Blogger Widgets Ender-Chan's Thoughts: Why Was Passing for Normal Important?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why Was Passing for Normal Important?

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."--Abraham Maslow
Lovaas's ABA ran under the logic that an external change in behavior imparted an internal change, which, in theory, could make the recipient less (reason they're going through it in the first place). This method became popular in treating autistic children in order to make them less autistic. Of course we all know that normality-oriented therapy is time-consuming,  expensive, exhausting, harmful, ineffective, and backed the toxic idea that you need to look and act a certain way in order to be worthy of your inalienable rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). Now those rights aren't so inalienable, are they?

My question is why normality was so important in the past. Is it because not much was known about autism and like disorders or because conformity is so deeply seated in the world's traditions that some people think it is the only way to deal with things? Why was it that appearing normal trumped the recipient's health? I have been to the blogs of several others who have gone through similar therapies to Lovaas ABA. Many of them cited depression, anxiety, and PTSD as a result of conformity therapy. Were these consequences not forseeable by practicioners and parents? Or were they so daunted by the idea of helping people love themselves and function to the fullest extent possible that they just decided to take the easy route with conformity therapy?

Since there is a Lovaas center close to me, I decided to go on their website and read Bryce's case. Bryce was disinterested in structured play and toys. What mystified me was why his parents didn't bother to find reasons for these things other than "Oh, he's autistic and needs to be fixed.". Structured play could have caused Bryce anxiety or another form of distress. The website cited that Bryce's "tantrums" were an issue throughout the therapy. Bryce was protesting in the way he knew how. Would you protest in the way you knew how if you were forced to be someone you're not? I definitely would. However, that's not what disturbs me the most.

The aftermath of the therapy is meant to be happy, but I interpreted it otherwise. On the website it says "he laughs at the little boy tantrumming on the screen when shown old footage of his first few days in treatment." What I got from that statement is that Bryce acquired trained arrogance due to being "cured" of his autism. I worry how Bryce will treat other people in the future, if he will grow into the same vapid, ignorant "adult" I hate. I worry that he will come to look down on others who do need an aide or who cannot/will not maintain a neurotypical image. The juxtaposition of the four year old melting down in a video and the second grader laughing at him makes for a troubling contrast.

My speculation is: What if that boy was not a projected image, but a living, breathing human being?  Would he have stood up for the child or laughed as he laughed at himself? I feel more troubled and reviled at where he is now rather than hopeful. How does a story like this induce feelings of hope in some, concern in few, and revulsion in others with little else in between? Life holds many questions and very few answers. I have no answer as to why conformity therapy even came into fruition or continues to exist, but its results leave me disgusted and confused rather than comforted and hopeful.

What do you think? Do you have other questions about conformity therapy? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Have I brought any new things to consider? 

Song: A Realistic Logical Ideologist
Artist:ゴボウメン (English Dub by JubyPhonic)
Language: English dubbed from Japanese

