AIM were recently contacted on our Facebook page by an autistic man named Jonathan Michael Walton. Jonathan, 30, from Bradford, UK was subjected to ABA and has now been referred by his GP for psychotherapy due to the PTSD it caused him.
He kindly agreed to be interviewed by Emma Dalmayne, and we are thankful to him for giving us this chance to show the damage compliance-based therapies do in the long term.
Emma Dalmayne: How old were you started ABA and when you finished it?
Jonathan Michael Walton: I was 8 when I started and 15 when I finished.
ED: How was it practised? For example, clickers, motivators, planned ignoring, rewards and punishments?
JMW: Using points and reward charts on my behaviour and planned punishments for trivial matters.
ED: What was it your parents were trying to make you do or achieve?
JMW: My mum and stepdad were wanting me to behave more ‘normal’ because I would embarrass them apparently. They would do end of the week rewards.
ED: Do you feel it helped you in any way?
JMW: It didn’t help me much, it made me feel I was being bad a majority of the times.
ED: Were you allowed to stim during the session?
JMW: I wasn’t encouraged to stim but was told to be calm and not talk or move around.
ED: Was eye contact encouraged or forced?
JMW: They preferred me making eye contact and I was often told to make eye contact when being punished or in meetings.
ED: Were there punishments and if so what were they? Same for rewards.
JMW: There was punishments for talking, and not being allowed to do activities if I was one point off my behaviour chart standard that they set for me. My school had certificates and they expected me to get platinum certificates: that’s no behaviours in classes and ensuring I am compliant with my school work. They would reward us with activities as first choice although some staff told to pick certain activities I said no otherwise. Depending on what certificates I got at school then my parents would treat accordingly. If I got a gold or silver certificate they would question me what went wrong and why did you do this.
ED: What have been the long term effects on you?
JMW: Questioning myself and I often feel like I shouldn’t be having a choice, and I get upset with myself thinking that I’m not going to be seen as a human being because I don’t meet a certain standard. The school I was in is called Balliol and it was a SEN school for kids with emotional behavioural difficulties. I wasn’t diagnosed Autistic until I was 21. But some of the kids at my school were on the autistic spectrum with a late diagnosis. I also was restrained a lot as well. A lot of it was emotional and psychological abuse. I did go to a residential SEN school and the GP said that I have been majorly let down.
ED: Finally, a message for parents thinking of doing ABA, Jonathan?
JMW: Parents, don’t do ABA. It makes your kids question everything they do. Your kids will get more anxious as they get older thinking they were been rude or apologising for trying to be social. Let your kids do stuff and don’t force eye contact.
Thank you to Jonathan. Please share this article.