Saturday, November 21, 2015

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




[Editing update. This post is readable, but it's still in a late drafting stage. As usual, I hit the darned Blogger publish button too soon and moved onto other projects, ridiculous ones at that!

[Thanks to reader feedback to this blog article on ABA/JRC (Applied Behavior Analysis/Judge Rotenberg Center) as a cult, it looks like ABA is not science, after all the ABA propaganda to the contrary. After all, what scientific system only "disseminates" information to make itself look sales-worthy and censors out the damning data about its cruel methods?

[DeanM said...
You have done your argument an enormous disservice. Science and religion are completely antithetical. If they met for the first time in a dark alley, they would not recognize one another. This is especially clear when the following points are considered: Science as a profession is based in the evidentiary method. A scientist has to observe an event, formulate a theory to explain that event, and then subject the theory to so much testing that it either becomes insane to withhold provisional consent to the truth of the theory or the experiment invalidates the theory. Religion reverses the above. It decides what it wants the facts to be, then cherry-picks data to "prove" said facts. A good example is the number of times one gospel author construes any small phrase as a prophecy and invents an event to "demonstrate" that Jesus fulfills it. Even creating absurd results such as Jesus riding two donkeys at the same time, due to said author's poor understanding of Hebrew. Science encourages scientists to challenge and reexamine each others' work constantly. The theory of evolution is accepted as both theory and fact because literally thousands of attempts by scientists who could not let go of Genesis all fell flat against it. The theory/fact that diabetes is the result of an immune system miscalibration has been all but canonized by the latest discovery that white blood cells in people with type one diabetes start malforming (I forget the exact wording) in the months leading up to the destruction of their islet cells. And these are just two of many examples. ABA is not science. It made up its mind that harming children in order to ensure "compliance" is good, and cherry-picks its "facts" to support that. Adults like myself who suffer PTSD symptoms just from people who get too close to them are a non-factor to ABA-lovers. To real scientists, they are a vital consideration. So in future, when you meet someone calling themselves a scientist, and their behavior reminds you more of a cultist, it is well worth your while to ask yourself whether they are really behaving like a scientist. Because based on what I have seen in adverts for ABA, "autism conversion therapy", and so forth, the idea that these people get away with calling themselves scientists is quite insulting to a profession that had to fight people who are just like the ABA cultists in order to survive.]
*****

[See also Szalavitz's (2007) article in Mother Jones entitled "The cult that spawned the tough-love teen industry."]

*****

This post is 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 Applied ABA calls its "effective treatment." Here is her 2014 extended interview with CBS News.



Jennifer explains why JRC is a cult.
Why I believe this: 1) If staff don’t assimilate and comply, and if they question ANYTHING they lose their job i.e. get kicked out
.  2) Staff nor "clients" are allowed to think for themselves but must follow "The Plan." Everything comes back to blindly following "The Plan."
 3) They convince their victims it is "in their best interest" and that without JRC their lives will be terrible and they could actually die
. 4) They cut "clients" off from their families, especially if they feel families question JRC’s methods. 
5) They reward the most dedicated staff that do the most shocking, writing of "therapy notes" with promotions. 
6) Every staff and "client" movement is literally monitored with a live video feed and any missteps are corrected immediately.
 7) Most of the "client"/victims and staff become indoctrinated into this whole alternate world JRC has created
. 8) JRC does everything they can to keep "clients" connections to the outside limited and heavily monitored. There is an invisible wall around that place.
JRC is clearly an ABA facility. So I agree with Jennifer that JRC is a cult, given her uniquely valuable membership among the actual victims and survivors of JRC, who alone know best what it’s truly like inside that hell-hole-of-Satan, and given the reasons you have explained in your post above, as well as some other great primary source information provided to us in the true story of your friend Anna Kosovskaya’s escape from JRC, plus many of the other googlable JRC victim and former-staff-whistleblower first-hand accounts and other disability-led advocacy investigations into this horrific place.

