should I change my adopted child’s name?

should I change my adopted child's name
What’s in a name? If you really ponder it, there’s a heck of a lot, especially for someone who’s owned their name for a while.

I think this is what we have to realize as adoptive and foster parents, our child owns their name, it’s theirs, it’s the ONE THING they didn’t have to give up or lose when they were removed from their biological home or orphanage. It may also be the one thing they take away from their previous life that’s positive.

Changing a child’s name upon adoption is a big conundrum for many families, but there are a few things to consider before doing so. (Don’t worry, there’s an exception which I’ll discuss later.)

Your child’s name is all they own. They left any family (siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents) when they were removed from their family. If they left an orphanage to join your family, they left behind friends and caregivers they may have grown attached to. They may have left behind toys, stuffed animals, or blankets (even if they only had one), and in drug homes these items are confiscated and discarded. If a child is lucky, really lucky, they leave their previous life with a trash bag. Our daughter came to us with two sets of clothes, our son, one, and neither brought a toy, stuffed animals or blanket. Many children have nothing to take with them.

One thing, the only thing they do have, they do own, is their name. We have to recognize this. 

Changing a child’s name is not like changing a bald tire on your GMC, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Many parents think of it as giving their child a new name to go with their new life.

Your child’s name is all they know, and crazy thing is, they may like it. It’s part of who they are. It’s a large part of their identity. Think about that. Identity. And what would a child feel like if their name, an essential part of their identity (because they really don’t know who they are yet because they haven’t been given the opportunity with love and acceptance) was changed?

How do they think the parent changing their name feels about them?

Think about something you would like to change in your home. A majority of the time when we want to change something it isn’t because we like it. Let’s say you want a new couch, well unless you really hate that your credit card is only in the double digits, you’re probably doing so because your tired of the one you have, you don’t like it anymore, or it’s ripped, broke, or dirty. Basically, you aren’t happy with it.

This is how some children feel when their name is changed. They’re fully aware that you don’t like their name (unless you change it for the reason stated below) and you want something different. What they came with isn’t good enough and therefore it can easily transition to them feeling like you don’t think they are good enough. These feelings are already resounding in their head loud and clear.
changing the adopted child's name

Some parents change their child’s name because it’s different, maybe your child is from another country or has an odd name. Fact: Different is in. Today parents want their child to have a different name, they spell it phonetically or choose a name they’ve never heard before. I know a baby whose name is Prator. Different? Yes. So the concerns about your child standing out because of their name isn’t such a concern any more.

In my opinion, there is only one reason to change a child’s name, and that’s because of safety concerns.

I know many adoptive families who’ve fostered, fear the biological parents will show up at their door or school and take the child, and thus changing the child’s name makes them feel safer. In some isolated cases this is true, but for many it’s not necessary.

If the biological family lives in very close proximity, and I don’t mean that you simply live in smaller town, you may consider a change of name. And you may also want to consider the biological parents history. Most birth parents won’t come after their children (even when the parents are criminals), it’s very rare that this happens.

If you feel you have to change your child’s name, there are a few considerations you might want to make. You can use part of their name, a middle name as a first name, or you can change their name slightly, transforming Jacob into Jake or Michael into Mike, it allows the child to keep a part of their name and helps keep it familiar.

I also believe that if a name change needs to take place, there should be positive discussions about it.

1) Take your time, don’t whack a child with the news and not accept discussions.

2) Tell children, no matter the age, what you plan to do.

3) Involve your child in the conversation. Ask them what name they like, and listen to their advice. Get them involved in choosing a new name if you feel a change needs to be made.

We must weigh whether changing a child’s name is necessary or if we’re doing it because of our own desires. Maybe we’ve always dreamt that our child will be graced with our grandmother’s first name, maybe we’ve picked out a favorite name for our future child. But the child must be considered, this isn’t like choosing an addition of black beans for your burrito at Chipotle. This is connected to something far greater than many parents give thought to. It’s identity.


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why you should teach the autistic person the word NO

why you should teach the autistic person the word no
Are children allowed to say no? Think about a non-autistic child, are they allowed to say no? Think about the autistic child, are they allowed to say no? Usually not. They almost always have to comply.

