Anonymous Submissions Post #1

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Anonymous Submissions #1-10

We’ve had an anonymous submission box for a few months now, and have slowly accrued some great submissions of important questions, and we’re happy to answer them all! First, we post them in our associated facebook group. Then, after getting input from our members, we’re sharing them on our facebook page and on this blog as well to ensure that our readers get to see their question answered.

Anonymous Submission 1:

Q: “The self diagnosis link under the announcements is returning Content Not Found. Will someone please confirm the URL?”

A: Here’s a link to our website, which should take you directly to the page with our Self Diagnosis FAQ.

Anonymous Submission 2:

Q: “Have autistic people who can see and hear, but have trouble processing both spoken and written words, been helped by Braille? If there’s no documented case of this, could it be possible?”

A: The general consensus of our community is that we are unsure. One member says that braille stickers on their computer keyboard help them to process, but nobody else who responded has learned to read in braille, so it’s unclear if this is helpful.

Anonymous Submission 3:

Q: “Were any of the fine folks here non-verbal as children? What age did you start speaking?”

A: Loads of members here were, and some still are. Please remember that verbal speech is not the only kind of communication, and all forms of communication are valid. Not everyone will use verbal speech.

I’m assuming you also meant vocal speech as well, which is using one’s voice to make verbal speech (verbal = words, vocal = voice) and that it is perfectly okay for people to never use vocal speech.

Some of our members have said:

  • They didn’t speak until they were almost five, but do use verbal vocal speech now.
  • They are currently nonvocal/nonverbal.
  • They have selective mutism (they are unable to talk in specific scenarios, like when they are stressed or overstimulated, but can speak when they feel well.)

Anonymous Submission 4:

Q: “My child can’t stand the feeling of standing on paper (like to outline their feet) or even to see others stand on paper. Does anyone else experience this?”

A: This is definitely a sensory issue. Some members expressed similar distaste to the texture of paper. Some members suggested eliminating this upsetting stimuli. Several members remarked that anything on their feet is upsetting to them.

Anonymous Submission 5:

Q: “Is there anything one should avoid when self diagnosing? I’ve considered that I may be autistic for upwards of 10 years but I’m just not sure how I would know if I’ve been reading articles or resources that are misrepresenting autistic people and experiences because I’ve done all of this privately and have no one to actually discuss things with. Sorry if this is a weird question.”

A: I think you should probably avoid Autism Speaks posts and pages about autism, and a lot of other large mental health pages and groups, because they are grossly misinformed. Your best bet is to seek out groups like this one and pages, scroll the #actuallyautistic hashtag on social media platforms, and take tests like the “autism quotient” and “aspergers test” etc. for confirmation if you feel it necessary.

Rest assured, self diagnosis is JUST as valid as formal diagnosis. (See question #1 for a link to our Self Diagnosis FAQ.)

One member suggested the Autism Spectrum Quotient test as a way to self-affirm diagnosis.

Comments from other members:

  • “As someone who self diagnosed, be kind to yourself. We always want to downplay our symptoms because we work so hard to fit into society. I spent a lot of time feeling like I wasn’t “autistic enough” and maybe it was just other problems presenting weird or I was overreacting. I did get a formal diagnosis eventually.”
  • “My doctor keeps telling me that adult diagnoses aren’t necessary because it’s too late for ‘interventions,’ and I’m like, I don’t need intervention, I need to be protected from discrimination!”

And one exceptional response read:

“If you’re really concerned about being wrong, relax. It’s not a perfect science. Doctors are wrong constantly. Professional DXs are wrong constantly.

Learn as much as you can, try to analyse your brain and behaviour critically, and make the best determination you can and that’s all you can do.

Diagnoses serve a few purposes:

* Insurance billing
* Getting treatment and supportive services and accessibility
* Understanding yourself and communicating yourself to others
* Finding community

Is your self-DX filling any of these roles? Then great, it’s working! Even if you’re wrong, if it helps you understand yourself better, find community, be better able to explain your needs to others…. It’s doing its job.”

Anonymous Submission 6:

Q: “My best friend got a job in a specialized autism program in a public school. He didn’t realize there would be ABA involved, but there is a little bit. They use a token system for appropriate behavior, but don’t discourage stimming or count it as bad behavior. He really likes the BCBA and says she loves the kids but it struggling with the job because he’s seen on here how bad ABA is. What would you tell him??”

A: I would tell him that if he has an ounce of respect for autistics, he would quit. There are other jobs, wonderful jobs that don’t involve the abuse and traumatization of innocent children. I would link him to the Great Big ABA Resource List, and add him to this group. I would encourage him to be as vocal about the injustice that is ABA as we are in this group.

Members suggested that the friend either speak to a superior about the problematic and harmful nature of the practice, or quit the job and pursue something less harmful.

Anonymous Submission 7:

Q: “Hi, Im sorry if I say something wrong. Im autistic adult, non-verbal, ID with other disabilities. I wondering how people make friends, I feel isolated and don’t have anyone to talk to that can understand how I am. Anyone I interact with tends be ableist or transphobic or something else that I don’t deal well with. Trying make friends that understand is hard. I not met another AAC user, or autistic despite having gone to special school and I’d really like be friends with someone like me. There was local group for adult autistics but they only accepted high-functioning autistics, other group more parent and carer. I don’t understand function label and doesn’t describe me. I feel I’m too difficult for anyone to try because have high support needs and great difficulty understanding words and communication. I have so much help doing anything. So how can make friends and not be so alone? Thanks for reading.”

A: Many of us primarily make friends within online autistic communities! It’s very easy to find kinship in other autistics! Much more difficult in person. There may also be autistic groups that meet up locally to you, or ASAN groups.

Anonymous Submission 8:

Q: “My child is autistic, and at the time nonverbal (not verbally impaired). I have a tattoo of a puzzle piece, then the “I love you” sign in sign language around it (think of the puzzle as a palm). Recently through more research I found out the origins of the puzzle piece. My question is, how bad did I mess up and how would you feel if you saw something like that?”

A: Firstly, let’s remember that puzzle pieces are a symbol of the hatred of autistic people. When I see a puzzle piece, I think of abuse, harm, and murder perpetrated against the autistic community, and of the largest hate group in the world which masquerades as a charity.

With that said, personally, I would be really upset to see this. It would make me feel disgust and sadness. I would feel bad for the child whose parent has that tattoo, which symbolizes hatred, abuse, trauma, and our perceived inefficiencies. And if I’m being totally frank, I’d get it covered up. I would not walk around with a hate symbol tattooed on my body.

Almost all suggestions were saying pretty much the same thing: We know you meant well, but you should cover it up, because it is upsetting and hurtful.

Luckily, the anonymous submitter of this question reached out to us and let us know that they are planning to cover it up! They were very receptive of our responses.

At a later date, we were informed that this person has covered the tattoo and the new tattoo is lovely.

Anonymous Submission 9:

Q: “I don’t understand why ABA is bad? What are specific experiences or examples folks can share? Seeing first hand experiences, not conjecture or opinion. I am the bio mom to a 2 year old, enrolled in ABA, Speech, OT in America, only on private insurance. He does not speak, among other issues.”

A: We’ve given this submission it’s own entire post, here. Take a look!

Anonymous Submission 10:

Q: “I’m wondering how to help my daughter with organising daily chores. I don’t like the idea of a rigid list eg. Monday put washing in the machine etc. My daughter has been asking for some time now for a list as a result of me being frustrated that I don’t get enough help. My main concern though isn’t about me feeling like ‘Cinderella’ I really want to support her for the future because I am worried that she may not cope well with independent living. I’ve been struggling to write a list because I don’t want to come across as dictatorial. If anyone has any ideas for how I can best support her, I would be very grateful.”

A: This post also got it’s own entire blog post.

A Note About Puzzle Pieces

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The majority of Autistic People do not agree with the use of the puzzle piece symbol as a symbol for autism. There are a number of reasons for this.


The first and foremost thing you need to know about the puzzle piece is that it symbolizes the hatred, oppression, abuse, and murder of autistic people over the years.


Probably the second most important thing to know about the puzzle piece is that it was created for us without our input. No autistic people were included in the decision to make this our symbol.


The origins of the puzzle piece are dismal, beginning with a man working for the NAS (National Autistic Society in the UK) who believed that autism was “puzzling”. The original logo featured a puzzle piece with a child’s crying face.


Puzzle pieces have also given the impression that autistic people are a puzzle to solve, missing a piece, etc.


Later, the puzzle piece awareness ribbon was created with the intention to symbolize hope that autistic people could seamlessly integrate into “normal lives” after intensive abusive therapies and has often been construed to symbolize hope for a cure for autism. (If you are not aware, autism needs no cure, and autistic people do not want one.)


