CONTENT WARNING: This piece discusses themes that may upset some readers (such as Autistic and other NeuroDivergent Conversion “Therapies,” manipulation, coercion, and abuse). Reader discretion is advised.
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Recently, during Pride Month, I ran two specials focusing on the history of Gay Conversion Therapy and the most commonly recommended “therapy” for Autistic People, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).
Both are linked below for your convenience:
As expected, both of my posts created pushback from angry parents who follow the ABA ideology and felt “shamed” by my choice of strong words – “Conversion Therapy” but I stand by them.
I used to talk a lot about ABA and similar practices on my blog frequently but eventually had to take a break because of the enormous backlash (including death threats) I was getting from parents who have bought into the ideology of Autistic and other NeuroDivergent Conversion Therapies (because these types of behavior modification “therapies” aren’t limited to Autism and Autistic People).
My directness in calling this one as I see it, wasn’t always appreciated and has made a lot of waves over the years.
I’ve faced a lot of pressure to stay silent and not share my thoughts on this topic, and I am still nervous as I’m writing today’s piece on the subject.
The easiest way to “make it big” in the “Autism World” is to be pro-ABA (or neutral enough on ABA that the ABA industry and its cult-like followers won’t interfere with your work) as they’ve tried to do mine.
Historically, most Autistics with the most prominent platforms have been those who “play nice” with the ABAers.
They are the ones who don’t make waves and get book deals with big publishers (who wouldn’t dare touch the book of someone who’s boldly spoken against the use of behavioral modification for NeuroDivergent People).
If you are pro-ABA, sympathetic to ABA, or neutral to ABA, speaking gigs, brand deals, and sponsors will be available to you that wouldn’t be available otherwise. This is because the ABA lobby is a multi-billion dollar industry, and ABA providers sponsor most Autism conferences.
It is the “safe,” “palatable,” and “neutral” Autistics that these pro-ABA organizations LOVE to put on display. They are the pets of the ABA industry, used by those in power to soften opinions on ABA. “Look, this Autistic doesn’t have a problem with ABA, so it mustn’t be THAT BAD!”
These traitors, pets of the ABA industry, hold the entire movement behind, as their words are used against abuse survivors who are trying to be heard so others won’t face the same fate.
My firmness and jagged edges cut those soft opinions like glass. My ugly truths are too sharp for people to swallow, so they recoil in horror as they choke down my words that become deeply embedded, slicing their most profound insecurities on the way down.
Before my strong anti-ABA stance was as widely known, I used to get invited to speak at Autism Conferences nationwide.
Occasionally, the conference organizers would “find out” (be told) of my stance on ABA. When this happened, I would be “spoken to” and have to agree not to mention ABA not to be uninvited, OR they would uninvite me completely because my stance on ABA “created a conflict of interest for their sponsors and vendors” (who were in the ABA industry).
I’m sure they were scared I would open my mouth and say the most shocking things about ABA that it’s torture, that it’s conversion therapy, that Lovaas (one of the founders of ABA who was also a founder of gay conversion therapy) didn’t think Autistic kids were people, and went on record in an interview saying “you start pretty much from scratch when you work 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.”
I’m a wild card. I’m not afraid to make waves. I say what I’m thinking and am fond of the truth, even if the truth is inconvenient or makes people uncomfortable.
People with something to hide (or who benefit from lies) are the ones who oppose exposing the truth.
Some parents in my comments section aired their grievances with my chosen language, demanding I change my language to one that is more “positive” and inclusive of them. Others complained that Autistics need to “have more sympathy for parents” who get sucked into these Conversion Therapy cults, insisting my language was cruel, and lacked compassion for those forced into making hard choices.
However, calling an apple a banana just because it is yellow it still won’t taste or smell like a banana (because it is still an apple).
The choice to call ANYTHING Conversion Therapy is NOT a choice I (as a trans person) make lightly or without careful consideration and thought. It is a calculated and intentional shift in my language.
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