Autistic children don’t get a choice, don’t get to express how they feel, nor do they get to say no.

Neurotypical children do have to follow a set of parameters most of the time, but they often get to make choices and say no. Think about the day in a non-autistic child’s life. They get to choose what book they want to read, a book isn’t placed in front of them while someone reads through each page with them. Neurotypical children get to choose what activity they want to do when it’s free-time, but often autistic kids aren’t even allowed free-time, let alone choose their desired activity.

Non-autistic kids are allowed to say no. If they don’t want to do something, say go on a bike ride, they can say they’d rather do something else, and their request will be adhered to. If that child doesn’t want to play with their cousin Lily, but would rather play with their cousin, Taylor, they can. If that child is finished with an activity they can say so, and if they’ve done it for enough time (far less time than what is required of an autistic child) they can stop.

We see time and again where the neuro-typical child gets to make choices and say no. But what about the autistic child? They’re made to comply their entire childhood, especially the ones in ABA, which is a large percentage of the autistic population.

Through autistic training, children learn they can’t say no, neither can they make choices for themselves, and when they are allowed to make choices, those options are very narrowed – a choice between two books, two activities, two food items.

If an autistic child can’t talk or can’t communicate well, it compounds the problem even more. They’re not taught to say no, it’s not part of autism education, nor part of life for many autism parents, they often don’t comprehend how important it is to teach their child to say no.

teach your children to say no

What happens when a child doesn’t learn the word no as part of their vocabulary? Sparrow Rose Jones lays it out wonderfully in her article, No You Don’tI wish every autism parent, every professional working with autistic children would read this.

If you don’t teach the autistic child to say no, you’re opening a plethora of problems for them.

People will take advantage of them, and this is especially dangerous for girls. If girls aren’t taught to say no, they open themselves to great harm; sexual abuse.

But the truth is, it’s dangerous and unfair for all autistic individuals, even boys, to not be given the opportunity to say no. If they don’t know how to say no, or when to say no, they open themselves to being taken advantage of and abused in our society.

“I want you to teach your children to say no and I want them to know how to mean it and back it up when they say it. I want you to teach your children to value themselves.” Sparrow Rose Jones, autistic adult

How do you teach your nonverbal child to say no? One way is to implement a “No” card or picture if you use PECS or a communication system. We started with showing Jeremiah the “No” card whenever he didn’t want something, his way of showing us used to be turning his head away or walking away. Each time your child shows you with actions or sounds they don’t want something you can show them this “No” card, and you can begin to incorporate it in the cards/photos they use.

Jeremiah doesn’t use many PECS pictures, so the “No” card hasn’t caught on, however he’s been verbalizing much more in the past months and can make the sound “uh uh,” and shake his head sometimes. We take each of these opportunities and say for him either, “No, I don’t want that,” or “No thank you.” He is shaking his head and verbalizing his no quite often and it’s so exciting. For him to be able to communicate what he wants and doesn’t want is a BIG deal.

When children are taught from a young age that they have to do everything the adult says, exactly how the adult says to, exactly when the adult tells them, it creates…compliance.

That compliance cycle can create many problems for children down the road. As autism parents and educators, we need to give children choices and the opportunity to say no.

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why the adoptive parent’s opinions matter

why the adoptive parents opinions matterEveryone has opinions, and when you adopt or foster, you get ideas on how you should raise your kids from every which way.

Birth mothers want to be called “mom,” or “mother,” but you want to refer to her as “birth mom.” Your son would like to call her, “tummy mommy,” but his birth mom wants to be referred to as “Mom.” What do you do? Older adoptees share their opinions on how we should raise our kids, what we should tell them, what not to say.

Our world is so focused on always being politically correct, and yes, there’s definitely a necessity for that, but it seems that in the case of adoption it takes away from what adoptive parents want. It’s as if our opinions don’t matter, and I’ve been told by adoptees exactly that, my feelings and perspectives don’t matter. Other parents have been told by their child’s biological family what to do and what terminology to use. But my feelings as an adoptive parent do matter, because I’m the one who adopted my child, I’m the one who’s raising them.

