I Am Not Your Token “Good Autistic”

Life has been quite a whirlwind since I started doing advocacy almost full-time. I have gotten a lot more opportunities than I thought I would get, and I’ve been grateful for them all. Last week, I was asked to speak on a panel about autistic lived experience and representation in media, watching “The Reason I Jump” film.

This week, I got the news that a co-presenter and sponsor of the event was an organization called Autism Ontario. AO regularly lobbies for the ABA industry, an industry that is founded on human rights violations of disabled folks. Not only founded on, but presently strips money from other funding, scares parents with a fear-based rhetoric (ABA or else!!), and regularly physically and psychologically harms disabled children and adults – all for money.

How do I know this? A lot of people like to think it’s because of Twitter or other social media. But it’s the answer ABA supporters don’t want to hear. I know because of the most recent BACB ethics code where conflict of interest is the number one ally of BCBAs and RBTs, I know because I sat in a post-graduate class for a degree in Applied Behaviour Analysis (autism specific ABA) where I, the only openly autistic person, begged my peers to stand up against BCBA’s shock torture of autistic children. Their response? “I want to go see what the argument is for shocking them, first”. “I want to hear them speak.” “I’ll go to the conference.”

Future RBTs, future BCBAs, believing that there is a reason to shock autistic children. The future of the industry doesn’t leave me hopeful, it leaves me terrified. Money is not worth the lives of people.

So many ways to advocate for, provide support to, and keep autistic people safe. So many ways to encourage them, to provide them with supports and accommodations, and value you. ABA is not one, nor does it need to be. ABA providers who tell you otherwise are lying to you, because they’re scared.

To autistic people that support ABA, you’re one of the only one of us who ever gets listened to. You’re allowed in spaces that those of us who refuse to give ABA the benefit of the doubt anymore are not. Treating ABA as a good thing because one person may have had a non harmful experience – or what they believe is one – is not a reason to let an entire field built to harm survive. The chances of getting an ABA therapist that wasn’t taught anti-autistic rhetoric is low. Very low. Too low for me to ever advocate for a parent to take that chance.

And because of that, I had to turn down an advocacy opportunity. An event that prided itself on including disabled voices.

My final suggestion to future groups making legitimate efforts to make a positive autism centered event – cut ties with the ABA industry. Don’t donate your money, don’t give them a platform, speak out against injustices. ABA has been given a platform, time and time again, and has used that platform to harm.

I tried to be “the token good autistic”. I tried to “see both sides” of ABA. I tried to believe that ABA as an autism therapy had good intentions.

Never again.

Stop allowing an individual experience to blind you to a systemic issue.

Published by Taryn Jaye

Autistic. Writer, advocate, and future therapist. Yes, I support individuals with high-support needs.

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