The first thing they teach you is that everything is a behavior. The second thing is that if it's a behavior then autonomy is optional.
Earlier this week I found a workbook that was used for a mandatory training about working with students with "behavioral problems". I'll let the first of the definitions of "challenging behaviors" from such book speak for itself.
Disruptive behaviors interfere with learning and functioning but are not direction harmful. Examples: yelling, uncooperativeness, swearing, asking repetitive questions
Behavior problems means doing things that children do, that teenagers do. But these students aren't allowed to. Because everything is a behavior to be eliminated. Because these children - autistic, otherwise disabled, disproportionately PoC students, these ones in segregated classes, they're aren't allowed to simply be children.
Our second of these definitions (and the other worth including) is
Dangerous Behaviors are potentially harmful. Examples: slapping, light head banging, biting without breaking skin (self or others), bolting within a building
We're dangerous if we get overwhelmed or frustrated, if we meltdown, if we try to get away. We're dangerous if we use biting or digging fingernails into our skin as ways to cope with sensory overload. That word makes us less of a person, and more into behaviors to be fixed. We're dangerous if we show how things are.
Pretty quickly this workbook gets to ways to improve staff safety. (I'm going to note here that it's staff safety and we're not getting into improving safety of everyone.) It teaches to put a hand on the Individual's arm as the staff member walks up to the Individual, so they can't unpredictably move and hurt anyone.
Except, how many autistic people (which you know this book is primarily written about. It's all ABA based.)...how many autistic people won't be able to handle unexpected touch? Does that matter? Does our safety matter, our comfort? For those who aren't autistic, how many people at all can handle people walking up and unpredictably touching them? In the "special ed" settings I work in how many disabilities include sensitivity to touch?
But no, according to how I was trained, staff should use this method of walking up and touching people who are rather likely are hurt extremely by touch, unexpectedly. This should be done every time that staff walks near every person who has ever shown a Dangerous Behavior. (Look at those again and see how much this is everyone. Or at least if you've shown a dangerous behavior and are deemed somehow not a person. Then your Dangerous Behavior was a behavior rather than understandable frustration.)
And if you don't like the touch? Oh well, they need to get used to it.
Skimming past "other relevant factors" (such as cultural, racial, gender, and other, which has nothing cultural, racial, or gender related listed. We're autistic, we must all be 8 year old middle class white cis-boys. It'll just be listed there so we can pretend to have talked about it.) brings us to how there's an Antecedent to the Behavior which leads to a Consequence. Beyond that we have methods of helping Individuals calm down.
Methods such as telling someone to say "I want THING", where they're told what to say what the adult thinks they want. Or the method of prompting someone to do something every 5 or so seconds until they do it, at which point swap to a different thing to prompt for, requesting repeatedly.
Compliance training means they get what they want if the only goal is compliance.
I'm really made speechless when it comes to people even thinking these might be helpful. The former trains people to say and do what others think might help rather than do what actually helps. It makes things worse over time, by training more and more compliance and doing and saying what others say to do, even when it isn't what should be done. It makes it harder to think of what does help, because it's overshadowed by this.
The latter just makes things worse, right now. Processing takes time, and repeating now, now, now, do this now, faster than reactions can happen, when in an overwhelmed state, only makes it harder and harder and harder, to even understand. Might it be done? If I'd do it its in order to get the noise to go away so I might have enough space to think. And that assumes that there's enough processing that has happened between the repeated requests.
Help means help. This isn't help.
Beyond this lack of anything useful is the sections on physically interacting or interfering with the Individual. As I luckily never had to go through any of that training, I'm not going to look into the horrors. There is, however, half of the book on such topics, and I should simply mention the existence of quite a few holds included in this book.
This is a training session about controlling people hidden inside of a session about how to help in overwhelming situations. It's taking away autonomy for the ease of the staff, because of the Behaviors of the Individuals.
And throughout the entirety, there's two phrases which are repeated:
to that I really only have one reply
- Communicate respect
- Promote dignity