As for the opinions on biological families, for some adoptive families it works well to have the birth families (or some of use the term “biological family”) over for holiday celebrations, but for others that would be *beep* on wheels. It would not go well, and it wouldn’t benefit our children. Why? Because each of our children have different stories, different backgrounds, different needs, different relationships with their biological families.

No one person can tell everyone else what to do with their adopted or foster children. Just as in families who have all biological children, you won’t see two families who do things exactly alike. No one group of adoptees can tell every adoptive family how to raise their kids and how it’s going to end up in the future.
you can listen to opinions on adoption, but ultimately it's your family

Is it important listen to adoptees? Absolutely. However, when their opinions come with too many absolutes, then it’s time to beware. As adoptive parents we can also choose the voices we want to surround ourselves with. We can hear the less positive opinions from adoptees about adoption and foster care, but we can choose not to surround ourselves with it after hearing it the first time.

After hearing what those involved with Flip the Script had to say, I was told I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. I wasn’t the deaf one, I heard them.

It’s kind of like a pregnant woman. Does she want to hear negativity from the mother whose birthing experience was horrible, endless hours of excruciating pain, how carrying that child wrecked her back, she was bed-ridden, unable to do anything she enjoyed. Or, do would the newly pregnant mother want to surround herself with mothers who had a good, positive experience? Will she hear the negative? Yes. But what will she choose to listen to the most. And I would like to add, it’s ALL in the way it’s said.

Many adoptees involved in the Flip the Script movement tell us we need to listen to them, and that us adoptive parents don’t matter in the equation.

Madeleine Melcher wrote an article, What an Adoptee Wants You to Know About Adoption. In it she says, “Parents: there is no voice on or about adoption that is more important than YOUR ADOPTEE’S.” She also says,

“Adoptees have different feelings about their own adoptions.”

I love what Madeleine says. It’s true, our children’s voice comes first. Then come ours (shocker) because we’re the ones raising them. We should listen to others who’ve been there, but we get to choose who we want to surround ourselves with.

Unlike what some adoptees would like us to think, each child will have their own views of their adoption. Yes, it’s up to us parents to listen to a variety of voices on the subject, including those who’ve been adopted and fostered, but those voices are going to vary too.

Because everyone has their own story, shaped by their own experience.

Here are some more posts that may interest you:
Are Your Worries About Your Child’s Future Stealing Joy from the Present?
Birth Family Relationships

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autism’s siblings: what a 7-year-old has to say about autism and her brother

autism siblings: what a 7-year-old has to say about autism and her brotherAfter reading an article on Huffington Post titled, “My Sons Love Their Sister but Not Autism,” I decided to ask my non-autistic daughter a question.

I thought Payton would have a different perspective so I asked, “Payton, do you like autism?” Payton answered, “Yes.” Then I shared with her what I’d told the nursing staff at the hospital where I speak on autism. I had told the nurses that Payton is the best sister I could have asked for Jeremiah. I went on to tell her how amazing she is, and how much she understands autism.

She smiled, thought for a few moments and said, “Another sister might have loved Jeremiah, but may not have understood Jeremiah.”

This video stemmed from that conversation. I wanted to share this 7-year-olds perspective on autism.

We went through the questions only once before this interview. There are some things Payton said during the note-taking that I thought I’d share with you. Note: She didn’t use notes while doing this interview.

Question: Is there anything special about Jeremiah?
Answer: He makes cool sounds. He makes me more interested in autism.

Question: Do you like your brother?
Answer: Yeah. Some people might like Jeremiah or love him, but might not understand him. Like, I like Candice (girl at school), but sometimes she pulls my hair.

Question: Do you know Jeremiah loves you even though he can’t tell you with words?
Answer: Yes. If I didn’t have a brother like this I wouldn’t be so happy about what he’s learning. (She does get VERY excited when does something new, and often points it out, or shows great interest when we tell her about it.)

Question: How do you know he loves you?
Answer: He’s gentle and touches my hair and holds my hand. Sometimes he’s not gentle, but he usually is and that makes me feel like he loves me and likes me.

She also made comments over and over about how what Jeremiah does and that learning about autism “makes her feel really good inside.”


