Acceptance of Neurodiversity
All brains are natural and valuable. ABA treatment should focus on functional skills such as communication and participation in preferred and necessary activities. Treatment aims to support neurodivergent individuals in reaching their current and future goals and aspirations, accessing their communities of interest, and living a fulfilled life. Treatment does not aim to diminish a person’s individuality, such as seeking to eliminate harmless mannerisms, personal interests, or unconventional leisure activities. It is understood that neurodivergent individuals may not participate in their community in the same way as their neurotypical peers (e.g., eye contact may be more limited, movement while listening might increase).
Neurodivergent People have Rights, Needs, and Preferences
All individuals have the right to time for fun and free play. All individual basic needs for sleep, food, and leisure are considered in the development of treatment schedules. The preferences of each individual are honored and access to activities that bring joy are a regular part of treatment. We aim to respect each individual’s preference for self-identification (e.g. person-first or identity-first language, pronouns, gender identity, sexual identity), and treatment should be identity-affirming for the individuals we serve. All skill development goals and activities during sessions are designed to meet the individual’s personal developmental, social, and functional living needs. ABA sessions will respect individual sensitivities to environmental variables and support neurodivergent individuals in managing or exiting uncomfortable or painful experiences (e.g., sensory, social, or other).
Neurodivergent People have the right to Assent to Treatment
All individuals served have the right to assent to their care even when a child is below legal consenting age or when an adult is unable to legally consent to their own treatment. Assent includes engaging in the therapeutic process and a demonstration of a willingness to receive care. Examples of assent might include approaching the therapist and maintaining proximity, freely engaging in therapeutic activities, or expressing contentment in a neurodivergent manner. Patterns of distress before, during, or after ABA sessions are acknowledged as potential evidence of dissent and a need for further assessment and risk review. Neurodivergent individuals of all abilities have the right to be engaged in selecting goals and strategies for their own treatment in a manner that is considerate and supportive of their communication modality.
Neurodivergent People have the right to safety, dignity, and self-determination
All individuals have a right to be free from unwanted touch and restriction of moving one’s own body (physical restraint). Physical restraint refers to staff or other adults using their own body to physically restrict the movement of another person. Physical Restraint during ABA sessions is only warranted if there is risk of harm to self or others. LEARN values teaching self-advocacy skills to safely exit unwanted social advances, physical contact, and other aversive situations. Behavior support plans prioritize the development of strategies to promote safety and teach skills that allow individuals to effectively communicate their needs. The minimum amount of force necessary to keep individuals safe will be used. Under no circumstances will LEARN staff use mechanical restraints (a device intended to limit one’s body movement, such as straps) or other highly aversive or coercive mechanisms to control another person’s behavior.
Neurodivergent People have the right to effective interventions that result in long-term benefits
Whenever possible, treatment should closely resemble everyday activities the person served is likely to encounter. Treatment approaches that solely rely upon “set up” learning opportunities and external motivators (e.g. candy) do not prepare the person served for the “real world” outside of the treatment sessions. When it is necessary to use a high level of repetition while teaching and external motivators in order for the person served to learn essential skills, it is the responsibility of the clinical team to also develop a plan to generalize skills by using stimuli, prompts, and reinforcers that are likely to be present in the natural environment. This will ensure that the person served can use their new skills in relevant settings such as their home, school, place of work, and the community.
LEARN values neurodiversity. The values described above were developed collaboratively by clinical leaders and neurodivergent individuals working within LEARN. We aspire for all clinical practices to be in alignment with these values and seek to improve the clinical care we provide through committed action and communication. LEARN is committed to actions that will make these values our reality and improve the clinical care we provide. LEARN will be conducting training with clinical staff at all levels (technicians to BCBAs) and with our operations and support staff, to ensure that all aspects of LEARN’s clinical practice and interactions with the persons we serve reflect our values, exhibit the highest ethical standards, and respect neurodiversity.