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.

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

testimonies

from autistic people who were subjected to ABA therapy

  • 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.

from parents who abandoned ABA

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 September 25th, 2021.

28 thoughts on “The Great Big ABA Opposition Resource List

  1. I do not support ABA because my HFA/Aspergers son was illegally restrained and secluded in illegal time out rooms (instrument closets and boiler rooms) in the name of ABA by so called behaviorist experts at NSSA and by teachers and administrators in the Commack UFSD who were complicit and let this happen to my son without telling me.

    My son has permanent PTSD and Anxiety because of the abuse and what was done to him in the name of ABA. My son could not tell me. He was 9 years old and too traumatized to tell me.

    He is now 21 and has published an article about his ordeal. With the help of therapy he is succeeding in college and in life. But it was a very long journey.

    Like

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