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The Great Big ABA Opposition Resource List

This is a list of every English language article opposing ABA. We continue to curate this list periodically to ensure that it is a resource that includes everything there is, 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.

If you’re here because you are a parent considering ABA for your child or your child is already in ABA, I urge you to take a long look at this list and go slowly- some of this can be overwhelming. If you’re here because you’re an ABA provider who isn’t sure if they are doing more harm than good, please remember to keep an open mind.

This post will be updated as new resources become available and resources we missed come to our attention. Please use this submission box if you find a link we have missed! Please note that this work is extremely overwhelming as many of these articles and posts are equal parts infuriating and heartbreaking.

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

  • Unapologetically Non-Compliant: A Neurotypical Mother’s Perspective After Leaving ABA | Holly Rowe | NeuroClastic
    • Summary: Rowe talks about her experience of ABA and the way it impacted her child; his apparent inability to use the skills he learned outside of the ABA setting, the way he started using self-harming stims in place of the innocuous ones that were suppressed. She mentions being the only parent who stayed and watched during ABA sessions. She reflects on the many signs that were present during the child’s time in ABA and about feeling manipulated. Rowe then recalls a message exchange with another parent whose child was reduced to less ABA time to make room for other needs (occupational and speech therapy) as recommended by a pediatrician, but who was dropped from the program entirely and had CPS called as a result.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA is recommended as soon as the diagnosis is made
      • They were told ABA would increase functional communication and play skills
      • They wanted to enroll their kid in center-based ABA instead of home-based ABA, but many providers only offered in-home services
      • They were recommended 25hrs of ABA, approved by insurance, but couldn’t fit that many hours because of other therapies the child needed for cerebral palsy and speech
      • The ABA program refused to use the AAC device that was recommended and provided by the Speech Language Pathologist
      • ABA providers often feel they are better equipped to help children than other providers, including doctors
      • Profits matter more than children and families to ABA companies
      • Autistic adults provide a wonderful support network for parents of autistic children
  • An Open Letter to Families Considering Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Their Child with Autism | Virgynia King & Bob King | Astrea
    • Summary: A person describes their child’s previously well-adjusted, easygoing autistic child and the way that ABA turned that child into an anxiety-ridden, traumatized child with a diagnosis of PTSD. They talk about a time where the child was restrained for 25 minutes while screaming, crying, and trying to escape the restraint. The remainder of the letter focuses on the negative changes in the child’s temperament including anxiety, PTSD, and violent behaviors. Following the letter is a list of ethical violations that parents should be aware of, problems with ABA and child development, and negative impacts of ABA.
    • Key takeaways:
      • The ABA organization and employees appeared to be professional and competent, they promised the use of positive practices and denied the use of aversives, but that was not the case
      • The child was deprived or developmental experiences, effectively tortured while restrained, and left with anxiety and a PTSD diagnosis as well as becoming violent after ABA services
      • ABA violates several important pieces of the American Psychiatric Association’s Code Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, including failure to give informed consent and boundaries of competence
      • ABA violates the child’s emotional development by denying them the basic need to defend themselves and holding them to unreasonable developmental expectations
      • ABA uses behaviorism in harmful ways, and with harmful methods such as extinction
    • Content notes: This article uses functioning label language. There are mentions of restraint, though they are vague. There is also an uncensored mention of r*pe in the context of the severity of PTSD.
  • An Open Letter to Families Considering Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Their Child with Autism Part 2 | Virgynia King & Bob King | Astrea
    • Summary: In part 2 of the letter from the previous link, the author discusses being encouraged to put their four-year-old child into a full-day intensive early intervention program, but opting to use in-home ABA services instead at the recommendation of the Autism Society, other parents, and developmental specialists from the APA. They recall being told that their child would cry but never receiving an answer about why, and being told to be more merciless. The mother speaks about manipulative practices aimed at keeping the child in the program by saying that it wouldn’t work if they didn’t strictly comply and pinning parents against one-another; even to a point where she felt afraid to end the services because her husband had not witnessed the harm it was causing to their child.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA providers told parents to be more harsh with their children, and pinned parents against one-another to achieve their goals
      • The providers threatened to terminate services if they did not allow the child to be restrained
      • ABA providers told the mother she was abusive for ending ABA services after her child was badly traumatized
      • The problems with ABA are not based on individual providers, but the system as a whole