I’m not the first blogger to wonder if ABA a cult, but I have my own reasons for answering the old ABA cult question in the affirmative.

To date there is a grand total of zero smaller ABA professional organizations who take an official stand against JRC.

Michelle Dawson (2009) first exposed to the internet JRC's presence at the Ass. for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) conventions. Afterwards I joined ABAI's Facebook group and challenged members with ethics questions. I hit them hard with Dawson's finding of JRC presence in their events. Eventually the anonymous ABAI Facebook profile user told me that, although JRC was still presenting seminars at their conventions, ABAI had had no official position in favor of or opposed to JRC. It was supposedly neutral about shock.

Well if that was not a boldfaced lie, then it was a momentously gargantuan mistake. In fact ABAI officially “approved” JRC as being “aligned” with ABAI’s “mission.” I discovered those words by searching for “Rotenberg” inside its three most recent annual convention program books: 20152014, and 2013.

I followed ABAI Facebook group rules and did not argue with ad hominem. However, ABAI’s most noisy Facebook group members were allowed to attack my arguments with character assassinations such as “Dave Jersey is an attention-seeker, ill-informed, too negative, a troll, unprofessional, and a mere blogger who is unworthy of our consideration until he publishes in peer-reviewed journals. Ignore him. Put him on extinction!” They complained about me to ABAI representatives, as I would learn in my email letter from ABAI."

Then I exposed my finding of ABAI's "approval" of JRC to its Facebook group. Then I sent a message to the anonymous ABAI Facebook user. I said that it would benefit them to invite the opponents of JRC in to speak at their conventions. At that point I was kicked out of ABAI Facebook.

By the way, and please stay with me here on this elaborately written tangent away from the ABAI thread, the medical meaning of schizophrenia involves only one personality, but its etymology is “split mind,” so change the frickin’ word, American Psychiatric Association (APA)! It’s your fault the public almost always believes we have split personalities. I know they do. I walk all around this bi-city area of Neptune and Asbury Park, New Jersey on a daily basis dressed if full regalia as Safety Pat the Proud Schizophrenic Clown, with a red nose and a complete set of safety gear. Bradley Beach policemen tell me the town needs my work as a crossing guard. They take my picture as I tell them the FBI needs to wear red noses when they laugh at my pictures, and then they ask me to demonstrate my street-crossing whistle!

I ask people how many personalities I have, including the cops and the entire Fire Department of Asbury Park. Guess what. They get it wrong 95% of the time, but I give them an A+ anyway for the courage to give me an answer.

I got it wrong in my psychotic state as soon as APA pinned the label on me in 1979 as I voluntarily committed myself into Georgetown University Hospital’s Psychiatric Unit for a five week vacation away from the intolerant, extremely-closeted world of anti-gay bigotry, that ABA-reinforced era of ABA’s sizable misjudgment of so-called “homosexual behavior deviance.”

Stay with me here. I’ll come back to to my schizo-affected error in a moment. You see, disorganized speech is one of our especially valuable characteristics, as long as we keep the yarn spinning and then bundle it all up into some kind of a garment to feature proudly upon our Risperdal-induced gynecomastic male breasts.

This was the era of my gay elders’ second-hand anecdotal reports of electroshock “treatments” to stop homosexual behavior. This was when the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) began in 1968. An early JABA issue proclaimed its uncanny scientific ability to measure arousal by projecting a nude upon a screen and then plunging a penis inside a mercury-filled tube. When it grew, it compressed the mercury, which, like the Mouse Trap board game of a dozen plastically colorful cause-and-effect MouseTrap gadgets triggered all in a line of serially produced mousey concoctions, made an electrical circuit trip a switch from the off to on position, whereby ABA could produce its inter-observer reliable cumulative records, in order for it to explain, predict, and control some poor horny dude who was stuck inside their Skinner box wondering, “What the bleep did I sign myself into?”

