Saturday, November 21, 2015

Here's why Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a cult.

This post marks my first blog venture outside of Google's Blogger, into my Tumblr. It's a response to Jennifer Msumba, Judge Rotenberg Center's (JRC's) very own outspoken survivor of their extremely painful electric skin shock, the young lady who's now engaged suing the pants off that terrifying institution of what the United Nations calls "torture," what they call "effective treatment." Here is her 2014 extended interview with CBS News.

So Jennifer explains why JRC is a cult. Now JRC is clearly an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) facility and so I direct my Blogger readers to my new Tumblr blog comment of November 21, 2015. The JRC/ABA-is-a-cult-thread picks up there, having begun by her in her Tumblr account. In Tumblr readers can find my reasons for calling ABA a cult. It's all true as I know it and what I believe in what is opinion based on facts, mostly from my own experience with ABA bullies who run the profession, it seems to me. My alter-ego, Safety Pat the Proud Schizophrenic Clown, emerges full force in the Tumblr post with jokes. Pat, who is either a Patrick or a Patricia according to your wish, is now locally famous as a wandering pedestrian entertainer in the Asbury Park, Neptune, New Jersey bi-city area. People honk at me and take my picture and videotape me on a daily basis. I then honk my pedestrian crossing horn. People offer me money. I don't accept it. I ask instead for retweets from #CloseTheJRC, Facebook friend requests to Dave Jersey, and shares of my JRC blog posts. The plan is working. I'm one of many anti-JRC disabled or autistic peer advocates all over the internet. I'm happy to be a part. Every day I'm happy. The joy is in the journey with a mission.

I'll say it again here to make myself perfectly clear. Applied Behavior Analysis is the cult of human science as a very queer religion. You see, one investigator studied the relationship between science and morality and decided that "in many ways, science seems like a 21st Century religion. It's a belief system that many wholeheartedly defend and evolve their lives around, sometimes as much as the devoutest of religious folk."

[Here in extended, cross-paragraph brackets is a post-publication editorial commentary: In the comments box below this post, DeanM of Google's Blogger said today, November 22, 2015, that ABA is not a science after all of ABA's claims to the contrary.

[I tend to accept his criticism, but it doesn't necessarily mean there's an unpluggable hole in my argument. If the reader desires, use a few imaginary mouse clicks to make the correction in the preceding paragraph like this -- highlight-new-words, copy-new-words, highlight-old-words, delete-old-words, and paste-new-words. For instance, according to our not-yet-visible edit, as I'd like to show my argument as it first stood in the main post and let Dean's thread speak for itself in the comments below this post, please read the bold words from above as follows: Applied Behavior Analysis is the cult of a technology and practice of a bastardized version of human science as a very queer religion. This represents the thread as it nows stands -- his comment and my reply -- until he and others have time to expand upon the thread and suggest some other terminology in the thread below.

[Compare the concept to what President Eisenhower would have called Obama's "military-industrial complex"...

...which, as I say, is actively engaged in applying its bastardly-, scientifically-derived warfare technologies as it flies its drones and strikes its bombs over the heads of wedding parties, causing what it admits in its own queerly Orwellian term, "collateral damage" of innocent victims in pursuit of so-called "terrorists," whom Obama is provoking into anger and retaliation with his very same misguided drones, all in the ostensible name of security. Yeah right! I feel so much safer under official USA-provocation-policy.

[Hear this! That's exactly what JRC does to its so-called "students." It provokes them into anger and then it shocks the hell out of them for what JRC's behavior analysts call their "aggressive behavior problems." Should they try to run away, they call it "elopement" and they "treat" the "problem behavior" with Applied Behavior Analytical "consequences," as do other Board Certified Behavior Analysts in other programs, especially in schools operating under the compulsory attendance (incarceration) law when the autistic children just want them to leave them alone.

[As to my old-time coffee buddy below who said my own behaviorism is religious, well he's not here to participate in the debate, so we'll let his position stand on its own two feet. Just remember for now that behaviorism is considered a philosophy that corresponds with behavioral science.

[Therefore, I believe I've poked my index finger into the dam and my argument still holds water, as edited, until it springs another leak. If other fellas spot more leaks, well then I'll take a leak away from the picture where nobody else can see it and patch up the wall once again, one slow leak of mine at a time, until and unless I run out of fingers and I capitulate under check-mate by readers like Dean. Then we can play poker. Okay, Dean?]

As I said in Tumblr, I'm not the first blogger to ask if the profession is a cult. Indeed, I didn't mention it there, but when I was young and naïve I believed ABA was chock-full-o' die-hard B.F. Skinner followers adament like him against the ravages of punishment. I met a young philosopher at Barnes and Noble in Howell, New Jersey, who compared my behavioral value system to "a sorry set of impacted wisdom teeth all stuffed up to the gills with religiosity." What a laugh! His name escapes me now, but I remember how he likened my morality to the philosopher Wittgenstein, whom he said had a behavioral bent, whose work I have yet to examine.

