A white boy looking up and to the right looking concerned, sitting on the floor with his hands around his knees/legs, and a therapist sitting in a chair behind him staring at him with a clipboard. The poster next to the therapist says "autism?"

A Mother’s Fight Against Court-Ordered ABA37 min read

Editor’s Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the content published here, the writer of this article wishes to remain anonymous to protect the privacy of her children.  Beyond reasonable due diligence, the editors at The Aspergian have fact-checked the claims made in this article by viewing court documents, medical records, police reports, email exchanges with law enforcement, and other relevant information referenced herein.

Content Warning: This story contains information detailing sexual abuse, domestic violence, emotional abuse, and child abuse.  Reader discretion advised.

Hollywood and Shattered Dreams

I’m a Brit expat living in California.  I moved out here alone when I was 27 to chase a dream and to run away from a difficult past.  I changed my legal name and just started over.

But Hollywood is far from glamorous, and the industry it hosts is even less so.

I take people at face value, and I am far too trusting.  I realize now I desperately needed support, and I guess in my vulnerable naivety, I thought a partner doubled up as a “carer” who would be the backbone to my weaknesses, and vice versa.

And my romantic notion was shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.  I was taken advantage of, and after years of horrific domestic battery, I’m finally living independently for the first time in my life.

For five years now, I have officially lived without another adult, with my two children who solely depend on me.  I’m free, and I’m thankful to be liberated from that brutal nightmare.

I was granted permanent residency on a visa due to being a victim of excessive domestic violence here.  I am ridiculously homesick, but my mum died of melanoma skin cancer in 2012, and life back home has changed so much.

Fast forward to today.  I’m a single parent in a country with no family, raising two autistic children completely alone with not a dime of child support, emotional support, nor a present, active father-figure for my children — and you will still never hear me complain and moan about the direction our life took.

When you’ve lived what I’ve lived — and I mean legitimate horror, that I gave birth to my son with broken ribs — raising kids on the spectrum is hardly pity-party-worthy.  And yes, both my children are diagnosed with Level 3 Autism.

Bold Activism

I decided to delve into autism advocacy within the court system after I was dragged through a contentious custody battle by the monster who abused us.  This is a true story about how vulnerable parents and vulnerable children are pushed into exploitation, and how hard it is to fight their way out of it.

For example, a domestic batterer can get unmonitored visitations with a child in America as long as they complete a 52-week batterer’s intervention class.  It’s a bitter joke, and it makes a mockery of the entire legal system.

Patterns don’t change.  One or two incidents can possibly be repaired, but an offender with years of history does not change.  Atop this, my abuser had money.  He went through six attorneys attempting to get a 2-2-3 custody arrangement.

How can this work for a child with need of order and routine and predictable rituals?

The system let us down.  The system let down autistic children and battered women, and it was that simple.

I had to take down six attorneys in that courtroom, two of whom were big-time Los Angeles law firm partners.  I realized I had a skillset and the ability to put forth an argument in ways others could not.

I realized I couldn’t be broken during cross-examinations, thanks to my rote approach of answering questions.  My hyper-focus during that court battle meant penal codes just stuck in my memory, much like my obsession with car number plates.

And if I could help my family through all that, I could help other families, too.

A Difficult Exodus

Getting away from this person had taken the life and soul out of my very being, leaving me deathly scarred by the most potent form of PTSD.  I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy.  I suffered with a desperate fear for my children’s safety.

To think the legal system would allow such a person to attempt visits with and custody of their child was horrendous to me.  I do not care WHO made the child; abusers and rapists should not be allowed near them, period.

And with laws as they are, women like me must face our abuser over and over again in the legal system, and be taunted by their very presence and the sheer terror at the potential that he will repeat the abuse on our child.

That is NO life for a child.

And because of this, I will make it my life’s mission to lobby against laws which endanger our most vulnerable.

An Unexpected Pregnancy

What I am about to tell you is very hard for me to share.

As of this past June 15, I am now legally free to talk about this publicly.  Part of me thinks I shouldn’t, but these things should be shared regardless of other people’s opinions.  One must expose injustice, but it wrenches at my heart, talking about it.

When I found out I was pregnant with my son four weeks in, I hadn’t been sexually active in months.  I was so confused.  I was in a seriously harmful domestic violent relationship, and was making plans discreetly with my brother to return home to England.

What people need to know is that leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship, and this person had already taken reckless measures on my life to stop me from leaving him.

Learning of my pregnancy changed everything.  This man was never going to let me leave to another country, not now I carried his child.  I couldn’t risk my baby being hurt physically in my womb, used as revenge against me.

Yes, many people told me to have an abortion.  That decision preyed on me, and what it would have done to my mental health especially at that time to have made that particular choice.

I do not judge any other woman’s choice, ever, and we all have reasons for making the choices we do.  I just had to figure out a way to keep my child safe in this world.

More than 18 months ago, in 2017, a bold computer tech came forward and submitted evidence from a computer he had been asked to repair, hurling me into a massive police and D.A.  investigation which escalated to the level of the California Attorney General’s involvement.

Evidence showed that I, along with 5 other women, had been sexually assaulted while unconscious.  And this monster had filmed and photographed his heinous acts.

