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artistic_driver_slicense
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17 Jul 2021, 8:44 am

Hi, I'm looking for a place to discuss my (bad) experience with ABA as an adult, and I'm looking for other people who might have had similar experiences. When I've tried Google, almost everything is either 1) for and by NT parents or therapists, or 2) about more extreme/ overtly abusive (think Lovass Style, DTT, aversives) ABA, and virtually everything only discusses ABA for children. I was hoping here on Wrongplanet I could find someone who has experience with the same kind of ABA I did, or someone who could point me in the direction of a forum/place where people like me are discussing similar experiences.
My ABA company touted itself as specializing in high-functioning adults, and it was the only company in my area that worked with HF adults at all. My parents decided to enroll me when I was 17, after I missed almost half of my senior year of high school (due to trauma and an extreme depressive episode- I was dx'd with Major Depressive Disorder when I was 10, but my symptoms were never this bad), and then was forcibly hospitalized after I started having manic episodes (I was dx'd with Bipolar Disorder at the hospital, and my meds were changed so I was much more stable when they discharged me.) Anyway, my mom's therapist suggested ABA, bc she knows I'm on the spectrum, and that they could come to the house and help "ease me in" to doing daily tasks, like staying on a schedule, taking my pills, getting my schoolwork done, applying to college, etc.
My ABA "therapists" fixated on me being "independent," often using (how they assumed) my family felt about having to provide things like money for college, transportation, and even taking me on family vacations. Although initially they decided to "reward" me with things like burgers and soda, they stopped using tangibles after it was clear that 1. I was usually too depressed to be motivated by food or trips to the bookstore, and 2. These "rewards" felt more like punishments, since, once a reward was set, my therapists would not allow me to have the reward until I met the goal, even if I normally had it for dinner once a week, like the burger. I know this is common in ABA, to make the tangible more reinforcing, but for an adult it's just humiliating. Also, from the beginning it was clear that one of my "therapists" had a warped sense of boundaries: one session (where i was not getting out of bed), she started ranting about how "You don't know how lucky you are that your parents are paying for your college! When I was 18, my father told me to get out and get a job! I didn't get to sit in bed all day! I had to go out and work!" My therapists' next form of "motivation" was to guilt-trip me. Common phrases were: "Well, you know mom wants her own life," "What if your parents want to go on vacation without you? Would you be able to stay here without them for a weekend?" "You're 18/19/20 years old! You should know how to do [xyz.]" "I hate to say this, but mom and dad aren't gonna be around forever... god forbid something should happen to them, how would you support yourself?" This last one, understandably, would sometimes make me cry. One therapist would respond to this with, "You can't cry every time we talk about something you don't like!" Even when I would talk to my family separately about the things my therapists insisted bothered them, such as driving me to school, paying for my classes, clothes, shoes, etc., going on vacation with me, even just me living with them, my family would reassure me they did not care, they just wanted me to learn to be independent for ME, not for them. When I would bring this info to my ABA "therapist" next session, she seriously looked at me and said, "They're just saying that to be nice, you know that right?" This, over time, really warped my sense of reality and ruined any trust I had with my parents. I was never sure if they were telling the truth, or if they were just saying something "to be nice."
As a result of this "if you can't do it for you, do it for your family," method of "motivation," I withdrew from my family and isolated myself. I became passively suicidal, and I really believed the world would be better if I hadn't been born, because the costs of all the therapies, medicine, and just the emotional toll of raising me, a kid with ASD/ MI, outweighed the benefits. Even when I was at my lowest, in the hospital, I didn't think the world would be better off without me. My ABA team did that. For awhile, I subconsciously believed that if I "completed" a goal (ex: take bus to school and back 1x a week alone), I would "win" my family's love back, and they wouldn't silently resent me anymore. So when the goals kept increasing (now it was take the bus 2x a week), I became angry and frustrated, because it felt like it would never end. My therapists just treated this as me not wanting to do any work. Similar to the crying, they viewed any valid criticism or negative response to their actions as just an "escape behavior."
(TL;DR)
I'm a 23y/o high functioning adult w Bipolar 2, anxiety, and trauma who went thru in-home ABA therapy from ages 17-20, who is looking for people with similar experiences or a place (like a group, website) where survivors of similar types of ABA (adult, in-home/in-community, no aversives/DTT/drills) are discussing their experiences. I was manipulated: I was coerced into "agreeing to" goals (really my therapist would just stonewall me, and refuse to accept any answer except yes.) My first therapist inappropriately over-shared how her father kicked her out at age 18, and how I didn't know how lucky I was to have my family pay for my school, let alone let me live with them for free! Later on, she brought up making "your parents paying for your college" into a "reward" for some goal. She even said, "if you don't earn it, you can take out loans, just like I did!" My parents shut this down immediately, because I was being set up to fail, and my therapist was obviously taking her own stuff out on me. My therapists gaslit me and convinced me my parents were silently resentful of me not being "independent" (aka moved out, financially stable, not "relying on" them,) to the point where when I checked the facts and asked my parents if this was true (it wasn't), my therapist's response was "they're just saying that to be nice." They stressed that since I'm legally an adult now, I have to be "independent." Ironically, this "independence" just meant, "do whatever behavior we tell you to do, don't question us, even when we lie to you."



