Sunday, April 11, 2021

Elephant Family

 Carnival of Aces April 2021 focuses on the idea of a “new normal”, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the question of how asexuality influences your plans coming out of the pandemic.

Two years ago, I made an appointment with a fertility clinic. I ordered sperm from a sperm bank, had three unsuccessful IUIs, and ran out of money, so I took a year off to save for more sperm. Just as I'd saved up enough, the pandemic hit.

If I was heterosexual, maybe my partner and I might have spent our time sheltering in place trying to conceive. Especially in the latter half of 2020, once the data was pretty clear that COVID-19 doesn’t have much interaction with pregnancy, and it’s probably reasonably safe to try to conceive. For me, resuming trying has been more complicated than it is for many heterosexuals. (Although of course there are heterosexuals who are trying to conceive without a significant other, or who have fertility issues that prevent unaided conception, so I could be in the exact same situation regardless.)

Besides the simple delay, the pandemic has also led to restructuring my plans.

Before the pandemic, my parents lived and worked in different cities, and I traveled between them. My plan was originally to spend my pregnancy and my child’s first few months of life living in my mother’s apartment. I found it a lower stress environment, got more exercise there, and had more places worth walking to. And it was a place with a spare room that could be easily adapted into a babies’ room, and overall would have been relatively simple to childproof.

I formed plans, I dreamed dreams. And then my mother got laid off due to the pandemic, and no longer had any reason to stay in that town.

Now, I’m most likely going to be raising my child, once I finally have one, in the office building we run our family business out of. My brother and I have been sleeping here most nights for a couple years, and I could probably readily set up some rooms to be appropriate for a little one. They’ll need more supervision here than they would have needed in the apartment, and it’s less friendly for going for walks. But it’s workable.

Asexuality, aromanticism and autism aren’t really separable things in my life. The fact that I’m 31, single and dependent on my parents isn’t due to any one of those alone, but all three combined. The same is true of the fact that my brother is the most important person in my life, and the one person I most want as a role model for my child.

The family I hope to build isn’t the standard two parents and one or more children. Nor is it the stereotypical ideal single mother by choice family, one high-powered executive in her early forties and one child. It’s a family of generational interconnectedness, where independence is an unnecessary and superfluous concept. In some ways, it’s like an elephant family, where a younger female is impregnated by a male she might never see again and has her matriarch mother help her raise her calf.

And things are coming together. Pretty soon, I’ll likely be getting a special retirement savings plan specifically for disabled people, giving me something in case I can never make it in the employment world without my parents support. My family has survived the pandemic. My Dad, the one of us most at risk, has already been vaccinated. We're looking forward to the future again, not just surviving day by day.

Friday, April 02, 2021

ABA Practitioners: Put Your Words Into Action

 If you're an ABA practitioner who responds to criticism of ABA by saying that the ABA being criticized is "bad ABA" and you practice "good ABA", then I challenge you to put your words into action.

There are a lot of former ABA recipients and their families speaking out against ABA. Including families of children who have received ABA recently - not just people who had ABA in the "bad old days" when Ivar Lovaas was spanking children to make them stop stimming.

Which means, if all of those are examples of "bad ABA", there's an epidemic of bad ABA. And if you really want children to be able to reap the benefits of "good ABA", you need to do something about it.

As it is, given how common "bad ABA" must be, a parent considering ABA treatment for their child is essentially playing Russian roulette with their child's mental health. Maybe they'll luck out and get a good ABA practitioner, or maybe they'll get one of the bad ones, and their child will have PTSD. They have to weigh whether they want to take that risk.

In other fields, you can often look for accreditation or credentials to help rule out the bad ones, and if a bad one slips through, you can report them to make them lose their credentials. For example, if my mother, who is a lawyer, scams or abuses a client, she could get reported to the Canadian Bar Association and lose her license to practice law.

Ideally, the BACB certification process should serve that purpose, but it doesn't. There are BCBAs who work in the Judge Rotenberg Center, which is still running as of 2021 despite repeated efforts to shut down the center due to human rights abuses. The Judge Rotenberg Center uses aversives, mostly notably a wearable electric shock system known as the GED. 

If you claim that "good ABA" doesn't use aversives, then clearly, a BCBA who accepts employment in the JRC and cooperates with crafting behaviour plans involving the GED should lose their certification. The fact that they don't should be something you are outraged about and lobbying to stop.

Similarly, if a parent says "my child's BCBA ordered the therapists to hold them down while they sobbed for hours", this should prompt you to encourage them to report that behavior to authorities who will get that person to lose their certification. Or, knowing that such a report would not be effective - let's face it, you know it wouldn't - you should be joining those parents in lobbying the BACB to stop certifying child abusers to practice in your field.

The fact that you criticize "bad ABA" only when people are saying that no child should be in ABA treatment, and only to defend the existence of "good ABA", makes it clear that you're not trying to help autistic children. You're not trying to make sure that parents don't have to play Russian roulette with their child's future.

You're like the Catholic Church, when parents made allegations against sexually abusive priests - you're covering up the problem, and covering your own asses, at the cost of the children you're supposed to be helping.