An animal behaviourist who stars in upcoming show Train Your Baby Like A Dog has defended her methods after an autism organisation launched a campaign to have the programme axed.
Jo-Rosie Haffenden told ITV’s This Morning that Austistic Inclusive Meets has made a “huge assumption” about what she is doing with the use of a clicker.
The Change.org petition “Cancel Train Your Baby Like A Dog” has been signed by almost 25,000 people ahead of the programme’s broadcast on Channel 4 on Tuesday.
It states: “We here at Autistic Inclusive Meets, an autistic led organisation based in London ask CEO Alexandra Rose Mahon of Channel 4 to consider this dehumanising to children, that it should not be given a platform and to consider cancelling the airing full stop.
“The children are shown no dignity or respect in clicker training behaviourism, and will be a prime target for grooming in the future as they will have been taught to comply to an adult’ demands, regardless of their own comfort or autonomy for reward.”
However, Haffenden said: “Unfortunately the autistic community, who are writing those sorts of petitions, have had a really troublesome past when it comes to these sorts of training techniques, they had a horrific time and some of the techniques that are still used today involve things like restraining children.
“They have been horrifically treated when it comes to training techniques and a lot of those techniques come from the old-fashioned dog training techniques and I think what has happened if they have seen the clicker and they have made a huge assumption that because a clicker is involved I am using the same techniques that was used so horrifically earlier.”
Haffenden said the clicker is “a tool that we use to mark and pinpoint and emphasise a behaviour has been performed, it’s not a cue for anything.”
She said she developed her techniques after she gave birth to her son Santino, saying: “I started using the principals I had learned about animal behaviour and applying them to Santino, my boy.
“It’s rewarding the right thing but it’s so much more than that, it’s about setting the environment up so the animal is likely to do the thing that is going to get them what they want, and it’s so much more about teaching them to behave independently and autonomously and showing them if they do x, y and z they can open it themselves or put their shoes on themselves.
“It’s about creating an environment where it’s safe to experiment and then showing them what experiments lead to the consequences that they want.
“Dog training and animal behaviour has come such a long way from when we used to be jerking the lead and telling dogs ‘You have to do what I say’.
“It’s about reading subtle cues and body language, and knowing how to set that animal up to succeed.”
How To Train Your Baby Like A Dog is on Channel 4 at 8pm.