Monday, August 17, 2015

ABA for Minority Families

You know, almost 40% of the families I see now are families with minority status:  families of color, LGBT families, multiracial families, families shaped by adoption or foster care, poor families of any color...  and this is no surprise to me.  Out there in the non-behavioral world, families like this - which is a family like my own - face horrible prejudice trying to find services.  White, heterosexual, middle-class  parents with blue-eyed kids, and you get behavioral services for autism.  Anyone else?  The non-behavioral therapy world offers lots of medicines, lots of judgements ("maybe you should spank him more..."), lots of service denials.

The one thing that really appealed to me about behavioral therapies for my son when he was diagnosed was the very prejudicial crap I kept hearing from evaluators and potential future therapists.  The counselor and psychologist who suggested therapy with a man (because of course single mothers or lesbian-headed families can't rear boys properly), or the white therapists who said he just needed Ritalin (because don't all African-descent boys need Ritalin?), and the Black therapist who said my son was tribal and needed to run and hunt.  I have no idea if the BCBA therapists who came into my home approved of or liked me and my family (they didn't all support homeschooling, for sure), but as long as they were measuring my son's objective behaviors, it DID NOT MATTER.  I could see my son was learning to turn his head, listen to directions, pick up pencils, unfasten his seat belt.  And no therapist - counselor - physical therapist - occupational therapist - had ever been able to help him learn these things.

And he was HAVING FUN.  One of the things I tell EVERYONE is that therapy for kids on the autism spectrum should be FUN.  My son loved searching for pokemon cards while he practiced learning how to listen to directions, and then he loved playing pokemon with his therapist, Chelsey (who was not a BCBA but was in training to be...).  And my son loved finally being able to hold a pencil, get into the car without pain, and he even enjoyed learning to look at people and turn his head and follow conversations.  My son learned to enter the world.  It did not matter one whit whether or not he was Black, blue or purple.  It only mattered that week by week he learned how to do simple tasks that built up skills to move and interact with his environment.

ABA is not the only behavioral therapy.  So the real issue is finding OBJECTIVE goals and measurements for your children if you are searching for therapies and you are a minority family.  Every good teacher I've ever met uses the laws of behaviorism to teach, so that is what matters most.  But if you do work with an ABA therapist, they shouldn't be talking about your child's emotional state or problems with being a child of color.  They should be helping your child learn behavior/skills/abilities that increase your child's capacity to participate in the world of childhood.

Now I do hear the horror stories out there.  ABA therapists can truly suck.  I highly advise against those programs that sit your child at a table for hours at a time.  That is not FUN, and it isn't learning skills.  So get rid of any therapist, ABA or not, that wants your kid to sit.  I also hear horror stories about floortime therapists and music therapists and plenty of other professionals who rely on their prejudices and not objective fact.  (One of my families had a speech pathologist imply that due to speaking Arabic at home, their child could not learn English properly....)

Objectivity means this:  a therapist should be able to show you the behavior you need to teach.  Perhaps your child needs to practice using more words.  A therapist should be talking about fun, playful ways to help your child speak more, and the therapist should be counting how many words your child is using week to week.  You should be able to tell just as much as the therapist if the suggestions he or she makes are working.  Your kid should be talking more.

And counting words (Arabic or otherwise) does not depend on the therapist's prejudices, beliefs, opinions.  Behavioral interventions should be that:  See-able.  Measure-able.  Clear.  Precise.

And that means minority families like mine can finally get services that do not depend on therapists having done their anti-prejudice work (mostly they haven't!).  But behavioral means measurable and countable, so you as a parent know if your child is learning.

And learning is what family is all about.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Protecting Your Children

 gorgeous photo courtesy of Ben Earwicker, Garrison photography, Boise ID
Back in my daycare teaching days, I spent considerable time teaching parents to protect their children.  First of all, I ran an open door daycare myself, and I always told parents to drop in unannounced at anytime.  That is critical for any daycare, preschool or school program you put your kids into!  Visit early; visit often.  You do not know what is happening with your children if you don't visit their schools regularly!  (This is why I have pointed out to so many parents that schooling kids is really not less work than homeschooling.)