I told my old-time buddy how my behavioral epistemology, philosophy of knowing, sets the basis of morals in the contingencies of action, in what eventually happens to us as a consequence of our acting on the environment to get what we want and to get away from what we don't want. Versed as I was then in B. F. Skinner's operant conditioning discoveries, my original, origninal-source of behavioral science, I would have said something like this, "Under ceteris paribus, all other things (variables) the same, what is good is what is reinforcing, that which causes behavior to strengthen, that which increases the probability that specific behaviors will re-occur under subsequent similar circumstances, according to which the particular behaviors had already been strengthened by the correspondingly previous reinforcers, as we learn by operating upon the social and physical environments, which in turn fill us up with relevant behavioral consequences, which in turn, and with a modicum of seemingly autonomous self-controlled manipulations of our own consequences, control our behaviors. Likewise, what is bad is what is punishing, that which suppresses a rate of response until the punishment or the threat of punishers disappears, that which causes us to escape and avoid aversive people, stimuli, and events, that which causes people to retaliate against punishing individuals or to aggress toward others after having been punished." So if we go to eat sushi once, and we loved it, we go again when we feel the urge. If we hated it, we avoid it. So sushi can be good or bad, depending on the individual.

As it happened, my happy encounters over coffee with this dude took place several years before I inaugurated this blog on the ethics of behavior modification in 2007. As a matter of fact, he also told me, before I knew anything much about the real world of ABA, before I sought to investigate what really happens behind closed doors to autistic children, when unscrutinized by cameras or by mothers and fathers present in the room, as it should be if parents want to know what's really happening to their children while ABA is underway, that once he had followed the directions of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst doing intensive, Lovaas-style, ABA Discrete-Trial-Training exercises with autistic clients in a behavior modification program.

It's ironic how things have come full circle. I'm still a behaviorist, but a highly ethical one, I expect. I reject ABA models and practices unless they can be found in positive-only programs as one small part of a complete program of Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) that ventures well beyond ABA's merely linear, one-response-and-consequence-at-a-time, discrete trials, one that seeks to prevent problems, that rejects punishment as unnecessary and therefore unethical, see LaVigna's Affidavit vs. JRC, p. 3. #4, and that gains the dual consent of parent and child or of surrogate and incapacitated adult in every aspect of a behavior change plan, which neither ABA nor PBS are known to respect in any significant degree. So to stop the alleged crime of aggressive panhandling, don't punish the homeless man; get him a job and a home, in a non-ABA/pro-PBS manner, since under linear-only ABA it's "incorrect" to reward a man with what he wants after he emits what they deem to label a "problem behavior," but under non-linear PBS a vast array of current and historical variables impinging upon a target behavior comprises the functional, communicative, and ecological analysis, prevention, and treatment milieu of a particular problem. (See LaVigna and Donnellan, 1986, Alternatives to Punishment.

You see, JRC has an entire ABA "research" website called So ABA loves to claim that it's "effective" in changing autistic people's behavior patterns. Oh, really? Listen, ABA. Achieving a desired effect is nothing to brag about. Do you know that the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan were effective in ending World War II? A mass murderer is also effective when he reaches his goals. It's like ABA agrees with Malcolm X that justice is served when they cause change "by any means necessary."

Doesn't ABA know that "the ends don't justify the means"? This maxim was a crucial part of my Georgetown University Jesuit priests' morality training.

And there was a man objecting to Donald Rumsfeld's and Bush Junior's version of warfare by any means possible -- Drum up a fake reason to go to war in Iraq. Scare the hell out of the citizenry with color-coded heightened terrorist alerts. (Remember them?) Pretend they're going to attack us with weapons of mass destruction when it's not true. Then slaughter the Muslim "bastards" in the midst of the Bush "crusade" against terror.

What were the crusades? They were a bunch of uncivilized Medieval religious war-mongerings of Christians against Muslims. I'm sure the beautifully-colored Islamic world loved to see Bush climb up high above his heroic white horse of aggression. So Junior killed his target, Saddam Hussein, by any means necessary, quite effectively, according to his plan.

No, ABA. It's not good enough to be "effective." So get a grip on life in the real world. Your ethics code says nothing about respecting the dissent of your direct treatment recipients. Get real. Get a job! Where is the Golden Rule of Ethics in your practice? Flip it and follow it now! Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you. When the young girl says, "Get out of my face," by words or by deeds, then run away from her and don't go back. Or else you should go to JRC and get the treatment Jennifer Msumba received, and so should your illustrious leaders. Watch her video above again right now. Otherwise, you're the ones emitting the problems of social importance and your behavior needs modification by your very own "autistic experimental subjects," the population you love to pounce upon like a pack of wild wolves because it pays you so well! Yes. Remember who you serve. The autistic children are paying your salaries.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Massachusetts: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) electro-shockers are on trial against Positive Behavior Support (PBS) humanitarians.

