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I'm Not Rude, I'm Right

I'm not rude- I'm right


I have been presenting at conferences for 5 or so years. I often get marked very highly. One organization just told me I got the highest ratings they have ever had. I gave one workshop at an ABA conference and had roughly one hundred and fifty 4 and 5 ratings and eight 1’s. One review stuck out to me though. A very angry BCBA wrote a comment saying various things but continuously called me rude and ended with "Making rude statements to practitioners is rude."


The presentation was called "There is No Old ABA''. It addressed the notion that when people (especially Autistic people) criticize ABA the response is often "Oh! No! That's old ABA!" When, in fact, we still do a lot of the problematic and sometimes abusive things. The talk discussed the problems and tangible ways to fix them. It was spicy, but it was logical, backed up by evidence, and solutions were given.


And 150 people out of 158 gave it a 4 or a 5 rating.


But I was perceived as "rude" by this BCBA. And really, he's not the only one I'm sure. He was just bold enough to say it.


It is so important to examine why we feel fragile when we are approached with challenging information. It is hard to consider the possibility that we have been causing harm, especially when we think we have been helping.


These are steps that are helpful when confronted with information that may be hard to hear about our ABA practices:


  1. Sit with the feeling: No one wants to be accused of abuse or doing harm. But sit for a minute and listen to the feeling before responding.

  2. Consider if there is ANY truth to it. Perhaps you believe you do not do table work DTT- but do you do rapid fire DTT goals for behavioral momentum? Do you never block stims- unless it's interfering with a goal?

  3. Consider if the problematic thing is happening, how can you reduce it? Consider ways and implement. Do not expect Autistic people to tell you how.

  4. If you aren't doing the problematic thing, no need to respond. It means the comments are not about you. No need to "not all ABA" the person delivering the message.


It is not a new thing as a successful and assertive woman to be labeled for just existing. It has become a joke now to say that I am being rude when I am saying innocuous things. But, this anger goes beyond that. As a field we need to listen and change- and that starts by listening to people, even if they are rude.


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