I also try to encourage parents to think about teachers vs. schools.  Or daycares.  Any program can have a great reputation, but it is the teacher(s) who interact with your child who matter.  A "good" school with a "good" reputation can still have one room with a perfectly miserable teacher.  And a "good" teacher for one child is not always the best match for another.  Parents have to visit the class/daycare, watch the teacher, and then make decisions.

And finally, I encourage parents to address media.  Whether it's parents who wonder why their two-year-old is screaming every night, but haven't connected nightmares to their child watching hours of Disney movies (which are not designed or written for two year olds!), or parents who can't understand a 16 year old's struggles with online friends and cyberbullying, kids today are media saturated.  And that means parents have to engage  (not be media police!) with their children, and at times, especially with the younger crowd, turn off the telly or the computer.  (And btw, I've had to explain to parents that Freddie Krueger movies aren't good for preschoolers, too...)

With kids on the autism spectrum, parents have to work extra hard.  I remember a stream of therapists descending on my house.  The first three BCBA's who arrived all proposed "programs" that did not address my children's physical pain issues, and they were sent packing.  I also had to negotiate the well-meaning friends, family, and neighbors with their constant advice to try dolphin swimming, gluten free diets, and chelation.  My kids needed help learning some skills that they had not learned in their environment, but that did not mean I accepted every bit of advice or therapist who came along!  Nor did I want to change them, cure them, or get rid of their autism.  I thought and think my kids are great; however, I needed help with their pain issues (since I used ABA on my own to resolve my son's throwing behaviors myself!).

Parents with kids on the spectrum really need to get clear about family values.  I have met families who value outdoor activities more than anything; I have worked with families who value church and church attendance; I know families that value sports and specific sports teams.  If your family values are to go to church and participate as a family, and your therapists of any ilk are pushing academic skills, then you have a therapist who is unethical and is ignoring your family values.  This is unethical; this is a waste of your time; this kind of therapy is flat out wrong.

So, you as parents have to be clear with your therapists.  I know for some families with little ones, family values are moot and the family is dealing with so many tantrums that life is just hard.  These parents aren't thinking about camping, hunting, sports teams or church attendance.  They are trying to get through the day.  Often at this point, families need support teaching functional communication and they also need to enrich their lives with things their child on the spectrum wants to do.  So help children learn to communicate needs and wants, and figure out fun things for the parents to do with the child that the child enjoys.  That is the most important step, and therapists should be pushing skills for the family to communicate and have fun.  Notice that I am not saying anything about compliance or endless repetitions of "touch nose."

But even so, despite crises, therapists should be respecting family values.  And a good therapist from day one will ask you the parent what you want and need for your child and family, and as kids get older, a good therapist should be asking the client what they want for themselves.

At this level, when families are in crisis, a good therapist should be able to make changes in the family that improve things from day one.  Helping establish good communication changes tantrums immediately.  At the same time, on day one, therapists should be helping you as parent find fun things to do with your child.

Bottom line:  it doesn't matter what kind of therapist in your home or school (ABA, floor time, attachment therapy), you parents should see improvement the FIRST DAY.   If you don't see improvement the first day, then you have the wrong therapists.

As I said, I kicked therapists out of my home.  I also turned down therapists.  I refused speech therapists for my verbal children; I also refused to ever put my kids into "social skills" programs.  I wanted my kids doing things they chose to do, from their fencing classes to pottery to church choir to computer classes to helping at wildlife rescue programs to attending renaissance fairs.  My kids might not have the social skills that the therapists want them to have, but they have the social skills to go be with people who also love fencing, pottery, choir, computers, wildlife rescue, and renaissance fairs.

And yes, BCBA's in my home, got angry with me.

