Open letter to the NAS: 2019 election

On the evening of 24 Nov 2019, during a British election campaign, there hit social media an Open Letter to the NAS, National Autistic Society, against apparent support for the Conservatives shown by its Twitter feed. Against the partisanship rules for a national medical charity, and supporting exactly the party that most alarms folks concerned for strong public services.

It is signable by editing a Google document to add your signature onto it. 2 notes on this method:

  • Select DESKTOP SITE if your device allows. Otherwise you may need a computer to sign it: on smaller devices it tries to take you through the app Google Docs, and make you download it if you have not already.
  • could a hostile person come in + wipe your signature? The answer from another user of this method, a recent campaign against a promotion of Applied Behaviour analysis in a careers fair in Brighton university, was: ” Offline computers are saved on my computer even if the link is compromised the official document isn’t. ” It worked: the signatures were not wiped.

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The open letter says this, worth further airing here :

To whom it may concern:

On the 6th of November 2019, Mark Blake (President of the Autistic League), was present at the Careers Fair at AMEX Stadium. There he was shocked and concerned to find present a school that performs ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) on autistic children. You have received this letter, signed by a large group of autistic adults, in an attempt to persuade you to stop ABA schools coming into the Brighton Careers Fair next year, as well as banning them from future careers and networking events. ABA is abuse. It is conversion therapy to make autistic people behave less stereotypically autistic. Although it is still legal, an increasing number of studies, and testimonials from Autistic people who have undergone this ‘therapy’ have shown that it causes PTSD.

ABA works by establishing a punishment-reward model as a form of “therapy”. The actual uses on autistic children and adults varies, from extreme forms including the use of electroshock treatment, physical restraint and confinement, to, on the milder end, a rewards system, rewarding neurotypical behaviour.

ABA forces autistic people to mask in social situations, disregard our own physical and emotional responses to situations, and teaches unthinking compliance to authority figures, which leaves us vulnerable to abuse while growing up. ABA schools and therapists will say autistic people who did this can do things that they never did before. But even if we look and behave more agreeably to the outside world our autistic responses do not go away – and the autistic person is taught to hate themselves for even thinking of responding to any situation in an autistic manner. This contributes to PTSD, depression, anxiety and eventual suicide if the ABA survivor is not helped. Parents and allies say they want us to find our uniqueness and thrive as our authentic autistic selves. ABA leads to the inverse of that.

Jonathan Mooney, a prominent autistic rights activist; recommends dropping the deficit mindset. He says: “Every single kid has something right with them. And my challenge to you is to find it, name it, and grow it.”

“There’s a deeply held belief that these are deficiencies inside of a person — and for somebody with these deficiencies to be OK in the world, they’ve got to stop being different and fix their problem,” Mooney says. “But the reality is that these things are not deficiencies. They are differences. And they deserve not to be pathologized and fixed, but celebrated and included as a part of the spectrum of human diversity. By doing or even promoting ABA you are pathologizing and demonising autistic kids and those [who grow up to be] adults experience real trauma as a result of this.” In the short term, please contact Mark for a meeting so he can explain the first steps that should be taken.

There is also the issue, aside from any of the discussions above, that ABA has been proven to cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in it’s subjects. That is is described as such by a slowly growing number of online commentators who have been through it.

Please remember that ABA is only a few years old. In 20 years we the undersigned believe the youth subjected to it now, will be adults only too willing to testify to the harm it has caused them. Vulnerable autistic children are usually unable to relate to what is happening in such an abstract experience and may even think that what they are going through is a good thing. We believe that it is only a matter of time before the truth about ABA becomes clear. Truth that will only emerge through the growth of the numbers of injured people.

ABA is linked to increased risk of PTSD (Kupferstein, 2018). We as autistic people do not need to be trained into compliance, we need more compassion. We need people to use the social model of disability and realise that our difficulties are created by a society which exclusively caters to a single neurotype. We are not deficient, there is no illness to cure, there is no pathological behaviour to unlearn. Just accept us as people. The only way we will ever integrate into society is if society welcomes us as human beings and celebrates all of our differences. ABA teaches blind compliance, that whomever is giving the orders must be followed without question. That leaves a lot of people vulnerable to abuse. Autistic people need to be nurtured to develop into independent people with the power of choice and freedom to say no. Keep us safe and put funding into better areas, please.

Please find these articles and research that also backs up what we are saying.

Chown, N., Hughes, E., Leatherland, J. and Davison, S. (2019), ‘Response to Leaf et al.’s critique of Kupferstein’s finding of a possible link between applied behaviour analysis and post-traumatic stress disorder’, Advances in Autism, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 318-318, Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-01-2019-0002 (Accessed 13/11/19).

Kupferstein, H. (2018), ’Evidence of increased PTSD symptoms in autistics exposed to applied behavior analysis’, Advances in Autism, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 19-29, Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-08-2017-0016 (Accessed 13/11/19) . https://stopabasupportautistics.home.blog/2019/08/11/the-great-big-aba-opposition-resource-list https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/AIA-01-2019-0002/full/html https://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/66678/ http://www.larry-arnold.net/Autonomy/index.php/autonomy/article/view/AR3/21

Kind Regards,
the signatories