Life After Rape

Woman holding her baby in an over-the-shoulder hold.

Nobody tells you that when you choose life after rape, the offender might attempt to get custody of your child.

The custody case and the criminal case were separate.  Rape allegations are hearsay until successful criminal prosecution, so the family law case kept going.  I had to face my rapist in a courtroom monthly to advocate for my son’s rights.  I had to cross-examine my rapist as a self-representing litigant with no money.

This was not the first time my abuser had raped me.  Sexual abuse is a major part of the cycle in domestic violence.  It was simply the first time of my learning it had been done in my sleep, too, while I was on heavy anxiety medication following the death of my mum.

Our family law judge had already found this man credible as a perpetrator of domestic battery and rape, but the latest allegations of SIX women made the other ‘parent’ a serial offender, and nobody, even me, could quite process that he had that level of psychopathy.

I would do anything for my son to have a loving, caring, and positive fatherly role model, but unfortunately that just wasn’t the way our cards were dealt.  And now I am terrified to date again.  In fact, I barely leave the internet, as I fear even being approached by a man in real life.

I have horrendous injuries from the relationship, which I allowed to heal naturally for obvious reasons to most parents.  I would never be able to explain those wounds to a new partner.  I am still massively affected by these events.  I feel my son was robbed of a real and genuine daddy, and it tears me up inside.

And this is where the painful path of ABA began.

Court-Ordered ABA

My son was diagnosed with autism during custody proceedings.

At diagnosis here, the children’s hospital gives parents an Autism Speaks First 100 Days kit, which immediately indoctrinates all parties that these people are the official stamp for autism awareness and acceptance, and that the blue jigsaw piece is the recognized symbol of autism and autistic pride.

Few people question this, if any.  Why would we question a doctor who knew so much about our child’s signs?  Most people walk into diagnosis without any prediction of the outcome, I’m sure.

We were referred to a list of therapies, including ABA.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) was exactly that in my mind: the application of analysing behavior.  Otherwise, why call it so?  I am a literal autistic thinker.

My son was self-harming and awake all night, having the worst meltdowns.  It broke my heart that I couldn’t help him or know how to make him feel better, calm, and happy.  I did the best I could to physically protect him when he was melting down and self-harming.

I was massively inexperienced, and he was trying to express something I just didn’t understand.

If there were “experts” who could come into our life and observe my son’s reactions and demeanor, make an analysis of cause, and advise me what he was trying to express or accomplish, then I was all for it.

I would’ve done anything to stop my son from hurting, and there was no doubt in my mind that he was in pain, whether it be physical or emotional.  I had a lot to learn, and I needed to know more to better help and to better understand my baby.

I just wanted to help my son, and therapy referral seemed like a logical step.

I now have the advantage of being able to view ABA through a parental lens and through an autistic lens.

The Push to Obtain Services

As a parent at the diagnosis and in the weeks following, I can tell you that the paperwork and push to do ABA and obtain services is the most overwhelming and overbearing scenario, and blown completely out of proportion to unnecessary degrees.

I wish I had known then what I know now.  I wish I knew why Autism Speaks gets to be the authority at doctor’s offices, and if they and the doctors are getting a kickback for every ABA referral.

It Wasn’t a Choice

I have NO doubt that my own autistic nature made me a real sucker to pull in and exploit and manipulate.  All I kept thinking is how I did not want to open my door to these ABA people EVERY DAY and challenge my own communication and social difficulties, but I struggled saying NO.

My own anxiety was through the roof with all the phone calls I was made to make for this nonsense.  My executive function may as well have been drenched in gasoline and slinking over a live flame.

Of course, my son was deemed “severe” at assessment.

Our home was encapsulated in high stress.  These people wanted to come to my home for more than 25 hours per week.  They were already telling me that when he turned 5, they would still be coming to my home 25 hours a week after he’d had several hours a day in school.

How was I going to get in the kids’ groceries?  How was I going to get our chores and everything else in our lives done?  Where was the time for my children’s medical appointments?  Where were the accommodations for single parents?

And I was made to feel like a bad parent for even thinking this was too much.  I was made to feel like a neglectful mother for even saying the hours were extreme.  And these were “professionals” making me feel this way: people who are mandated reporters, who could at any time report a parent for not doing what is in child’s alleged best interests.

When you come between a business and their money, they are not above extreme measures.  The incentives ABA carries goes ridiculously high in the hierarchical boundaries of government and business.

I know this, because former Regional Center workers move onto becoming Child Custody Investigator’s (CCI) in courthouses.  And the California Regional Center notoriously arranges ABA through multiple organizations.

A Lose-Lose Situation

Of course, our child custody case reached into the necessity of a CCI, because courts have to earn money, too.  Before I knew it, our child custody investigator was meddling in our ABA services.

The judge on our case was stamping off on a court order which mandated that I make my child available for ABA services, BY LAW.

Why?  Because father and child were to be reunited, and they decided that introducing our now-two, going-on-three year-old son to his father for the first time since he was 4 months old was best accomplished with some ‘parent training’ and autism understanding.

The worse part?  I agreed.  That was a perfect way to reunite, I imagined, because there would be other adults present…  IF only that was the way it went.