Song: Classroom Bystander
Artist: Kagamine Len
Language: Japanese


  1. I wish to focus on the rights-based approach which you espouse in the first paragraph. The European Social Charter, unlike the US Constitution, recognises rights which have been and are alienated. In various Australian jurisdictions, too, especially federally [ACT and Victoria] charters of human rights and responsibilities are common.
    I'd also like to talk about human rights in New Zealand. There is a wonderful environmental artist who works in Hamilton, France and Israel.
    Papa and I discussed the propositions in the second paragraph in the context of the middle-grade slump [9th grade] as it is affecting literacy and social development in developmentally vulnerable learners. We focused on this bit in particular:
    "conformity is so deeply seated in the world's traditions that some people think it is the only way to deal with things".
    Conformity - and related drives/impulses - do have that deep seat. Traditions tend to reinforce, at their worst, a sense of rigidity. They exploit situations in which there is a lack of predictability and certainty, which are two important needs. In as far as conformity represents a mindset and one choice or set of choices in an individual's response set...
    Does "the world" have traditions? Are these on a local, regional, global scale?
    I remember looking at ritual and tradition and what it all meant. An autistically-informed perspective brings light whether in whole or in part. [I form this after trauma-informed counselling]. It is a form of cultural competence and ethical consideration.
    "Disinterested" seems like a fair interpretation of Bryce's response with the information given to us.
    Your points on ignorance and arrogance and how and why they develop are certainly valid ones.
    I would also like to talk about the rights-based approach which you espouse in the first paragraph. The European Social Charter, unlike the US Constitution, recognises rights which have been and are alienated. In various Australian jurisdictions, too, especially federally [ACT and Victoria] charters of human rights and responsibilities are common.
    I'd also like to talk about human rights in New Zealand. There is a wonderful environmental artist who works in Hamilton, France and Israel.
    Existentialism is another approach. It is both philosophical and practical and one which the Realistic Logical Ideologist [not necessarily idealist] may be drawn to. The Classroom Bystander likes it too because it gives a framework where responsibility to self and others is prioritised and maximised whenever possible - maybe they're less likely to become the adult they hate!
    The protests and the treatments of the protests don't disturb you. Is that what I'm hearing?
    I liked the consequentialist and the deontologist questions.
    Example of a consequentialist approach: "Were these consequences not forseeable by practicioners and parents?"
    Deontologist: "Or were they so daunted by the idea of helping people love themselves and function to the fullest extent possible that they just decided to take the easy route with conformity therapy?"
    "Daunted" suggests a degree of purpose/teleology. As of course does "function" which is qualified or expanded "to the fullest extent possible". "Decided to take the easy route". :-).
    When I considered these questions in this forum 15 years ago I used the Sumlins and their work.
    This piece is good for people who are considering where, when and why to do their Creativity; Action; Service. It is reflective.
    And I think of and feel with Bryce laughing at his own "reflection".

    1. The protests and treatments disturb me to the core, but the aftermath pushes it over the top. As bad as the treatments were, the resulting trained arrogance was even more so.

    2. Let's talk about Bryce.

      My first reaction was:

      "You trained that arrogance into Bryce; you'd better straight train it out of him!"

      ["you" of course being the therapists; the system and probably indirectly his parents - and of course the people who tried to hang out with him].

      There is a guy whose Mum's blog I read a lot. His name is Ryan and it is called AWEsome. I loved the latest post because it really showed his attitude with people and not doing the comparisons so many of us do.

      And it makes me wonder: how much of that "trained arrogance" is self-protection? How much a reaction against rejection?

      Then I decided that most of it - the greater part of it - was being valued for what he does, not who he is. And in this very instrumental way.

      If you are shown fundamental disrespect, who is to blame you when you bring that back?

      And do you not see that as a foreseeable conclusion?

      Bryce lost two of the best years of his life and he could eventually lose his life. Years in which he could have been very happy as and for himself.

      So many people fight for the self-direction and self-determination which Bryce showed before he was 4 years old. So many people do not know that it is possible until teenage or adult years. When the trainers, the bureaucracy, try to "manage" it.

      Remember there were two other children on that LIFE site [who I strongly believe were composites/examples; unless the children and the parents gave permission]: TJ and Jacqueline.

      You are really not supposed to do Lovaas on kids who have seizures or hearing loss which would interfere with the verbal part of the training.

      You might like to follow Ink and Daggers on Tumblr. She answers lots of questions and is an anarchist-socialist who used to work in Utah in the mid-2000s. Encountered M Kultra in early 2010. And in very recent times there was a British man called Josh.

  2. I hate the idea of 100% conformity in a society, that's scary and controlling. But I do believe that everyone should make concessions to each other, especially when they live or work together. Take sensory issues - in this house I have one teen who does not like loud noises and the other who makes them, so I feel that I have to try and accommodate both, by trying to quieten down my daughter and encouraging my son to cope with incrementally louder noises.

    1. Compromise is respecting another person's needs, not just following their real and/or perceived commands ignorantly.

    2. Conflicting access needs are a real thing, Looking for Blue Sky, for Smiley and for Teen.

      It's hard to tell in your example which is which.