    • Content notes: This article uses developmental age, a practice that is flawed and ableist. This article also uses the r-slur. The post details a horrible experience wherein a child was restrained and forced to show affection and became injured and traumatized. They also refer to the child as “no longer psychologically whole” due to trauma. The article also mentions m*lestation and r*pe without censors, in the context of comparing the results of ABA to the outcome of those situations.
  • Tackling that Troublesome Issue of ABA and Ethics | Ariane Zurcher | Emma’s Hope Book
    • Summary: This post starts by addressing the ways that alleged autism professionals correlate autism to cancer and ABA to chemotherapy, and the ways in which this is inappropriate. Afterward, Zurcher details their experience with their daughter in ABA programs over the years and why they stopped using the program. Then Zurcher delves into a discussion about whether ABA is a logical choice and why we don’t subject neurotypical children to it.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA is not a necessary treatment for a devastating, life-taking illness
      • Parents are sometimes promised that their children will enter mainstream school within a few years if they do 40 hours a week of ABA
      • When kids don’t change during ABA (and other extensive, dangerous methods) parents- or in some cases, children themselves- are blamed
      • ABA is often done in an ABA center, as well as in ABA-based school programs and at home (the parents are trained)
      • Parents recognize that they would never subject their allistic kids to ABA
      • Autism is a neurological difference that cannot be removed from the autistic person
      • It is important to view autistic traits as whole and acceptable
  • Grappling with the Right Thing to Do | Ariane Zurcher | Emma’s Hope Book
    • Summary: Zurcher describes listening through the door while her child screamed while left alone with an ABA provider who didn’t allow her to enter the room. She grapples with the ethics of allowing this to happen, and what way the outcome could have differed if she had intervened. After she intervened at a later date, ABA services were terminated first by the provider, then by the agency as a whole. Zurcher appears to pose the question: if ABA is so necessary and important, why was their kid denied services after she stopped one singular ABA session?
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA therapists often explicitly tell the parents not to intervene
      • ABA sometimes involves tormenting children in their own homes and bedrooms
      • Parents are typically blamed for any failures of ABA
      • If parents do not allow what they feel is harm, services are sometimes terminated
      • Children are exposed to 35 hours a week of ABA
      • Parents are often told that their child will no longer get a service that was deemed absolutely necessary if they voice their disagreement with the methodology
    • Content notes: This article leaves more room for interpretation than some others.
  • Alone? Frightened? Worried? | Ariane Zurcher | Emma’s Hope Book
    • Summary: Zurcher and their husband put their child, Emma, in ABA at the recommendation of professionals and fought to increase her ABA hours because they believed it was the right choice for her. After two years in ABA, Emma’s behavior was getting worse and more dangerous. In this article, Zurcher reflects on the choices they made to enroll Emma in ABA and speech therapy that emphasized vocal speech and the different choices they would have made if they had had all of the information.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Parents of autistic kids often feel alone and desperate for help, which leads them to accept input from people who claim to be able to improve things
      • Parents cannot look to professionals to learn more about their own children
      • “No one can predict what life holds for your two, three, four, five, six or seven-year old child.”
      • AAC is a great tool to improve communication
  • Why We Quit ABA, Pt. 1 | Ms. A | Be a Teaching Unicorn | Wayback Machine
    • Summary: Ms. A is a paraprofessional who regrets putting her child in ABA, including enrolling her child in ABA because medical providers would not consider testing or treatment options for her pain because they could not see past the possibility of her behavior being caused by autism. She details what sessions looked like, including information about tedious, repetitious tasks with zero explanation to the child as to why they had to be done. She also discusses requests from the ABA providers to take her child’s comfort and communication devices away from her so they could be used to manipulate her into participating in ABA sessions. Ms. A talks about the hours her child was urged to be in ABA therapy, which was 20 hours or more a week, including pulling her out of school for additional ABA time.
    • Key takeaways:
      • We should be listening to autistic advocates when they speak about ABA
      • Parents sometimes feel like they can never undo ABA or make it up to their autistic child after the fact, because the damage is lifelong
      • Professionals push ABA in place of actual medical treatment that may be a necessity for autistic children
      • Programs claiming that they aren’t ABA, they just bill as ABA, are lying
      • The BCBA in charge rarely actually sees the children for whom they design a “treatment plan”
      • The skills taught in ABA are not developmentally appropriate or useful
      • Taking things away from children to force them to engage in ABA is not acceptable, but is very commonplace in ABA
      • ABA has a chokehold on other professionals services that disabled (autistic or otherwise) children may need
      • There are huge turnover rates and many autistic children will see several ABA providers over the course of one or two years
      • Reforming ABA is not enough
      • Programs that claim that they are not ABA but bill as ABA detract from efforts to end ABA