Currently, Autism Speaks (the world’s largest hate organization for autism, which you can read about in our “Required Readings” or “Autism Speaks” topics) utilizes a singular blue puzzle piece as their logo.


Other uses of the puzzle piece for autism generally involve infantilizing, childish color schemes.


Not only have autistic people repeatedly expressed their distaste for this symbol, but a study was actually conducted that concluded that puzzle pieces elicit a negative response.

(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6085079)


There are a small group of autistic people who do not reject the puzzle piece symbol, but instead have “reclaimed” it and have decided that to them, it symbolizes something other than what it truly does.


This is inappropriate because you cannot separate the meaning from this symbol, and because you cannot reclaim a symbol that was never ours, and that is still used by the largest global hate organization masquerading as a charity.


The hate the puzzle piece symbolizes is inextricable from the symbol itself.


If not the puzzle piece and the color blue, what is our symbol?


There isn’t technically one universally used and loved symbol, but autistic people tend to utilize a combination of red, gold, and rainbow with the infinity symbol.


Red, because of the #RedInstead movement that rejects the use of blue to symbolize autism.


Gold, because of the elemental symbol for Gold being Au, which is the beginning two letters of Autism.


Rainbow due in part to the neurodiversity movement, and because of the color spectrum.


The infinity symbol is the recognized symbol for the neurodiversity movement. (Rainbow infinity is commonly seen for neurodiversity on the whole, while red or gold infinities generally symbolize autism.)

Why ABA Therapy is Bad: A Brief Summary

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If you’ve been linked here, it’s because you have said something that has prompted us to give you some more education on ABA.

Let’s start with the obvious: The GREAT BIG ABA OPPOSITION RESOURCE LIST

To summarize the evils of ABA shortly and succinctly:

  • ABA is child abuse.

  • ABA uses aversives such as verbal disapproval, planned ignoring, spanking, withholding of toys/comfort items/food, slaps, restraints, and even electric shocks.

  • ABA ignores a child’s consent, which can lead to lifelong issues with comprehending consent- which can lead children to ignore another person’s bodily autonomy, and more importantly can lead them to become victims of sexual or other forms of abuse.

  • ABA is conversion therapy, founded on the same principles as gay conversion therapy but with more torturous methods.

  • Autistics who have been in ABA are 86% more likely to develop PTSD than their peers that never experienced ABA.

  • ABA is usually extremely intensive, most children are forced to participate 25-40 hrs per week, sometimes on top of school and sometimes in place of an education (meaning the child gets no actual education).

  • ABA is an expensive scam.

  • The creator of ABA intended for children to be afraid of the therapists and their parents, which he actually said in one of his published journal articles.

  • The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), who oversees the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) endorses torturing autistic children with electric shocks, which have been denounced and called torture tactics by the United Nations (UN) and the US Food Drug Administration (FDA).

  • ABA therapy worsens any possible volatility in children and makes them unable to handle stimuli, causing more and more unpredictable meltdowns.

  • Behavior Technicians/Analysts/Therapists certified by BACB do not have any training. They are typically hired with only a GED or diploma, no college, and get no formal training of any kind. They are then encouraged to directly harm children and lie to parents about it.

Your child’s ABA does not have to tick all of these boxes to be abusive. If even one of these applies to the care your children are getting (and if they are in ABA, at least one of them does) they are enrolled in an abusive program that will traumatize them.

Anonymous Submission: how do I help my child organize daily chores?

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Anonymous Submission:

Q: “I’m wondering how to help my daughter with organising daily chores. I don’t like the idea of a rigid list eg. Monday put washing in the machine etc. My daughter has been asking for some time now for a list as a result of me being frustrated that I don’t get enough help. My main concern though isn’t about me feeling like ‘Cinderella’ I really want to support her for the future because I am worried that she may not cope well with independent living. I’ve been struggling to write a list because I don’t want to come across as dictatorial. If anyone has any ideas for how I can best support her, I would be very grateful.”

A: If your child is telling you what will help them, listen. Your child has asked for a list, so give them a list. This is your child telling you exactly what you can do to help!

The most important thing about parenting is to listen to your children telling you what they need… and provide it for them. If your child is explicitly stating that a list would help them do chores, they actually do mean to make an actual, physical list.

I would list the chores that need to be performed and the timeframe they should be done within, and the order of importance. Make sure that these tasks are all reasonable for your child’s age and capabilities, though! Asking a toddler to vaccuum isn’t reasonable and asking a disabled person to do laundry might not be feasible.

A list of chores can be really helpful for an autistic person people who need explicit instructions for tasks or have difficulty remembering things. Many autistic people struggle with non-direct instructions, such as “can you please do the dishes?” which may read as optional or a question of capability; or “I need some help around here” that has no specific and distinct directions.

Other tips:

  • Do not phrase something as a question if it is an expectation. If there is no option to say no, and the child is required to perform the task, don’t ask them to do it. Tell them to do it.
  • Do not use language like “I’d like” or “I want” because that can often read as optional as well.
  • Don’t raise your voice or express your frustration. We know it’s sometimes infuriating when people don’t “pull their weight” so to speak, but yelling at an autistic person because they don’t do chores will only backfire.
  • Make sure there is no uncertainty about the task. Don’t say “clean the living room”- say instead “In the living room: pick up the books/toys and put them away and sweep the floor. In the kitchen, wash the dishes and put them away.” That type of thing. Say exactly what you mean.

Now, do address the portion of this question wherein you express concern about your child’s ability to live independently- your child is already showing signs of this capability! By telling you how you can help them, they are self-advocating, which is arguably the most important skill for an autistic person to learn before living on their own!

The best way to help your child be successful independently is by teaching them how to do what they cannot do. For example, an autistic person given a list of directions for how to complete a task will help them learn to do the task in the future. Let’s say you want your child to do two loads of laundry. Specify what can go in each load (maybe you want one load of clothes and one of towels) and how to wash them (clothes on delicate, towels on regular, perhaps) and dry them (clothes on low, separate out bras and hang dry those, towels on high, perhaps). Having a written set of directions can help them learn and remember how to wash those things! And there’s no reason they can’t some day have a list on the wall of how to do chores.

Independent living isn’t only about knowing how to do things for yourself, the entire process of transitioning from living with others to living on your own is a learning experience. Let your child learn and grow!

Some other suggestions from members in our group:

  • ‘”It’s not dictatorial if the person asks for it. To make it more democratic, you could also build the list together, if she is willing, and it can be open to modifications if she has troubles with it. Also invite her to talk about her needs, sometimes she may need to recharge and chores would get in the way, for example.”
  • “When I was a child my mother provided a list of expectations and it made my life so much easier. We need expectations spelt out thoroughly.”
  • ” I agree, she’s asking for a perfectly reasonable accommodation so I say make a list/chart. Also, by speaking up about something that would help, she’s showing evidence of self-advocacy skills. Those will become more and more important as she gets older.”
  • “I tried forever when I was a kid to get my mom to make a list for me to help her and she just wouldn’t do it. To this day (I’m 37 and don’t even live in the same state anymore) I have to hear about she doesn’t get any help around the house lol… Now I make lists for myself when I need to clean my apartment so that I can break it down for myself and not get overwhelmed.”
  • “Having lists makes it easier to live on my own. I make to do lists everyday and it helps so much.”
  • “Oh my gosh, that last point really speaks to me… my mom used to say ‘clean the kitchen’ when all she meant was ‘wash the dishes.’ That was completely overwhelming to little kid me! Did she expect me to scrub the floors? Defrost the fridge? Fix the caulk on the backsplash? I could never be sure and so what seemed like a very simple ask to her always ended up with a meltdown on my end.”

To make an anonymous submission: Go here!

Rejecting Asperger’s and other Functioning Labels

Functioning labels:

A lot of folks are reading the entry questions for our associated group and seem to misunderstand the last question: “Do you understand why functioning labels (including Asperger’s) can be harmful? If no, are you willing to learn?”

This does not mean:

  • Labels are harmful
  • Diagnosis is a label
  • Diagnosis is harmful
  • Identifiers are harmful
  • “Autistic” is harmful
  • “Autism” is harmful

Diagnosis can be an important tool in getting what you need as an autistic person, in the way of accommodations, but it can also be a hindrance (which is addressed in our Self Diagnosis FAQ) and that decision is a very personal one to make for yourself or your child.

Using the identifiers/labels “Autistic” and “Autism” are important and necessary. We are all about educating, advocating, and celebrating autistics, after all.

This does mean:

  • “Aspergers” is harmful
  • “Aspie” is harmful
  • “High functioning” is harmful
  • “Low functioning” is harmful
  • “Moderate” is harmful
  • “Severe” is harmful
  • “Mild” is harmful
  • “Level 1/2/3” is harmful

Functioning labels are descriptors of alleged functioning based on outward perception of the person by non-autistics. These are harmful because they are completely inaccurate and arbitrary.