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15 tips on how to be an awesome foster and adoptive parent

15 tips on how to be an awesome foster parent
I came across this amazing article by a former foster child. It has excellent tips on what makes a good foster parent, but I also feel it’s without a doubt useful for adoptive parents as well. I’ll give you a snippet of LT’s post, but you’ll have to click the link for more.

1.  Caring and Interest

Show interest in the child. Ask what is going on in their world. Ask what they feel. They may not answer, but show that you are interested. Showing interest shows you care. In so many of the foster homes/group homes I stayed in, no-one even asked about school, let alone how I felt or what was going on in my world. I knew they never cared about me. Foster kids may act like we don’t want you to care about us, but deep down we do. We are just trying to protect ourselves from getting hurt again…
TO SEE MORE great advice, click here: What Makes a Good Foster Mom/Dad – Tips from a Former Foster Child


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how Autism Speaks spreads awareness: it’s not what you think

how Autism Speaks spreads awareness - it's not what you think*You can listen to a recording of this post, just scroll to the end.

Autism Awareness Month needs some work. A large portion of awareness is propelled by Autism Speaks, but what is Autism Speaks saying about autism and what is their awareness doing? I thought I’d give you a glimpse at how Autism Awareness needs to change to Autism Acceptance, a concept that isn’t new, nor initiated by me. Autistic adults have been trying to make a change for years.

So, since Autism Speaks seems to be the organization we see plastered everywhere when we think of autism, let’s take a look at what they believe, and what their “awareness” is composed of.

Autism Speaks is hailed as wonderful by a multitude of autism parents. It’s one of the largest organizations that attaches its name to autism, and because autism parents think this establishment is going to find answers for their children, much of the world views Autism Speaks positively.

Individuals who stand on the sidelines give money to Autism Speaks because they see an organization that’s helping families who live with autism. But there are a few problems with Autism Speaks. It’s taken me a couple years to make such bold comments on this organization because I really wanted to find out the whole truth.

I’ve heard enough now, and have formed my opinions.

The first red flag that’s been raised is, Autism Speaks doesn’t listen to autistic adults. Autistic adults have written innumerable letters and contacted Autism Speaks countless times asking them to change what they tell the world about autism.

In the 2014 Joint Letter to the Sponsors of Autism Speaks, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (as well as over a dozen other mental health and disability groups) writes, “Autism Speaks’ senior leadership fails to include a single autistic person. Unlike non-profits focused on intellectual disability, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and countless other disabilities, Autism Speaks systematically excludes autistic adults from its board of directors, leadership team and other positions of senior leadership…The slogan of the disability rights movement has long been, ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us.’ Almost nine years after its founding, Autism Speaks continues to refuse to abide by this basic tenet of the mainstream disability community.”

Autistic adults aren’t going in with guns blazing, they’ve tried without success to communicate with Autism Speaks in a cordial manner. In the 2014 Joint Letter to the Sponsors of Autism Speaks, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network also writes, “It is our hope that we may work together in a spirit of partnership to find new and less controversial ways for you to show your commitment to our community.” If this isn’t making great efforts to work together in an agreeable way, I don’t know what is.

Second, Autism Speaks highlighted the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in their 2013 Walk Now for Autism Speaks Resource Fair. The JRC abuses autistic people with shock therapy, isolation, and much more. Here’s an excellent article written by Jess at A Diary of a Mom on the heinous acts the JRC inflicts upon the disabled, Judge Rotenberg Center.

The third issue is, Autism Speaks focuses on preventing and curing autism. Only 4% of Autism Speaks budget goes to “family support”, that “family support” being the portion individuals who donate think most of their money is going to. Whereas, 44% goes to research. Autism Self-Advocacy Network says, “Most of the research that Autism Speaks funds is devoted to causation and ‘prevention,’ including the prospect of prenatal testing.”

Autistic adults don’t want to be cured, they LIKE their autism. They tell us autism is part of who they are. 

My son, Jeremiah, would not be who he is if he didn’t have autism. Yes, certain aspects of his personality would be the same, for example, he’s really well behaved and doesn’t get in trouble doing typical “kid” stuff. But so much of who he is directly correlates with autism.

I completely support wanting to help the autistic person deal with things that are difficult for them, but to eradicate autism altogether, I’ve come to believe isn’t the right thing to do. Autism gives us a view into a world we otherwise would never witness, and so much of it is special and beautiful.