Oh well.

So if you are a parent, I encourage you to protect your children.  Visit their schools.  Know their teachers.  Watch their media with them, and with younger children, learn to say no!  Investigate every therapy anyone tells you about, and check out any therapist in your home.  If a therapist is not listening to your ideas about what is right for your children, and with older kids, if a therapist is not listening to your child's goals, then you need a new therapist.

Protecting children is inherent to being a parent.  It is exhausting, overwhelming and hard.  On the other hand, it means having happy kids who want to talk with you and who share their lives, interests, and enthusiasms.

So it is worth it to keep these precious beings safe and free.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Kids with autism diagnoses should be playing. Not sitting at tables.

What a good behavioral program should be - playing lego!  photo copyright the author
One of my jobs in working with families who are impacted by autism, is to teach families what to look for in therapists.  And I want families to kick out therapists who don't show kids or parents respect, who don't listen to families and the kids about their own goals, and who push kids to do "therapy" for hours, instead of helping kids do what they should do - PLAY!

In the ABA world, that means if you have therapists coming to your home and sitting your child at a table with flashcards for any number of hours a week, then you need a new therapist.  Sitting at table style ABA is from the work of the original study on Applied Behavior Analysis for kids on the spectrum, which is from the 1980's.  It is old, obsolete, therapist-driven, boring, and really out of date.  That therapists still use this style is unethical.  The job of kids is to play, not sit.  Kids should be doing things they like and enjoy, and ABA therapists who have good training or who just care about children, should be helping them play.

Bottom Line:  Don't work with therapists who say the only hope for your child is hours and hours of table work.  Kick those therapists out.

(If this is hard for you, practice ahead of time.  Say nice things, such as, "Right now, we don't have time for more therapy, but thank you.")

There are plenty of behavioral programs that focus on play, and seek those therapies out.  In fact, if your child is playing, I would consider that an important program whether it is called "therapy" or not.  However, if you have a program called "therapy," then you can get it covered under insurance, no small thing.  But even if insurance pays, you want therapists who will actually help your child grow and learn.  Sitting at a table with flashcards won't accomplish this.

So look for ABA therapists and other therapists who bring fun activities.  Look for ABA and other therapists who encourage play-based learning.  OT's and PT's should be helping your child play with new activities that your child finds fun, and they should be helping children learn to enjoy new sensory experiences and environments.  If all an OT or PT does is teach your child to "soothe," then that is not play and your kid deserves more.

Same with ABA.  ABA therapists should be using the Early Start Denver model, which is a play-based and relationship building behavioral program for kids with autism diagnoses ages birth to 48 months.  It encourages parents to play with kids, using the child's interests.  The goal in Early Start Denver is for everyone to have fun together and for children to enjoy spending time with their parents.  Kids who do this learn more language than from sitting with flashcards!  Or look for therapists who are trained in Pivotal Response Training (PRT), which encourages parents to get kids doing things that kids choose and enjoy.  PRT therapists are the ones who have demonstrated in lots of studies that when kids on the spectrum go hang out with other kids who share their interests, they learn more "social skills" than from any class or therapist.

There is far more research showing that playing with kids on the spectrum improves communication, family bonding, and "social skills" than any other type of behavioral program.  When I'm working with kids they are busy exploring shaving cream or learning gun safety or taking walks in the woods or drawing or playing with empty boxes.  Parents learn how to sit and share with their kids and build relationships based on trust and sharing.  Everybody has a grand time.  A good sign:  we usually all get out of breath and sweaty from running around.

That is a good program.  Demand that for your kids.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Supporting your child's interests! ALWAYS.

It is ALWAYS unethical to take away someone's interests, hobbies, favorite pastimes, favorite toys, or most enjoyed activity.  

teens exploring cosplay - one of the goals of parenting, teaching, and ABA

And if you as a parent want your kids to work with you, then you must support and help them do the things and activities they want.