Soon after that gem of a report, JABA ran its printing press until it got too hot with the account of an experiment that sexually aroused another badly duped old-timer who felt the need to “cure” his sexual orientation with ABA assistance, in accordance with ABA’s potentially-lucrative “homosexuality problem” professional marketing schemes of the early seventies. They got him excited with pictures of male nudes and then gradually faded out the guys as they gradually faded in the appearance of female nudes. Of course it never worked, as any out-of-the-closet gay man can explain. In other words, ABA was ineffective in this dead-end approach. Perish the thought!

Look it up in the early issues of the JABA. Use Google Scholar. They made a big Freudian splash hit deep inside my memory banks. My old close friends, a couple in Toms River, had quite a laugh when I told them all about it. ABA had some nerve to treat us like that!

Anyhow, hopping back here to the meaning of schizophrenia, I actually believed I had a dozen different people inside me the day my shrink first stuck a pill in front of my face and told me to swallow it, and since I was psychotic, if you tried to convince me I was mistaken, you would become another one of them with a devious plot against me. I told Dr. Virgil he should push it down his own mouth, because I was too busy proving to him with a complete set of four limp arms and legs attached to a torso I sunk slouched inside my chair in the middle of main psychiatric ward hallway in front of the other nuts who were all lined up to receive their specially-prepared shrunken cocktails, that I could relax my own body by myself without his medication, thank you very much, but that’s too big a story to divulge at the moment.

The reason why I had this false delusion about the schizophrenic orchestra playing every manner of musical instrument inside my wild imagination, trombones and tubas included, was APA’s undying insistence in regurgitating, over-and-over-again in its DSMx bible about how to diagnose a crazy man, the identical misnomer they’ve hoisted upon us for one hundred years, even though they all know perfectly well it causes us intense, substantial, and immeasurable harm. It’s called Mental Health Stigma, a disability studies topic of which the APA has no clue.

APA, you must listen once and for all to the words of your patients. Don’t you dare make up a new label that’s supposed to make us feel better. In due time, we’ll tell you exactly which word (which ABA calls a tact, which is a made-up word in Skinner’s interpretation of what he called verbal behavior) you may use to add us into the boxes of your forms so you can be sure you’ll get all of your seven-hundred-dollar-per-hour salaries, I suppose. Yes I made that one up out of sheer jealousy of my lord and savior very own personal authoritarian rule-maker, Dr. Beer, so everyone can see I’m a little bit of a very big liar.

My dearest APA, you should some day hope to consider yourself a highly ethical profession. In so doing, you better comply with the demands of your patients or else we’ll have you committed for psychiatry’s ElectroConvulsive brain Therapy (ECT). Well that one’s not supposed to hurt anybody, you see. So then if that doesn’t work to get you to change our label, we’ll send the amperage through the rook and treat you with ABA’s GED-4, which is JRC’s FDA unapproved, but still utilized, electric skin shocks contingent upon the noncompliance of lunatics like you guys! You see, JRC jolts, by their own admissions, is supposed to hurt so much that it works even if you get used to shocks on the less extreme, ineffective FDA approved, GED-1. So we’ll cover your bodies with electrodes. Then we’ll give the GED-4 remote control boxes with a picture of every last one of you pasted over every last behavior control button to the most schizophrenic schizophrenic we can locate and then let her have her way with the buttons. I guarantee you, then you’ll give us the name we’re demanding.

Our dear helping professionals of all stripes and sizes, you’all listen up here, too! I kid you of course, but never forget who you serve, the actually disabled consumers of your services, and not our parents, and not your haughty institutions, because we should be the ones responsible to hire you and to fire you, as a zillion emancipated adults such as Safety Pat the Proud Schizophrenic Clown do every single solitary American day all by our little old selves.