But most of all, functioning labels are harmful because they are used for one of two things:

These labels are used to deny agency or independence to autistic people:

  • “Low functioning”
  • “Severe”

These labels are used to deny supports and accommodations (and even disability payments) to autistic people:

  • “Aspergers”
  • “Aspie”
  • “High functioning”
  • “Mild”
  • “Level 1”

“Moderate” & “Level 2” can go in either direction, depending on a few factors.

Functioning labels have been repeatedly found by autistics to be unhelpful and harmful, and researchers have finally gotten on the same page. Functioning labels hurt autistic people.

To expand on the uselessness of functioning labels and levels for autism:

Levels and functioning labels were created with the intention of making it simple to address the needs of someone based on perception by an outsider. This idea is inherently flawed, but even if it weren’t, there’s a deeper issue. It is much simpler to say the specific support needs of the person and address them than to generalize that they need “a lot” or “a few”.

Saying what each autistic person individually needs is more important and useful to everyone than giving an arbitrarily decided upon grouping based on your perception of their outward behavior.

So how do they determine these useless levels (and how did they formerly determine these useless functioning labels that are now no longer diagnosed)?

Someone who has minimal knowledge of autism, and is not autistic, looks at the outward/overt behaviors of the autistic person and makes a determination based on how stereotypically autistic they appear outwardly. This means that nonverbal autistics are almost always grouped into “low functioning” or “level 3” because they do not speak, which makes them appear more autistic to an outsider. We know that speech and communication are not good indicators of a person’s ability to function (and we know that nonverbal does not mean they cannot communicate.)

What they are measuring, which they often do not realize, is the autistic person’s ability to “mask” (masking is something that almost all autistic people do, consciously or subconsciously, which is essentially to hide your autistic traits to appear outwardly more allistic.)

If someone speaks, makes eye contact, and does not do obvious stimming like hand flapping during the limited interaction they have with the evaluator, they will likely be classed as “level 1” or “high functioning” because they are masking quite a lot.

It is harmful to base these arbitrary categories on outward perception of masking because that does not show what supports the person truly needs. Someone who is verbal may still need more supports in other areas than someone who is nonverbal, for example. I think I’ve talked your ears off enough, I’ll leave it at this.


Asperger’s specifically is much worse than just a functioning label.

Asperger’s Syndrome was a functioning label featured in the DSM for 19 years (1994-2013) and has since been removed because it is inaccurate. Now, the only autistic diagnosis in the DSM is Autism Spectrum Disorder. In some countries, the ICD is used instead of the DSM for diagnosis, and Asperger’s is still currently listed in the ICD. However, it is being phased out in the newest version which will debut in the next couple years. It was meant to separate “high functioning” autistic people from their other autistic peers.

Even if you were diagnosed with Asperger’s, it is not okay to use that term.


This issue is incredibly important to us and to the autistic community as a whole, and we will not allow deliberate ignorance of this issue. Using functioning labels or “levels” of autism is harmful and never acceptable. It is not acceptable or allowable, it contributes to the othering of and harm of autistic people, and we do not allow it.

To get into the nitty gritty of why Asperger’s is so awful, though, we have to go beyond the functioning label aspect.

Hans Asperger, whom Asperger’s was named after, was a Nazi doctor.

During World War II and the Holocaust, Asperger was essentially responsible for determining which autistic people were “smart” enough to be spared their deaths and torture and which were not so lucky.


He looked at the outward characteristics of the autistic people in concentration camps and hand selected which ones would be exploited to further the Nazi cause (by helping develop machinery/etc) from those who were deemed unhelpful and then sentenced to death or torture and experimented on.


(for those unaware, disabled people were largely experimented on and murdered during the holocaust.)

And I’ll end with some examples and further explanation:

To expand on why functioning labels are so terrible…
They are entirely arbitrary and do not hold any meaning. Someone labeled (incorrectly) as “high functioning” may have similar support needs to someone labeled (incorrectly) as “low functioning”, or any other variation.

The Autism Spectrum is not a linear sliding scale from “extremely/severely autistic to “normalcy- it is an abstract collection of traits that is meant to show that autism looks different on all of us, despite common traits.

what do autistic people think of ABA therapy?

Short answer: They almost universally hate it.

Photo by W A T A R I on Unsplash

These stories were all obtained anonymously via google forms survey. Some of these are quoted from parents or loved ones and others are quoted from autistics.

“The focus on eye contact and eliminating comforting stims is frustrating and gross. I bite my nails when I’m interested in something, and if made to stop, I spend all of my energy focused on not biting my nails, rather than whatever I need to be doing.”

“ABA is literally based on gay conversion therapy techniques and animal clicker training. It’s barbaric to treat a human being like this in 2019. If you don’t want to possibly raise a person with autism (or any learning/developmental disability) you shouldn’t have kids.”

“I wished more parents with autistic children understood the harm they are causing thier children and leaving them having to overcome PTSD in the future.”

“ABA is harmful and abusive. I don’t want my child to be taught to conform or obey blindly. She needs to be respected and able to grow as she is.”

“ABA sucks ass.”

“I have read some horrific accounts of ABA and the effect it has on autistic people. My hope is that we can find a way to make our society more inclusive and safer for neurodiverse people such that neurotypicals do not resort to harmful practices ever again.”

“It’s manipulative and disrespectful of the person’s dignity.”

 “Ban it pls.” (pls stands for please)

“I would never subject anyone to ABA.”

“Comparing it to dog training is unfair because even dog training acknowledges that everyone has basic emotional and cognitive needs and that these should never be used for behaviourist purposes.”

“Again, I do not think it was in the best interest of the autistic people and I noticed a lot of ‘conditioning’ to remove behaviors deemed inappropriate. I was never the target, luckily, because I hid my behavior, which not everyone can.”

“ABA should be outlawed.”

 “I am not a dog to be trained. I am left flinchy at harsh voices and unable to completely relax without weed and avoiding my parents who got me into this state.”

“Its is abusive and makes autistics second guess everything they do.”

“I’d rather shit in my hands and clap.” (I’m not joking, this was actually submitted!)

“It’s an awful thing that should not be used.”

“It’s horrible and should be outlawed in all cases. It’s abuse. It’s torture. It’s hell.”

“Its abuse.”

 “ABA is abusive and should be illegal.”Edit or delete this

 “I put no on dog training because when training my dog I listen to what he tells me, I don’t make him stop being a dog.”

 “It’s disgusting, it should be binned.”

“I despise it.”

“Its abusive and does more harm than good.”

“ABA is Abuse.”

“ABA has the goal of making someone ‘appear neurotypical’ rather than helping them navigate the world in their own way.”

“ABA in all its forms is harmful. Changing a few techniques or making it child led or play based will not change that.”

“It is so simple to teach coping mechanisms and meet a child’s support needs. ABA is not needed and is cruel.”

“It’s undercover child abuse.”

So there you have it; 28 individual anonymous responses from actual people who feel that ABA is harmful, abusive, and cruel.

Self Diagnosis FAQ

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From our Facebook Page & Group.

SELF DIAGNOSIS (FAQ)

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Q: What is self diagnosis? 

A: Self diagnosis is when a person determines that they have autism (which can occur in a variety of ways including informal internet assessments, information from autistic peers, etc) without the help of a medical professional or without a professional diagnosis.

Q: Why self diagnose? 

A: There are many reasons for which someone may self diagnose. Most often, patients experience an unfairness when seeking formal diagnosis’ because they do not it the narrow stereotype that most mental health professionals are taught about autism (which I will discuss below), or they are unable to seek healthcare of any kind due to lack of insurance and/or funding. Other reasons may include concerns about their treatment in the workplace or school, concerns about custody arrangements, concerns about treatment from partners and family members, concerns about loss of freedoms/autonomy or concerns about abusive therapies. Some others may self diagnose in the meantime until they are able to get a formal diagnosis- this is how almost everyone diagnosed in adulthood technically does it.

Q: What’s that you said about the narrow stereotype that most mental health professionals are taught about autism?

A: Most mental health professionals are taught a wide array of startlingly inaccurate things about autism, but I will focus here on the ones that in particular, influence who they will and will not diagnose. It is a common misconception that autism occurs primarily (or only) in white men and boys (AMABs). It is also commonly believed that autism is always noticeable in early childhood. If you are not a 2-10 year old boy (AMAB), the odds of your autistic traits being dismissed by a doctor are astronomical. Doctors and therapists often believe that women and girls (AFABs) and sometimes POC are unable to have autism, or that it is rare. This is false. Mental health professionals also have a higher tendency to dismiss the concerns of women, nonbinary folks, transgender folks, disabled people, people with other mental health disorders, young adults or teenagers, POC, etc. In particular, AFAB persons and POC are dismissed at an alarming frequency. This disparity in treatment and diagnosis creates turmoil in the lives of many people. Doctors are less likely to diagnose autism in adults or teenagers, POC, women or nonbinary people, the list goes on. Doctors will also dismiss concerns of autism if a patient expresses concern that they may have it- they have been reported as saying “If you are asking, you are too self aware to possibly be autistic”. Doctors will also refuse to evaluate a person for autism if they believe the person is able to make eye contact (some can, but others have been told this when looking elsewhere on the face in efforts to mask). There is a lot of bias in diagnosing autism.