from former ABA providers

(behavior analysts, behavior technicians, RBTs, BCBAs, etc.)
  • I Abused Children and So Do You: A Response to an ABA Apologist | Birdmadgrrl | madasbirdsblog
    • Summary: The author of this article responds to feedback on a previous article addressing ABA. This response is a blunt, direct, and sometimes sassy critique of ABA-supporters. Birdmadgrrl is an autistic former ABA provider. They talk about the necessity of considering other perspectives aside from the one you are used to and about understanding more aspects of broader autistic culture. Next, there is a sentence-by-sentence breakdown and analysis of the initial response and everything it gets wrong. There is a big emphasis on what ABA therapy actually looks like from the insider’s perspective of someone who actually provided it to autistic children.
    • Key takeaways:
      • The best way to learn about autism is from autistic people
      • Acknowledging the problems with ABA requires considering the perspective of autistic people
      • No education or experience is required of ABA providers, education provided to ABA providers and RBTs does not include autism education/information
      • Autism is not behaviors
      • ABA is not the same as parenting, education, behaviorism, or just modifying behavior
      • Ignoring children in a state of meltdown is emotional abuse
      • Withholding affection is a well-known abuse tactic
      • Coping skills are not part of ABA
      • Appropriate is subjective
      • ABA sets children up to be vulnerable to abusers and sexual assault
    • Content notes: This might come across as patronizing to some readers. Contains references to sexual assault.
  • Why I Left ABA | Socially Anxious Advocate
    • Summary: The author talks about ABA and why it was their single greatest regret. The beginning of the article addresses why the author- like many other ABA providers- decided to enter the field in the first place, and establishes the existence of good intentions. They list several harmful and abusive practices that they personally engaged in during their time as an ABA provider, and include relevant links to supply information about why those were wrong. The author talks about trying hard to justify their actions and find ways to continue ABA in a more ethical way, to no avail. They also draw comparisons between ABA and physically abusing children, and the implications thereof.
    • Key takeaways:
      • It is normal to become defensive when you are confronted with the possibility that the actions you believe are helpful, which you are doing with the right intentions, are actually harmful
      • Having good intentions does not preclude causing harm
      • Kids may cry, refuse, or try to escape but must still do the ABA tasks
      • ABA assumes that children never have a valid reason to refuse to do any given task
      • “I repeatedly found that I had to make a choice between doing the ABA and respecting the child”
      • Evidence-based does not mean ethical
    • Content Notes: The author gives a disclaimer about ABA services that are “not really ABA,” a concept which has been debunked. Mentions of physical child abuse/assault.
  • Tumblr Post | Ink and Daggers on Tumblr
    • Summary: In this Tumblr. post, Meredith K illustrates what delivering ABA therapy to autistic children looked like during her time in the field. The drawing includes an autistic child, sitting in a chair with hands raised, looking nervous. There is also the hands of an ABA provider (you are seeingt he image from their point of view) holding a spray bottle filled with vinegar, which is pointed at the child’s open mouth. Meredith also gives a brief recount of the experience and the tasks she was asked to do in order to enforce the “right” behaviors.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA providers scream “no” at children as an aversive to stop undesired behaviors
      • ABA providers spray water in the faces of children as an aversive to stop undesired behaviors
      • ABA providers force children to repeatedly stand and sit to cause distress, tiredness, and pain as a means to stop undesired behaviors
      • ABA providers use “taste aversions” to spray/place extremely unpleasant, strong tasting food/drink/cooking products into a child’s mouth as a means to stop undesired behaviors
      • ABA providers are told that these actions are necessary to prevent children from suffering
      • Do not believe people who say that these actions are not “real ABA”
  • My Name is Christine and I Work with Children with Autism | Tumblr Post | voltron-da-eclair on Tumblr
    • Summary: This Tumblr post is in the format of a poem. Christine writes eloquently about their experiences in ABA, including hurting children and being praised for doing so. One portion of the poem refers to the action of making a child stand and sit repeatedly 10 times (aversive punishment) because they didn’t meet the expectations to earn a token (positive reward). Another portion refers to “taste aversions” and discusses spraying vinegar into a child’s mouth as he sobs and says he hates his life and wants to die at only six years old. The poem follows Christine through the realization that they might be a bad person for doing this work, and through their bosses dismissal of those concerns.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Positive reinforcement is used on ABA providers by their superiors to encourage them to keep going, and to discourage them from leaving the field
      • Young children in ABA may express suicidal thoughts because of the violence they experience
      • ABA therapists may be told by superiors that they cannot be affectionate toward the children in their care, and may be punished for caring for them
    • Content Notes: this article mentions suicidal thoughts from a very young child.
  • Becoming an ABA Registered Behavior Technician Before Knowing I Was Autistic: Part 1- Restraint Training | Terra Vance | Neuroclastic
    • Summary: Vance details the process of becoming an RBT before knowing that she was autistic herself, as part of a job where the clinical hours were meant to fulfill a degree requirement for a degree in clinical psychology. The training started with training on how to restrain and physically defend yourself against aggressive clients, which was very mentally taxing. There is extensive discussion about autistic experiences and the experience of masking throughout this article. She eloquently expresses the physical, sensory, and psychological impacts of training and providing ABA. Perhaps most poignant is Vance’s realization that she would have been restrained and possibly injured if the stars had not aligned, because she was autistic just like the clients.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA providers are told that ABA is the only way for autistic children to live a normal life
