particular term has been used to frame Autistic experience as an abberation of human expression and justified the use of abusive interventions and use of restrictive practice.
When we consider scales that measure challenging behaviour, you might be surprised to learn that many of the behaviours they target are normal Autistic behaviours. It seems as though merely existing in a way natural to ourselves has been positioned as challenging in its own right. They’re not entirely wrong, of course; Autistic culture is a counterculture, one that stands in opposition to the multi-million dollar behaviour industry that exploits the fear of vulnerable parents.
The issue is that interventions such as ABA and PBS do not effectively target the behaviours one might assume. They target Autistic existence, seeking to normalise and assimilate us into a neuronormative society. It’s unlikely they will reduce violence or aggression, but it is very likely that they will leave the victim with an unhealthy relationship with themselves.
Here is a Tweet thread from Ann Memmott, PgC MA
In my opinion, the existence of such therapies play a role in the staggeringly high suicide rate amongst Autistic people (see this PDF from the Royal College of Psychiatrists). We are teaching Autistic people that who they are is wrong, that they need correcting. We refer to Autistic behaviour as aberrant behaviour.
In this way, the autism industrial complex has turned our existence into a profit margin, with our wellbeing as an acceptable loss in the fight for bigger bonuses. We have created an industry that sacrifices Autistic people for cash rewards. They don’t care for our humanity.
When behaviourists feel uncomfortable with us speaking out against them, it’s a good thing. To not feel uncomfortable would be an inhumane act. We want them to realise the pain they have been complicit in. They have taken our natural state and wielded it as a tool to remove our agency.
Autistic people deserve to exist as they are.
We are not abberations of normality. We are not a product. Our bodyminds are not consumable. We do not exist to be moulded to the will of others in the name of profit. I do not desire assimilation anymore than than a plant desires herbicide. I have never wanted to be “indistinguishable from my peers”. I have a right to be more than an invisible component in a faceless machine.
When ABA supporters seek to silence Autistic voices, they seek to uphold the imbalance of power in a violently oppressive society.
ABA is not okay. Yes, all ABA.