ABA is a Tool

If you have been traumatized by ABA, please know I love you and hope you can love you too.

And like most tools, it can be used to build up, or tear down.

ABA has frequently been misused to teach neurodivergent children to mask – squashing their authentic self and thus traumatizing them.

Atomic Habits is basically the layman’s guide to using ABA to build the life they want.

If your child does not LOVE going to ABA or seeing their BT/BI, then something is wrong.

ABA is supposed to be individualized, so if they aren’t customizing, it isn’t being used properly.

We use ABA to support acquiring self-regulation skills, self-advocacy skills, coping tools and communication skills.

We do not use ABA to teach compliance or masking – we don’t ask for eye contact, but we do point out that when someone is facing away or hasn’t gotten our attention, then it’s hard to hear, and if we don’t hear, we can’t reply.

The number one thing they do is catch the kiddo doing well and praising that. Which helped me realize how terrible I was at it. It felt really weird and kinda fake at first, but I’m much more comfortable now and it feels really good.

Input Required

I had a friend ask for ideas, I’m generalizing here for anyone it might help.

Kiddo asks parent for proprioceptive input.

Parent either can’t or can only offer some input.

Kiddo can’t handle the refusal – they already are disregulated and needing input, so they escalate.

My suggestions came from my experience:

1 One, it’s ok to have boundaries, and the less someone respects your boundaries, the bigger the boundaries have to be.

I’ve described it like the following distance when driving – if someone in front of you or behind you is tailgaiting, you need a larger following distance. That way if the person in front crashes from tailgaiting you have time to brake. If the person behind is too close then you also need time to brake slowly so they don’t hit you like they would if you had to stop suddenly.

What this looks like is stopping your kiddo farther away and asking them to slow down and ask first. If they are too disregulated to respect the boundaries, then you know to take action to protect yourself and help them get regulated. For example my personal bubble with the kiddo is my head and my back, if he wants to go behind me he has to ask, and if he wants to touch my face he has to ask, and if he wants to give me a hug, he doesn’t have to ask unless he’s trying to come up behind me.

2 Two, if they are asking for input you can’t give, try to give them or help them get the input they need. I’ll offer “squeezies” – a big bear hug, “squishies” – squishing the kiddo between me and a counter/wall/etc. or “jumpies” – holding hands and the kiddo jumps while pushing down on my hands, similar to holding a gym bar or pushing down on a counter or table and jumping.

In this case kiddo wanted what we call “shoulder bup” – sitting on shoulders. The two alternatives I thought of was doing a piggy back and then leaning against the wall to take some of the weight off or doing the shoulder bup with leaning back so that most of the kiddo’s weight ends up on the back of the seat if available.

If those aren’t options, a headstand or handstand might help or the other types of input mentioned. Another one we like is “Timber!” where they call that and you are a tree that then falls down on them – usually sitting side by side and leaning into them.

How do I get people to take my advice?

First I have a question – how do YOU feel when someone gives you unsolicited advice?

  • Patronized? (Mansplained)
  • Condescended to?
  • Defensive?
  • Criticized?
  • Angry?
  • Annoyed or irritated?
  • Appreciative?
  • Grateful?

If it’s more like the first ones and not the last two, why would someone else feel differently?

What would happen if instead you asked if they were open to you sharing ideas or your experience?

What if you respected if they weren’t ready to hear it, but at least they know you’re available if they want it?

What if you asked them what they think they need or what they want, and why they want it? Could you ask leading questions so they could figure things out on their own?

What would happen if you took your own advice first? What would it look like to be the change you want to see?

What are you missing if people aren’t listening to you? Are you not connecting first? Are you regulated? Are they?

Cassandra from Greek Mythology embodies the anguish of seeing the future and not being able to do anything about it. But it’s a misleading tale – we can do something about it, but not the thing that is easy for us – telling others.

We have to do the hard work of helping them see for themselves, or the even harder work of connecting with others so strongly that they trust us to be looking out for their best interests as well.

ADHD Tip: Body Doubling

I’ve been doing this for decades – at least since moving to college (when you live at home it’s somewhat built in). I just didn’t know that I had ADHD or that there was a term for what I was doing.

A nice explanation from medicalnewstoday:

Body doubling simply means doing a task in the presence of another person. The other person may help with the task, such as when a couple or housemates do housework together. They may work on the same task, but independently, such as when friends do homework together. Or they might simply be present, listening to music or quietly performing an unrelated task.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/body-doubling-adhd

I’ve also found I can use Ted Talks as somewhat of an alternative body double for mindless tasks like laundry.

More references:

My hypothesis on how it works:

  • begin activity
  • get distracted
  • notice double (there is research that we are hardwired to see faces, I’m guessing that means that often the other person is the most attention grabbing thing around)
  • remember that they are there as a double
  • refocus on task

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/hyperscans-show-how-brains-sync-as-people-interact/