      • RBT licensing involves a 30-hour online program
      • ABA itself is traumatic, and so is the training to deliver it
      • Restraint is dangerous and unethical
      • Restraint has killed children and is used in many ABA programs
      • You cannot always see the harm that has been done to a child, or the trauma they have endured, just by looking at or speaking to them
    • Content Notes: Sexual assault is mentioned and referenced to multiple times.
  • Becoming an RBT When I Thought I Was Neurotypical: Part 2- The Certification Course | Terra Vance | Neuroclastic
    • Summary: Vance details the RBT online course and certification program she was enrolled in. She talks about how ineffective the training was, how colleagues would google to avoid having to learn the material, and how the training program felt like a failure on its own. This is a breakdown of everything she felt was off[-putting during the certification course.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA providers working with young children do not need to have any training or experience in working with children
      • RBTs are encouraged in training to be very loud, which is distressing to autistic children who may be sensitive to loud noises
      • Functional behaviors in autistic children are deemed unnecessary and non-functional by ABA providers, including stimming
      • ABA providers physically force children to do tasks, by moving their hands and bodies for them
      • ABA providers also provide physical reinforcements via hugging and other over-the-top encouragement for behaviors deemed correct and appropriate
      • ABA training has parallels to animal training
      • ABA providers teach children to identify them as a source of enjoyable material objects, which in turn makes them more likely to obey them
  • I Worked at an ABA Clinic. It Was Abuse. | Unashamed Voices | Neuroclastic
    • Summary: This article discusses one person’s experience working for six months in an ABA clinic. This person describes a room being stripped bare to remove any potential distractions so that a child would engage in the ABA tasks more frequently. They recount having lied in order to allow themself and a child to escape a relative-seclusion room and to avoid both of them having to face worse experiences thereafter. They state clearly that they aren’t sure what alternative is better, but that ABA was always ineffective for those children. The article ends with an extensive apology to all of the autistic children that this person worked with.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA providers are repeatedly assured that what they are doing is in the best interests of the child(ren)
      • ABA providers are taught to physically stop children from leaving, providers are also sometimes told they cannot leave or allow the child to leave until they attempt to engage in ABA tasks
      • Autistic people may be hired into ABA for publicity, or as a means to illustrate to parents that ABA is not harmful
      • ABA is always ineffective
  • 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.)
  • The Hidden Costs of Planned Ignoring | Mona Delahook | Mona Delahook, Ph.D
    • Summary: Dr. Mona Delahook recounts a story about a young autistic boy being denied access to communication, where planned ignoring was used to dismiss his behavioral communication. There is a list of reasons that planned ignoring, a tactic used in ABA, is harmful. There is also a list of alternative choices.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Planned ignoring teaches children that adults do not care what they want, need, or are feeling
      • Planned ignoring is based on the assumptions that adults know what autistic children need, want, and are feeling based solely on external behaviors
      • Ignoring goes against the nature of most parents
  • The Wool Hat Story- ABA Torture of Autistic Child | Greg Santucci + Jamie A. Heidel|The Articulate Autistic
    • Summary: Heidel shares Greg Santucci’s story with an introduction and some minor commentary. Santucci’s story talks about his experiences as an Occupational Therapist working in a verbal behavior program- an ABA-based program for autistic children. He details an experience where other staff members attempted to force a child to go inside for OT, despite protests from Santucci himself, and eventually physically removed from the playground, which resulted in a meltdown that was then labeled as aggression. In response to this aggression, the child was threatened with the possibility of his eyes being covered with a wool hat until he agreed to go inside for OT. Santucci was later fired for reporting this act as child abuse.
    • Key takeaways:
      • The principles of ABA are inflexible; children must be held to the demand that was made, even if it would be more reasonable to change plans instead
      • Children in ABA sometimes have their eyes physically covered with hats to restrict their vision during a meltdown or “aggressive behaviors”
      • ABA providers can be fired for questioning whether abusive techniques are appropriate
  • My ABA Experience & A Huge List of Research and Resources | Jessica Milburn | Responsive Parenting
    • Summary: Jessica Milburn starts this article by addressing criticisms that prevent ABA supporters from reading, acknowledging, or internalizing articles from people critiquing ABA. She talks about her time working in an ABA-based childcare center as part of a “special needs” section of an early childhood education degree. There is a tremendous list of reasons that ABA is unhelpful and harmful.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA supporters tend to get offended by alternative view points about ABA and refuse to consider the information shared by anti-ABA advocates
      • Parents who seek out ABA typically have good intentions and want their children to have what is best for them
      • Parents are given limited choices and told that they are necessary changes to make to ensure their child’s wellbeing and future
      • A diagnosed autistic child does not require hours of expensive, intensive therapy
      • Most childcare centers encourage flexibility, but ABA-based centers do not
      • Children are forced to do arbitrary tasks, including by physical force and coercion
      • ABA-based centers use restraints
      • Parents are blamed for children’s refusal to comply to arbitrary and painful tasks in ABA
      • ABA uses developmentally inappropriate tasks
      • If the goal is to make autistic people behave like their neurotypical peers, it is confusing that they are treated very differently
      • Students and staff training for ABA felt traumatized
      • Even the gentler ABA causes harm
      • Both the methodologies and intentions in ABA are harmful and wrong