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Q: I’d like some more information on other reasons a person may not seek a diagnosis. 

A: A large volume of people (particularly in the US) are unable to even see a professional to consider a diagnosis. The US is not on a single payer insurance system, insurance is very expensive. For those not on insurance, costs may be in the several thousands to be seen and evaluated for autism, particularly if a doctor wants to rule out other psychological or neurological causes for traits. Another set of people feel unsafe for various reasons- see below.

Q: Why would someone feel unsafe being formally diagnosed with autism?

A: A formal diagnosis means that in your medical records, there is a report saying you are autistic. In the event that others find out, things can go awry. In some scenarios, it may be safer and smarter for a person to not have that listed in their file. Fear of mistreatment by medical professionals, employers, teachers or other persons who may have authority over you and/or may have your life in their hands is a real and valid fear. Although it is technically illegal to fire someone or refrain from hiring someone because they are autistic, it does happen. It happens more often than you would think. Fear that they will be refused acceptance to or be removed from their dream school program or job may inhibit some people from seeking a diagnosis. Particularly if they need said job to support themselves or a family. In some cases, children may be removed from their home and placed into the custody of another parent or grandparent that is suing for custody if the court is made aware that the parent they initially lived with is autistic. In order to protect their children, an autistic person may refuse to seek a formal diagnosis. There are also countless cases of violence against and murder of autistic people, and it may be safer for some people to slide under the radar, particularly if they have a past history of being abused by someone. If an abuser made this discovery, it could be detrimental. If you are under the age of 18 or in the care of a legal guardian, you may be forced into abusive therapies or treatments like ABA therapy or even violent “cures” like “bleach therapy”.

Q: Aren’t there benefits to being diagnosed?

A: Short answer? There are some, but not enough to outweigh the risks (even if you assume the person has access to a dx). Long answer? a professional diagnosis can help a person get supports that they need- school or work accommodations, disability payments, etc. You may be eligible for scholarships based on being autistic. You will likely have more access to therapy. But frankly, there are not a lot of supports in place for autistic people at this time.

Photo by Nate Johnston on Unsplash

Q: Is self diagnosis accurate? How can someone determine this about themselves?

A: Because autism is a neurotype, and a person knows their brain much better than a stranger who speaks to them for only a short time, self diagnosis could arguably be more accurate than professional. Particularly when you consider that professionals often have inaccurate ideas about what autism is and isn’t. It is possible for a self diagnosis of autism to be wrong, but it is also possible for a professional diagnosis of autism to be wrong.

Q: Should a self diagnosed autistic person still identify as autistic?

A: Absolutely! Identifying as autistic can be very beneficial to all kinds of autistic people- it can give you something to ground yourself on, help you fit in and find communities that experience life in a similar way to you. Owning your neurotype will help you be happier and feel less alone.

Q: Are they faking/seeking attention?

A: No. Why on earth would they? But even if there were a few people who did… Its still important to make sure everyone else knows they are still valid.

Q: Is self diagnosis valid?

A: Of course! Autistic is autistic, regardless of how the person found out about it.

Q: Is self diagnosis important?

A: If you couldn’t tell from reading what is posted above… of course it is!

Photo by Joel Mott on Unsplash

anonymous submission: “I don’t understand why ABA is bad?”

Anonymous Submission:

Q: “I don’t understand why ABA is bad? What are specific experiences or examples folks can share? Seeing first hand experiences, not conjecture or opinion. I am the bio mom to a 2 year old, enrolled in ABA, Speech, OT in America, only on private insurance. He does not speak, among other issues.”

Our Answer: ABA therapy is child abuse. The focus of ABA is to assimilate autistic children to behave as neurotypically as possible. The goals of ABA are now, and have always been, to reduce the visibility of autism in autistic children. 

While I do not personally have experiences with ABA myself, I did delve into loads of research, other people’s personal experiences, and several articles and journal papers on the subject.

Here is an abundance of links explaining what is so terrible about ABA!

Here are several anonymous personal accounts of ABA.

Here are several other statements from autistic people about ABA.

There are numerous other responses on our thread in the Facebook group “sounds like you should ask an autistic, but ok

You can also find us on our Facebook Page: Ask An Autistic

To make an anonymous submission: Go here!

personal stories from those formerly enrolled in ABA

These stories were all obtained anonymously via google forms survey. Some of these are quoted from parents or loved ones and others are quoted from autistics.

From parents:

“We had a newer practitioner, she did not suppress stim or demand eye contact, however she did very much demand certain flow from conversation. The last straw for me was when my daughter was trying to explain her perspective abd her refusal logically (this is obviously very difficult for a six year old, distressed, autistic to do! I was very proud of the effort!) And in order to make a more genuine connection, my daughter made very intentional eye contact, and the therapist turned her head dramatically away from my child, repeatedly and refused her hearnest eye contact, as a declaration that she would not listen to or consider my daughters feelings. My child was working so hard to communicate and she was crushed.”

“ABA was used on my daughters when they were in elementary school prior to diagnosis. We were never told the methods the teachers were using were based in ABA. PTSD, low self esteem, and inability to emotionally regulate are severe now.”

“ABA was presented to me as “parent training” and I was several sessions in before I realized it was ABA, we were working specifically on toileting, and the method was so bizarre to me, there was a time table that increased demand to be seated on the toilet more and more frequently until she used it, they tried to tell me She couldn’t have m&ms anymore unless she successfully toilets (m&ms were her favorite thing in the world, so we did not comply with that for long) in the end it left her terrified of the process of toilet training and put us further behind. Not to mention that it only punished and rewarded, it did not take into account that sensory deficits are to blame for her delayed toileting, not stubborn behavior.”

“ABA caused my autistic daughter to burnout and regressed with being able to use the potty or be able to self regulate.”
[note: we don’t advocate for the use of language like “regressed” here.]

“I have unwittingly used some of the techniques which are hallmarks of ABA (repeatedly giving the same command with insufficient time to process) while raising my autistic child. It only made the situation worse for both of us, amplifying her distress and my frustration. ”

“My son was enrolled in the pre-k program. The teacher, also a BCBA, used ABA on him. We saw a huge shift in his overall well being and attitude. He now shows symptoms of anxiety and a need for rewards for any type of demand.”

“My little girl worsened with ABA. I stopped it when she asked me to. It seemed like abuse and certainly not good for a child.”

“My son was in an award winning ABA preschool for approx 6 months before we knew it was detrimental. While verbal understanding and use improved, behavior became more explosive. I believe my son fits the PDA profile so his anxiety and behavior amped up after a few months I think due to the constant demands. I pulled him when he started to physically fight me to avoid school. I don’t know if there will be any lasting effects as of yet.”

“When our child was diagnosed at age 3 (more than a decade ago), we were told that the optimal outcome would be ‘indistinguishable from their peers.’ For 2 years leading up to the start of school, and for a good portion of our child’s elementary/primary school experience, they were subjected to ABA therapy or behavioral management based on ABA principles. Our child is now a young teen with a range of mental health challenges, and they feel very strongly that ABA sent them messages of ‘you are less than.'”

“My son was briefly enrolled at age 3 for potty training issues. I removed him after only two days as he had extreme anxiety about going back.”

From other loved ones:

“My person sometimes doesn’t even know who they are anymore. They told me they feel like a shell of the person they were before, and when situations come up that otherwise could have been managed by stimming they meltdown now. They were perfectly fine before.”

“I wasn’t enrolled in ABA myself due to being diagnosed at 15, but my brother (who is 10 years younger than me) was diagnosed as a toddler and put through ABA by our mother. I noticed that he’s more anxious and tired than ‘normal’ for a child his age (he’s 10) and I strongly suspect that ABA is responsible. (We also have an allistic sister who is the middle child and tries to follow our mum’s lead when it comes to interacting with our brother, which worries and upsets me.)”

“My partner and I are both autistic, and by all accounts were very similar as children. My partner was diagnosed and sent to ABA, whereas I was not. Not only does my partner have more trouble regulating emotions and dealing with the emotions of others, but her mother, who was the one who’d enrolled her, is much more hostile toward harmless autistic behaviors such as stimming than my family is.”

“My aunt doesn’t like to talk about it that much because it’s quite traumatic for her, so all answers [in the survey] about the family member were how I think she feels.”

“I have seen it do harm to a good friend. They became ill from the stress of pretending to be ‘normal’.”