As of the date of this post, eight days ago Monday, on October 26, 2015, the Bristol County Massachusetts Probate and Family Court began hearing evidentiary arguments to the Massachusetts Executive Branch motion to move the Judge Rotenberg Center's power to shock away from this court which has been rubber stamping just about all the shock "treatments" that JRC has requested of it (Lydia Brown, 2015). This could mean the end of shock. Massachusetts has begun its arguments against Applied Behavior Analytic (ABA) extremely painful electric skin shock in favor of the wide array of Positive Behavior Support (PBS) alternatives to punishment. The hearing is expected to last about a month.

It is shaping up as a trial of Applied Behavior Analysis, the profession of last resort punishment control at its best and non-last resort punishment at its worst, versus, PBS, which after more than twenty-five years of research has recently reached a consensus of practice conclusion that punitive techniques are unnecessary and therefore unethical (LaVigna's Affidavit vs. JRC, p. 3).

This docket has a history dating back to the mid 1980s.
In 1985, the Massachusetts Office for Children (OFC), which oversaw facilities like the Behavioral Research Institute (hereinafter referred to as the Judge Rotenberg Center), alleged that the facility's use of "aversive therapies" like spankings, muscle squeezes, pinching, and "restrained timeouts" violated state regulations. The OFC demanded that the facility show cause why it should not be shut down or otherwise sanctioned. The Center responded by filing a class action in state court on behalf of itself, its students, and its students' parents. It claimed that the OFC had engaged in bad-faith regulatory actions that violated the students' due-process rights as well as the state's Administrative Procedures Act. In June 1986, the state superior court (Judge Ernest Rotenberg) granted a preliminary injunction barring the OFC from revoking the Center's license to provide services. The court held that prohibiting the Center from practicing "aversive therapies" would seriously inhibit its program and harm the students. The preliminary injunction was upheld on appeal. A few months later, the two parties entered into a settlement agreement, which Judge Rotenberg approved in January 1987. The agreement allowed for "aversive procedures" at the Center only when authorized "as part of a court-ordered 'substituted judgment' treatment plan for an individual client." A court-appointed monitor oversaw all court-approved individualized aversive plans and reported regularly to the court. The monitor also had authority to arbitrate any disputes arising under the agreement.
So jumping ahead to the JRC news of the month, on Monday, October 26 Elizabeth Kolmus, leader of the New York chapter of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), was tweeting live from the courtroom on the first day of the new hearing. Her tweets clearly revealed the inherent conflict between the ABA profession, as represented by JRC and its strong networking alliances with ABA scientists and practitioners, and the PBS group, who this blogger calls the "gentle sister profession to ABA," as represented by the Executive Branch of Massachusetts all throughout the long ordeal of this torturous Rotenberg Center docket.

DDS = the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services

Blogger note: "JRC is the only provider (in Massachusetts) currently using Level III interventions,, 'painful, aversive stimuli and deprivation procedures.' Level III interventions include use of an electronic shock device known as a graduated electronic decelerator, or GED, in use solely by JRC" (McGreal, 2012).

Judge Rotenberg Center "torturers" offered PhD Applied Behavior Analysts $85,000+ to work in its 2015 "happy environment."

According to the Program Book (p,85) of the Chicago Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis, currently the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) was offering behavior analytical PhD's $85,000+ to work in their so-called "happy motivated environment." The United Nations calls it a school of electroshock "torture." At least six "students" have died there.

In 2015 ABAI "approved" JRC as being "aligned" with its "mission."

Upon autistic and mentally ill children and adults this Canton, Massachusetts institution uses extremely painful electric skin shock with a "a device that emits 45.5 milliamps of electricity — a shock more than 15 times as powerful as the stun belts designed to incapacitate violent adult prisoners." They shock them contingent upon "non-compliance" - their getting out of a chair without teacher permission (FDA hearing, p. 144) , disrupting "classroom" lessons, aggression (which JRC staff members indubitably provoke, blogger note), and self-injury (such as popping one's own pimples.)

In 2009 Michelle Dawson, autistic researcher, blogged that Dr. Israel admitted to JRC's use of shock pain for disobedience and classroom disruption in front of Applied Behavior Analysts at an ABAI symposium. (Download ABAI event #403.) Ostensibly, a JRC client would disobey his teacher as a precursor to attacking him, so JRC is justified in shocking noncompliance, according to Dick Malott, past president of ABAI and JRC Board of Directors member. (Phone conversation, Malott to this blogger, 2015)

At the 2005 Chicago Convention, JRC founder, Matthew Israel spoke to the behavioral scientists at a smoking cessation symposium (p. 117). However, behavior analysts could not earn Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) continuing education credits by listening to (Dr. Hurt) (p. 8, 9, 117). Over the span of three full days, from May 28 to May 30, JRC personnel discussed their techniques during fourteen international poster sessions they showed the behavior analysts at the convention (pp. 6, 124-274.)

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I am an advocate for people with disabilities certified to teach special education with a Master of Arts in Teaching. I am not a Licensed Psychologist or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. When in doubt, seek the advice of an MD, a PhD, or a BCBA. My ability to analyze the ethics of ABA stems from the fact that I am disabled and ABA interventions are often done to people like me, which I voluntarily accept, but only when I alone am the person granting consent, and not a parent, sibling, guardian, or institution.