AnonymousAnonymous
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17 Jul 2021, 12:59 pm

Welcome to Wrong Planet! :)


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Mona Pereth
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17 Jul 2021, 8:36 pm

artistic_driver_slicense wrote:
Hi, I'm looking for a place to discuss my (bad) experience with ABA as an adult, and I'm looking for other people who might have had similar experiences.

Welcome to Wrong Planet!

I would suggest that you:

1) Post about it in more detail here in this thread on Wrong Planet, and then:

2) Go on Twitter and look at the following hashtags, and any other similar ones you come across:

- #StopABA
- #ABAharms
- #SayNoToABA
- #BetterWaysThanABA

3) Look for people who appear to be autistic rights advocates, especially people with websites and blogs, who are concerned about ABA.

4) Post replies to their tweets, linking to this Wrong Planet thread and asking if they would be willing to either (a) advise you on how to find other adults who have experienced ABA or (b) help you publicize the issue of adult ABA. Hopefully some of them might then be motivated to link to this thread on their websites or blogs.

Luckily, on Twitter (unlike Facebook), you are allowed to use a pseudonym.


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18 Jul 2021, 7:19 pm

Sorry I can't say anything about ABA, never having experienced it, but it sounds terrible.

I just want to say hello and that I read what you wrote and gained some understanding of what you went through.



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22 Aug 2021, 10:20 am

I had an undisclosed ABA therapy experience as a teenager. My therapist was running ABA on me without telling me what it was or giving me some background information on the process. She was basically conditioning me like Pavlov conditioned his dogs, to make me into the "good person" :roll: my parents wanted me to become.

How did the ABA happen? My therapist would react in random ways (to me) to the things I said. If I said something she didn't want to hear or something that went against her loyalty to my parents, she'd mock me, pretend not to know what I'm talking about, brush me off entirely, or accuse me of lying. The mockery consisted of cooing noises like "aww!", laughing at me, smiling at me in patronizing ways, mad-dogging me, or rubbing my misery in my face like "you felt so sad when your parents took away you TV time". Conversely, when I told her about things like getting an A for the semester, seeing a school theatre play, or going to a mall with a classmate after school, she'd sincerely praise me with no trace of mockery, and the smile on her face was genuine. I eventually started fabricating "good" things, to keep her from bugging me about my feelings and to avoid her mockery.

The end goal of this undisclosed ABA therapy was to condition me into acting "right", and the actions were supposed to become automatic on a subconscious level. There was no specific end date. It was one of those "as long as it takes" things; my job was to endure that garbage until I became a "good person" :roll:. But instead of that, I became a really good liar, both to her and to other adults in my life. I also turned to (ab)using alcohol, to cope with the emotional aftermath of some intense sessions.

