My 6 year old son is in kindergarten and receives services (ABA) through the Special School District in Missouri. My son is on the autism spectrum and has a para with him throughout the day. He lately has not been completing his work – so last Wednesday I learned that they withheld his lunch from him until 2:00 until he did his work. I am sick about this. My son does not perform well when hungry and I thought ABA was supposed to be a teaching method based on positive rewards and not withholding basic needs as punishment. As anyone else come across this?!
Iris Johansson’s comments:
For us who have autism the issue is that we can’t use our feelings to understand and therefore both rewards and punishments are ineffective. If we get rewards we lose the idea of what we were supposed to learn and if we get punishments we get irritable and lose concentration. It is important to realize that we want to learn everything we can, but we have no feeling for something that is new to us. It takes us a long time until we have oriented ourselves and are able to put the new into an existing context and this doesn’t work the same way as for those who have feelings to lubricate the process with. We are not like children without autism, who are imprinted at a deep level, not by what someone says, but by what someone does. It’s not like that for us, we have to figure it on an intellectual level what we should do and then the tendency is that we slip back into the known and familiar, however wrong that may be, and then both rewards and sanctions tend to bind us in our stereotypy, instead of helping us make progress.
What is required for us to learn is that we get to watch somebody else doing it and that somebody teases out our interest in it and then we eventually do what is wanted but in our own peculiar way. So you are absolutely right, using reinforcement and sanctions is not a good method.
With Son-rise where somebody joins in the autistic persons stereotypy and continually opens it broadens it, that helps us become high functioning and it is without preconditions and therefore works. That way our nervous system releases the cramp a little and we get somewhat freer impulses that can flow and we can develop. Our body will not obey our intentions unless we can get our cramp released and the great task for those around us is to make it to help us be as cramp-free as possible, and that is not possible with sanctions.