Visitations and ABA

When it came to visitations for my son, ABA was the better of two evils, given it was to take place with our former abuser.  My hands were tied.

During all this being arranged, we had already started the ABA in my home, just my son and I…  because no way could I have my autistic child be overwhelmed by TWO sets of strangers in one go.  I needed him to feel comfortable with the ABA process before it took place with a stranger calling himself “Dad.”

But what I saw take place was horrifying, and I just could not stand for my child to be hurt.  When we say ABA is abuse, it’s not being dramatic.  I have lived the worst ABUSE, and not just in partnership, either.  I was raised with corporal punishment.  It was believed my ADHD could be belted out of me with a strap.

So when we talk about abuse, people picture extreme and horrifically obvious abuse.  The truth is, many people have no clue what abuse looks like.  I should know.  A woman could be standing curbside with a black eye and blood running down her temples, and people will still not accept that the person she accuses has abused her.

So put ABA into that picture.

Therapists do not knock at the front door and announce, “Hey I’m here to abuse your kid today.” That is NOT how abuse presents.  QUITE THE OPPOSITE.  In our world today, as far as anyone is concerned, ABA is not abusive because people who administer and support ABA say it’s not.

The fact that everybody thinks ABA is so perfect and charming is exactly how real abuse presents.  But if something appears too good to be true, take heed.

It probably is.

It could be a man, a service, a spouse, or a therapist, and they muscle into your life and family beautifully– like part of the furniture.

But start questioning them or taking away their money and power, and watch that switch flip.  This is when parents need to engage their instincts and protect their children.

Compliance Training

ABA therapists would pull out a chair to our dinner table and have my son push it back in.  At first, I figured they were just trying to see if he CAN do it.  But they kept doing it over and over again.  Then they’d mess up his lined-up toys to provoke him and prove he was “rigid” when their act would cause him to have a meltdown.

Then the goals became something more in the vein of, “Stop this autistic child from wanting to do the same thing over and over, the same way each time.”  Why?  To what end?  He wasn’t hurting anyone.

This is standard ABA protocol, to train the autism out of kids.

I wish more parents would just ask that very simple question: Why?

Yes, behaviors are rigid.  Yes, there is some pathological demand avoidance, but making a child push in a chair over and over and over again is not “tough love” of the oh-well-kid,-things-change.-Deal-with-it variety.

They were TEASING him.  Provoking him.  Plain and simple.

This wasn’t teaching my son life skills or how to stand up for himself, but how to be a future victim of bullying, as we autistics are already statistically likely to be.

It was bullying him to teach him to get used to it.

Their idea was to then take away his security blanket, and he could earn back his “symbolic womb” by NOT getting upset over his lined-up trains being turned back-to-front.

He was two, and that blanket was his world since birth, the only thing at that stage that was comforting to him to cuddle him and make him feel safe, as he rejected human touch.

Young child sleeping in a soft blanket holding a bottle of milk.

And they used it to make him perform against his natural wiring.  They took it from him and forced it from his clutch.  I intervened and got “written up.”  Seriously.  We parents get warnings, too.

Puppeteers.

He wasn’t allowed to communicate with therapists until they had “set up” and were ready for him.  All children get excited to show things to known grown-ups entering the home, but the therapists would ignore him.  I would intervene and tell them how my son was just trying to show them his toy car, and they would pretend I had not spoken, either.

It was the most uncomfortable and strictest type of “therapy” I had known.  I was infantilized, and he was expected to behave beyond his developmental capacity.  The irony is worrisome.

Bear in mind my daughter was on a heart monitor for two years and with gross motor delays, so I was very well-acquainted with both physical and occupational therapies.  This ABA seemed dismissive of the human being who was my son, and my home became a cold and unwelcoming space whenever they were present.

When he was finally allowed to show them a toy and communicate (shouldn’t they be encouraging that, by the way?), they would kneel to his level and keep moving their face with his face and very close to it as he avoided eye contact.

They would not respond to him until he had been forced to turn his eyes to theirs for approximately 5 seconds; then they would communicate back.

They said I was ruining his chances of a healthy and successful future by asking that this stop.

My Second Write-Up

One morning, my son started to harmfully stim, and the therapist pulled out her jotter to make notes, counting and timing how often he pounded his head into the floor.  I jumped up and rushed over to protect his face, absolutely livid.

The BCBA (board-certified behavior analyst) was called in as an emergency, and I went ballistic, telling her of my disgust at the registered behavior technician (RBT) standing idly by.  I was told I would need a second write-up for interfering with the process.

You know when you think you’re imagining something because it’s so bizarre, and it takes some time to process what just happened?  Yeah, well, that’s how that morning went.

Apparently watching one injurious moment and letting it play out spares the rest.  It’s like that little adage that its okay to kill one person if it saves ten more.  What if that one time ended up with us in the ER, led to a seizure, or my son had a brain hemorrhage?

Pull and Tug

Then came the day when there was a pull and tug over my son’s blanket, and he wasn’t backing down, so they yanked harder.  He hit the therapist, and then she grabbed on his arm.

DONE.

Get out of my home.

