WEEKEND WEB: Awareness and acceptance – part 2
AUTISTIC LINCS: By autistic author Callum Brazzo
Fresh off my trip to Parliament for the launch of the first-ever report on fake autism cures called ‘A Spectrum Of Harmful Interventions For Autism’, we continue our discussion around a time where autistic people are potent in the public’s consciousness.
World Autism Awareness Week. But you see, as explained in Awareness And Acceptance part 1, ‘being autistic is lifelong and our robust commitment to making autistic people safe, happy and maximised individuals should be too.’
This means that we must move beyond mere ‘awareness’ and move into the realm of ‘acceptance’ and ‘tangible difference’.
Digressing slightly for a few moments, I would like to address a very common form of therapy for autistic people which is ABA. ABA means Applied Behavioural Analysis but can also be called Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) alongside other abbreviations.
‘Good’ behaviour in lessons, for example can be rewarded with food, praise and other forms of appreciation… or so that is the misconception.
I highlight the word ‘good’ because it concerns me that someone other than the autistic person decides what the definition of ‘good’ is under their framework; their norms.
Is it ‘good’ that an autistic person stops biting others? Perhaps. But is it more worth your while exploring why they want to bite? Yes. Maybe they need to be orally stimulated or maybe they are stressed due to a sensory factor that you are not able to pick up on like the sound of ceiling can whirring.
We discussed ‘stimming’ a little last time and that, for the most part it is completely safe and fine, and so maybe this need to ‘bite’, often perceived as aggressive, is a need to orally explore, stimulate or communicate.
Sometimes, we need redirection if we are doing something dangerous but training us OUT of our modes of exploration, stimulation or communication is not acceptance.
It invalidates our autistic identities. In short, ABA and such therapies/tools for autistic people are aiming to make autistic people ‘indistinguishable from their peers’ and less of themselves.
Therefore, ABA invalidates our autistic identities. Furthermore, the language we use in relation to our autistic identities is integral to validating our existence and I wanted to swiftly mention what is vastly seen as best practice when putting a name to us.
We do not like people saying ‘person with autism’ because although again this seems harmless, the connotation is that the autism is a separate part of us.
Most of us prefer you to say ‘autistic person’ because this phrase is friendlier and acknowledges our autistic being. I speak for myself and numerous others when I tell you this but there will be people who don’t mind what you call them (provided it’s not derogatory) and so you can also try calling people by their names.
My name is Callum and you can call me Callum or, if we are chatting about autistic people, then please refer to the above guidance. Summarily, I politely yet firmly ask that you cut out ABA and the cures and start making a tangible difference to our lives.