Well now, enough of that nonsense. Let’s weave our way back to the ABAI thread. So then I published and promoted across Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook the damning evidence of the Association’s JRC approval. ABA internet users received it like a lead balloon. On the other hand, many teenaged and adult, honorably and actually autistic self- and peer-advocates, as well as a sizable percentage of healthy parents of autistic children, young and adult, greeted the news with what felt like a hefty amount of fanfare, under which my glow-in-the-dark head grew even bigger and purpler and psychodelicker.

Then as soon as I instructed the anonymous ABAI Facebook profile to invite the anti-JRC advocates to oppose JRC at the next ABAI convention, Maria Malott, ABAI’s CEO, had me kicked out of her ABAI Facebook group, never to return. She did this anonymously, but she’s the CEO and the buck stops with her.

As the story goes, I also got kicked out of another huge Facebook group called ABA for the same reason, because I challenged their ethics while following the group’s rules.

Eventually, a very good man who calls himself a behavior analyst threw me a life preserver as I was swimming away from the ship of ABA. As far as I’m concerned, he is really a Positive Behavior Support (PBS) pal-o’-mine. He rejects punishment, as does the entire PBS professional community in its recent consensus of its scientifically investigated ethical opinion against punitive procedures. (See LaVigna, p.3 #4.)

ABA, however, one-human-organism-after-another, lock-stock-and-barrel complete, falls into two broad advocacy-of-punishment camps: 1) those who admit they readily “apply” reinforcement and punishment simultaneously, even toward the beginning of an intervention; and 2) those who claim they never use punishment unless it’s absolutely necessary to fulfill their obligation of last-resort, ultimate control and obedience training, so they guarantee to the parents who sign the informed consent agreements, that they can force their little ones into a state of submission to authority when nothing else works.

JRC practice falls in line with camp 2. It seems like it doesn’t want to waste too much time obeying the legal rigamarole that requires them to try the PBS they lambast so vehemently, when they could have been shocking the hell out of its youngsters and its decades long inmates and fixing them once and for all as soon as they set their trouble-making feet upon JRC’s actual Yellow Brick Road and as soon as their shock-consenting parents got in the car and go back home where they can’t hear their own children scream and cry, “Mommy Dearest, please help me! Why did you leave me here? Why did you get rid of me?” This is the same traumatized sentiment to her parents which Anna Kosovaskaya describes so well in her escape from JRC report on my blog.

The latter camp uses the typical claim of JRC marketeers by Dick Malott and company that “we tried our Unparalleled Positive Programming, but it doesn’t work so good with our severely disturbed caseload.” In other words, JRC Director Glenda the Good Witch Crookes dangles treats and outings out in front of their faces. She permits her Crooked-approved public spokes-boys and girls to sample their gifts. Then it looks like she denies them as soon they commit the slightest infraction of JRC’s excessively burdensome, exhaustive, and asinine, individualized list of punishable infractions. We hear in Anna’s account how JRC’s Loss of Privileges (LOP) program is simply a set of negative punishment contingencies, the removal of positive reinforcers, disguised as their very own “positive-only plan” that they withhold from their subjects under LOP, so they can get on with the torture and do what’s best for the children, in contempt of the human dignity they express with their obvious dissent from extreme pain, as would anybody else, despite the incredulous Dick Malott claim that some of them ask the staff not to remove the heavy shock packs they carry upon their spines. I don’t buy the JRC-speak that its purpose is to save lives. Dr. Israel (2009) admitted he shocks them to enforce compliance to the demands of the teacher, such as sitting down in the chair and only getting up with permission of the teacher, as it came out in the FDA’s potential shock ban panel’s public hearing Transcript (2014, pp. 144-145). Look at the JRC classroom pictures. As a rule the students are always sitting down while their teachers are always standing. WTF is up with that?

Either camp in favor of punishment together reminds me of the way our criminal justice system works to incarcerate the masses into its accelerating count of prison-for-profit beds. (See also the ten job skills and knowledge items containing the word “punishment” that every Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) must acquire.)