And if you are doing special ed, therapy, or ABA, then you ethically should be working with your client, not punishing them.

Over at Real Social Skills, an awesome blog by an autistic adult writing on multiple issues from neurodiversity to the very important issue of resisting abuse, the blog author wrote this post on the aftermath of using a person's interests in ABA.

It is a super important post, because I see this type of ABA all the time since I am still in supervision.  ABA therapists (as well as special ed teachers and developmental specialists) remove something a kid or teen on the spectrum loves, in order to get "compliance" (a term I will NEVER use).  Little kids usually scream and teens usually retreat into monosyllabic depression with this treatment, and you would think that therapists who want to help people would frigging notice!  I saw this in a school lately, where the ABA therapist AND the special education aide removed a teen's dinosaur toy to get him to touch his nose (so stupid) and to say a word that he didn't care about anyway.

In another horrendous example, I had to go to my supervisor's supervisor at my first internship, and to point out that my supervisor's plan to take away one child's favorite pastime was unethical.  My supervisor wanted to stop a little 8 year old boy with intellectual disabilities from throwing, which happened to be his favorite thing.  Thankfully my supervisor had to change her plan.

So Real Social Skills is making an important point and parents with kids getting ABA services or in any special ed. need to hear.

I responded to this post, however, because I am an ABA therapist and I "use" kids' and teens' interests all the time.  But NEVER FOR COMPLIANCE.  I personally don't want compliant people, and thinking parents don't want compliant kids.  All of the parents who work with me want HAPPY KIDS.  And supporting a child's interests helps them be happy!

So how do you support a child in a pro-freedom way while incorporating behavioral principles?  

Well, a good teacher does this all the time.  My kids' piano teacher, for example, always let them choose music they wanted to play in lessons (lots of Barney, Harry Potter, Katie Perry, and Pirates of the Caribbean music....)  That is how to use your child's interests.  Likewise, when I work with teens who are dealing with depression, usually bored at school, and with parents who are frightened of their video game interests (thanks to the media, schools, and mental health "experts."), the fastest way to get a teen up and doing things is to let him or her choose things they wanna do and then help them do them!

So in the past six months I have helped teens get swim lessons, get homeschool education (nothing lowers teen depression like getting out of punitive schools who refuse to implement the IEP's that parents fight so hard to get!), learn cooking, start photography and pottery classes, sign up for gym programs, and am currently working to get one of my clients into a gun safety class so he can get his first BB gun.  For the little ones, I constantly show parents fun stuff for their kids to do - from shaving cream to paint to play dough to just getting outside and walking.  All of these activities are ways for kids to interact with the world - which is all of our best teacher - and to learn real social skills out with real people doing stuff that the kids choose.

When you as a parent or a therapist actually work hard to support a kid's interests, then you can also build skills that are harder to teach.  With little ones who won't put down their favorite Frozen book, or the preschooler who screams when asked to put down an iPad, or for teens who won't eat because of video game play, the goal is NEVER to take the loved activity away.  However, I do ask little kids and teens to take breaks - for a two year old that break should not be longer than about 10 seconds, btw.  What I encourage parents to teach is that they may ask their child for a break - but that the preferred item or activity always comes back.  If you take things from kids all the time, they won't trust you, they won't have an established relationship that you are supporting them, and they can't learn important skills like "I can put something down for a few minutes, but my parents support my interests and it will be here when I come back."  Don't you as a parent or teacher want to teach that kind of trust?

So my advice to parents is to bend over backwards to support your kids' activities and goals.  In fact, I encourage parents to join in as much as possible.  Good parenting, teaching and ABA should help kids learn to be who they choose to be.  


preschooler exploring the world - the goal of good parenting, teaching, and ABA

photos:  copyright the author

Saturday, June 6, 2015

How I got started in this field of ABA....

My son today, fencing, in the life he chooses.

