I would certainly hope that a civil rights group involved in the political advocacy of disabled people would be involved in campaigning against abusive behavioral treatments. Unfortunately, though, TASH is one such organization that has gotten involved and is endorsing the use of Applied Behavioral Analysis in the form of Positive Behavioral Supports.
Positive Behavioral Support is a treatment program that was designed to promote political agendas that would encourage an exclusive and narrow philosophy of what normal/typical behavior is and how the demand for it should be implemented. It was meant to combat the disruption in institutions caused by lack of compliance. Statewide Positive Behavioral Support is a political agency designed to enforce their brand of discipline in schools, and other institutions who work with disabled people.
Parents have been upset for a long time when schools abuse their authority to punish and restrain children, and force them into seclusion rooms. TASH has been promoting PBS as an alternative to the abuses of the ABA in places such as Judge Rotenberg Center since the 1980s. It is reported here in Positive Behavior Support: A Paternalistic Utopian Delusion that:
"Peer review is the hallmark of scientific publication. This involves the review of research papers by experts in a given field prior to the publication to ensure that they meet standards of originality, validity and value to the field. These reviews are supposed to be based on scientific standards, not ideological ones. As early as the 1980s, The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH), after passing a resolution banning the use of aversive procedures, began using an ideological standard for publishing articles in their journal and four papers presented at international conference."
It also says:
"TASH, as would be expected endorses PBS(TASH, 2000b). Then again, Lou Brown (1990) describe TASH is unique among disability organizations in, among other things, "addressing the ideological". True enough, and fair enough because TASH describes itself on its website as a "civil right's organization". (TASHn.d.). It does not follow, then, that publication in the journal are peer-reviewed in the same sense as articles in behavioral science journals, or as a result the articles in their journal can be cited in support of scientific assertions of truth. Yet, such as implied by PBS advocates in many of their writings. Alas, the newly established Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions published by Pro-Ed (2002) may not be much more scientifically defensible, but at least the title represents truth in advertising. The same players, however, publish in both places, may have difficulty differentiating their beliefs from reality consistent with PBS ideas, and will probably continue to wrap up reinforcement in fancy new clothes. It has to be hoped that the research this new journal will publish will not misrepresent aversive processes in behavioral analysis, other behavioral analysts, and see her efforts to help others when some element of aversive motivation is openly employed, as has categorized some TASH articles (Mulick 1990)."PBS is a vehicle that is being used to promote a social movement. It is not new at all, but rather it is a new packaging on old ideals of social reform and discipline.
This paper relates the value systems described in PBS to the movements behind such ideologies as social Darwinism and the eugenics movement. The article warns against "deriving morality from science" which has lead to the death of millions in the 20th century. In the same way that the dangers of these movements have been suppressed, PBS and the agenda behind it has been completely misrepresented for political reasons. It says:
"The concept of ideology traces its roots to Marxist political philosophy, and refers to the social influences that both generate and sustain the way in which people come to understand their world and to shape their social agenda (Belkin, 1998). Values refer to the things people actively pursue, both for themselves and for others who may wish to influence. Thus, the novelty of PBS and the combination of science and value systems.
For those of you who are regular readers of this blog you may have noticed that it says at the top that this is a team blog with authors Ed and Wayward. Until now Wayward had not wanted her contribution acknowledged. She wrote to me yesterday and said that we could look forward to blog post here written by her very soon. I'm so glad. :)
I want to acknowledge and express my appreciation to her for her contribution with this blog. She helped with setting up this blog, naming it, designing it, and promoting it. She has help with editing some of my blog posts and consistently sends me valuable information including important websites. All that I know about the subject of Positive Behavioral Support, I learned from her. Thanks Wayward. :)
Wayward is a parent with dyslexia in Southern California, who has a teen on the autism spectrum. Her child was abused in a PBS classroom. She found that agencies such as Protection and Advocacy had no interest in listening to the abuses of PBS violations.
The following discussion occurred recently on LBRB. The post was dedicated to the federal investigation of Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC). What I've copied here is the exchange between Wayward (commenting as wondering) and Nancy Weiss.
Nancy Weiss says:
So glad to see so many comments on this. I want to reply to a few. I did invite the ASA to sign on. They declined with a somewhat cryptic reply. In response to discussion here I just sent an email to them asking for more of an explanation. I will share more when I hear from them (or if I don’t!).
I am working now on next steps. I’m looking at setting up some meetings with DOJ and other DC officials to lay the groundwork for a successful outcome. While it’s clear that anyone reading the letter that was sent is going to be horrified (and that every word is documented), spend an hour with Matt Israel and the JRC parents, and that same person is going to come away realizing, at the very least, that this is a complex issue. Not that this minimizes our point or weakens our resolve in any way, but we need to make sure that the DOJ investigators aren’t snowed. Many a journalist has gone in there horrified and come out wondering. He is very convincing.