“Autistic friend was damaged by ABA, suffered a great deal and was left in an institution.”

From former providers and other professionals who witnessed ABA in a professional setting:

“I worked briefly in a school which used it. It was nothing short of horrific, and put adults in a place of extreme power over children, controlling their every move and handling them constantly. The adult was always right, the child was always seen as wrong/broken and in need of fixing. This is in the UK, in extremely recent years. I saw signs of trauma in particular in children who had been in aba for a long time, such as starting to pull out hair, a desire to please out of fear (e.g. repeating ‘I’m happy, I’m happy’ and trying to smile even when crying), and meltdowns triggered by the demands of aba itself. Staff saw dealing with meltdowns, especially when the child became violent or destructive as a badge of honour, because it showed they were ‘doing their jobs’. Children were left with no autonomy whatsoever, and no dignity. Skills were tokenised, but ultimately crushed under the more prominent demands of ‘point to the cat…good job, quiet hands’. It didn’t matter if a child was skilled in maths, or piano, what mattered was that they could learn stock phrases to sound neurotypical and comply, comply, comply.”

 “As a special ed teacher I have had some training. Instinctively I didn’t use ABA for teaching purposes, it made no sense to my autistic mind. I always had fun and success following the child’s lead. Verbal expression, eye contact all arise naturally when the child feels safe and accepted. ABC charts would have been filled for diagnostic purposes if child was being assessed by NEPS, Child Dev etc.”

“I work in education and have seen a couple of children who have been put through ABA. Contrary to Lovaas’ idea that autistic children who go through ABA become ‘indistinguishable from their peers’, it’s often easy to spot the students who have been through ABA programmes as they often come across as quite passive and unquestioningly compliant. I can’t lie, as a teaching assistant this does make my job easier but that shouldn’t be a reason to make children do ABA – it feels wrong to try to change their behaviours just to make things easier for their teachers and parents. One child had a full-time ABA tutor with him in school, which was definitely counter-productive as he had few opportunities to interact with other children in the classroom as the tutor was always the one interacting with him. It marked him out as ‘different’ which he didn’t like, and he struggled to make friends. Obviously social difficulties are a hallmark difficulty for autistic people, but in this case the ABA was an additional barrier to him making friends as he was being encouraged to present a false version of himself to the other students. I also think he’d have had an easier time making friends if he’d have been allowed to do it his own way and in his own time rather than having friendships engineered for him by his ABA tutor.”

“I worked at an ABA school as an intern in high school. At this point, I was unfamiliar with ABA. The experience was horrifying. I became suspicious of ABA before I started working there. The person who had set the internship up was an inclusion specialist at my school. They weren’t my assigned inclusion specialist, but nonetheless took a specific interest in me for some reason. Once I started expressing doubts, they pressured me to talk to the owner/CEO(?) of the school about it. We did. I was belittled and dismissed the whole time. Later, she (the owner) implied that I would be intellectually disabled without these services (I had been through a program that used some of the same techniques, but wasn’t ABA). This not only showed a disrespect for people with intellectual disabilities, but also a deep misunderstanding of disability and a manipulativeness that would continue throughout the internship. I wanted to quit, but people from all sides pressured me and gaslit me about my worries. The school itself was awful. There were bizarre, homophobic and transphobic posters on the wall. They were supposed to be about the ages of development for kids, but included things like ‘gender-appropriate play for age’ (?). More than once I witnessed abuse. I was supposed to find crafts for the kids, so I found one where we’d decorate paper plates and cut them into spirals to hang them. One kid accidentally tore his plate in half when cutting it and waned to start over. I said sure, because we had the materials and the time to do it and I didn’t blame him for wanting to start over. The staff insisted over and over again that he staple it until he started crying. Three adults finally surrounded him, used hand over hand to force him to staple it as he cried, and then started clapping and telling him ‘what a good job’ he had done. Later, they pulled me aside. In hushed tones, they said they wanted me to know what happened. They told me they just wanted him to understand that he didn’t have the right or ability to say no to them, ever. The other major incident happened later. The kids would help put small hand towels in the wash and dryer as a chore. They would also help to fold them. (Yes, this was a part of ‘school’.) The students were folding towels. The head teacher, who had a penchant for being rude, impatient, and dismissive of students started bullying the kids. One kid, tired, got upset and lightly tossed a towel at the teacher. She immediately began to belittle him more and he had a meltdown, crying and pacing. She looked him dead in the eye and said ‘That’s right. Cry. No one here cares about you.’ The whole school was a nightmare. They would seclude students, often with no teachers around, in a ‘quiet’ room for bad behavior. They’d restrain them by pushing them into a chair with a pillow (supposedly it was a sensory thing they ‘liked’. I have doubts). They would drag students screaming and crying from the park where we had lunch to the classroom if they ‘misbehaved’. They made fun of students with each other frequently. It was awful.”

“I was an ABA therapist for a short time and it was definitely abusive. When my bosses found out I was autistic they said the company never had an autistic employee, and played an autism speaks video at the next staff meeting about how horrible it is to have autistic children. It felt like they were trying to get me to quit between that and refusing my reasonable accommodation.”

“It is child abuse and I use my position as a Court Appointed Special Advocate to try to prevent children from being subjected to ABA.”

From autistics who experienced ABA themselves:

“I believe I was enrolled in ABA when I was very young, almost too young to remember. I obviously didn’t respond to it very well, because my parents took me out of it eventually. It left mostly trauma and confusion, as I remember simultaneously having a terrible childhood while also having a great one.”

“My personal experience involved physical contact such as slapping my hands whenever flapping occurred. There were other incidents, however this one stands out.”

“I spent 11+ years getting pulled out of class in order to learn the same social skills over and over again, and then got yelled at for not performing well in school because I wasn’t learning the material.”

“Every session ended with me in tears.”

“I’m super flinchy and my grandfather who got an early version of it was visibly left unable to unmask and relax, and flinchy.”

“Simply put, ABA was structured to destroy my self-confidence and agency for not following arbitrary cultural rules. Had I been allowed to interact on my own terms, I would simply have been able to learn, and I still hold that I was never truly disrespectful, just not obsequious, but unfortunately the people around me growing up felt that they could enact any harm on me to try to change this, regardless of where I actually stood.”

“Experienced torture and shutdown due to ABA can not understand my own needs and am unable to ask for basic things to survive from being taught my needs won’t matter. cannot communicate effectively and have not learnt any skills to live independently. don’t know who i am always taught whatever i might be was wrong. it’s a struggle to try and learn who i am at 40.”

“Trying to change who I am a person by mentally abusing me as a way to train me to “be better” was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. It disconnected me from my family as I felt I couldn’t trust them nor that I was loved by them. It made me fearful of all face-to-face interactions because I am still mentally afraid of the consequences, even though it’s been over a decade since my last ABA sessions. I have lifelong PTSD over ABA and it needs to be banned. ”

 “My memories are mostly early childhood with the quiet hands being prominent. It’s hard to sit still and focus for any kid but ADHD and ASD meant there was no way. a lot of forced eye contact too and I just I can’t.”

“I was told to stop playing in the ‘wrong way’ and was taught that my emotions and feelings were wrong. I was fortunately pulled out after two weeks because of how expensive it was, and my family didn’t view it as very effective for my own needs.”

 “I had to wear plaster boots to stop me stimming by toe walking, I was not damaging my feet, it just didn’t look ‘normal’, this is alongside electronic shocks and other harmful practices.”

“My mom had to fire a few therapists for using physically abusive tactics.”

“I was physically restrained for not following instructions. (quiet hand and eye contact bullshit.) My hobbies were shamed and ridiculed and I was told to have more ‘girly and age appropriate hobbies.’ I was forced to ‘try’ new foods (they were forced into my mouth) and I was yelled at for vomiting afterwards. I brought my comfort item one day and it was forcibly taken, I was told I could have it back if i did well… My sister got it back 3 days later when I told her what happened.”

“I am less emotionally developed than others my age due to ABA.”

“ABA is very traumatic, I do not want to talk about my trauma.”

“I have not been enrolled in ABA but my caregivers did use method similar to it when I was a child (holding my hands so I didnt flap, make me look in the eyes, force me to work without washing my hands at recess (hard time writing with sweaty/clammy hands), ect) and I do feel like it made me less able to regulate myself and caused me more anxiety and distress. One example I like to use is: Would you hold down the handof someone communicating in sign language? No? Then why would you hold down the hand of an autistic child? It enable us to regulate ourselves, destress and communicate how we are feeling also.”

” I would not wish the experience I had on anyone else. “

“ABA is responsible for me being hesitant, and in some cases incapable of expressing who I am. While I do not consider this PTSD, I consider it to be a huge factor in the disconnect between my emotions and my expression.”

“I never want any child to go through what I had to suffer through. “

” I am not a dog to be trained. I am left flinchy at harsh voices and unable to completely relax without weed and avoiding my parents who got me into this state.”