      [Also: would you consider a classroom more like living or like working together? What about being together in other ways that we choose or may not?]

      And, FlutistPride, in Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome, everything can be a perceived command.

    3. I think a classroom is the most artificial environment because conformity is demanded there more than at home or in the workplace.

  3. I agree, and I wish everyone else did too.

  4. Anna....
    I am sorry for not reading/commenting on this Blog post sooner than now.... I have been busy!! ;)
    My questions are this.... Why is being "normal" still so seemingly important in today's society, in today's day and age? Can autism--can asperger's syndrome--really be cured? Why didn't Bryce's parents accept and love him for the Beautifully Unique individual that he is, who has gifts, abilities, talents, potential, a place in this world? I mean.... Doesn't every child who is different, who has "special needs", deserve this kind of love?! What bothers me the most about Bryce's Story is that his parents seemingly just wanted to change his differences, change his "special needs", change his autism!! You know.... Make Bryce "normal"? :-(
    Your points were very good, deep, profound, definitely something to think about!! I did not disagree with any of them!! And yes, I realize that my questions have absolutely nothing to do with your Blog post.... ;-D
    "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn
    PS. You, too, have gifts, abilities, talents, potential, a place in this world.... Just like Bryce, just like me, just like everybody!! I do mean that.... ;)

    1. Trained arrogance is something not a lot of parents think about. I think not a lot of people even know this phenomenon exists.

    2. Having read Bryce's profile, I should not have said two years. [as in "He lost the best years of his life"].

      It was more like four years.

      I seem to remember he began ABA at 2 and a half years of age.

      [there were a lot of people beginning at 30-48 months of age; also 4-7 year olds and 8-12 year olds].

      So it should actually be 4-5 years.

      MEETING POINT is a magazine/newsletter that the Lovaas Institute had made between 2007-2011.

      There, Raelyn, you will "meet" lots of Beautifully Unique souls.


      I know trained arrogance all too well personally and professionally!

      I have especially encountered trained arrogance in environments where a lot of gifted though undervalued youth are or someone who is being groomed for the elite in a skill or value.

      I think it also may contribute to misdiagnoses of narcissistic personality among teenagers and young adults.

      Yes, it does happen among ordinary people as well.

      We learn that we are better than other people and it militates against being egalitarian and respectful and loving.

      We were given so much. It tends to be very much an overspill of qualities we have or would otherwise have.

      Or it can be: because we can conform, we must conform and will conform. And when this impulse becomes compulsion and imposition, that is probably a factor.

      It sort of puts us out of spin or step with the social world even as we are hyper-aware of it and its expectations.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Some people think the "aristocracy" of today is just made of shallow people. I, however, think it is induced by training.

    5. It takes training to be shallow; to stake out deep roots!

      "Inducement" is all too real in this situation. How do people get and stay in the bureaucracy/aristocracy if not by inducement [which would be reward with so many strings/conditions!].

  5. Just the name "conformity therapy" makes me shudder. I remember reading a blog a while ago about a mother of a daughter with autism, and how it made her sad that she had to force her daughter to play with dolls, and reward her for every five minutes of play. She was sad because she thought this was something her daughter SHOULD have been enjoying, if she were a "normal" little girl. And I remember thinking, "Why the h-e-double-hockey-sticks would you want to force a child to play with a certain toy? I mean, WHY??? The reason was because the child supposedly needed to learn to act like a typical girl. "Act" is the key word there. She was being taught, in five minute increments, to act like someone she wasn't, in order to be accepted in mainstream society. It makes my stomach turn.

