Guinea pig

In the colloquial terms we are familiar with, a guinea pig is something you try new things on. It’s a catch-all phrase that people use to indicate they are trying new things. Let’s be guinea pigs by going to a new restaurant. Let’s be guinea pigs by getting makeovers. Let’s be guinea pigs by reading books outside our comfort zone.

I get it. What I don’t get is when people make their kids into guinea pigs. I’m not talking about offering up peas instead of carrots. I’m talking about therapy. Did you know that Applied Behavior Analysis has been in use since 1960? That it’s popularity picked up in the 1970s? The process had been used primarily on people with “social maladjustment.” It was reborn in the 1990s as a means of “helping” people adjust to society.

In less than 20 years, ABA has gone from a fringe treatment for social maladjustment to a widely accepted “therapy” for people with Autism. The focus is almost exclusively on exterminating unwanted behaviors. Coping skills aren’t the focus. Rather, learning to be “normal” is the desired outcome.

While teaching your child that they must fit in a box to be “normal?” Who decided that boxes were necessary. People are criticized for allowing their children to explore the “not normal” parts of life. If it makes me happy to flap, spin or stim in another way, what difference does it make? Why does your normal have to be my normal?

Guinea pig. Therapists may or may not really understand ABA. They do “understand” that behavior must be changed to “normal” to measure success. Therapists try many different approaches to accomplish this goal. And you are a guinea pig throughout treatment as they find ways to homogenize people.

How boring. Diversity is what keeps us discovering, exploring and learning. Embrace acceptance of things that differ from your expectations. We are all unique. We all have things to offer. Acceptance makes us better human beings.

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