I was tagged in a post.
It was about autism.
It stated "Tennessee becomes the 50th state to require insurance companies to cover ABA Therapy".
Then I read the following from a follower on the page "ABA is an extremely abusive practice denounced by the vast majority of autistic people. This is horrible news for all autistic children in Tennessee. What is needed is coverage for actually supportive services to allow autistic people to reach our full potential, not funding to abuse us into behaving in a way that makes others comfortable."
Of course, I had to respond.
"While I agree ABA done ineffectively is in fact abusive, it can also save lives. ABA is effective therapy, the only identified through studies proven effective. that being said, it must be done properly with the appropriate therapists. While ABA for high functioning children may not be in their best interest, it can help teach self care and protocols to keep children safe. As a mother of a child with ASD, an ABA therapist and advocate I agree it must be the right situation for the individual."
I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about ABA on my blog as I am aware it is controversial. First, what is ABA Therapy? Applied Behavior Analysis is the only scientifically proven therapy effective for autism spectrum disorder. It utilizes a protocol that I refer to as a reward system, its carefully orchestrated to meet the emotional, academic and developmental needs of the individual that the treatment is targeting. While not all children are alike, nor are ABA therapists and ABA isn't always effective for every child on the spectrum. Like any decision, parents, therapists and the entire team that supports the child should carefully identify IF this is the correct therapy for the individual.
While I have seen ABA go wrong, I have also witnessed it go right. For example, our daughter cannot recall what things are or how to ask for something. If you label or tact an item, telling her what it is she may not remember it the first time or 10th time. When you go over it a number of times, pairing it with a reward, repeating and teaching eventually she has the capability to learn what the item is and what it will always be. For my daughter, when we began ABA there was almost a direct 1:1 response/reward rate. Now, she can go for quite some time without a reward but she knows when she is "working" that she will rewarded for correct responses.
There are a number of individuals, including those who are on the spectrum themselves that do not agree with ABA, and that is okay, it may not be the right therapy for them. That being said, ABA can and will be effective for some population of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Even with opposition, we as individuals in this great nation, deserve to have options available to us for medical treatment of our children. For a number of years, autism was not covered by my family insurance. While we paid our premiums and also our co-pays, my child did not have access to treatment necessary to help me, as her mother provide her best life for her in the future. This was not just excluding ABA therapy but also, medical visits to a neurologist, speech pathology, occupational therapy, etc. It was my cause for a number of years to spend countless hours creating dialogue with human resources at my husbands company, contacting our insurance provider and continuing to share our personal experience with local congressmen, senators and government officials.
It is proven that the best way to further your child's development with the additional needs of autism, one must access early intervention, appropriate schooling and therapies that will progress them as an individual. While it is not always ABA that a child with autism needs, it is something that must be accessible for those who are in need of it.
Another great example of ABA helping my own child is the fact that she has no impulse control. She is also a runner. This means at any given time she could take off sprinting faster than most Olympic athletes throwing caution to the wind. I have watched as she has snaked her way through crowded boardwalks, I have witnessed her run into the street in front of cars and I have heard of her taking off while at school. At ALL times someone must be vigilant and watch. Its exhausting. Through the use of ABA techniques I have been able to teach her that running from me is scary, dangerous and unacceptable. It has taken years. It has proven effective. Just the other day, I had her with me at the eye doctor. Located inside a busy Walmart not far from the exit, I watched as she began to elope. Standing, I firmly told her no. I told her to sit. I told her after we were finished we would look at toys and IF she stayed we could get one. This is ABA. There was no abuse, no confinement, not any treatment like "dog training". It simply told her my expectation, allowed her to choose and while I stood not knowing if the years of work would make a difference, she looked out the door, back at me and chose to sit in her stroller until I was done. Yes, my nearly 6 year old still rides in a stroller at times. It was ABA that kept her safe, it kept me from having to throw my credit card, purse and belongings to chase her hoping that she would not make it out the door. It was successful.
So, Tennessee, I commend you. For those with strong opinions, I listen. I read. I understand. You are correct, if done inappropriately or for the wrong child ABA is not effective and can in fact be abusive, but when carefully placed in a child's life it can in fact save it, so before you bash it completely, take a minute and listen to my story for ABA has changed my daughters life.