When autistic people say they don’t want to be cured I think this is a powerful statement that needs to be heard. I think so much of what we think we know about autism is perspective and who influences that perspective.

And prenatal testing? We just opened whole new &%$# load of problems with these words. What does prenatal testing do? Does it prepare the parents for what’s ahead, give them a heads up? Or does it more likely give the option of terminating pregnancies where the child has autism? The latter is far more likely and I have very strong opinions on the matter which I won’t discuss here.
autism awareness month must inlcude the autistic adult

Another problem I have with Autism Speaks is how they refer to our children who have autism. The Autism Self-Advocacy Network says,

“Autism Speaks’ advertising depends on offensive and outdated rhetoric of fear and pity, presenting the lives of autistic people as ‘tragic burdens on our families and society.’ In its advertising, Autism Speaks has compared being autistic to ‘being kidnapped, dying of a natural disaster, and having a fatal disease.'”

My son has what Autism Speaks would consider “severe autism,” he’s nonverbal, his sensory processing issues overwhelm him at times, and he’s the child you might find having a meltdown on any given day. Yet, I DON’T feel any of these statements are true of my son or our family. Neither do many autistic individuals.

Fifth, the CEO of Autism Speaks doesn’t even understand the autistic individual. In an address Suzanne Wright recently made to the Pope, she said, “Autism is forcing parents and caregivers to slow down the frenetic pace of our modern world and look into the eyes of our loved ones.” Do you know how autistic people feel about eye contact? Suzanne obviously doesn’t. You should hear what they say. Many of them say it’s actually painful.

Sixth, the support Autism Speaks provides to families only makes it possible for those families to get their child in ABA therapy, and much of their financial support doesn’t stay local. ABA doesn’t focus on the child’s positive attributes, it focuses on removing the negatives. It doesn’t focus on WHY the child has certain behaviors. Many autistic adults were harmed by ABA, and for many it caused them to have PTSD and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

The main problem I have with Autism Speaks is it promotes a very negative view of autism. I shared some of their propaganda above. They also show you the most severe autism, a child who is overweight, one who falls on the floor, flailing in the midst of a meltdown. The biggest problem I have with their “awareness” is they don’t tell you WHY the person is behaving this way. Mostly because they don’t really know and don’t understand.

Autism Speaks only focuses on the overstressed parent who doesn’t know what to do and that parent only sees the negatives in their child’s autism. They show the difficulties, but they don’t show the WHY or the good.

As I said earlier, Autism Speaks is the voice the world hears on autism. What is it saying? Are their words positive? Are they uplifting? Do they make people feel good about autism or think it’s a horrible disease that needs to be eradicated? This is awareness, but the wrong kind of awareness.

As countless of autistic adults have said, it needs to be Autism Acceptance Month. To accept autism, we need to know WHY, not simply what is, or what certain cases look like on the Spectrum.

It’s a whole picture, a whole person that Autism Speaks is ignoring. They definitely aren’t accepting autism. 

Make sure and come back for follow-up posts on Autism Acceptance, one will specifically focus on WHY autistic people do what they do, this is to bring understanding, but also in larger part, acceptance.

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when parents accept autism, the world will too

when parents accept autismApril is Autism Awareness Month and there are many autistic individuals and some autism advocate parents who would love to see that changed to Autism Acceptance Month. So as part of Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month, I want to ask what we’re doing to accept autism.

Accepting autism begins in the home of the autistic person, it begins with the parents and their view of autism. If you’re an autism parent, what is your view of autism, of your child?

*You can read about why I refer to those who have autism as “autistic” in the post It’s in a Word: Autistic vs. Has Autism.

Do you view your child through a positive lens? Or do you view them through a negative one, focusing on those “bad” behaviors (when your child is simply trying to communicate, or over or underwhelmed with sensory input), inability to make eye contact (some autistic people actually feel pain when forced to look someone in the eye), lack of social skills (or is it really different social skills)?

Something that can keep us from seeing the positives or potential in our child or from accepting who they are is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

If your child’s in ABA, please know that I’m not judging you. I’m speaking honestly about how I feel based on my sons experience and how autistic adults who have sometimes suffered at the hands of ABA therapists feel. We are all on a learning path and the voices that have overwhelmed your experience are the ones that will largely determine the path you’re on.