I first learned about positive reinforcement when I was teaching a roomful of two-year-olds.
Now anyone teaching a roomful of kids 20 -36 months old can either learn a lot - or yell a lot, and I wanted to learn.  I went to a workshop with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) local conference and met a retiring preschool teacher who lectured on this wacky sounding thing (positive reinforcement), and I came away a changed person. I was 21.
The workshop (I don't remember the leader's name after all these years, and for that I am so sorry) was ROCKIN!  This wonderful lady talked about how often we preschool teachers gave all our attention to children who were doing stuff we didn't like, and ignoring the kids who were doing things we like.  And she asked us if this made sense? She had old reel-to-reel movies (that is how old I am!) showing classrooms where teachers paid attention to the kids who were doing the stuff we preschool teachers like - sitting at snack tables and sharing cookies, throwing away napkins, lining up for playground time without pushing and shoving.  The teachers all paid compliments to the kids who were behaving, and did a great job ignoring behaviors that we teachers don't want.  And the classrooms in these old movies were so much calmer and happier.  I was pretty stunned.
So I went back to my two year olds.  I praised kids who lined up to go outside and didn't push one another ("look at Peter!  He is waiting to go outside with his hands in his pocket!"), and I praised kids who shared snacks at the snack table ("thank you Eliza for passing the crackers!  Everyone look at how nicely Eliza is sharing"), and I complimented the kids who sat at reading circle without pinching their neighbors ("hey Peyton, I like the way you are sitting with your hands in your lap!").  Now before you think what a horrible teacher, please know this is me writing (the dredlocked mom with multiple piercings and an art degree) and I made sure my kids had millions of opportunities a day to get their hands busy doing stuff:  painting every day and shaving cream and play dough and slime and ooze and gardening and cooking together and making things explode and chasing bubbles and running and dancing and lots of singing.  But praising kids at those hard times of the day in a classroom changed my room.  No more shouting.  No more yelling.  When I praised Eliza for passing, more kids passed crackers.  When I praised Peter for standing with hands in his pocket at the notoriously difficult time of getting coats on to go outside, more kids put their hands in their pockets and we got outside to sand and mud more quickly and with less shouting.
This is the essence of positive reinforcement.
But I learned other stuff at that now-long-ago workshop.  I learned to support the kids in my preschool room.  So as a teacher I started to allow my kids to bring as many "lovies" from home as they needed (and promptly got written up for it).  I still know many preschools and daycares that only allow children one "lovie," against all reason.  But my classroom got happier and calmer.  I quit requiring sleep at nap time, and started instead allowing kids choices - we all had to be quiet, but I allowed children books or toys or a choice of quiet activity.  My nap times got way more quiet and peaceful.  I followed the National Association of Education for Young Children's guideline (still in effect) that allowed all children choice in their activities at all times - kids who don't wanna go to quiet time don't have to go.  Kids who don't wanna do duplo blocks, don't hafta.  Kids who don't like play dough can do something else.  (And I almost got written up for that except that my daycare was certified by NAEYC so that was a bit uncomfortable to write me up for).
And that is the essence of good behavioral supports.
Years later I would find out about another field utilizing these universal principles of behavior.  I was running my own artsy, creative, and positive reinforcement-based daycare from home so I could be with my children.  My son and daughter both struggled with multiple developmental delays, and my sons were so severe at times that relatives quit visiting us and no one, and I mean NO ONE, would babysit for him.  A good friend suggested I get an eval for autism, and my son was diagnosed at the age of 6 with autism, and my daughter at the age of 9 with Asperger's.  And then I found out that I had to wait a year or more for services to help them.
So the same friend told me about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a field I had never heard of!  ("What?  you mean like Pavlov's dogs?" I famously asked her!)  Well, I couldn't get services for my children, and my friend whom I deeply trusted said try ABA, so I went out and signed up for online courses in this thing called ABA.  And man, I sure almost flunked out.  This field uses crazy language that I swear to god is designed to obfuscate basic principle's of behavior that all good teachers already use.  So I dropped to audit.  And I read the "bible" of ABA, the Cooper Heron and Heyward book, and tried to help my son on my own.
