On Tuesday 12th October we protested the BILD International PBS Conference in Glasgow outside the Doubletree Hilton on day one of the three day event. 150 attendees were confirmed to be inside being educated on compliance training and had paid up to £400 for the privilege. 100 more attended online. AIM Directors Jenny Payne and Emma Dalmayne flew out early that morning, with their day starting at 4.00am.
They were joined by several other Neurodivergent advocates including Heather from Autistic Allies , @LiteralBonny, Jackie aka Specs and @TransPondering. They set up banners, posters, leaflets and placards and prepared to stand outside come rain or shine.
There was no shine unfortunately; it was freezing and rainy. As a welcome surprise the BILD staff sent out an employee named Laura who was very helpful and supplied us with tea/coffee and, in the end, lunch.
We sat down with the chair of BILD, Fiona Ritchie, and staff member Ben Higgins and had a discussion about PBS, trauma and ABA. We put our concerns across and they listened and were very pleasant; however when Fiona asked Emma what the ideal outcome from the meeting would be and Emma responded that they stop providing PBS, Fiona replied that if they didn’t supply it, someone else would. Emma replied that that’s something a crack dealer would say, “Oh if I don’t sell crack on that estate, someone else will”. Fiona didn’t have an answer to that.
Emma also stated that she didn’t see how anything could be run for autistic people without autistic people in charge of it. That it was like a cis white male running a Black LGBTQIA service for Black LGBTQIA service users.
Heather Beattie was also present and adds, “I was surprised to hear Fiona Higgins didn’t see the connection between people with learning difficulties and autistic people. Saying she only works with learning difficulties. My bet is a lot of these clients could also very much be autistic and it’s a bit worrying that she didn’t see that 😕. Just because you aren’t officially diagnosed doesn’t mean you aren’t autistic and many people with learning difficulties will probably be missed diagnostic-wise.”
We discussed trauma responses and the trauma PBS can cause, the fact that a compliance-driven reward-based therapy ignores autonomy, sets vulnerable people who have been subjected to ABA up for grooming and that every behaviour is a communication. Ben did say he liked our terminology of autistic people being challenged by the environment, not that they themselves were challenging.
It was certainly an interesting day. We then continued our protest and were joined by many others who had made the journey.
Ben has contacted AIM since we got back and wishes to speak further. Honestly, the only thing BILD should do is stop supplying PBS and look to autistic advisors for guidance on working with autistic individuals and to explore better ways to support autistic individuals. Until then we unfortunately cannot see any headway being made.
Thank you to all who came out today and thank you to the BILD staff who were, at least, cordial and polite; some of their attendees were sadly lacking in manners and were condescending and rude.
We think this at least shows that AIM is about peaceful protesting and strategising by listening to both sides of subjects.