Alix Generous is a professional speaker, neuroscientist, author, tech consultant, and observational comedian. From 2013 to September 2016, she was the co-founder for Podium (formerly AutismSees), a social impact company that creates technology to help high functioning autistic millennials improve their presentation skills. In her 2015 TED talk, she comedically shares how tech improved her public speaking skills. This week she shared some of her personal experiences growing up on the autism spectrum and the current state of autism-related technology.
A friend of mine recently took her autistic 7th grader to a doctor appointment. During the appointment, the developmental pediatrician told her that after observing the behavior of her other 15-month-old son whom she had also brought along, this child was also on the spectrum. The doctor went on to recommend enrollment in a full-time ABA therapy program now if she didn’t want her baby to “end up like” her older son. My friend was shocked by this news and left wondering how best to proceed. The doctor’s aggressive unofficial diagnosis and recommendations left her worried that if she didn’t follow the orders, she would be failing as a parent.
My son is well-behaved in settings where there are clear rules and expectations and a consistent schedule; however, this environment doesn’t exist everywhere. He never has behavior problems at school or therapy, and he enjoys going to these places without feeling overwhelmed. One skill he has difficulty with in an unstructured setting is waiting in line. There are a variety of ways to teach this skill, but I’ve found it difficult to apply one strategy to the numerous different waiting scenarios we encounter in life. Parents should both teach the skill of waiting and look for catalysts that make it difficult for children to exercise the skill in certain environments.
Ethical challenges can sometimes arise in the implementation of ABA and other behavior interventions. These challenges may be due to power differentials, misunderstandings about autism, or differing perceptions about how autism should be addressed. I’ve discussed some of these ethical issues in a previous post, and here I wanted to offer the opinion of someone who works with autistic individuals every day in a clinical setting. The questions below have been answered by a clinical director of a behavior analysis center and are reproduced in his own words. As he mentions, ABA can be used to support the goals of any individuals, but all of his center’s clients happen to be on the autism spectrum.
In my last post, I discussed some of the controversy surrounding Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA) and how Natural Environment Training (NET) might be a nice compromise for parents who want to try the therapy but are apprehensive about its intensity. In this post, I’ll explain our family’s experience with both therapies. While our story isn’t necessarily representative of either mode of therapy, it may offer some useful information for families considering these interventions for their children.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a popular therapy for children and young adults on the autism spectrum. Despite the scientific data supporting the effectiveness of ABA, this therapy has been scrutinized by the autistic community for its widespread unethical administration. The ABA debate can be confusing to parents who are trying to find the best resources and supports for their autistic children. For parents skeptical of ABA therapy, the natural environment training (or teaching) (NET) branch may offer a compromise.