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“You can’t train autism out of me”: identifying themes from autistic adults’ social media content about Applied Behavior Analysis

Jabaut, Jennifer (2022) “You can’t train autism out of me”: identifying themes from autistic adults’ social media content about Applied Behavior Analysis. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an increasingly common diagnosis, and identification of the best ways to support autistic children and their families is an important public health concern. Healthcare professionals commonly recommend Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)-based interventions for children upon diagnosis, but autistic self-advocates often oppose ABA. To develop and refine childhood interventions that best meet the needs of autistic children, it is necessary to respect the input of autistic adults and to engage with them as autism experts. This thesis explores autistic adults’ perspectives on ABA using publicly available social media content.

A reflexive thematic analysis of 63 TikTok videos and four Facebook posts, made by a total of 51 unique creators, uncovered themes of harm caused by ABA, opposition to ABA as a field of practice, need for nuance in discussions of ABA, and conflict in discussions of ABA. Autistic creators expressed the belief that ABA harms autistic children and frustration that their opposition is often invalidated by professionals and caregivers. Several videos revealed conflict within the autistic community, and some creators called for nuanced discussions about ABA, noting that the priorities and needs of autistic people of color are not the same as those of white autistic people. The findings pinpoint aspects of ABA that are of concern to autistic adults and can help guide the development of future interventions. Moreover, the analysis highlights an ongoing need for inclusive, collaborative autism research that respects intersectionality and considers how autism affects people differently depending on their race and other identities. These findings have public health significance because of the rapid rise in ASD prevalence and the pressing need to critically examine childhood interventions.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Jabaut, Jenniferjej75@pitt.eduJEJ75
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTerry, Marthamaterry@pitt.edumaterry
Committee MemberSidani, Jaimejaime.sidani@pitt.edujaime.sidani
Committee MemberBeck, Kellykellybeck@pitt.edukellybeck
Date: 1 July 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 15 June 2022
Approval Date: 1 July 2022
Submission Date: 23 June 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 129
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: neurodevelopmental disorders, early intervention
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2022 19:29
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2022 19:29


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