Thursday, May 5, 2016

Behavior Plan for Autism Professionals

My Behavior Plan for Parents was pretty popular and I have had requests from a lot of parents to do a similar plan for teachers, professionals and therapists who work with Autistic children. You can find a printable copy of this plan here.

This is a Behavior Plan for Professionals, Teachers & Therapists that are working with my disabled/autistic child.  Signing this behavior plan means that you will always put the dignity, autonomy, and respect for the disabled child above buying into the dominant narrative of tragedy or the belief that autism is something that the Autistic person is doing to you.     

  • I will look at each child as an individual as we celebrate their strengths and support them in the areas that challenge them.  
  • I will support them by teaching self advocacy skills and in helping them find accommodations that work for them and that respect their autonomy.
  • I will throw out the myth of a “developmental window” and acknowledge that every child will grow and learn in their own time, in their own way with my patience, guidance and nurturing.
  • All of my interactions with the children I work with will be based on mutual respect, not on enforcing my authority.
  • I will look at every therapeutic approach with a critical eye.  I will ask myself what is the desired outcome?   Am I advocating respectful supports or am I prioritizing compliance and indistinguishability?  It is not my job to “fix” because children are not broken.  
  • I will research the long term effects on the autistic person’s self esteem, trauma responses and mental health when  they are subjected to therapeutic approaches such as ABA that value compliance and indistinguishability.  I will gather this information by listening to actually autistic people.
  • I will embrace the neurodiversity paradigm and celebrate each child as a valuable part of the wide and diverse spectrum of humanity.
  • I will learn about the social model of disability and confront ableism when I see it.  I will learn about the disability and autistic rights movements and use my privilege to further the cause.
  • I will learn about Autistic culture and find Autistic friends, not just for the children I work with but for me as well.  I will  promote acceptance and lead by my example.
  • I will recognize that autism is an integral part of who the children I work with are and it shapes how they view, process and experience this world. I will value every part of the children I work with.  I will never teach them shame  or internalized ableism.  
  • I will always presume competence in every child that I work with.
  • I understand that communication is more than speech and I will value all communication in its many forms.  I will not prioritize speaking as the only valid type of communication.
  • I will not attempt to interpret, prevent or stop certain behaviors such as stimming based on my non-autistic experiences, but will instead attempt to understand the function and purpose it serves for the autistic person.   Sometimes, I may not understand, and that is never a good reason to attempt to stop or prevent it.
  • I will recognize that autistic children can learn skills just like their typically developing peers and friends.  They do not need a separate, segregated classroom to be taught in ways that dehumanize and stigmatize them.  If the autistic child needs more time to learn something than typically developing children, that does not mean that they will never learn these skills.  It just means they learn differently and I will accommodate and support that.
  • I will not remove supports once the autistic child is successful with them.  I will recognize that this is cruel and makes very little sense as autism is a lifelong disability for which the person will always need supports and accommodations….even as the support needs change and they master new skills.  I cannot remove all supports and expect a disabled person to thrive without them.
  • I will likely make mistakes along the way because I am not perfect, but when I know better, I will be able to do better. I will remember that working with autistic or other neurodivergent children means supporting them, accepting them, valuing them for the unique and wonderful people they are.

Image: white text reads:
Behavior Plan for Teachers, Therapists & Professionasl who work with Autistic Children.   Text is on red and white checkered background.


  1. Oh my gosh this is brilliant and spot on and glad to say this is my path!!! Agree, agree, agree!!!

  2. I was going to sign this and the I spotted the anti-ABA rhetoric, that really undermines this whole statement. What a pity.

    I wish people would not talk about ABA, if they don't understand it (in fact it is against all professional ethical guidelines).
    In fact, ABA values the whole person and is based entirely on functional assessments that lead to individually tailored supports that are adjusted with progress (data-based decision making) for as long as they are needed.

    Any behaviour analyst would agree with these inclusive, anti-oppressive ideas
    For accurate information about ABA check here:
    Note that Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is the "application of the science of behaviour analysis to socially relevant behaviours".

    Any mal-practice should be reported and stopped, regardless who commits it. You don’t blame the whole science of behaviour analysis any more than you blame Physics for the existence of Gravity.

    Without the rather ill-informed anti-ABA rhetoric, this would have been such a good statement.
    Let’s see if this comment is allowed to be heard or if will be deleted, so as ensure that you, the reader, remains uninformed.

    1. I actually do know what ABA is, as a family member of mine was traumatized and developed ptsd from the forced compliance and system of "rewards" for following commands that often made little sense. After that experience, I met many other autistic people who were similarly traumatized. Autistic children do not need to be studied and trained with ABA. We can and do learn skills when taught with respect. Please listen to actually autistic people who have been victimized by ABA instead of defending abuse.


    3. "I wish people would not talk about ABA, if they don't understand it."

      Then why are you talking about it?

    4. Have you read The me book? Tell me what part of that isn't abusive.

      By definition behaviorists aren't looking at he whole person, just he behavior.

    5. Who decides which behaviors are "socially relevant"?

    6. The "tailored supports" are based on an assessment of how close, or far, to normal, as defined by non-autistic people, the victim is. And that's why it is torturous. We are not your definition of normal, normalizing us according to ABA's idea of what is good or bad is torturous and disrespectful of our identity, individuality, self.