I had already been using positive reinforcement in my daycare and as a parent, so some of the ideas in this crazily obfuscating book sounded familiar.  My son's behavior of most concern was spinning and throwing.  Ok, that doesn't sound too bad, right?  But he would spin and no one could stop him, and while spinning he grabbed any object and threw it with no regard for his siblings' or pets' health.  Scars were happening.  My son also tantrumed severely when asked to get off our dinosaur-like computer, and he screamed when asked to ride a car or go anywhere.  But my biggest worry was the spinning/throwing, because not only were windows getting broken, but other people no longer wanted to be near my kid.
So I read that damn ABA book, tried to understand the techno-jargon, and started my first ABA program.  I put a bowl of beloved legos on my kitchen counter, got a timer, and told my son if he could go a full minute without spinning he could earn a couple legos from the bowl.  He actually tried to stop his spinning, but was unable to do so.
This was a huge moment.  For years now, my son's spinning had caused comment, bodily harm, physical damage, and headaches to people around him, and he had not been able to go do important early childhood things because of it.  And now with legos on the counter and a timer, my son was trying.  I remember the moment so well, because his behavior before this had been so overwhelming that I had really despaired as a parent.  But here, with a reward jar containing something that mattered to him, he was trying.  I remember feeling that no matter how unctuous the book, how weird the field, and no matter how little I understood ABA, this moment was precious to me.  And so it remains.
My son and I were on the same team thanks to my first behavioral program, and I will never forget that.
I looked back at the book, that annoying Cooper, Heron and Heyward, and they seemed to say that if a child failed at a task, I needed to lower the criterion.  So....  I asked my son to try to stop spinning for 20 seconds.
He did it.  It was awesome!
He got a couple pieces of lego from the jar, which he built instantly, and I re-set the timer, and 20 seconds later my son had more lego.  By the end of the day, he was able to go that minute without spinning and throwing, and he had a new lego creation (to add to his beloved dozens of others) and I had a son who was working with me and he had a mom who wasn't despairing and it was truly wondrous.
In two weeks he had quit spinning and throwing things enough that we started going back to parks, visiting friends.  He signed up for science lessons at a local museum.  His piano teacher put breakable things back on her piano...  by the time the first BCBA walked into my home and I finally had services, my son had already learned the things he needed to start doing things he chose and wanted.  He got friends who played pokemon, and he started singing in church choir, and he learned a tremendous amount about his well-earned lego machines.
And that is what positive reinforcement, ABA, positive behavioral supports, or just good teaching should be:  helping people develop skills so that they can access the life THEY CHOOSE.  My son wanted to go to parks, play pokemon, and have friends.  I didn't force those things.  And the only thing that taught him how to learn to control his spinning behavior was the program I invented, a simple parent with little skills, so that my son could learn in small doses how to control his spinning/throwing so that he could go do more.
That is it people.  Nothing hard.  No eye contact demanded.  No still hands.  No controlling every minute of my son's day with boring programs.  Just a timer and his beloved legos (and I did NOT take away the lego he already had).  And my kid learned to access a new world.
Today I listen to my kids' criticisms of the programs they received once BCBA's began coming to our home, and I listen to the neurodiversity community.  I let my kids - now 17 and 21 - decide how they identify and whom they tell about their neurodiversity.  I care about what survivors of ABA have to say.  
But the ABA world - for me - who is part of this neurodiversity world, too - will always be the moment my son was a little guy in a lot of pain, and when he worked to get a few legos he wanted and finally understood what I had been asking him to do.  Positive reinforcement should be... positive.  Being on a team with your children is the best feeling in the world.
Oh and by the way, my son still likes to spin.  No one gets hurt now, though, and no windows broken.