Most of the time that path for autism parents is ABA. They jump blindly into it because everyone who has a child with autism seems to be doing it, and almost every therapist, teacher, or doctor you talk to highly recommends it.

I believe when ABA is extremely modified it can be helpful to a child who has autism. Some ABA therapists work under the guise of ABA when there isn’t much similarity so insurance will cover their services, however some ABA therapists still hold to the fundamentals of how ABA began. If you don’t know how it began, I encourage you to read ABA by Sparrow Rose Jones, an autistic adult who suffered under ABA. It’s important to know where this therapy stems from and if the therapy your child’s in has morphed from how it originated. Don’t worry, I know it’s overwhelming, and this post will help you know what too look for and be aware of.

ABA’s focus isn’t on the positives in your child, or respecting who they are as a person, the goal is to conform them into what the world around them sees as “normal” and it’s based on a “fake it until you make it” mentality. And what if your child feels very normal and doesn’t want to change?

I understand there are behaviors we need to help our children work through, however ABA doesn’t do this in a positive, encouraging way, it does it in a very negative way, not recognizing who the person they’re working with is, nor respecting what that person wants. ABA’s focus is to work the “bad” behaviors out of the autistic person, having no idea or care as to why that person is acting the way they are. Dr. Ivar Lovaas, the man who developed ABA says, “You have to put out the fire first before you worry how it started.”

“Autistic children are not allowed to be themselves, being forced instead, to learn how to pretend, never learning self-determination, never allowed to have an independent thought.” – Amy Sequenzia in her post, My Thoughts on ABA

“If you want something from me, if you want me to do something, respect who I am, respect my way of doing things, listen to me and allow me to disagree and to find my own way.” – Amy Sequenzia in her post My Thoughts on ABA

Autistic children need to be reinforced with positives just the same as non-autistic children. We need to find out the why behind behaviors (because behavior is communication), not suppress them because they don’t fit into society, or those behaviors bother us. We consider the autistic individual and find solutions they agree with, not ones that are forced on them.

Autistic children should never be forced to sit at a table for hours so they can learn colors, numbers, or letters, they need to learn through their environment (there’s a great example of this in the post More Perspectives on ABA). If an autistic child learns their colors and the stuffed bear is blue, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to correlate this with the outside world. The skills learned in ABA are often non-transferrable to the outside world because they aren’t learning through the environment.
autistic adults thoughts on ABA

I could go on and on about the problems with ABA, but I think this will be more helpful. Ask yourself these questions about your chid’s therapy, both in and outside of school and therapy:

1) Does your child’s therapy focus on the negative behaviors and not reinforcing the positives? How many positives are there to each negative?

2) Does your child have time to BE a child? If they’re going to twenty, thirty, or forty hours of therapy, the answer is no.

3) Would you accept this behavior toward a non-autistic child? I first read about this in the article, Would You Accept this Behavior Towards a Non-Autistic Child? It’s not a new concept, it’s something we should all think about when it comes to our children.

“ABA is nothing more than child abuse. If these same techniques were used against a normal child, all HELL would be raised.” (Referring to ABA in it’s true, pure form.) – Jeff Sexton (autistic)

4) Is the goal of your child’s ABA compliance? A great article about this very issue is, No You Don’t by Sparrow Rose Jones. This article hit me hard. It’s extremely important to take a look at ABA from this angle. If everything is compliance and your child isn’t allowed to choose or say “No,” then there’s an enormous, life affecting issue going on. In No You Don’t, Sparrow spells out exactly what can happen to autistic individuals who are forced to comply with every request, and as a woman she speaks to the sexual abuse she’s endured because of this being ingrained in her psyche.

5) Are you allowed to be part of the therapy? If not, this raises a big red flag. Parents have the right to know what’s happening during their child’s therapy. Also, I feel very strongly that most therapy (meaning simply learning and guidance for our child) should be done at home. If the therapy you’ve chosen has passed the test, then you should be implementing it at home, this is where a large percentage of learning takes place, not in the classroom or therapy office.