    1. I know typical girls who were never interested in dolls and their moms never had a problem with it.

    2. Anna....
      Exactly!! I have two very different-in-personality nieces, who are both "normal". "Amethyst", age four, has never been interested in dolls!! But "Opal", who is two? She plays with dolls all the time!! And their Mama doesn't have a problem with "Amethyst" not being interested in dolls!! To each one her own, right? ;)
      "Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive", Raelyn
      PS. I believe the real question here is.... "What's 'normal', anyway?" I am still pondering this deep, profound, thought-provoking Blog post, Friend!! ;-D

    3. Angel:
      "Therapy as/for conformity" and "conformity as therapy" are two threads which have different pulls/sledges, at least for me.
      Conformity is the means [or one of the means]; therapy is a or the tool.
      And also it depends on the phase. We use therapy after conformity under universal design has failed. When we use it before or as it is being done, there lies the problem.
      Blogs are great, aren't they? You get a grasp of a situation from the writer's perspective and it gives you distance and detachment and information.
      [This is why I largely avoid visceral reactions in my engagement with the issues involved].
      What does the mother do with the feeling?
      Mum: if you have a passion for dolls ... I would probably prescribe/order respite care so the mother could go to a doll convention and meet people who have a passion.
      "Act" struck me when I looked at your post, Angel. More in the sense of pretending/roleplaying than acting in and on the world and in interactions.
      "What about Theatre Sports?", I thought, "so that the mother could understand what five minutes in a situation where you don't know the rules and constrained by external circumstances is like". Theatre Sports encourage quick transitioning and flexible thinking - so out of the bounds/the box. But not outside behavioural analysis.
      When I think of "acting": what about co-regulation and effects/consequences?
      There are enough typical and atypical girls/women/non-binary people that the daughter can get exposure.
      However, there are situations in which learning from exposure would be dangerous.
      The mother could think about what rewards her, and the other socially significant people in her life. Her daughter is a person of significance ... of social significance.
      So it makes sense to influence but not to project. [Projecting is another acting skill].
      Maybe think less like a director and more like a stage manager?
      Dolls are a symbol, and like many such symbols, can and do become over-valued ideas.
      Raelyn: you showed me that normality forgives so much.
      Opal and Amethyst were good examples.
      "Expectations" and "should" are such big problems. As of course is "if". The mother needed to spend more time in active and current imagination and think less about how she could be a typical mother. For the sad thing, she was being entirely typical.
      FlutistPride: like many things the mothers "never had a problem with". And what did it mean for the girls to "never be interested in dolls"?
      And there's a DBT skill and one which is commonly used among survivors. "I can tough anything out for five minutes". Rewards, sometimes, can make that bearable. I think it's used to expand distress tolerance - staying with the feeling, the emotion, the situation.
      At the end of chapter nine of Neurotribes, the perspective of Lovaas on deviance through the 1970s and into the 1980s is revealed clearly. It is shown that he admired the noble resistors because they gave him some of his biggest psychological challenges.
      I admit I am still driven by "see/hear/touch/feel/smell how it feels". In the wrong circumstances it can be "eye for an eye/tooth for a tooth". It is a good conversion from the external to the internal and back again, which is how learning would take place.
      Raelyn: "What" is one question, but it is not the only stem! "Who"; "Why"; "How"; "Where" and "When" are important in this question.
      A good book from 30 years ago would be Alternatives to Punishment which is often read by teachers and lines people, as well as those interested in the ecological and ethical possibilities. Written by Anne Donnellan and Gary LaVigna.

  6. Raelyn:

    I thought I would leave these Khan Academy MCAT videos for you.
    [*MCAT: Medical College Admissions Test: Khan Academy does a heap of test preparation in the things which matter. So for anyone who is interested in the medical field it's good to get state of the art instruction in the lay of the land. It also informs questions!]

    They cover a lot of "what is normal" ground.

    MCAT Behaviour [especially Social Psychology and Normative and Non-Normative Behaviour - I watched "Perspectives on Deviance" which covers three big theories - and LEARNING and THEORIES OF ATTITUDE CHANGE AND BEHAVIOUR]
    Individuals and Society [behaviour; interactions; discrimination; comparative psychology]
    Society and Culture from MCAT Test Prep
    Social Inequality reproduction; segregation; intersectionality; consciousness [class and false]

    These constitute the Foundational Principles 7 to 10a and 10b.


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