      And we do know ABA because we have been abused by it

    7. As someone who has worked in the ABA industry before I realized how harmful it actually is, I call bullshit. ABA (aka: Autistic Conversion Therapy) does not, and by definition cannot value the whole person. This is not a matter unethical individuals. This is a matter of ABA itself being unethical.

      The goal of ABA is to make a child "indistinguishable from peers." This goal is reached by extinguishing "socially inappropriate" behaviors and replacing them with "alternative appropriate behaviors." Behaviors deemed as "socially inappropriate" are those seen as outside the norms of neurotypical culture as judged by neurotypical "professionals." Also, neurotypicals and autistics by definition, are not and cannot be peers. So basically the goal of ABA is to make an autistic person "pass' for neurotypical in order to fit in. ABA has been used as Gay Conversion Therapy which is widely considered harmful quackery, yet it is somehow considered ethical to do to autistic people.

      The "functional assessments that lead to individually tailored supports" are not really relevant, as they often focus on things that are not useful to the child, but are designed to make the child more manageable to others such as parents, educators and neurotypical classmates.

      As for anti-oppressive, I fail to see how forcing a child to sit at a table doing tricks for tokens and candy, being told to have "quiet hands"- sometimes even having to earn the right to move one's own body, being forced to maintain eye contact, being subjected to uncomfortable and sometimes painful sensory experiences in the name of "desensitizing" them to those sensations (when you are actually just teaching them to not react to the pain)is even remotely anti-oppressive. You are teaching them that if someone with more power than you tells you to do something you have no right to say no. You are teaching them that they are inherently wrong and that their bodies are not their own. You are teaching them to be compliant at all costs. That is oppression.

      Personally, I find your behavior socially inappropriate. You come onto an autistic blog and try to use your privilege and your piece of paper that says you're an "expert" to invalidate the LIVED EXPERIENCE of these actually autistic people. People who have been on the receiving end of your "science." Many of whom have PTSD as a direct result of this so-called "science."

      You have been misinformed by other NT "professionals" and it would do you some good to seek out information from actually autistic people. If/when you do that, you will quickly discover that the vast majority of autistic adults are against ABA. I look forward to the day when your little piece of paper and your "profession" is made obsolete by the outlawing of ABA. I will work hard to make alongside actually autistic people to make that happen.

    8. "ABA values the whole person and is based entirely on functional assessments"

      I'm kind of stuck on this stunning lack of self-awareness and complete contradiction. Functioning is not the whole person, and definitely not the functioning we can assess (which is actually really limited). We're awful at knowing what people can do if they can't put it into words we understand. ABA doesn't value the whole person; it's dog training (and not even good dog training) to improve "function".

      "Any behaviour analyst would agree "

      Sadly, behaviour analysts aren't the people subjected to their dangerous, abusive theories. Disabled children are. Adults who went thru ABA as children recognize it as abusive, and it has a staggering rate of PTSD among survivors. For something supposedly anti-oppressive, it has terrible mental health outcomes.

      "You don’t blame the whole science of behaviour analysis any more than you blame Physics for the existence of Gravity."

      Is Gravity abusing incredibly young children with fewer defenses than is typical? No. But ABA therapists are. I'd say take out your trash, but your entire field is based on faulty, outdated, abusive science from a man who would starve disabled children to ensure their compliance for treats. Like the bad trainers at Sea World! That's the father of your field.

    9. Oh yes! Thank you all for these replies, so on point, and well-written, and so rightfully respectful of actually autistic people! Like a breathe of fresh air! <3

  3. How is forced compliance with goals imposed on a child by someone in a position of power over them for the purpose of training them to behave in ways the child finds painfully difficult "anti-oppressive"? Karol, if you take your passive aggressive evidence based hype elsewhere, I'll give you a gummy bear.

  4. You may find this interesting

    1. This article completely misses the point. Yes there are natural consequences to everything, cause and effect. Yes, SOME parents rely on rewards and punishments to discipline their children. However, even if we assume that all parents use coercion to discipline their children (which research has shown to be ineffective at best) ABA is completely different. Mainly because the intended outcome is to change who a person fundamentally is (or at least prevent them from expressing it) in order for them to be considered an acceptable human being. Typical rewards and punishments style parenting also doesn't involve forcing a child to spend an entire day doing meaningless drills for rewards and praise for up to 40 hours a week. Also the Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence model is not always accurate as it presumes that the antecedent is what led to the behavior which is not always the case. ABA looks at a person as a set of behaviors to be fixed and problems to be solved. Instead of trying to prove that you're right, why not listen to actually autistic people and learn more positive ways of supporting autistic children? The fact that pretty much only neurotypicals are in support of ABA should tell you something. Or do you really think that you know what autistics need more than they themselves know?

    2. Remember that part about listening to actually autistic people about treatments that work/don't work? It was part of the stuff you didn't object to. That's the part you are failing at. Actually autistic are telling you, from their own experience, that ABA is painful, it doesn't work, and it has done a great deal of damage. Instead of listening you are insisting that they just don't understand ABA. That's ableist. Please stop. You don't have to agree but stop telling people that their experience is invalid because it makes you unhappy.

  5. I wish I could sign this. However, as an autistic, I can't because it states I "I will not attempt to interpret, prevent or stop certain behaviors such as stimming based on my non-autistic experiences"

    I don't have non-autistic experiences. I am not openly autistic at work, but I will not flat-out lie and say I'm NOT autistic either.