I thought my son can learn soon enough about life when he gets to preschool and sees real-life repercussions with kids his own age.  Teaching him now with an adult in unnatural situations won’t be absorbed.

very sad little boy

It’s completely counterproductive, and making him earn his own blanket was barbaric.  Ignoring him while he kept trying to get their attention, and then meeting his physical communication with a physical reaction, was ABUSE.

Get out of our life.

I charged into the court chambers, citing our judge to be in violation of the ADA for ordering ABA for the sole purpose of parent reunification, and demanded he reverse his orders.  I told him the ADA was bigger than he and the entire courthouse put together, and this order was not in line with my son’s rights.

I knew the judge had likely never read the Judicial Spectrum Primer, which I had studied for kicks, and I knew he had no time to refer to the ADA to disprove my allegations of him.  It’s fair to say I am not — still to this day — this judge’s favorite person.

But he has also never ruled against my favor since then.  So his opinion of me is hardly world-breaking.  I knew I was limited in how long I could buy time on this, especially after now aggravating this powerful man of law who clearly needed to assert his dominance over me.  But my son was nonverbal and too young to communicate effectively in other ways, as he does now.

And so long as my son could not tell me what he’d seen or experienced, even through art or sign language, then I couldn’t risk my son being left alone with his abusive “father” and a second ABA agency, away from me.  Definitely not now.

I might have gone overboard on buying time, avoiding finding a second agency.  But did my son not deserve a rest?

Apparently not.

Contempt of Court

So that spring of 2016, I found myself held in contempt of court, and it was one of the scariest experiences I have ever lived through.  But I would do it again if I had to protect my child.  That judge was so angry as he blew up at me verbally, I’m sure I felt the chamber tables shake.

To cut a long story short, I fired the first ABA agency with every willingness to believe it was just an abusive agency, and an abusive bunch of exploitative therapists, and not the ABA itself.  And because I was court-ordered to find another agency, I was held in contempt for “blocking father” from visits.

I hired another agency as ordered and started our practice run at my home all over again.

When the Wave Breaks

I’m sure people thought I was an overbearing mother trying to make trouble for this man who just wanted to be in his son’s life, but I knew it was only a matter of time before he snapped and revealed his true colors.  I was right.  Thank God.

Though it came at a very, very heavy cost.

Under the judge’s orders, my son was harmed.  I was right, and the court system was wrong.  My son had to endure months of police interviews this time last year regarding the case involving our abuser.  The worse part is that the rape case became entangled with abuse involving the second ABA agency, which I will explain shortly.

But I am far from done with making the people responsible pay, because my son was put through unnecessary abuse on every level, and ABA were present during some of the worst parts.  Am I supposed to think it’s just another bad agency?

How many bad agencies must we go through before we can all agree these are just money-making vultures?

Self-Doubt

I blamed myself for a stressful pregnancy and how I had been unable to nurse my boy past two months, because I had been physically battered so badly that my milk soon became green due to internal bleeding.

I knew my stress had likely had some impact, and while much of the pregnancy was spent destitute, and bouncing between various battered women’s shelters, it didn’t ease the burden I felt.  It really challenged my autistic nature, having to go and live with strangers, over and over again, for our safety.

Plus, if someone dangerous is determined to find you, they will, especially since battered women adopting names isn’t as easy as it was prior to September 11.

Without Choices

I blamed myself for being in that predicament and for it bearing on my offspring.  If I could ease my son of any internal or external suffering, I would have, because that would stop his need to self-harm.  At least that is what my naivety assumed was the case.  And that guilt ate away at me daily.

I can understand any parent starting ABA with no former knowledge of the therapy, and no word-of-mouth advice from autistic adults who had endured such therapies, and other parent accounts from those who had witnessed them.  I do not judge parents who simply follow doctors’ orders at one of the most chaotic and overwhelming times.

It happens back to back.  ABA comes with diagnosis, as a package deal these days.

I did not have any feedback, even if biased, before our first agency.  It was all so new to me.  And I had one friend in America, so it’s not as if I had a large network of contacts in real life to advise me.  Even social media back then was populated with friends from my schools in England.

I WISH, genuinely, I had known about Twitter and the autistic adults who could have advised me about ABA.  I do not know if anybody on Twitter could have necessarily advised me how to prevent my son from self-harming to the extreme he was back then, or explain his very violent middle-of-the-night wake-ups of the most heart-wrenching, brutal battery of himself.  Especially as I do not upload public videos showing my son’s distress.

And maybe I still would have been at my wit’s end about what to do, but I would have at least been able to talk about it and hear of other autistics’ harmful stims and have understood it all more.  And that would have been priceless.  Because at that point, no professional had been able to do that, either.

What Could It Do, Really?

It took me getting my own diagnosis to understand that what I do to myself is no different.  It’s just that he was an autistic toddler, and my self-harm presented differently, but it was aggravated by the same triggers.

And staying calm was paramount, but not calmly onlooking or taking notes for goals as ABA did, or grabbing a cell phone and making a sensational Facebook video for “the cause” or for YouTube fame.

It’s a fallacy to think one can stop this harm without intervening physically.  This isn’t the Three Little Pigs, and brick houses won’t solve the issue.  It’s not a fairytale.  Pragmatic realism needs to be applied.  But diving on top of a child and physically restraining them pinned to the floor is certainly not the answer.