to ABA providers

  • A Note to (What Feels Like) Every ABA Therapist Ever | Neurowonderful | Tumblr
    • Summary: An ABA therapist asks Neurowonderful for their thoughts on ABA and what parents should do instead. The ABA therapist says they are afraid that parents will listen to anti-ABA advocates and remove their kids from services that the ABA therapist believes will help them. Neurowonderful explains that ABA therapy’s demand was fabricated by fear-mongering tactics.
    • Key takeaways:
      • There does not need to be an alternative treatment or therapy if ABA is not used or ceases to exist
      • During attempts to reform ABA to become more ethical, children would still be exposed to harm and abuse
  • A Challenge to Autism Professionals | Ido Kedar | Ido in Autismland
    • Summary: Ido Kedar starts this post by detailing his autistic behaviors and then flipping the expectations that they may set on its head by talking about his skills and abilities to function in daily life and in school. Ido talks about being placed in 40 hours a week of ABA therapy, with no access to effective communication, and about using AAC as a teenager to communicate.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Autistic people are whole people, with or without autistic behaviors
      • ABA that uses picture cards for communication still fails to give children access to effective communication to convey their needs, desires, and feelings or complex thoughts
      • Autism professionals need to rethink their therapies and techniques to view autistic people as functionally whole people who need supports rather than deficient people who need strict behavior modification