“Expensive PTSD-inducing hell i wish i didn’t have to go through.”

“It’s one of the worst things to ever happen to me.”

“It ruined my ability to say no, taught me that I didn’t have bodily autonomy and primed me for abuse later in life. I can only imagine how much worse other people might have it. 😦 ”

The Great Big ABA Opposition Resource List

Inspired by an anonymous question, here’s a list of every (English language) anti-ABA article that we know of, all in one place, so it’s easy for you to send the whole list or pick and choose which articles will be most useful when talking to different people about this issue.

This post will be updated as new resources become available and resources we missed come to our attention. Note (4/11/21): This list will be maintained periodically despite the dissolution of the group and page we previously managed. Note (9/25/21): The list has been reformatted for greater accessibility- sections have been rearranged, clearly labeled, and given sub-sections; content has been more clearly separated for clarity.

Content notes are included so that you can be aware of triggering content and content that is potentially going to “walk back” a topic you’ve already educated someone about.

introduction + general information

  • ABA Horror Stories are Far Too Common | Neuroclastic
    • Summary: This article introduces the topic of ABA and explains the importance of learning from traumatized ABA survivors. It also links to several personal horror stories from the aforementioned ABA survivors.
    • Key takeaways:
      • People often don’t comprehend that they have been traumatized until later, and can rarely articulate what is wrong as a child, which leads to adults revealing ABA was traumatic for them many years after they have stopped
      • It is important that parents know ABA is abusive from the get-go
      • Too many children are being forcefully traumatized
  • ABA Therapy: Treatment, or Torture? | Marie A. | Adultistic
    • If the above link does not work, try here.
    • Summary: Marie A. lists the basics of what ABA is and why autistic adults so frequently speak out against it. There is a section that offers a brief history of ABA, the way that it works, and who actually performs it. There is a deep dive into the ethics, including an emphasis on the lack of standardization of treatment within the field of ABA. There is also a significant discussion of how parents are convinced to put their children in ABA because they are preyed upon while desperate.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Autistic adults speak against the ABA that traumatized them
      • ABA is done with the goal to make children seem more normal, it is intentionally harsh
      • The creator of ABA insisted that he didn’t need to understand Autism on any level to “treat” it
      • ABA therapists have a history of slapping children and presently still physically restrain them
      • Stimming is healthy, ABA seeks to stop healthy behaviors like stimming
      • ABA ignores the emotional well-being of the child(ren)
      • Studies for ABA are almost never up to present standards for medical/psychological studies, and data excludes intellectually disabled and nonverbal autistic people subjected to ABA
      • 1 out of 4 ABA therapists said electric shock was an appropriate punishment for autistic children in ABA therapy
    • Content Notes: There is a variety of language and concepts in this post which range from appropriate to inappropriate, including person-first language and functioning labels.
  • What is Applied Behavior Analysis, and why is it so terrible? | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA Support Autistics
    • Summary: This article discusses what ABA is on a basic level and lists why ABA is harmful to autistic people as well as others.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Changing an autistic person’s behavior is harmful to them and everyone else
      • ABA is expensive, intensive, and has frightening origins
      • ABA stops self-regulation from autistic people
      • ABA takes away children’s consent ability to consent and outwardly show their emotions
      • ABA uses aversives and is linked to PTSD
  • My Thoughts on ABA | Amy Sequenzia | The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN)
    • Summary: Amy Sequenzia discusses their beliefs about ABA and their past experiences being subjected to ABA. This article is light, it does not discuss nitty gritty trauma, but it does repeatedly call ABA abuse.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Autistic people do not need ABA to learn skills and be whole, valid people
      • ABA is abuse
      • Kids in ABA can fake whatever they need to in order to avoid harm or get what they desire from the therapist, but that doesn’t make it beneficial to them
  • ABA | unstrangemind | Unstrange Mind
    • Summary: This article delves into the nuances of the argument between autistic people (against ABA) and parents (who feel it benefits their kids) and how much of that argument is rooted in misunderstandings. It dives deeply into the reasons why this discussion is triggering for people on both sides, with both groups wanting what is best for the children.
    • Key takeaways:
      • It is easy for parents to get overwhelmed by being told they are abusing their children by having them in ABA (at the guidance of a physician or school professional, usually)
      • Autistic people have been traumatized by well-meaning parents, doctors, and professionals
      • The creator of ABA believed that he could change the brains of autistic people by changing their behavior without understanding their brains
      • ABA treats behavior as meaningless, rather than a form of communication
      • ABA is deliberately difficult to endure in duration (40 hours a week) to break down a child’s resistance and will
      • ABA makes kids outwardly look more palatable, but causes them immense distress
      • A child in ABA was physically forced to look at her mother despite numerous attempts at nonverbally communicating boundaries, had a full-blown meltdown and cried, and then was praised for enduring such pain
      • ABA leaves children vulnerable to sexual violence and abuse
      • ABA teaches kids that they are wrong and broken simply for existing with the brain they have
    • Content Notes: This article references sexual assault. A meltdown is described as well as apparent parental abuse which lead to the meltdown. This article also incorrectly determines that some things called ABA may not actually be ABA, for which there has never been any significant evidence or proof.
  • Touch Nose. Gummy Bear: What is ABA and Why Does it Suck? | Beth Ryan | Love Explosions
    • Summary: Beth Ryan talks about the fundamental process of ABA and whether it is meaningful, ethical, respectful, or harmful.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Any treatment that stems, in any amount, from ABA is harmful
      • ABA therapists arbitrarily determine which behaviors are important; one person may think a behavior is important that someone else thinks is unimportant
      • Autistic people self-accommodate, but ABA determines that those accommodations are undesired behaviors that must be stopped (and usually doesn’t or can’t offer a replacement accommodation)
      • Something working does not imply ethics, weapons work to harm people but that does not mean it is right to harm others
      • Many ABA tasks are menial, such as touching one’s own nose for no apparent reason, without explaining why one must do it
  • Facebook Post | Neurodefiant
    • Summary: Neurodefiant expresses that there is no good ABA, because of the nature of behavior modification. 
    • Key takeaways:
      • All ABA is harmful because it assumes autistic people are broken 
      • There is no good ABA 
      • ABA always strips away autonomy 
      • Disabled children deserve full childhoods 
      • You cannot respect someone and try to control them or bend them to your will  
  • What’s the Big Deal With ABA Therapy? | Kaylene George | Autistic Mama
    • Summary: Kaylene George discusses the origins of ABA, how ABA is compliance-based, teaches masking, causes PTSD, is too much work, and treats autistic kids as subhuman.
    • Key takeaways:
      • When autistic kids stand up for their own feelings they are punished or have something withheld  
      • Autistic children are encouraged to ignore their own experiences and favor other people’s
      • The goal of therapies for autistic people should not be to benefit parents, teachers, or others 
      • It should never be okay for a therapy to change who a person is at the deepest level
      • Parents are often told that any less than 20 hours per week of ABA is unacceptable  
      • Even in play-based ABA the autistic child has to be actively participating the entire time
      • ABA was never designed to help autistic people  
      • We cannot ignore the origins of ABA 
  • Why ABA Therapy is Bad: A Brief Summary | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA Support Autistics
    • Summary: This article summarizes (in bullet point form) the main problems with ABA. 
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA is abusive 
      • ABA causes PTSD
      • ABA sometimes uses electric shocks 
      • ABA makes children more volatile  
      • ABA professionals have no tangible training requirements  
      • Even if your kid’s ABA doesn’t match every negative thing you hear, it’s still harmful  
  • Problematic and Traumatic: Why Nobody Needs ABA | silentlyspeakingvolumes | Autistic Self-Advocates Against ABA
    • Summary: This article illustrates how harmful, hostile, and aggressive ABA therapy is. It goes into detail about why ABA is problematic and traumatic, including discussing withholding communication devices, electroshock, and PTSD. The author stresses that even with good intentions, you can harm the people you care about. Many parallels between grooming and abuse (domestic and parental) and ABA are drawn.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA therapy stems from a lack of understanding about autistic people
      • Stimming is self-regulatory behavior and ABA has always sought to stop it
      • ABA has involved hitting and yelling at children
      • ABAI condones abuse and torture, even highlighting and encouraging it
      • The ABA certification board does not prohibit the use of any aversives or abuse
      • ABA professionals view autistic children as the sum of their behaviors
      • Well-meaning people can/do cause unspeakable levels of psychological harm
      • Non-autistic people often completely misinterpret the behavior of autistic people
      • There are many parallels between grooming/domestic abuse/parental abuse and ABA therapy
      • ABA is for profit
      • ABA is a civil rights issue
  • Not An Autism Mom’s Thoughts on ABA: Part One | Meghan Ashburn | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: This article discusses the difficulty parents face when their child is diagnosed as autistic and ABA is pushed, and the content online is at best a “stalemate” on the topic, and at worst pushes ABA. There is a brief summary of the origins of behaviorism and ABA. The article explicitly talks about why ABA has been considered a success, and whether it is okay to subject our children to it. Meghan Ashburn talks about planned ignoring with her infants in the NICU as an example of how it technically works. It validates why parents have chosen ABA (because of physician and other pressure and guidance) but challenges that choice. 
    • Key takeaways:
      • We shouldn’t be asking or considering if ABA technically works, we should be thinking about what it costs for our children
      • Autism is not a behavioral disorder, it’s a neurodevelopmental disorder; it manifests as behaviors because of the root causes for those behaviors in an autistic person’s nervous system 
      • Behavioral psychology doesn’t consider root neurological causes 
      • Planned ignoring can get a child to abandon their basic human survival instincts 
      • Even modern/good/gentle ABA uses planned ignoring  
      • Children begin ABA resisting and trusting their own instincts, which providers often tell parents is a positive sign that will pass 
      • Autistic children become used to being abandoned by their parents in a place that causes them pain and distress, so they do eventually stop fighting it because they break 
      • When a child is diagnosed autistic, parents often abandon their parental instincts and allow their children to be harmed because experts have said they must  
  • The Strategies of ABA- Not An Autism Mom’s Thoughts: Part Two | Meghan Ashburn | Neuroclastic
    • Summary: This article gives an in-depth look at some of the strategies of ABA. Information is quoted directly from materials intended for ABA providers, and is then followed by information and opinions from the author, all of which is clearly marked. This article is an excellent source of information for parents on the fence. 
    • Key takeaways:
      • When choosing an intervention for your child, it is important to understand the who/what/why/how of the intervention 
      • Doctors often fail to adequately inform parents before recommending ABA 
      • ABA is not a treatment for autism
      • ABA is an intensive intervention created with the sole purpose of conditioning behavior; it is not a therapy  
      • ABA “therapists” are not therapists; RBT’s are technicians, BCBAs are analysts 
      • ABA providers do not have the experience to adequately judge the cause and effect of behaviors in the way that therapists and social workers do  
      • Behavior technicians pair with the things that make the child happy, but not with the child, to gatekeep them to be used as reinforcements 
      • Parents should create a bubble of support, acceptance, and empowerment for their autistic children 