ABA ignoring a toddler trying to communicate isn’t the answer, either.

Padding the wall with your own body, compression of your child’s arms safely against their body sides while you rock, or just hold them to calm the emotions, is a very simple and effective way.

Because if you don’t start while they are young, you’ll be the panicked parents on YouTube with videos of your adult offspring in distress, being plastered over vultures’ Twitter pages to push an anti-neurodiversity agenda.

But you definitely don’t publish those pictures of bruising or wounding caught while saving your child’s head.  That is not a parent respecting their child.  Not at all.  That’s exploitation and shaming of a medical condition.

It is one thing documenting an incident once a child is calm, for purposes of a diagnosis and to show doctors.  But parents calling their autistic child “domestic batterers” makes my blood boil.

Our children do not intentionally hurt us; our abusers do.  Autistic children are not abusers.

ABA Agency #2

The second ABA agency we began with seemed nice enough and not nearly as strict as the other agency.  I was very relieved.

It was a refreshing change until I saw the negatives in leniency were just as bad as the strict.  Therapists would ask if, instead of my cancelling a session when we had pending appointments elsewhere, they could just turn up, set their log-in timer, and then leave with my signature of service.

It was insurance and timesheet fraud, and they just turned up and put me on the spot, and I felt awful and pressured.

I saw reality when I tried to report them to insurance who were paying for services.  But our specific insurance LCSW wouldn’t put it through to insurance investigations, and that’s when the penny dropped.

I put a stop to so many of the agency’s goals that I was a “difficult client,” and they threatened to stop services.  They thought I would be so scared of the judge on my case, I’d have to agree to their terms and to them turning up for my signature without us having a service.

Essentially, they were right: I was afraid of the judge and had good reason to be.  But they made a mistake, threatening me.

It would all make sense if they all made a commission, but I don’t have affirmative physical proof of such yet.  But at the time, you’re made to feel like such an awful parent for saying no to behavior therapy for your child.

This second agency’s answer to my son’s eloping was that all therapy sessions, for 3 hours straight, should stay cooped up inside of our home.  They said if I was driving, they would meet us at the supermarket or park, but walking there for 15 minutes was a no-go.

Calendar showing Monday-Friday where all days except for Wednesday are booked between 9:30am and 5-6pm.

And their answer to my son picking his skin off his face was to remove his fingernails.  Are we sensing a pattern here?  I can hear anti-neurodiversity critics (anti-NDs) at this stage decry how perhaps ABA just isn’t meant for very high-needs autistics.

They’ll say anything to discredit our experience, but we are one of many thousands of families, not all with high-needs autistic children, who are horrified by these services.

I am autistic.  I rub the skin out across my chest until I become conscious of doing it, usually due to painful carpet-burn-type injuries.  But it is compulsive, so I move to rubbing out my shoulders instead.

You could remove my hands, and I would still find a way to harmfully stim on my chest and shoulders.  ABA cannot stop harmful stimming.

They also requested that I put my older child in another room, alone, during the three to four hours each day after her schooling so she did not affect their training.  My declining was not appreciated.  They weren’t being paid for two kids, after all!

But what message would this send to my older child?  You are not worthy, you are not important, you are a problem, too, but in a different way.  You go to solitary because we get no green bucks for you.

They enjoyed working in “Father’s” home much more.

And when that time came, I put them out so fast, they left behind their supervisor ABA handbook.  I’d like to see any REASONABLE individual dispute abuse after flicking through Skinner’s work used today.

Notebook of ABA guidelines with a table of contents and powerpoint slides on the next page.

It was only days after the second ABA transitioned to the other “parental” home that my son started to return home with huge, red, grated skin burns across his face.  It took me more than a week to figure out that he was doing it to himself, as he was calmer at home with me.  Tics and compulsive behavior ratchet up in intensity in times of high stress.

I can only assume it was dangerously high levels of anxiety and stress while there.  He had developed this extremely noticeable throat clearing tic, too, which was happening every 3-10 seconds a day, and in sync, he would do a quick swiping whoosh of his arm across his cheek.

His sweater rubbed out his skin after multiple swipes.  He couldn’t stop, either, regardless of raw pain, and both the vocal and gross motor tics went for months without interruption.

He had Tourette’s Syndrome added to his list of co-occurring conditions.  And I demanded to know why nobody, including so-called ABA therapists, were stopping my son from harmful stims or redirecting them.

And you bet I took that to the judge, too, who initially just thought I would try anything to paint “Father” as currently abusive.

The Evidence

But when the evidence was brought forth of the unconscious sexual offenses the offender had documented with video, there were more than five months’ worth of questionable pictures of my son undressed and on the toilet, exposed, during ABA at “Father’s” home.

The pictures spanned beyond typical proud parent snaps or “first moments.” This disgusting evidence was the first I learned that ABA behavior technicians were making my son remove his clothes and diaper in Fathers’ home.

When a person is under investigation for sex crimes, ABA should not be allowing all these pictures of nudity or watching it occur, and indeed not inviting the opportunity.  And I specifically requested no toileting or dressing in “Father’s” home, but they went over my head.