So my PBS buddy appealed to each of the half-dozen or so ABA Facebook administrators to let me back into the group. He told them, in so many words, that I was always respectful in my arguments with their group members, that I followed all their Facebook rules, and that they needed to hear some healthy, constructive dissent arising out of their work from someone outside their community who can speak their language just as capably as they can. He said they risked spiraling through a failed trip into ABA “orthodoxy.”

Well as it turned out, none of the roughly six admitted to blocking my Facebook account and none of them said they would keep out when I reapplied, but after he told me all this, it looks like I’m still denied entrance. The last time I so moved to give them a haughty piece of my mind, the ABA Facebook group was nowhere in sight, which means they’re still keeping me out. My buddy is fed up with them all, understably so.

Anyhow, getting back to the other, more officious Facebook conglomeration, in emails I asked ABAI for an explanation. “Why did you make me walk the plank, Mrs. Malott? Don’t forget. I’m a darned good swimmer.”

Anonymously, she or her spokesperson replied by email that I was spreading false information over the internet about them. When I asked her to specify exactly what I said that was such a big sin, then she fell silent, in precisely the same manner in which Glenda Crooked, JRC Director, said I was misleading the public about her institution, but who also refused to tell me exactly what I had said. I called them both the pot calling the kettle black. Then I never heard another peep about it.

Dick Malott, Maria’s ex-husband, is on the JRC Board of Directors. He’s a past president and founder of ABAI. It looks like ABA students in colleges and universities all over the world read his co-authored textbook, now called Principles of Behavior, as they become BCBAs. Here is the guru Dick Malott justifying JRC shock to his immense ABA following.

Jennifer, if you have time, I would love to read your response to Professor Dick’s defense of JRC.

Therefore, in the midst of my now seven-year blog inquiry into the ethics of behavior modification, I exposed their organizational falsehoods on my blog and in social media alongside all the other JRC and ABA critics who have also exposed their bizarre truthiness disability, as in the actually-autistic led outrage against the freaky anonymous Twitter profile who gaslighted Jennifer when he basically called her a bullshit artist who “twisted the truth about JRC.”

So I held up a mirror to them all and they didn’t enjoy their peek inside the looking glass, so they decided to punish a messenger of the revealed truth about them.

Let’s conclude this rambling post of a proudly identified schizophrenic clown whose brain is a bit scattered anyhow in its natural course of day-to-day operation. What’s wrong with that as long as I bind the frayed edges together into a big, fat connected knot? Let the analysts unravel it.

So why is ABA a cult? It’s a deviant worship of its own techniques which the general public cannot swallow, since many know it well by the taste of its rotten fruit.

Dissent of its members from its torturous methods is squelched out of fear of reprisals by ABA’s old guard leaders, especially the Malotts. Individually and informally, many speak out against shock in praiseworthy fashion, but nobody wants a caste-out-of-a-city-state by a count of Athenian stones, the way I have been removed by the bullies among them.

And this, in the extreme manner of notorious cult brainwashing, is how ABA indoctrinates its own members, though with its own proven controls that Reverend Moon probably never even heard of.

Scientifically and ethically, its doctrine contains intensively focused, behavior “decelerations” of frequently misjudged, physically harmless “behavior problems,” such as the homosexual and feminine-boy-mannerisms we’ll read about in history books. (See autistic researcher Michelle Dawson’s (2004) paper, “The misbehavior of the behaviorists.”) So now we have the tremendous problem of physically harmless autistic body-rocking, low-frequency-eye-contacts, hand-flapping, and other so-called autistic “stereotypies” emitted by children as young as one year old toddlers. In the meanwhile, ABA ethics code officially disregards the dissent of the direct recipients of its “therapeutic” interventions.