So that's my story. One thing I still don't understand: why was I never told that ABA was being done on me? :?



Violet_Stardust
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22 Aug 2021, 1:16 pm

I’m new to this and know nothing about ABA, but from what you’re saying, it sounds extremely counterproductive. Like a century ago when they would torture mental “patients,” and when all else failed, finish it with a lobotomy.

May I copy your story and share it with my counselor at my next session, anonymously, to get her opinion and gain more knowledge for myself?



Aspie1
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22 Aug 2021, 6:51 pm

Violet_Stardust wrote:
May I copy your story and share it with my counselor at my next session, anonymously, to get her opinion and gain more knowledge for myself?
If this was directed at me, then yes, I give you permission. However, please black out or delete my username. You may share my demographics only: 38, male, from USA.



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23 Aug 2021, 10:56 am

Thanks Aspie1.
I will respect your privacy absolutely.



Aspie1
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11 Sep 2021, 10:27 am

How did everything go? Did did your counselor react to my experiences?



Violet_Stardust
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21 Sep 2021, 5:09 pm

Sorry for the delay, Aspie1. I haven't been on in a bit due to school.
When I talked to my counselor, she said that your experience sounded like ABA done wrong. She suggested that your therapist might have been young/inexperienced or just lacked a good understanding of the impact it should have. She said that she would never use ABA therapy on an Aspie, as it's not exactly designed for those of us who are so-called "high-functioning." She also indicated that she wouldn't consider it appropriate for teens or adults.
She tried to explain to me the benefits in children who are prone to more extreme violent outbursts, when used properly, but then she kind of lost me. Mostly because I was fixated on the negative at the time and not really receptive to any possibility of ABA therapy being positive/useful.
I do remember her saying something about using it to evaluate cause/effect chains in how the children react to specific things and then if the reaction can't be modified in a healthy way, to modify the trigger instead.
This response probably isn't very useful, but it's the best I have. Terribly sorry...



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23 Sep 2021, 9:18 pm

Violet_Stardust wrote:
When I talked to my counselor, she said that your experience sounded like ABA done wrong. She suggested that your therapist might have been young/inexperienced or just lacked a good understanding of the impact it should have. She said that she would never use ABA therapy on an Aspie, as it's not exactly designed for those of us who are so-called "high-functioning." She also indicated that she wouldn't consider it appropriate for teens or adults.
I knew it! So it was ABA she was doing. She wanted me to stop complaining to her, learn to get better grades to please my parents, and share my feeling the way she required me to. However, instead of directly telling me what she wanted, she turned the whole thing into game of cat-and-mouse, where it was my job to figure out on the fly what was expected from me, and she used "random" reactions to notify me if I was "right" or "wrong". I just didn't figure it out until after the fact. I have a thread talking about it in more detail, so I don't derail this one: viewtopic.php?t=396824.

Violet_Stardust wrote:
I do remember her saying something about using it to evaluate cause/effect chains in how the children react to specific things and then if the reaction can't be modified in a healthy way, to modify the trigger instead.
When I didn't deliver what she wanted to hear, she either mocked me or pretended not know what I was talking about. In which case, I either wasted my time trying to explain myself only to get even more frustrated, or "apologized" to her "for speaking without thinking" and pretended to embrace the narrative she was pushing. In either case, she didn't modify her triggers, because that would go her actual loyalty: my parents. The only coping mechanism I found was alcohol, and age 12 to boot; I still struggle with the habit to this day at 38.



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25 Sep 2021, 1:07 pm

Hi and a warm welcome to you :). ABA doesn't acknowledge that autism is a "natural way of being" for us. In the traditional sense, it seeks to obliterate ALL that we are, all that we do. As an autistic woman, who has worked with many autistic people, children and adolescents, I have used a form of ABA that I altered which accepts that being autistic is a natural way of being.

So much I could say here. Respect to you. X