Not for nothing, but my son will now never use a public bathroom.  His school has been very dedicated to helping me, and for 12 months, we have tried many things, to no avail.  It is in my son’s IEP.

And whenever he is asked why he will not eat or use the bathroom for seven hours at school, he tells them, “People watch me.” And that’s in my son’s IEP, too.  So those pro-ABA activists who blame me and our not being in ABA as the reason for my son’s bathroom avoidance can go suck an egg.

Yes, I one hundred percent blame that second ABA agency for that trauma and lack of progress.  When pro-ABAers shamed me for my son not using a bathroom, saying ABA fixes that, I had to take a social media break so as not to explode.

Because ABA CAUSED IT.

And vile bullies discrediting my son’s traumatic experiences are a reflection of the ABA field’s disrespect for autistic autonomy.

Furthermore, after police had been informed of sex crime evidence and raided said home for more, they found more than two dozen marijuana plants being grown in the home illegally and without proper electrical care, nor child safety measures.

It was a fire hazard, and the buds growing had a strong, noticeable, and unmistakable stench.

ABA had failed to report it.  With all of this evidence, of course the agency was subsequently investigated.

We see movies depicting hero cops, but I just could not trust the police department to investigate and cross-examine the way I would.  I know that sounds arrogant, but I think I’ve earned it after getting a judge to reverse on his orders when most attorneys can’t.

So strategy came into play.  When you have a weakness and disadvantage, especially when you have the specific learning disabilities I have, strategy is the only way through.

I made the ABA agency investigate itself.  I had the compliance officer do the basics, because I knew they would lie.  All companies investigating themselves will have each other’s backs.

I knew they would be complacent in thinking I had reported it to them because I was too naïve to know I could report them to authorities.  I knew they would be more open to me about their practice of toileting and dressing.

A response to concerns the mother raised, basically saying that the agency isn't held responsible for anything and didn't do anything wrong.

And then I reported them, because I knew I now had two pieces of contradicting evidence.  I had discredited their narrative before they even spoke a word to the police.

Sometimes we just have to take things into our own hands.  It got the job done, and that is all I cared about.

Overlooking child abuse, child neglect, and child endangerment for fear of losing profitable business makes ABA one of the most unethical liabilities a disabled child could be involved in…  and this needs to change.

My Perspective on ABA

ABA is early intervention, basically helping to raise your child, but not in a natural and warm parental way.  It’s a processed and robotic regimen, and parents also receive parent training to rewire them and their natural parental approach.

The whole family gets brainwashed and therapized, and it’s a million-dollar industry.  Some parents see it as a break and respite, and are happy to allow their child’s exploitation because they get to nap or self-pamper, which of course they do deserve, as any parent does, but not at the expense of their child’s wellbeing.

I was alert and never in another room.  They wanted me to leave the room or take a break, but I wouldn’t.  They made me sign an agreement that I would never install a nanny cam without informing them, too.  If there was a nannycam, it had to be turned off while they were there.  I hear this is a standard practice, by the way.

Ask your ABA therapist why you cannot install a nanny cam without notifying them.

There were other parts of the therapy they wanted me to be super interactive in, which then impeded general life, especially for two young, growing children.

Their whole life was ABA.  Of course a child is excited when a therapist pulls out some Silly Putty and Play-Doh, and a matchbox car to hide in it — yeah that’s right, I know all their tricks!

But being stuck indoors working, “compliance training,” with a grown-up for 4-8 hours a day IS NOT A CHILDHOOD.

From the ABA guidelines notebook, Parent Training Manual, Chapter 3: Compliance Training.

From the ABA guidelines notebook: Steps for Gaining Compliance.  1.  Deliver an instruction one time, and then pause and wait for the child to respond.  - Goal is to teach the child to listen when you talk.  2.  When the child begins to comply with the instruction, deliver specific praise ("I like the way you are going to get your shoes!").  1) Refrain from using consecutive verbal prompts.  When you give multiple verbal prompts, you may be accidentally teaching your child to ignore you unless you repeat yourself over and over.

They sent college kids with little more than babysitting experience as our therapists.  They weren’t parents, and they weren’t autism experts.  I questioned this immediately.  The BCBA trained them and me.  Why the middle person at all?

I had natural parental warmth and concern, and they demanded Mama Bear stay gone.

Middle person is intentional.  The RBTs are used as scapegoats each time anything goes “wrong,” and the RBTs who are parents themselves seldom last.

It’s not the same as school ABA either.  Those social media autistics supporting ABA have no clue what they’re talking about.  You have to understand the psychology of ABA intentionally performed at client’s home.

Their safe place.

It’s easier to gain the child’s trust.  They are “Mommy’s friend.” The child feels comfortable in their safe and natural environment.  But how comfortable is it when they must earn their OWN belongings?

It’s one thing to gain a new treat or reward from a parent for picking up child’s own trash, but a stranger making a toddler WORK to earn his own baby blanket is emotional abuse.

A baby's foot.

I am not referring to UK ABA schools, of which I have no experience.  I am referencing American public schools implementing 15-20-minute therapies one to three times per week.