testimonies

from autistic people who were subjected to ABA therapy

  • On Hurling Myself into Traffic to Get Out of ABA Therapy | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: This harrowing article was written by an autistic teenager who has been forced into attending court-ordered ABA. It details how the technicians and providers make them feel, and discusses an incident where they ran into traffic to avoid ABA. 
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA providers belittle the author  
      • Tasks they are forced to do are well beneath their skill and intellect level  
      • The providers would not share the goals with them, because they are “always changing” 
      • Other children in other rooms in the ABA center are always “screaming their heads off,” and are never comforted; the author was told they would get used to the screaming  
      • Their intuition and interroception are constantly in question- they are presumed incompetent to know how something makes them feel  
      • They have told everyone they know that they do not want to be in ABA 
      • Thoughts of having to stay in ABA for the foreseeable future caused a panic attack  
      • The author literally ran into traffic to get away from ABA and was hit by a car 
      • The behavior technicians who witnessed and helped cause this incident left after the car accident; the author was ambulanced to a hospital
  • Personal stories from those formerly enrolled in ABA | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA Support Autistics
    • Summary: This article is a collection of quotes from people surveyed about ABA. It contains personal stories from parents, former providers, and autistic people who were enrolled in ABA.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Parents report bad experiences where their children were not heard
      • Parents report that children have poor self esteem, PTSD, and emotional dysregulation in children who were in ABA even for brief periods
      • Parents report behavior and overall well-being of their children worsening during ABA
      • Parents report their children physically fighting them to avoid going to ABA, or having extreme anxiety about returning to the ABA center
      • Loved ones report their autistic loved one as having poor self esteem and no sense of self, little ability to self-regulate, anxiety, or being institutionalized because of psychological distress after ABA
      • Loved ones report that some of their autistic loved ones were so traumatized by ABA that they rarely talk about the actual experience, and only say generalized (negative) things
      • Former providers report having seen signs of trauma in the children they worked with
      • Former providers report that other providers were proud to cause children painful meltdowns, and that they had total power over the vulnerable children in their care
      • Former providers report that children were physically forced to do distressing things while they cried from the distress, and providers being verbally hostile toward children which caused meltdowns
      • Former providers report that ABA had seclusion rooms
      • Autistic people who did ABA as children report feeling traumatized, crying, being very anxious and on edge, feeling tortured and unable to ask for help, not knowing who they are, feeling emotionally immature, and struggling to understand bodily autonomy
      • Autistic people who did ABA as children report being slapped, yelled at, asked to do repetitive menial tasks, forced to make eye contact, wearing restrictive clothing to prevent stimming, being physically restrained, and having comfort items taken away
      • Autistic people who did ABA as children report being told that their feelings were wrong
  • An Open Letter To The NYT: Acknowledge The Controversy Surrounding ABA | Fay Fahrenheit | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: Fay Farenheit discusses their past experience with ABA, the history of ABA, the comparisons to animal training, and the modern day experiences and outcomes of ABA. There is a somewhat lengthy explanation of the research findings that have found ABA to be pointless. There is a section on the ABA industry’s response to allegations of harm, traumatization, and abuse; information about autistic neurology, and the risk of sexual abuse. Overall, this is a fairly comprehensive post about ABA.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Food deprivation is used in ABA, even if children self harm in distress from hunger
      • The origins of ABA are harmful and abhorrent, ABA was created alongside gay conversion therapy
      • Unlike animal training, ABA has not evolved to be less harmful and external, and more about the internal processes of the brain
      • Most autistic people do not support ABA
      • ABA causes negative outcomes like PTSD, food obsessions, learned helplessness, decreased intrinsic motivation, and suppressed autonomy
      • Studies do not illustrate any tangible benefits from ABA
      • ABA providers often belittle, argue with, and insult ABA survivors and others who speak out against ABA
  • It was Behavior Therapy All Along, and I had Absolutely No Clue- Until Now | Alex Sprague | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: Alex Sprague reflects on their childhood experiences with a behavior therapy program (a “special needs” gymnastics class using ABA techniques) which was never presented to them as behavior therapy as a child. They discuss the abuses they faced and how two of their former “teachers” were arrested for sexually assaulting children/teenagers, as well as the owner of the facility having been arrested for the same type of crimes which had been perpetrated decades prior to the arrest (before Alex Sprague attended the facility).
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA attempts to extinguish normal bodily functions that are culturally deemed rude and shame children for not having full control of their bodies
      • ABA seeks to stop children from expressing discomfort, pain, or distress
      • ABA is akin to grooming a child, there is often a lack of consent, including when adults touch children without their consent
      • ABA professionals punish autistic children for acting and thinking like they are autistic
      • ABA places children in vulnerable, dangerous positions and places behavior technicians in an equally dangerous position (allowing them access to vulnerable children to groom)
  • Facebook Post | Not Another Autistic Advocate | Facebook
    • Summary: This post discusses an autistic advocate’s childhood experience with ABA.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA therapists starved an already very hungry child in an attempt to force the child to speak verbal-vocally
      • An ABA therapist told this same child as an adult that this egregious neglect/abuse worked, since they can now verbal-vocally speak
      • ABA is still as abusive as it always was
      • Food withholding is still recommended as an effective reinforcement for ABA with autistic children
    • Content notes: Starvation and food withholding are mentioned in this post.
  • What is ABA and My Experience | Fierce Autie
    • Summary: Fierce Autie summarizes their experience with ABA as well as the controversy of ABA and its origins. This is a lengthy article that contains personal experiences as well as some of the other general information.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA is behaviorism with objectionable origins
      • ABA has included withholding hugs from children who engaged in self-injurious behaviors
      • Studies have shown that ABA does not work and is misinformed
      • Fierce Autie recalls being treated like a dog, told ABA would make them normal, and being told to be a “good doggie” for the ABA staff
      • Fierce Autie recalls being asked to sit on their hands and having their favorite plush toy taken away, having food withheld, being forced to make eye contact, and having their hands slapped
      • Fierce Autie recalls ABA being the direct cause of all of their worst childhood meltdowns
      • ABA and gay conversion therapy are alike
      • ABA has not changed or gotten more gentle or less harmful over time
    • Content notes: This article mentions being raised by “NPD parents” with the implication that NPD makes the parents harmful, and caused an unhappy childhood. We do not agree with the demonization of any neurotype.
  • ABA Abuse Traumatizes Autistic Teen (A Firsthand Account) | Jamie A. Heidel | The Articulate Autistic
    • Summary: A teenager accounts their experience of being put through an ABA program at age 12 without their parents knowledge or consent. This experience lasted a year and left the person unable to say “no” in any context and struggles with boundaries. Jamie A. Heidel then gives their own thoughts on the matter.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Children are sometimes put into ABA by the school system even without their parents knowledge or consent
      • This person recalls not being allowed to look away from the paper they were working on, and having teachers (doing ABA) bang on the table with their fists
      • This person recalls being told they could not say no, and having things taken away if they did try to say no or refuse
      • This person recalls being physically forced to do tasks
      • Children who are afraid to say no are particularly vulnerable to domestic abuse, substance abuse, kidnapping, and sexual abuse/assault of many kinds

from parents who abandoned ABA

  • Why We Stopped Most Therapies | Court Alice Thatcher | Respectfully Connected
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
    • Content notes: This article begins with Thatcher stating that she was absolutely certain that her six month old was autistic. It is not possible to determine if a child at that age is autistic, nor is it appropriate or beneficial.

