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.

general information

  • 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
  • Breaking Down ABA | Restless Hands
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • Breaking Down ABA, Again: Introduction | Restless Hands
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • Breaking Down ABA, Again. Part 1: Ethics, Standards, and Side Effects | Restless Hands
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • Facebook Post | Neurodefiant
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • Beware of ABA | Fierce Autie
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • What’s the Big Deal With ABA Therapy? | Kaylene George | Autistic Mama
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • Why ABA Therapy is Bad: A Brief Summary | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA Support Autistics
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • Problematic and Traumatic: Why Nobody Needs ABA | silentlyspeakingvolumes | Autistic Self-Advocates Against ABA
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • Not An Autism Mom’s Thoughts on ABA: Part One | Meghan Ashburn | NeuroClastic
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:

from autistic people who were subjected to ABA therapy

  • On Hurling Myself into Traffic to Get Out of ABA Therapy | NeuroClastic
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • Personal stories from those formerly enrolled in ABA | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA Support Autistics
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • An Open Letter To The NYT: Acknowledge The Controversy Surrounding ABA | Fay Fahrenheit | NeuroClastic
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:
  • 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:
    • Key takeaways:
  • ABA Abuse Traumatizes Autistic Teen (A Firsthand Account) | Jamie A. Heidel | The Articulate Autistic
    • Summary:
    • Key takeaways:

from parents who abandoned ABA

articles from former ABA providers/behavior analysts/behavior technicians

articles from other providers and scientists

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

responses to ABA providers

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

ABA and the link to PTSD

consent (or lack thereof) in ABA

child abuse in ABA

articles about ABA being a conversion therapy focused on assimilation

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 to address that ABA is “evidence-based”

articles about ABA therapists behaving inappropriately (in general)

articles to help you spot the red flags

articles to adress the “but what about…”

published articles/journal articles/scientific evidence

miscellaneous articles

posts about alternatives to use instead of ABA

Last updated on June 29th, 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.


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