In the European Union some things are going on that are targeted against autistics. So, we drafted an Open Letter (I made the English translation, hopefully without major mistakes). It would be good if those of you who live in the EU, forward it to their local EU Parliament Members. Here it is:
Open Letter to the European Ombudsman and the European Parliament Members
with great astonishment, we have heard that to the Information Day for the Declaration on Autism, autistics themselves were not invited. Already during the vote, we were not asked whether we want to be typed in all of Europe, and what our stance towards a Europe-wide introduction of evidence-based therapy is.
In times of the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” of the UN this is not acceptable, because, after all, this deals with our matters. According to Article 4 (3) and Article 29 of the UN CRPD we want to be heard on this topic and actively be involved in the further steps. According to the motto: “Not about us, but together with us”.
By the so-called early, intensive assistance that is supposed to bring about mitigation, as they say nicely paraphrased in the Declaration, can only be meant a specific therapy.
What was just a guess until then, is certainty now at the very latest after an examination of the invited guests to the Information Day. This is about ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and therapies based thereon.
The core of these therapy and early intervention programs are time-consuming controls of the behavior of the autistic children, a performance mainly by the parents and in the premises of the family. The behavior of autistic children – it is recommended – is controlled and conditioned for 40 hours and more (per week). By involving the parents as co-therapists, these children do not have trusted contacts and caregivers in the family environment any more. The possibility to escape to the nursery or in general from therapy at home, is not given. For autistics, safety is an important factor in their lives. That safety is revoked and denied to these children on several levels. It is our opinion that here already in the core basic human rights such as the right to personal development and mental integrity (Article 17 UN CRPD) are violated.
The aim of the targeted therapies is that autistic children unlearn their autistic behavior and learn normative behavior. This contradicts the idea of inclusion, the right to self-determination, and the general principle of ‘respect for the diversity of people with disabilities and the acceptance of these people as a part of human diversity and humanity’, formulated in Article 3 of the UN CRPD.
Proponents of ABA like to cite as reasons that ABA would be medically accepted and be the only evidence-based treatment for autism, and thus there would be no alternative. This is not true. There are alternatives that are not based on conditioning and re-education of the children, but support them in their needs. Here, autism is not educated away, but for autistic people there is created an environment that meets their requirements in the best possible way and enables them to share in everyday life. The basic advantage over strict conditioning consists in a sustainable participation with a simultaneous acceptance of the autistic personality as a part of the diversity of life.
Conditioning certainly brings about faster visible results, but these are bought at the expense of the autistic personality and its needs. This is, however, not visible and goes unnoticed as an investigative point in studies on conditioning autistics by behaviorism. Ignoring these circumstances and the associated long-term consequences for autistics, presents a clear indication to us as autistics, that here it is not acted in favor of autistic people but against their will and to their detriment.
The success rates referred to in the study by Lovaas came about only by the massive and ethically and morally very questionable use of aversives, physical punishment, and psychological abuse. In recent studies, without the use of methods infringing human rights, these success rates of supposedly up to 47% were neither confirmed nor achieved even partially.
On the contrary. Studies like e.g. Smith, Groen und Wynn (Randomized trial of intensive early intervention for children with pervasive developmental disorder, 2000) show that ABA is less successful in the long run than methods like e.g. TEACCH., which are geared to the needs of the client.
Added to this are the demands of the respective treatment providers for a comprehensive application of ABA as the sole method of therapy for autism. This objective is, however, justified by the questionable success rates of the study by Lovaas. The claim alone to recognition of ABA as the only applicable form of therapy for autistics is massively violating the rights of people affected here. They shall be robbed of any right to self-determination through such a declaration. Here, through intensive lobbying is sought a unique position of ABA as a therapy for autistics. An access to alternative therapies building upon other methods would thus be prevented.
Another point that must be addressed by autistics, is the systematic collection of genetic material required Europe-wide. Here, an extensive gene pool is created, which will make it possible to develop preventive measures to diagnose autism as early as possible. What is not pointed out is the option that genome information is used to develop a prenatal genetic test on autism. This interest undoubtedly exists, as the participation of large and well-known pharmaceutical companies (Roche, EliLilly, Servier, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Pfizer, and Vifor Pharma) in the EU-AIMS project makes clear. Furthermore, also AutismSpeaks from the USA participates in EU-AIMS, and AutismSpeaks also aims at such prenatal tests and the collection of genome information. AutismSpeaks is seen highly controversial among autistics worldwide. Here, by means of commercials – e.g.. “I’m Autism” – statements about autism are issued which are generally hostile towards disabled persons and inhumane.
To give you an insight into this spot and the mindset of AutismSpeaks, the original text follows now:
“I am autism. I’m visible in your children, but if I can help it, I am invisible to you until it’s too late. I know where you live. And guess what? I live there too. I hover around all of you. I know no color barrier, no religion, no morality, no currency. I speak your language fluently. And with every voice I take away, I acquire yet another language. I work very quickly. I work faster than pediatric aids, cancer, and diabetes combined. And if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain. I don’t sleep, so I make sure you don’t either. I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, birthdayparty, or public park without a struggle, without embarrassment, without pain. You have no cure for me. Your scientists don’t have the resources, and I relish their desperation. Your neighbors are happier to pretend that I don’t exist – of course, until it’s their child. I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness. I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams. I will make sure that every day you wake up you will cry, wondering who will take care of my child after I die? And the truth is, I am still winning, and you are scared. And you should be. I am autism. You ignored me. That was a mistake.”
It creates massive fears of autism here. Autism is something that destroys the family in the eyes of AutismSpeaks, families are driving into bankruptcy and parents robbed of the children. Can you imagine that such an organization would like to help autistics? This inhuman picture must not cause, from fear and from misinformation about autism, that genetic material is collected to register autistics, and to work in the future towards the aim that autistic people can be sorted out already prenatally. Please also ask what such a registry of autistics triggers in society. Autistics are humans and have done nothing wrong. We want to live in an inclusive society and not be captured through a gene database, registered, and made identifiable. We have a right to live like any other respectable person, too. Autistics also have a right to have their disability not be known against their will, for example, by a data leak.
We are people like you all and do not live, as is often claimed, in our own world. We are, like everyone else, an asset to the society. If one supports us, we can do our part to societal life. By agreeing to methods such as ABA or the gene database, you create an exclusionary framework for the future life of autistic people in Europe and disregard the UN CRPD significantly. Autistics are not people of a lower class.
Autism can be a severe disability. But this does not justify unethical therapies and early interventions that are contrary to human rights and work against the autistics by re-educating them towards an externally defined standard. We advocate here again for the support of autistic people to enable them to participate in everyday life. We advocate for diversity in society and speak out against a re-education. We stand by our way of perceiving and do not want to be sorted out in the future by means of genetic testing.
We are humans!
We ask you for the following:
Inform yourselves about treatment options, and check them, as well as the Europe-wide registration, especially under human rights aspects. Keep in mind, please, the situation of the autistics and their inherent inner perspective on autism. Invite autistic people, experience the diversity, and make your own impression, detached from lobbying and association work.
We, the autistics, will happily be available for you.