Sorry, that’s not the same as the two lots of 3-hour intensive sessions my son was forced into DAILY.  I’m sure a whole school dedicated to the cause is absolutely horrific, though, and to think the parent isn’t even there to safeguard.

I would send my child into school with a watch securing a hidden cam, personally.  I don’t care how protective anyone thinks that is, after all I have heard and now have seen.

The blogs from Americans who talk about ABA and praise it are often referencing neutral and educational environments and resources.  It is NOT the same psychology.

While any behavioral therapy is harmful because it attempts to rewire natural autistic ways, do not underestimate the damage caused when practiced inside a child’s own home.

People argue how ABA teaches life skills, and go on to detail their being codependent on a therapist instead of parents, or detail how a child is now doing something a parent could have been teaching.  Do they hear themselves?

“My child can now put on his pants, thanks to ABA.”

“My child no longer thinks an oven is something to climb into, because of ABA.”

And they are praising people who have less parenting and autism knowledge than themselves, and a therapy which was learned in less than two full days of screen time.  It’s embarrassing.

For me, though, it was the ABA concept that they must “push the child to their absolute limits so we know what goals to work on” which is criminally abusive.  I cried when they did it, too.  They tried to ensure me it was “just to see how bad he gets.”

Was my word not enough?  We had more than 25 hours a week to plough through, and they couldn’t just wait for a natural meltdown?  I wasn’t sure what they were trying to see, either.  Both agencies TEASED my child and humiliated him to BREAK HIM.

No, I am not calling it a “torture chamber,” as accused by the ignorant, but I am calling it emotional abuse.

There is a little girl we know who’s still in ABA.  She was recently told she has a “dark heart” for having an upside-down smile.

And don’t even get me started on the nonsense of focusing on how a kid holds a pencil at age three like it’s a life-or-death situation.  And what can ABA do that a parent cannot?  If anyone can answer that question, I am all ears, and so far, NOBODY CAN.

A child rubbing her eyes  and a woman writing in the child's notebook next to her.

Why, when autism factors in, do parents suddenly become incompetent?

If an ABA therapist can achieve something which a parent apparently cannot, what in the world must they be doing to milk those achievements?

ABA are nannies, but unpleasant ones, hired to raise a child in a cold and systematic approach which does not come naturally to most loving and caring parents.

They come into the homes of children and utilize a “child’s natural environment” to rewire them using their own toys, food, and comfort as reinforcements to behave the opposite of an autistic person’s natural disposition.

Teaching them to “get by” in life, by being someone they are not.

It is an invented therapy which appears to grasp at anything they can “work on.” Child likes to stare at a fan spinning?  Oh, we can work on that goal. Child doesn’t like brushing his teeth?  Oh, let’s make it a goal. Child procrastinates when choosing lunch?  It’s a goal!

It is a myth that ABA therapists are professionals.  The professionals are the BCBAs, and they visit only once a month for an hour.  Ours spent the time asking me about my monthly Sephora subscription boxes.

It is a myth that a child wouldn’t be happy to go to ABA if it were abusive.  Most abuse happens before our eyes, and we don’t realise until later– and that is from an adult’s mind, who has experience.

The Nature of Abuse

I loved my abuser once with all my heart and sought approval from him.  I thought I needed him, which was my mishap, but I am limited in what I can do without help.  I need supports.  I thought he was helping me, too.  Being far away from it, I can now see the level of abuse I endured from day one.

Being codependent on an abuser is the worst sort of life.  One becomes reliant on an abuser to the point, for me, that my face lit up when mine got home even though I knew it was going to be a difficult and challenging evening.  I craved and lived for the good moments, becoming more dependent on the increasingly rare praise.

And those kids are wholly dependent on those therapists, not their own parents, but a turnaround of agency therapists.  We try to please our abusers and get their approval.  It’s classic Maslow’s Hierarchy.

It’s not just autistics given ABA, either.  Business is expanding.  Epilepsy is now being used for this pseudo-science, as behavior alters immediately after a seizure, according to our former ABA BCBA.

I’m realizing that many people are avoiding saying ABA and are using the euphemism of “behavioral therapy.”  It’s true that many therapies call themselves ABA these days for funding purposes.  School therapy and physiotherapy, etc.  are NOT the ABA I refer to and many refer to as being extreme abuse.

If parents need help, why not hire a non-harmful alternative instead of ABA?  Why not get a nice nanny to help with toilet training and feeding, if the child has no real severe developmental delays or eating disorders (which ABA admit they can’t help)?

Mary Poppins puts these therapies to shame.  I would never judge a parent investing in extra (non-harmful) help.

I am still being bugged by the insurance LCSW to join a third ABA agency, can you believe?  This business practice is relentless.  And NO means nothing to ABA pushers.  Exactly as they teach the children: NO is not an option.

ABA’s Roots Run Deep

Recently, I found out my son’s school IEP speech therapy was actually social skills in disguise, making him give eye-contact and following a behavior-based ideology.

I was not happy and fought the district for six months straight, because my son was regressing and being told, “Look at me.”

Much like the court-ordered ABA, the district said they find my son to have severe needs for therapy, and that if I do not agree, they will take legal action to go over my head in a reverse due process hearing to continue to implement his IEP.