why ABA is dangerous

information on aversives and torture in ABA

  • Aversives and Torture in ABA | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA Support Autistics
    • Summary: This article talks about the use of aversives and torture in ABA, with a large focus on electric shock devices.
    • Key takeaways:
      • The certifying board for Behavior Analysts does not restrict the use of electroshock treatment or other aversives
      • The FDA and UN have both deemed electric shock treatments to be a form of torture
      • The Judge Rotenberg Center is an ABA program that uses electroshock devices to deliver electric shocks as reinforcements to stop unwanted behavior
      • ABAI specifically supports the use of electric shock devices at the JRC
  • Statement Condemning Applied Behavior Analysis’ Aversive Practices | thecreativeautistic | Neurodiversity for Music Therapists
    • Summary: This article is intended for music therapists and specifically addresses music therapists who also have their BCBA. The author talks about Henny Kupferstein’s ABA and PTSD study and urges readers to approach this information with an open mind. They also recommend that BCBAs struggling with emotional fallout after learning about the harm of ABA should seek therapy to help them process the experience. They explicitly state that Neurodiversity for Music Therapists is against the use of electric shock devices, restraints, and several other tactics used in ABA.
    • Key takeaways:
      • A study has shown that ABA leads to PTSD
      • Autistic people should be listened to
      • Autistic advocates on the Neurodiversity for Music Therapists team have personally been through ABA and do not condone it
      • 93% of autistic people are against ABA
      • Despite good intentions, ABA providers should seek to rectify the harms their field perpetuates against autistic people
      • ABA as a field is oppressive toward autistic people
      • Music therapy that respects the whole human is an excellent resource

information on electric shock devices in ABA

(and the FDA’s stance on aversives, torture, and electric shock)
  • Association for Behavior Analysis International Endorses Torture | Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
    • Summary: ASAN gives a statement on the choice of The Association for Applied Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) to continually support and offer platforms to the Judge Rotenberg Center and other centers that use aversives in ABA and to provide a platform for JRC in the 2019 ABAI annual conference.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABAI gave a platform to the JRC which uses electric shock devices in ABA for autistic people in 2019
      • ASAN condemns the actions of ABAI
      • ABAI continues to support the use of electric shock and aversives in ABA
      • ABAI specifically gave a platform to the JRC to speak about the alleged successes of their electric shock devices
      • ABA programs often tout that they are positive programs, including ABAI referring to JRC as a “highly positive” program
  • ASAN Statement On JRC At Association for Behavior Analysis International Conference | Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
    • Summary: This statement from ASAN addresses the choice of ABAI to provide a platform and specifically highlight the JRC and their electro shock devices at the 2015 annual conference.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABAI gave a platform to the JRC which uses electric shock devices in ABA for autistic people in 2015
      • ABAI themselves stated that the JRC align with the mission of ABAI
  • AWN Statement on Potential FDA Aversive Shock Therapy Ban | Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWNN)
    • Summary: This is AWNN’s official statement on the use of electric shock devices and “shock therapy”, which is also a response to the FDA proposed ban of 2016, urging the FDA to follow through with the proposed ban on electric shock devices. The article ends with a call to action urging readers to write letters to the FDA urging them to promptly initiate the ban.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Electric shock devices/therapy have been used to replace evidence-based practices
      • Several lawsuits and public hearings have been filed and held against the JRC for their use of electric shock devices
      • JRC uses numerous, high-voltage electric shocks
      • Autistic people who received electric shocks from the JRC describe wanting to die as a result
      • There is no empirical evidence proving that shock treatments work
      • Damage caused by electro shock devices are extensive
  • FDA to Finalize Ban on Shock Devices Used on Those with Special Needs | Michelle Diament | Disability Scoop
    • Summary: This article discusses the ban on electric shock devices being used in behaviorism and ABA for applications with disabled and neurodivergent people.
    • Key takeaways:
      • The FDA commissioner said that electric shock devices are a substantial risk to public health that cannot be corrected
      • Electric shock devices leave physical and psychological damage
  • Stop the Shocks: New Toolkit Builds on Autistic Community’s Anti-JRC Work | Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN)
    • Summary: This article details the extensive history of advocates as they fought against the JRC, including a Black mother whose child underwent electric shock “treatment” at the JRC and two autistic adults who experienced electric shocks at the JRC. The article references the ASAN toolkit aimed at ending electric shock device use on autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people, and gives a statement from AWNN about the use of electric shock devices.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Autistic people who survived the use of electric shock devices at the JRC have been very vocal about the harm and abuse they endured
      • JRC has been subject of several lawsuits, including from former patients and their parents
      • A video was publicized of a Black autistic person receiving electric shocks at the JRC
      • AWNN thanks everyone who has worked to stop the JRC

