Photo by Leo Reynolds (flickr)
Michelle Dawson has a major problem with using ABA to treat autism. She likes to claim that ABA is unethical, unproven, and bad for "autistics". I am not sure who these "autistics" are or how they differ from the group of adults and children who have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, maybe they are the same.
But, according to Ms Dawson, ABA is bad for them. Oh, and unethical too, although I can never seem to find the her exact ethical complaints with ABA spelled out precisely, just the assertion that it is, in fact, unethical.
But this isn't anything new and anyone who was familiar with her writings would already know this.
Ms Dawson also has a bad habit of discouraging parents from using ABA to help their children - I wrote about an example of this earlier. She seems especially keen to reach the parents of newly diagnosed children and convince them that ABA is bad for their children. Now, if you ask her about this she will tell you that this is not what she is doing, that is trying to provide accurate information from primary sources, which is good for autistics.
Did I mention that she thinks that ABA is unethical, unproven, and bad for autistics? Good, I didn't want to forget mentioning that.
Now, here is the thing. There is almost universal agreement that ABA is one of the most effective treatments for children with autism that is available today. No one is saying that it is a cure or that it will work for every person on the spectrum - as the saying goes, if you have seen one person with autism then you have seen one person with autism (this holds true even for identical twins).
A huge body of literature and evidence exists that supports the notion that ABA, in general and specifically for autism, is an effective teaching technique. Every major organization dealing with autism agrees on this point, from Autism Speaks to the Autism Science Foundation to the CDC to the American Academy of Pediatrics to the groups that think autism is caused by vaccinations. Heck, even some of the Neurodiversity and ASAN folks accept that it as a valid treatment and they are normally against any treatment for autism.
Then you have Michelle Dawson arguing that ABA is unethical, unproven, and bad for autistics as she did, yet again, just a few weeks ago.
I am all for listening to peoples ideas and considering all possible points of view, even ones that are completely at odds with conventional wisdom, but I don't understand Ms Dawson's obsession with trash talking ABA.
At first I thought that Ms Dawson underwent ABA as a child or young adult and had a bad experience. But I have not been able to find any references to that occurring and everything that I did find seems to indicate that she never had any ABA style therapies, so that can't be it.
Then I thought that Ms Dawson might have some sort of agenda that she is pushing. But I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and I can't see what agenda she would be pursuing or any possible benefit to pursuing it. This view is certainly not helping other people with autism and is especially harmful to young children with autism.
So what I am left with is that Ms Dawson really believes that ABA is unethical, unproven, and bad in spite of the overwhelming evidence against her position. But she seems to be an intelligent person, so I can't see how she can sustain her belief - it isn't rational. And it isn't like she is in an isolated environment where it is easier for irrational ideas to take root.
But then I remembered. Ms Dawson has autism and part of autism is getting fixated or obsessed with items or possibly ideas. Could that be the reason?
I have no idea.