Of course, it would come out that I, too, am autistic and shouldn’t be deemed capable to decide.  This could then interfere on other levels.  Again, these people are mandated reporters.

I record my IEP meetings, so I have audio evidence of threats to drag me through a legal battle if I pull the plug on my son’s therapy.  I know now to always be prepared.

Do you know how many parents would be intimidated by that?  Do you know how many autistic parents might fear they’ll lose their children altogether over it?

It’s a cruel world.

For about a weekend, I depressively and heartachingly contemplated signing.  If I’m deemed incapable of choosing what is right for my child, that could encroach on my legal custody of him.  If they removed him from my physical care, he would undoubtedly be placed in an institution.

Do you see how they get people?

Don’t come in between a therapy money-making business and not expect a dirty fight.  They also shouldn’t come interfere with an autistic Mama Bear protecting her child.  When I eventually responded to their threat, I said, “So when are we going before a legislative panel, then, this month or next?”

Consider my custody battle good practice.  Consider the criminal investigation good practice.  Do I seem like a walkover?

There might be a lot which goes over my head in terms of my comprehension, and I do see my learning disability affecting me a lot.

But my fight never leaves.

I dare any person or organization to go up against me in a courtroom after all the cases I’ve had to fight and self-represent in.  And I have yet to lose a court case.  I ain’t about to start now!

One gets really good at these things after a few years.

This is now THREE ABA/ BT incidences of abuse and/or trying to force changes painful to autistics that my son has had to endure due to his autism diagnosis.  A diagnosis should help him, not hurt him.  Just a bad therapist?

No, a bad therapy.  Period.

Final Reflections

With all this said, I anticipate that there will be people out there who are going to mock my mental health, past experiences, PTSD, and mock my talking about legislation.

They will also likely continue to belittle and minimize my son’s experienced abuse in ABA and even go as far as to blame me for it all, then still harp on about how I know nothing about “severe” autism.

But the joke is on them.

Police are limited in what they can do towards helping in the prosecution of a rapist, as they are bound by so many laws and regulations.  Rape is a sensitive subject.

I was not bound by those same rules, and they utilized my ability and that loophole, because the other 5 women did not want to testify in court.  The work I did with police in those ten months will mean that man will never rape another woman again.

And it was ME who got the attention of the Attorney General, nobody else.

ABA agencies in my county will now think twice before watching a child in an intimate setting repeatedly over the span of several months, diaper down.  And no family court in my county will ever order ABA in custody battles again.

Though she be but little, she is fierce.
-William Shakespeare

The Aspergian

This article is either a team effort or is published anonymously at the author's request.The Aspergian is a collective of neurodivergents rewriting the narrative about autism in our own voices.Thank you for visiting, and be sure to help us get out the word by sharing our articles and telling a friend about this site.
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8 Comments

  1. So how does a parent tell if the in-school “ABA” program is abusive– or is, in fact, even an actual ABA?

    I’m not asking if ABA is capable of being non-abusive under some hypothetical conditions.  But how do we ID what abuse is going on, if any, and how do we know if the program is an actual ABA program?

    1. Most school therapies adopt a behavioral therapy approach, even speech, as the article says.  IEP goals and your reports should tell you enough to read between the lines.  Eg.  a goal of eye contact, or a goal of making a child approach 6 children a day, and holding a conversation etc.  That is a LOT of work for a child and the eye contact will hurt an autistic person.  Any skills stopping a person’s natural autistic mannerisms, said to help child achieve in future life, is going to be harmful to some degree.  But you have can have parts removed from your child’s IEP.

  2. Hey, whoever you are…  You’re a really brave mom, fighting for your kid’s well-being and trying to protect him from abuse.  The things your family has been through sound incredibly difficult.

    The phrase “autism warrior mom” is sometimes used to describe mothers who try everything to destroy autism.  But I think that true “warrior moms,” good warrior moms, are ones who are willing to fight the world to protect their children from ableism and abuse.  And that is you.

    Your family has been through so much, and those struggles will undoubtedly have a lasting impact.  But one thing that’s going for your son is what a good mom you are.  I hope you don’t forget that.

  3. Phew, what an article.  Well done to you.  Something that stood out to me was that page of the ABA manual, containing the same specific jargon I see in posts from ABA advocates.

  4. “I know this, because former Regional Center workers move onto becoming Child Custody Investigator’s (CCI) in courthouses.  And the California Regional Center notoriously arranges ABA through multiple organizations.”

    Mon Dieu!

    This is bureaucracy and carceration at work.  [the latter is a big issue in one of Yusuf Smith’s posts – look for Indigo Jo if you want to/can].

    Child Custody Investigators play tricks on our literal and logical minds.  [in Australia there is a man called John Hirst who exposed Family Court and its machinations – some close comparisons – particularly as Australians have learnt a lot good bad and ugly from California and its legal system].

    Let me think: Centre for Autism Research; various schools and institutions like the ones in SB?

    It would be very interesting to see where these Regional Center workers go after the Center spits them up and throws them away [not that I would argue – they are victims too].

    And this article took me 7 minutes to read in the Safari easy-reading style and 5 minutes to write a comment on.



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