from former ABA providers

(behavior analysts, behavior technicians, RBTs, BCBAs, etc.)
  • Tumblr Post | Ink and Daggers on Tumblr
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • I am a Disillusioned BCBA: Autistics are Right About ABA| Jo Ram | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: Jo Ram, BCBA, discusses the harmful lack of collaboration and dangerous isolation that is encouraged in the field. They discuss at length the harmful, abrasive way BCBAs and others in the field of ABA respond to criticism from autistic people, including to gaslight them. Jo Ram also insists that “good” behavior analysts/technicians must condemn the harmful actions of others in the field and suggests that autistic people need to be part of ABA discussions.
    • Key takeaways:
      • BCBA regrets their role in harming autistic children
      • Calls for radical changes to ABA
      • ABA providers and others view Autistic people as “less than”
      • Parents and autistic children are manipulated in standard ABA process
      • Compliance from children subjected to ABA is a trauma response
  • Spectrum Magazine Missed the Point I Wanted to Express about ABA: Here’s What I Said | Terra Vance | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: Terra Vance has publicized her emails to Emily Sohn which show an interview between the two for an article later published in Spectrum Magazine. Terra Vance discusses her brief experience performing ABA as part of a psychology program, and the ways in which she disagrees with ABA.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Terra Vance opted to forgo ABA for her own child, which was somewhat influenced by her experiences (but moreso because of her own fundamental beliefs and understanding of psychology)
      • ABA tasks are often meaningless
      • ABA professionals refer to atypical communication as “meaningless”
      • Spectrum Magazine wrote an article that did not convey her core beliefs about ABA, which had been discussed repeatedly in the emails

from other providers and scientists

(speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physicians, etc.)

to ABA providers

  • Tumblr Post | Neurowonderful on Tumblr (this post contains a question from an ABA therapist and response from an autistic advocate)
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:

why ABA is dangerous

information on aversives and torture in ABA

(and the FDA’s stance on aversives, torture, and electric shock)

child abuse in ABA

consent (or lack thereof) in ABA

the negative emotional impact of ABA

ABA and the link to PTSD

  • ABA and PTSD | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA Support Autistics
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:

articles about ABA being a conversion therapy focused on assimilation

ABA & the intersection of racism and ableism

“but what about…”

“… my kid that likes ABA?”

articles about how ABA is harmful, even if children like it or their therapists
  • But My Child Loves ABA and their Therapists: ABA, Religion, and the Status Quo |Terra Vance | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: Terra Vance discusses her upbringing in a fundamentalist Evangelical Christian region, church, and culture. She makes comparisons between ABA and her upbringing and cult religion and talks about the harm that desperate attempts to stick to the status quo caused to her and many others.
    • Key takeaways:
      • There are parallels between ABA therapy and staunch religious sects
      • Children love their ABA therapists for the same reason they love their parents and other adults in their lives: because they don’t know that the person is harming them ABA is always abuse, no matter how gentle

“… the good ABA therapists?”

articles about how ABA is harmful, even if there are good ABA providers or good intentions

“… new ABA?”

articles about how new ABA is still harmful

“… good/gentle ABA?”

articles about how good or gentle ABA is still harmful

“… how ABA is evidence-based?”

articles about how ABA is harmful even though it is technically evidence-based
  • Behaviorism is Dead. How Do We Tell The (Autism) Parents? | Carol Millman | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: Carol Millman discusses at length the ways in which ABA is an outdated science that fails to account for a slew of important changes in psychology.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA and the behaviorist techniques it is based on are dated and no longer relevant
      • ABA uses principles that are known to be harmful and hinder development
      • ABA education fails to teach important information about behaviorism, neurology, and other fields of psychology to people performing ABA on children
      • The science behind ABA was outdated even when ABA was created
      • ABA ignores science that has helped us understand autism
      • The study methods used in ABA are questionable at best compared to other fields of science

miscellaneous articles to address other “but what about…” situations

  • Tweets | AutisticSciencePerson | Twitter
    • Summary: Three tweets effectively explaining why ABA is abuse, and what people do not mean when they call ABA abuse.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Autistic kids being forced to endure pain and distress is abuse
      • Behaviorism (while ineffective, as indicated by other articles here) is not abuse in and of itself

articles to help you spot the red flags

Science & Legislature

published articles/journal articles/scientific evidence

the terrifying origins of ABA alongside the now renounced gay conversion therapy

To read some of Lovaas’ own deeply upsetting words from his “clinical trial” of ABA/behavior therapy on children in the 1970s, look no further: Some Generalization and Follow-Up Measures on Autistic Children in Behavior Therapy | O. Ivar Lovaas, Robert Koegel, James Q. Simmons & Judith Stevens Long | Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis

Be warned: the language used in this article is incredibly disturbing and dehumanizing.

articles about petitions/movements/legislature seeking to end ABA

  • Banning Autistic Conversion Therapy in New Zealand | Jorn Bettin | Neuroclastic
    • Summary: Jorn Bettin briefly discusses ABA’s links to conversion therapy as well as several New Zealand publishings about autism, ABA, and conversion therapy. At the end, there is a form wherein you can attest to your dislike of ABA.
    • Key takeaways:
      • New Zealand pushes ABA therapy like the US, UK, and Australia
      • ABA has significant ties to Gay Conversion Therapy

miscellaneous articles

  • Is the “Gold Standard” Too Much for Such Young Children? | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA, Support Autistics
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
      • When ABA is mentioned and autistic people speak against it, many non-autistic people defend ABA and drown them out
      • Operant conditioning is not a good way to teach someone to speak or make friends; it has limited uses
      • ABA programs are deeply flawed, even the least harmful ones
    • Content Notes: This person believes that there are some decent ABA programs, which is pointedly false.
  • Tumblr Post | Neurowonderful on Tumblr (this post is a quick breakdown of ABA)
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • Breaking Down ABA | Restless Hands
    • This article was more or less copy/pasted here as well.
    • Summary: ABA therapy is useless at best, harmful at worst, and is not an effective method of teaching most skills.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Many autistic people have been deeply traumatized by ABA
      • When ABA is mentioned and autistic people speak against it, many non-autistic people defend ABA and drown them out
      • Operant conditioning is not a good way to teach someone to speak or make friends; it has limited uses
      • ABA programs are deeply flawed, even the least harmful ones
    • Content Notes: This person believes that there are some decent ABA programs, which is pointedly false.
  • Autism Speaks and ABA: Same Harmful Methods, Different Coat of Paint | Sebastianthedude | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: NeuroClastic writer Sebastianthedude discusses Autism Speaks’ new campaign, the “Year of Kindness,” including unpacking their newer videos which encourage the use of ABA. They also discuss some ethical and moral questions about ABA and whether it is appropriate.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Autism Speaks “rebranded” last year but are still fear-mongering
      • Autism Speaks (known hate group) is encouraging ABA use
      • ABA token systems are not useful
      • ABA leads children to associate their favorite items (or food) with trauma because they are used as rewards
  • The Early ASD Screening Debate Continues | Dr. Jessica Edwards | The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health
    • Summary: This is an article summarizing the results of a study, which is linked/cited within this article. It suggests that there is no validity behind “early intervention” including diagnosis and treatment/therapies for autism.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Early intervention is not critical
  • Misbehavior of Behaviorists | Michelle Dawson | No Autistics Allowed (Explorations in Discrimination Against Autistics)
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:

alternatives to ABA

  • Alternatives to ABA | Facebook Post | Autistics and Allies Against ABA Ireland
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • An Advocate’s Guidebook for Caregivers of Autistic Kids | Peaceful Mom | Peace I Give
    • Summary: This is a comprehensive list of information and resources for autistic children. It discusses the harm of ABA and a few alternatives for specific issues autistic children may face.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Occupational, physical, speech therapy, or DBT are suggested

Last updated on October 2nd, 2021.

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