Philosophically, its doctrine of Radical Behaviorism is rooted in B. F. Skinner’s unproven assumption that human behavior is not autonomous, rather it is determined by the interaction of the genetic history of human and non-human organisms alike, their unique cumulative histories of environmental consequences upon their total repertoires of behavioral emissions, and the current situations in which the organisms finds themselves responding. Therefore, the concept of human dignity as it’s based in the notion of freedom should be disregarded by traditional ABA philosophers in Skinnerian fashion.

ABA dissemination against this unpopular philosophy ostensibly claims that it promotes freedom since it allows its subjects to choose better lives for themselves. However, in applied and experimental practice it aims to control one’s choices so it can control other people’s “problem behaviors,” usually people with much less power than them, namely young autistic children. So ABAI twists the words of its founder and says, “Guess what, everybody, while we lobby the government to cover us with insurance payments, pay no attention to our founder’s legacy. Of course we’re as free as American birds! Every individual can make up his own mind and choose whatever the heck he wants, no matter who gets in his way.”

I must admit here, I’m very much a Skinnerian, but not completely. He’s had his unethical moments and so have I, which is the primary vulnerability of the ethicist’s arguments, the highest possible trump card to use against us in the game of ethical Bridge, human imperfection. He publicly supported Dr. Israel, JRC’s founder, soon before he used shock, but while he was forcing ammonia sniffs upon his subjects. It’s too bad. I read that fact in an article abstract, but I can’t find the darned thing today and show it off to everyone.

I have my own philosophy on the dialectical concepts of absolute and relative freedoms and I do not presume to know whether or not absolute freedom or determinism exists as a function of human behavior, as Skinner seemed to assert.

So here we are with a little question. Am I right or wrong, BCBAs? You’re indoctrinated into a cult, are you not? Where is the official dissent from JRC? You purport to be so positive. Put your money where your mouth is. Have some courage. Take an official stand. Make an official announcement against JRC! Prove me wrong, please, and support the victims of shock. The only way you can convince me I’m wrong is if you all dissent from the Malott’s and get ABAI to officially censure JRC. If you do, I’ll do a huge internet mea culpa, a complete set of Rosary Beads, a public confession, and a public penance, as long as I get to hear if from a decent Jesuit priest. Or do you agree with contingent skin shock upon popping your own pimples?

You see, you’all still don’t get it, but I expect we’ll be friends in the end. I mean you no harm. Whether you like it or not, I’m fixing your disastrous ethics reputation. This is my personal favor to you. You’re now watching on TV news networks the JRC survivors and the disabled peer advocates #CloseTheJRC. You’ll thank us when we succeed in crumbling JRC’s multi-million dollar edifices. Then we’ll nibble away at the record of your cumulative cult behaviors, one disabled plane ticket at a time to the inner sanctums of your annual conventions. Mark my words when you finally invite us to speak in the grandiose manner of your formally invited speakers and you pay all our travel expenses out of the respect we’re due to receive from you. How dare you call us “deviants!” Then you’ll steer your way back to your Skinnerian roots and reject punishment the way he did (1953, p. 183). And then, maybe, just maybe, you’ll morph your way into humanists instead of the bunch of metamorphosed bugs you’re about to witness the next time you wake up with someone else like me who shoves a mirror in front of your collective faces.

I treat you today with nothing more than a taste of your own bitter medicine. Swallow it now. It’s for your own well being.

Ladies and gentlemen, the divorced Malotts have no clothes. Neither did the emperor George Bush II. Proceed accordingly, please.

I could blabber my mouth about the ABA cult from here to the doomsday moon, Alice Kramden, but I’ll bite my tongue for now.

Have a nice day.

*****
If you’ve got an extra chunk of valuable time, please read the supplementary post to this Tumblr post on my main blog: Here’s why ABA is a cult.

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.

I'll say it again here to make myself perfectly clear. ABA 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 this 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: ABA 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 ABA "consequences," as do other BCBAs 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 behavior 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 adamant 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 then in B. F. Skinner's operant conditioning discoveries, my original source of behavioral science information, 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 BCBA doing intensive, Lovaas-style, 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 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.)

