Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More About Gender Variance, Autism and ABA, From Michelle Dawson

At The Autism Crisis, Michelle Dawson has a brilliant post up drawing an analogy between the practice of "treating" autism with ABA now and the 1970s use of ABA to "treat" feminine behavior in boys. She hammers this home with particular effect when she quotes various reports from the UCLA Feminine Boy Project about the ethical duty they thought they had to save these boys from lives of marginalization and "hardship" by making them normal.

The other point of similarity she finds between the two phenomena is the extent to which the intervention is being done for the parents rather than for the child.

An excerpt:

Gender disturbed children desperately need treatment.
This quote is from Rekers, Bentler, Rosen & Lovaas (1977). It concludes one of multiple peer-reviewed articles authored by prominent researchers, defending a highly successful early intensive ABA-based treatment (see also Rekers, 1977; Rosen, Rekers & Bentler, 1978; Rekers, Rosen, Lovaas & Bentler, 1978). This treatment was part of the UCLA Feminine Boy Project, which for some time ran concurrently with the UCLA Young Autism Project. Its unprecendented success in treating what was considered to be an intractable pathology was reported by NIH-funded UCLA researchers in peer-reviewed journals (Rekers & Lovaas, 1974; Rekers, Lovaas & Low, 1974). One of the stated purposes of this treatment was to "cure" or "prevent" homosexuality.
The UCLA researchers repeatedly wrote that the young boys targeted by their early intensive ABA-based treatment suffered terribly and were in pain. At all possible levels (physical, emotional, economic, social, etc.), their prognosis was described as "extremely poor" with a high risk of criminal, anti-social and self-destructive behaviour. Their future was one of "numerous crippling difficulties" and "pain, misery and despair" (all quotes from Rekers et al., 1977).
Then there were the parents of these reportedly severely disordered children, parents whose needs, values and goals were considered paramount. Therefore, according to the UCLA researchers, there was a "moral and ethical obligation" to intervene and provide a treatment which had been demonstrated to be effective. (Emphases mine, except for the initial quote).
One could very easily substitute "autism" for "homosexuality" in those paragraphs, and you'd get a passable rendition of the current conventional wisdom regarding autism. Yet, of these identical scenarios, one is considered a gross violation of human rights and the other is considered a necessary medical intervention.

Read the whole thing; Michelle Dawson outdoes herself ferreting out instructive passages from the literature.


jypsy said...

Michelle didn't outdo herself, she just did what she does.

Unknown said...

Autistic Disorder, unlike one's sexual orientation, is a disability which often includes serious cognitive, communication, social and behavioral impairments.

Even Ms Dawson, with her considerable intelligence and communication skills filed complaints against Canada Post on the basis that she was discriminated against on the grounds of her disability - autism.

ABA, if you read sources other than Ms Dawson and her colleague Dr. Mottron, is proven effective at ameliorating the deficits which impair the lives of so many persons with Autistic Disorder. Some of those sources include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New York State Department of Health, the MADSEC (Maine) Autism Task Force, the Office of the US Surgeon General and the Association for Science in Autism Treatment.

jysy is right, "Michelle" just does what she does, fighting against evidence based effective interventions for other people's autistic children.

jypsy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jypsy said...

Sorry.... misquote...

"jysy is right, "Michelle" just does what she does, fighting against evidence based effective interventions for other people's autistic children."

Mr. Doherty absolutely does not speak for me and I will thank him to not put lies like that into my mouth.

Unknown said...


I put no words in your mouth. I borrowed your Michelle Dawson worship opening and added the truth about what Ms Dawson has done.

She fought against government funding of ABA, to date the ONLY recognized effective ABA intervention for OTHER PEOPLE's autistic children in the Supreme Court of Canada and before the Canadian Senate.

She routinely appears on Radio, TV and in newspapers to offer her opinion over that of responsible agencies such as the AAP, the NYSDOH, MADSEC, ASAT and the US Surgeon General and the studies done over several decades relied upon by those agencies in reaching their conclusion that ABA is an effective intervention for helping autistic chilren.

That is the truth. There is no use in yo denying it.

Alex Bain said...

I beg to differ. Next time (and the times after that) please put your "truths" in a separate sentence from my name.

jypsy said...

Alex Bain didn't say that, I did. He was just using my PC to post his video on his blog and hadn't signed out. sorry.

Michelle Dawson said...

Unfortunately, Mr Doherty, a prominent lawyer, has clearly not read my writing, including the blog post he is claiming to respond to.

Nevertheless, he constantly writes about me and claims repeatedly to be an expert in my work. He repeatedly and grossly misrepresents this work in a deliberate attempt to harm me and anyone I collaborate with. I am curious as to how far he will go, in demonstrating his standards, values, ethics, etc.

He clearly has not read my position in Auton, which has been publicly available since 2004, or if he has, he is deliberately and dishonestly misrepresenting it.