I very much value the support and suggestions of people who participate in this blog; if you have ideas about next steps, I welcome them. You can comment here and I’ll read or if you’d prefer, send me an email (email@example.com). I truly appreciate knowing there are others out there who keep this issue in their hearts.—Nancy
Posted on February 27th, 2010
Would this be the same Nancy Weiss, the MSW behaviorist, who lobbies for PBS - aka enforced ABA - in schools?
Nancy Weiss says:
Hi, all—Just wanted to respond to the question, is this “the same Nancy Weiss, the MSW behaviorist, who lobbies for PBS - aka enforced ABA - in schools”. I’m not sure if there is another Nancy Weiss or confusion about what I advocate for. I used to be the Executive Director of TASH. I believe in behavioral supports that are totally person (and family) centered and directed. I definitely don’t believe in enforced ABA or enforced anything for that matter.
My dear friend Herb Lovett once said to me, “Look here’s the deal. You’ve got to imagine that when you get to the pearly gates, everyone you ever helped with behavioral issues is going to be lined up. Some number of them are going to come up to you, shake your hand, clap you on the shoulder and thank you for helping to make their lives better. The rest are going to haul back and slug you in the jaw. Your job is to make sure you’ve got a line of people who want to shake your hand”. It is with this in mind that I’ve done my work for a great many years.
When I was at TASH I wrote an article called, “It May Be Non-Aversive But Is It Non-Coercive?: The Ethics of Behavior Change in the Modern Age”. A version of that article was later published (co-authored with Tim Knoster) in the Journal of Positive Behavioral Interventions.
Here’s a quote from the original article that I think gives a sense of what I believe about all this:
“Positive approaches are only those which enhance the lives of the people with whom we work; they are characterized by collaboration versus control. They focus more on illumination (or understanding the meanings and purposes of the challenging behaviors from the individual’s point of view) than on elimination (or simply reducing behaviors we perceive to be unacceptable). There is no question that some people with disabilities have behaviors that are dangerous, disruptive or otherwise difficult. I am not one who believes that because all people are to be valued and respected equally that all behaviors are equally acceptable. Some people (both with and without disabilities) exhibit behaviors that interfere with the quality of their own lives and the lives of the people with whom they interact. We have a responsibility to offer supports for people to change behaviors that are dangerous, disruptive, or interfere with their ability to achieve goals they have set for themselves. Our responsibility, however, is to do this in ways that value, enhance, and include people, rather than through the use of methods that are coercive and too often, come dangerously close to revenge.”
I’m happy to send the full versions of these articles or one I wrote recently on the future of disability supports. Here are a few quotes from that one (from a list of what I hope for the future):
— Society will be just as unwilling to tolerate the abusive treatment of people with disabilities as they are the mistreatment of others. I hope for a day when, if information became known about substandard treatment for people with disabilities, the public would rise up with the same energy and outrage as when the abuses of prisoners at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib became public. Our tolerance of a different standard betrays the degree to which people with disabilities are still inherently devalued.
— It will be recognized that institutions and other highly controlled congregate settings are not good for people and they will become a thing of the past.
— We will finally figure out that it is not only unethical but downright illogical to respond to people’s desperate attempts to assert a degree of control over their lives by imposing greater and greater amounts of power over them.
Just write if you’d like the full text of any of these. I believe each person (and kids’ families) know better than anyone what’s best for them—the job of professionals is to provide supports that people want and offer opportunities for full, engaged lives as envisioned by the person who chooses to receive supports from that organization.—Nancy
Posted on February 28th, 2010
My child was physically abused at a school using ABA/PBS—in a district using mandated PBS…this is why I ask. Several of those on the list of signatories declined to help in any manner (to put it politely). It seems we all agree that abuse at JRC is terrible, but it can’t happen within a PBS framework. And, if it happens, it will be buried.
PBS can often be a stringent form of ABA—especially in the US school systems. It pervades all areas and restricts freedoms. Please see the three-tiered PBS model to be aware of what is being advocated for. The top tier is utterly restrictive.
Let’s close ALL the bad schools. Be they the School of Shock or the School of PBS … who has greased all the political wheels but is just as insidious and harmful.
Unfortunately, Nancy Weiss seems to be lacking in her recognition for how the behavioral treatments she endorses (with the backing of TASH) will affect the public who is heard from the least. The question has never been whether or not restraint and seclusion will be used or whether or not it will become seen as even more necessary. The goal is to promote PBS as a comprehensive behavioral approach for everyone.
The only request that politicians are making with proposals such as this H.R. 4247: Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act is that one particular ideology be awarded the title of absolutely correct and that one particular agency be given supreme charge of enforcing disciplinary action of societal misfits that challenge that correctness.