JRC has an entire ABA "research" website called EffectiveTreatment.org. So ABA loves to claim that it's "effective" in changing autistic people's behavior patterns. Achieving a desired effect is nothing to brag about. 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 appears as though ABA agrees with Malcolm X that justice is served when they cause change "by any means necessary."

But "the ends don't justify the means." This maxim was a crucial part of my Georgetown University Jesuit priests' morality training.

The next video shows was a man objecting to Donald Rumsfeld's and George W. Bush's version of warfare by any means possible -- Drum up a fake reason to go to war in Iraq, scare 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 Muslims in the midst of the Bush "crusade" against terror.





The crusades Medieval war campaigns of Christians against Muslims. So Bush did kill his target, Saddam Hussein, by any means necessary, quite effectively, according to his plan.

So, 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.

2 comments :

  1. You have done your argument an enormous disservice.

    Science and religion are completely antithetical. If they met for the first time in a dark alley, they would not recognise one another. This is especially clear when the following points are considered:

    * Science as a profession is based in the evidentiary method. A scientist has to observe an event, formulate a theory to explain that event, and then subject the theory to so much testing that it either becomes insane to withhold provisional consent to the truth of the theory or the experiment invalidates the theory.

    Religion reverses the above. It decides what it wants the facts to be, then cherry-picks data to "prove" said facts. A good example is the number of times one gospel author construes any small phrase as a prophecy and invents an event to "demonstrate" that Jesus fulfils it. Even creating absurd results such as Jesus riding two donkeys at the same time, due to said author's poor understanding of Hebrew.

    * Science encourages scientists to challenge and reexamine each others' work constantly. The theory of evolution is accepted as both theory and fact because literally thousands of attempts by scientists who could not let go of Genesis all fell flat against it. The theory/fact that diabetes is the result of an immune system miscalibration has been all but canonised by the latest discovery that white blood cells in people with type one diabetes start malforming (I forget the exact wording) in the months leading up to the destruction of their islet cells. And these are just two of many examples.

    * ABA is not science. It made up its mind that harming children in order to ensure "compliance" is good, and cherry-picks its "facts" to support that. Adults like myself who suffer PTSD symptoms just from people who get too close to them are a non-factor to ABA-lovers. To real scientists, they are a vital consideration.

    So in future, when you meet someone calling themselves a scientist, and their behaviour reminds you more of a cultist, it is well worth your while to ask yourself whether they are really behaving like a scientist. Because based on what I have seen in adverts for ABA, "autism conversion therapy", and so forth, the idea that these people get away with calling themselves scientists is quite insulting to a profession that had to fight people who are just like the ABA cultists in order to survive.

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  2. Thank you, Deane, for your well spoken, logical, and well reasoned argument. I must say I did call applied behavior analysis a cult, a religion, and a science. Are you a scientist? I'm not. I must admit I was also duped by ABA in calling it a science. May I borrow your feedback in my future essays on ABA? If you are a scientist, well then your calling ABA a cult and not a science holds more weight than my word on what constitutes a science. Would you like me to credit you with the idea that ABA is not a science depite its massive media campaign quite to the contrary? Can we call it scientifically derived technology? I have described it as such in the past. You see I do believe that ABA takes behavior science and perverts it with ill-informedv ethics. So does the military when it uses scientifically derived bombs and drones that drop them down on the heads of innocent bride grooms getting married in places like Pakistan. You see I read Skinner's first book, Behavior of Organisms, cover to cover. He convinced me that his delivery of food pellets contingent upon lever pulls can explain, predict, and control the rate of rat lever pulls. Others have convinced me that an extinction burst will occur when someone gets frustrated with a candy machine when pulling the candy machine lever on it gets jammed and she gets no candy. Do you believe this does not occur? If not, then isn't behavioral psychology a science even though ABA is a bastardization of science into an unethical practice of misapplied technology derived from science?

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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.