Trisha is an articulate and eloquent writer. She has autism, but that hasn’t kept her from presenting and preforming for large audiences. Her teachers have described her as introverted, bookish, gifted, and eager-to-please. She has multiple friends, she can take a train across the city independentally, and her mother thinks nothing of leaving her home alone with her younger brother.
Kailey cannot bathe herself and has trouble with dressing, eating and most activities of daily living. She spends hours engaging in self-stimulatory behavior and she routinely self-injures to the point of bloody sores. She has meltdowns in which she hits herself, bashes her head into walls, and destroys things; medication cannot control them. She has limited verbal ability and a wandering problem that has led to her almost walking into cars. She cannot function in a normal school.
Which of these people sounds “low functioning” and which sounds “high functioning”?
They never call restraint “violent behavior”.
They call flicking a paper clip “violent behavior”. They call snapping a pencil “violent behavior”.
They don’t call throwing a kid to the floor “violent”.
Our breaking is less important than that of a pencil.
Because, you cannot hurt an unperson. You cannot be violent to someone who doesn’t exist.
Because, when you are crazy, autistic, disabled, to exist in space is violent. To exist in space becomes an act of war.
People stare at you on the street, and you read put-her-out-of-her-misery behind their eyes. You try to count the stares; you lose track.
They talk to you in the voice of so many preschool teachers. You vow to never use that voice when you grow up and become a preschool teacher.
They are very kind about it, when they tell you you are unnerving, horrifying, not good enough. They are simply stating facts.
You make people uncomfortable. Sad. Desperate. You make people cry and donate money.
People wish you didn’t exist. They wish it for your own sake.
If you start to wish it, too, that is proof.
Therapist: “Where does grandma work?” Little boy: “Um… she works at the house.” “No. Where does grandma work? Say ‘library’.” “Library.” “Whee! Now you get a starburst.”
This is not how you teach three year olds to communicate in language. Communicating is not about saying what you think other people want you to say. Communicating is about connecting thoughts to words the best you can and saying them (or typing them, or pick your pleasure). This is not how you teach a kid “the woman who gives me many cookies works in a big building full of stories, which is awesome” this is how you teach a kid “when people tell me “blah blah blah” I should say “blah blah BLEE blah”.” And this shows how, even “playful nice aversive-free” ABA is about having the kid be right, and not having the kid be a kid who mixes up “house” and “library”, or calls a library a “bookhouse”, or thinks Grandma’s “work” is baking him cookies. Don’t you want to say, “What does she do at the house?” and hear him say “Gives me cookies” and see him light up, and smile with him, or maybe he’ll tell you she stacks the books at the house and you can say “I think she does that at the library.” in a nice way, and also a way that actually teaches him something, because the way you’re doing it he just knows he’s wrong, and he doesn’t know why. Being a little kid shouldn’t be about wrong and right. If a kid tells you he’s found a portal to fairyland, you aren’t supposed to say “No”, you’re supposed to say “Take me with you”.