6) Does your child’s therapist force your child to do things that are extremely difficult or impossible for your child to do? This is wrong for anyone to do. I’ve met ABA therapists who don’t know what making eye contact is like for an autistic person.

“As a teacher, I have been horrified by things that were done to children in my classrooms in the name of ABA. It came across as incredibly disrespectful of the human being in question.” – Joanie Calem

7) Is your child given ample opportunity to learn through their environment? Does your child spend time with non-autistic children?

8) Is the therapist on the floor with the child, playing? Are they encouraging you to do the same? In my opinion some of the best therapy for children with autism is Floortime, a therapy created by Stanley Greenspan.

The world says we need to put our autistic children in ABA. Other autism parents. therapists, doctors, and teachers pressure us into doing ABA. They feel it’s the only answer, as if there’s a problem to be solved. Every autism parent seems to be doing it and if you’re not, you feel you’re probably the one who’s wrong. After all, they can’t all be wrong can they? But once you realize the source of ABA, and what it really does to your child, you may reconsider. Once you hear the voices of autistic adults you may realize ABA isn’t the answer.

“[Autistic adults] speak up because we know that our identity and our humanity cannot be taken away, something people who don’t share our neurology seem to believe can happen.” – Amy Sequenzia in her post, My Thoughts on ABA

“What looks like progress is happening at the expense of the child’s sense of self, comfort, feelings of safety, ability to love who they are, stress levels, and more. The outward appearance is of improvement, but with classic ABA therapy, that outward improvement is married to a dramatic increase in internal anxiety and suffering.” – Sparrow Rose Jones (autistic)

When I was in the planning stages for my post More Perspectives on Applied Behavior Analysis, I asked, “What are your thoughts on ABA?” in a social media group consisting of adults on the spectrum, professionals, and parents of people on the spectrum. The responses blew my mind. I came to the deep realization that parents of autistic kids really need to listen to those who’ve gone before our children (and I don’t just mean Temple Grandin). I’ve written some of their replies within the body of this post, and here are a few more:

“I wish ABAs got more training in sensory issues.” – A. Creigh Farinas (autistic)

“There is also a high price that autistic children can pay when ABA is practiced in such a way that compliance itself is a goal – abuse, physical/sexual/emotional.” – Patricia Gabe

“Applying therapies and asking someone to conform to a standard in a one size fits all attitude can strip a person of their natural strengths.” – Nancy Getty

If you’re looking for other autism parents who don’t agree with ABA practices, you can read Emma’s Hope Book .
In the post, Tackling that Troublesome Issue of ABA and Ethics, Ariane writes, “One of the best arguments against ABA is Michelle Dawson’s article, The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists: Ethical Challenges to the Autism-ABA industry.  If you google Applied Behavioral Analysis you will see glowing reports of its efficacy for more than 30 pages.  I actually stopped at the 30th page only because I didn’t have time to continue.  The first book I read on the subject of Autism was Catherine Maurice’s Let Me Hear Your Voice which details how ABA saved two of her children’s lives from Autism.  (I use this language as it is the language employed by the author.)  Catherine Maurice also likens Autism to cancer and ABA as the necessary chemotherapy.  The whole acceptance model obviously is not employed when thinking in these terms, how could it be?  And perhaps this is the single greatest problem when discussing ABA.”

In the above mentioned article, The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists, it mentions how Dr. Ivar Lovaas (developer of ABA) worked with Dr. Rekers to remove homosexuality from children. This is how ABA began. I’ve heard of this throughout the autistic community, but this gives much more detailed information about how it came about.

The autistic adults I’ve heard speak (may be non-speaking, but use communication devices) about their autism feel it’s a large part of who they are, and to try to remove or cure it is an assault on their personhood. As I said earlier, there is no better way to learn about autism than from those who have gone before our children.

There is much more I have to say about ABA, you can read more of my thoughts in the links I’ve mentioned, My Thoughts on Applied Behavior Analysis and More Perspectives on Applied Behavior Analysis. I’ve also written an article for an anthology that will be published by a professor at Michigan University later this year (I can’t give away everything I’ve written in that article ;)).

Let’s accept who our children are so the world can accept them.
#AutismAwarenessDay #AutismAwarenessMonth

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