ABA therapy is not abusive. It’s not ableist, nor is it conversion therapy, either.
Our autistic children don’t do ABA therapy from some misplaced parental desire to make them “normal”, and nor is it to eliminate their autism. They’re in therapy because they need to learn the essential skills to keep them safe, happy, and independent, and to not make an earnest attempt at this would be wrong.
Our children are in therapy to learn that running in front of cars is dangerous. So they can learn to communicate, through their own voice or through the speakers on a tablet. So they can get dressed by themselves. To tolerate eating the foods they need to be healthy. And to use the bathroom in a sanitary and dignified way of which everyone is worthy.
Autism is a broad spectrum, so while many higher-functioning autistics can navigate society without much help, there are many others, like my son, who need substantial support for the most basic everyday functions. In addition to lovingly helping them, to — in the name of neurodiversity — not help them learn to help themselves would be nothing short of negligent and cruel.
I’m not ready to accept that almost all of Charlie’s thoughts and feelings may forever be trapped lonely in his mind, frustrating him and isolating him from the world. A translation could exist — therapy for Charlie means professionals working full-time to access it.
I’m not ready to accept that he’ll never have a sense of danger, that every moment of his life outside the home will require holding hands.
And I am not ready to accept that Charlie may never be independent enough to use the bathroom with the dignity befitting any and all humans.
So, until there’s not an ounce of hope left in me — until forever — our family will work with Charlie to work *for* Charlie, whether that’s ABA therapy or whichever type of help will help.
If in your eyes, that makes me an abusive mother, I don’t need to know what a good mom is.