Parents of children with autism are calling on the government to ban a controversial treatment known as ABA, which some have compared to gay conversion therapy, Trouw reported on Thursday.
So far 2,500 parents have signed a petition calling for action and the LBVSO, an organisation for children in special education, says it has received 450 complaints about the programme.
ABA, or applied behaviour analysis, applies to a range of therapies which are popular in the US and now making inroads in the Netherlands. The aim is to teach children to live without behaviour which is associated with autism, such as avoiding eye contact and making uncontrolled movements.
The LBVSO says there are hundreds of people offering the therapy in the Netherlands in special centres and even schools. The treatment is not funded by health insurance but can be covered by personal care budgets.
Elijah Delsink, who has autism and who founded the LBVSO, says 75% of the complaints it has received are from youngsters who have found the experience to be traumatic. “And more than 90% of them have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress,” he said.
The Dutch autism association NVA also said it had been receiving more queries about the treatment and said it is concerned about the rise of ABA. “There is nothing wrong with waving your arms to calm yourself,” the association says on its website.
VU university professor Sander Begeer told Trouw that he does not recommend ABA because it forces children to adopt different behaviours.
“In the short term, you sometimes see improvements in communication skills, social behaviour and intelligence, but the long-term effects have not been well researched,” he said. “In the US, where this therapy has been offered since the 1960s, an increasing number of adults look back on the training as being traumatic.”
Junior health minister Maarten van Ooijen, who last summer visited an ABA house in Rotterdam, said he wanted to find out more from the parents and therapists, to better understand the complaints and concerns.
ABA therapist Stefan de Graaf told the paper he would like to see the ministry supervise the sector better and set up a register with approved practitioners.
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