child abuse in ABA

  • ABA and the Refusal to Teach Children About Consent | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA Support Autistics
    • Summary: This article focuses on how ABA is forced upon children who have no ability to give informed consent, and are not allowed to withdraw consent. It details the reasons why and the methodologies, as well as listing the possible outcomes and ramifications of this lack of consent-based service.
    • Key takeaways:
      • ABA providers do not seek consent from the children in their care
      • Teaching consent, bodily autonomy, and the ability to say “no” are critical parts of parenting
      • Children are not allowed to say no in ABA
      • When children in ABA say no they are met with punishments and aversives or are physically forced to do the task anyways
      • ABA increases vulnerability to sexual and other forms of abuse- as both victim and perpetrator
      • What we model for children is what they will consider acceptable and normal behavior
    • Content Notes: There are mentions of sexual assault/abuse.

the negative emotional impact of ABA

  • ABA and PTSD | Ask An Autistic | Stop ABA Support Autistics
    • Summary: This article summarizes Henny Kupferstein’s study (also linked here) of the instance of PTSD in children receiving to ABA.
    • Key takeaways:
      • 46% of participants in a study who were enrolled in ABA meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD
      • Exposure to ABA created a significantly increased risk of meeting PTSD criteria (86%)
      • Children receiving ABA have a 50% chance of meeting PTSD criteria within four weeks of starting ABA

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
  • Questioning the Evidence Behind Evidence-Based Approaches | Beth Tolley | Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint
    • Summary: Tolley explains why calling ABA (and PBIS) evidence-based is meaningless and for which reasons.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Evidence-based qualifications are meaningless without consideration for quality of evidence and whether it supports the purpose for which it is being used
      • Evidence-based practices usually evolve a great deal over time
      • Things that were once evidence-based can later be considered not evidence-based at all
      • PBIS and ABA are harmful
      • Even when PBIS is used, restraint and seclusion continue to be used as well
      • Behaviorism ignores the differences between deliberate behaviors and involuntary behaviors

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

  • Facebook Post | Ask An Autistic (this post stresses that all ABA is harmful)

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

  • We Quit ABA: What We Do Instead | Ms. A | Be a Teaching Unicorn
    • Summary: Ms. A shares information about what she uses in her home to manage her child’s behavior after quitting ABA. She stresses the importance of accepting your autistic child for who they are, traits and all, and of speaking respectfully about your disabled children. She urges parents not to get hung up on the ableist concept of eternal progress and speaks out against the black and white thinking that informs many aspects of parenting autistic children. This post gives extensive guidance for parents seeking to improve their child’s behavior and daily lives without ABA.
    • Key takeaways:
      • The push for more ABA hours and more therapy and constant work towards improvements is rooted in cultural ableism
      • Just because a child can’t do something now, doesn’t mean they will never do it; it will still be okay if they can never do it
      • Meeting your child’s needs is a better way to improve their behavior
      • There is no need to do things the typical way, just do them in the way that works for your child
      • Communication is more important than vocalized speech
  • 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
  • A Letter from an SLP to a Parent, Immediately After an Autism Diagnosis for a 5-Year-Old | Julie Roberts | SLP Neurodiversity Collective
    • Summary: This endearing letter from Speech-Language Pathologist Julie Roberts begins with an introduction that proclaims that your newly diagnosed autistic child is wonderful. Roberts expresses concerns about a young autistic child’s ability to self-advocate and demand his own bodily autonomy and explains the accommodations and changes that she will make to support the child. Afterward, there is a list of resources for parents of autistic children.
    • Key takeaways:
      • Autistic behaviors are often entirely misunderstood
      • Autistic children often struggle with the expectations of a classroom because they differ from expectations at home
      • Choosing therapies for your child and advocating for them requires more than surface-level information

  • 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.

Total (working) links: 145

Last updated on May 10th, 2022.

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29 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.

    Liked by 1 person

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