My Auton intervention was in opposition to both sides (autism advocacy governments, autism advocacy parents) denying autistics recognized standards of science and ethics, and against both sides writing off and dehumanizing most autistics in Canada.

Most autistics in Canada were written off by both sides in Auton as less than human, as not deserving basic human rights, as incapable of learning and communication, as having no life or health, as being doomed, as just naturally belonging not in society or in families but in institutions, etc. A FEAT group argued in the SCC hearing that most autistics are less than half living.

Both sides in Auton consisted of autism advocates who agreed with each other about practically everything, including that not one autistic person should be allowed to have any say in major decisions about the future of all autistics in Canada. Both sides opposed my intervention. Both sides also agreed to deny autistics recognized standards of science and ethics.

Mr Doherty agrees with all of this, and opposes any effort to have most autistics in Canada regarded and treated as fully human being with human rights. He also strongly opposes any effort to have autistics benefit from and be protected by recognized standards of science and ethics.

Indeed, Mr Doherty has taken the position that autistics must not be protected by or benefit from laws which automatically protect and benefit Mr Doherty. And Mr Doherty promotes the view that autistics are just naturally violent and dangerous to others.

Mr Doherty also can't make his case for ABA-based autism interventions without using reports heavily dependent on the use of aversive procedures. That would include the AAP, MADSEC and NYSDOH reports, as well as ASAT's website.

Among them, all of these sources, covering 47 years of research into ABA-based autism interventions and an advertised thousands of papers, could not find more than one small-N RCT of early ABA-based interventions in autism, and that study reports poor results, particularly for children whose specific diagnosis was autism (Smith, Groen & Wynn, 2000, 2001; don't forget to read the authors' errata).

Two of Mr Doherty's sources could not locate even one RCT, and both of these sources could not locate one prospective controlled trial with an N of 10 or more than was not dependent on aversive procedures.

For more about Mr Doherty's science, see this comment. For more about the standards Mr Doherty wants applied to autistics, see this and this.

Mr Doherty is a prominent illustration of how successful autism advocates such as himself have been, in imposing on autistics only the lowest standards of science and ethics.

The mystery remains as to why autism advocacy leaders like Mr Doherty and FEAT (and other ABA litigants) have not been willing or able to make their demands for services--whatever those services may be--accurately (including with respect to the existing science), ethically, and respectfully.

Lindsay said...

Even Ms. Dawson, with her considerable intelligence and communication skills filed complaints against Canada Post on the basis that she was discriminated against on the grounds of her disability - autism.

I know. The difference between us seems to lie in what part of this story strikes us as wrong --- I think her employers and coworkers were wrong to harrass her, while you seem to think the wrongdoing was hers, for existing while autistic and thereby inviting harrassment and discrimination.

Lindsay said...

ABA ... is proven effective at ameliorating the deficits which impair the lives of so many persons with Autistic Disorder.

You know, my argument (that ABA is wrong because it is, in the worst case, traumatic, and in the best case, grueling and expensive, and only exists to teach autistics to "pass" as NTs, which would not be necessary in a society that valued all different kinds of people) is completely independent of ABA's efficacy. It could be 100% effective in extinguishing obviously autistic behaviors (which, according to Lovaas, it is not --- 47% was his success rate, and that was without randomization), and the ethical considerations would still stand: Is it worth it to put a child through such an ordeal just for the sake of making him "indistinguishable" from his peers?

Unknown said...

Hello Lindsay

I did not see your last comment in this thread until today. I thank you for the civility you show while disagreeing with my views.

I would like to make two comments about your last entry:

1) ABA is not grueling or oppressive. I don't know what experience you, Ms Dawson or jypsy have with ABA. My son has received ABA therapy for several years. He looks forward to visits from his ABA therapists. He receives ABA in school and he absolutely LOVES attending school. Last year he received a perfect attendance award which you can see on the sidebar of my blog Facing Autism in New Brunswick. The rhetoric about ABA being "Abusive" is exactly that rhetoric not found in reality.

2) "NT Normalcy" we do not try to extinguish all "autistic" behaviors in our son. Many of the pictures of Conor on my blog site show him with a straw in his mouth which he uses for stimming. I have a Youtube video showing him stimming while counting. Stimming appears to be helpful for him and we do not try to eliminate all stimming.

The behaviors which are targeted for change are harmful behaviors such as biting and head banging or disruptive behaviors such as screaming in public and ABA has been very helpful in eliminating or dramatically reducing such behaviors. All children require some form of behavior modification. That is what parents must do in teaching their children to exist in the world which is not an easy place for anyone autistic or not.

3) Ms Dawson's statements about my views are categorically false. She does not quote me directly or in context but instead offers her slanted interpretation of my views as being my views. They are not.

I thank you for the exchange of perspectives.