: )

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Journeys with parenting, teaching, living - in a child-punitive world

my son's drawings, age 5

I worked in early childhood education long, long before I ever heard of anything called ABA (or applied behavior analysis, or behaviorism).  It's a low-paying, highly important, and deeply disrespected field.  From the time I was a teenager I learned to deal with well-meaning people telling me, "you are too smart to work with little children."

Because of course little children are dumb, uninteresting, unimportant.

On the other hand, I also heard, routinely, "you have a knack with children."  A knack.  I hate that statement as well, because it is a backhanded compliment.  All the years I have worked and trained to be a good and learned teacher when working with small children gets rolled up into "a knack."  I think parents often used this statement to justify my low pay (often minimum wage or just above) - since I and other good teachers have a "knack," we don't have real skills.  Therefore we don't deserve paid like really skilled workers.

The early childhood education community participates in that viewpoint by promoting the idea that early childhood education workers are "professionals," who do deserve good pay.  That this argument has never worked to help other women in low-paying professions gain any significant pay advantage other than for a few (typically white and middle-class or upper-class) women at the "top" of the profession goes unexplored.  Some of the best teachers I have ever known have been poor, elderly women with no high school diplomas, but who have a lifetime of caring for children.  These women were and are some of the greatest behaviorists you will ever meet.  They make minimum wage while caring for the children of our country.  I never hear "professionals" wanting to recognize or help them.

Working in preschools and daycares is tough.  Not just because a roomful of toddlers is daunting - and I worked in many classrooms by myself, 8 hours a day.  Me and 13 toddlers.  Oh, man, I learned so much doing that!  The other tough thing, for me, is that there are shitloads of workers in this field who have no other job choices, don't like children, don't care about helping anyone, and who routinely punish children all day long.  In my work in Tennesseee, where spanking was legal in daycare, I routinely upset the other teachers because I refuse to hit children.  Later, when I was "educated," I got jobs in certified daycares with only slightly better pay, and my sister teachers pretty routinely screamed at the kids all day.

Some of this is endemic to our culture.  We live in a world where hitting children is routinely accepted and permitted in law.  Children in the United States have few formal rights.  Legally, a child is a possession of its biological parents.  This non-caste status has massive implications, and we all learn to de-legitimize children as human beings.

Some of the worst viewpoints have bothered me for decades.  Parents and teachers tell me that kids have to learn that they "can't get what they want."  That is said so routinely and frequently that I believe it is in essence one of our most deeply held societal viewpoints.  Kids are not humans who get to have wants and needs and they sure as hell don't get to have their wants and needs affirmed and supported.  I have heard this statement millions of times in my life working with kids.  It is so routinely accepted as conventional wisdom that the punishments we as a culture dole out to children are often unrecognized.  Parents and teachers justify so much of what they do to children under the guise that they "cant get what they want."

And I disagree, profoundly.  I have been trying to help children get what they want, within the limits of safety (an important limit, and one used to justify too much abuse), when they want it, and with my own belief that being human is about wanting.  And that wanting is deeply human and good.

However, if you live in a world that believes that children shouldn't get what they want, and you are a parent and teacher who believes children should get what they want, you get in trouble.  Allowing children to have their wants in my classrooms and later as a parent has meant that I have been written up for bad teaching, had my data as a behavior analyst tossed out (for coddling the children), had other parents tell me I am "spoiling" my children, and been a distinct and difficult disadvantage during my divorce and custody battle.

We live in a culture that hates children.  We store them in "schools" that are more like prisons.  We deny them basic rights.  We tell them they don't deserve basic needs.  We hit them.  We deny them self-expression.  We force them to do things they do not want and refuse to allow them freedom to do things they want.

That is the culture I live in and since I work with kids, and have for 40 years now (oy!), that is the world I face every day.  If I want to work with kids - as a parent, as a teacher, as a behavior analyst, then I have to deal with a world that mostly hurts kids.

As do we all.