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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.

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 


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 March 9th, 2023.

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.


Sesame Street, Autism Speaks, and why Autistics have had enough

Sesame Street has been an important piece of countless childhoods for 50 years. Characters like Elmo, Big Bird, Grover, and Cadabby resonate well with children and parents love how educationally-focused the show is for little ones.

In October of 2015, Sesame Street debuted their first-ever autistic muppet- Julia in an online storybook. Since then, Julia has finally appeared on Sesame Street in April of 2019. Parents of Autistic children and the “Autism Community” (comprised mostly of non-autistic family members of autistic people/children) have rejoiced at the idea of Sesame Street teaching young children about autism.

The autistic community (comprised primarily of autistic people), on the other hand, was a bit more apprehensive. After anxiously waiting to here who would be consulting on Julia, autistics were somewhat frustrated to hear that Autism Speaks but overall elated to learn that the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) was also partnering with Sesame Street!

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is an advocacy group run by autistics, for autistics.

Autism Speaks, on the other hand, actively contributes to the discrimination that autistic people face, use language that autistic people do not prefer, use outdated and harmful symbols for autism, and encourage and support parents who abuse and even kill autistic children and adults.

Despite the partnership with Autism Speaks, the autistic community remained optimistic that ASAN’s void would be heard, and with it, the voices of autistic people.

Sesame Street has made some headway in terms of autism acceptance via Julia, and it would be unjust for us to skim over them:

Unfortunately, all of those wonderful things cannot outweigh the damage that has been done by Sesame Street and Autism Speaks.

Even before the most recent discretion (which will be addressed below) Sesame Street was getting things wrong.

For starters, a partnership with Autism Speaks is deeply upsetting.

“An organization that treats autistic people as tragic burdens doesn’t deserve equal consideration when you’re crafting videos and books that are trying to help promote the acceptance of autistic children. “

Sarah Kurchak

Sesame Street also uses Person-First Language to describe autism (“person/child with autism”, “has autism”, “on the autism spectrum”) rather than Identity-First Language (“is autistic”, “autistic people/person/child”), which is preferred by the overwhelming majority of autistic people (as indicated by several polls and surveys.)

Several of the digital stories and videos featuring Julia were less than stellar, often bordering on offensive.

But last week, Sesame Street rolled out an ad featuring Julia that advertised Autism Speak’s Early Screening for Autism and 100 Day Kit.

” Until this summer, the content Sesame Street produced showed parents that their autistic children could live great lives, and taught autistic and neurotypical children ways to become friends. Through this approach, See Amazing successfully encouraged the inclusion of autistic children in their communities, and had a widespread positive impact.”

– The Autistic Self Advocacy Network

The Early Screening and 100 Day Kit is damaging to the autistic community. Rather than trying to summarize what ASAN has already said perfectly, I’ll quote them directly:

” The 100 Day Kit encourages parents to blame family difficulties on their autistic child (“When you find yourself arguing with your spouse… be careful not to get mad at each other when it really is the autism that has you so upset and angry”) and to view autism as a terrible disease from which their child can “get better.” It recommends compliance-based “therapies” and pseudoscientific “autism diets,” but fails to educate families about communication supports. It even instructs parents to go through the five stages of grief after learning that their child is autistic, as they would if the child had died. “

– The Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Before making their statement and ending their partnership with Sesame Street, ASAN says they had repeatedly expressed concerns about the harmful nature of the 100 Day Kit and listed consequences at length.

Despite multiple warnings from ASAN, Sesame Street opted to go ahead with the promotion anyways.

When ASAN’s partnership with Sesame Street ended, so did the undying support of thousands of autistics globally.

Sesame Street has spent fifty years with a precise goal to impact actual lives and communities; it would be ignorant to deny the impact that promoting harmful rhetoric will have on autistic people.

Sesame Street introduces new Muppet, Julia, who has autism on the Today Show. March 27, 2017.

To reach out to Sesame Street to ensure that autistic voices (and advocate voices) are heard:

Let autistic voices be heard. Be loud, be vocal. Show Sesame Street that we will not be bulldozed by ignorance in favor of Autism Speaks.

“The See Amazing initiative was groundbreaking because it offered an alternative to these stories. It let families know that their autistic children are amazing, can live happy lives, and are deserving of love. Now, Sesame Street has decided to let See Amazing become just another vehicle for Autism Speaks to spread the same old toxic ideas. “

– The Autistic Self Advocacy Network

why professional behavior analysts are leaving the field

Photo by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash

As more and more information becomes available about the dangers of ABA, behavior analysts and ABA providers are beginning to abandon their jobs for less harmful alternatives.

Behavior Analysts are often minimally trained individuals; certifications are available but schooling is not required.

“My official title was ‘Behavior Technician’ which in itself is really telling. I was hired off the street with no background in child development, no knowledge of autism or ABA, and no experience working with children, let alone autistic children. I. Literally. Did. Not. Know. What. Autism. Is. And I wouldn’t find out what autism is in the years that I worked there either. “

– Birdmadgrrl

Because behavior technicians/analysts do not often know what kind of harm they are causing to children, and lack a formal background of education in disability, healthcare, child development, or psychology, most of them are lead to believe that they are helping autistic children with their jobs. And sometimes, the children even appear to enjoy the program. Parents will sing praises of their beloved behavior technician and to the behavior technician, this feels like a job that makes a change in the world.

So why are behavior analysts leaving?

We know that ABA hurts autistic people; that it’s origins are abysmal, that behavior analysts violate the consent of the children they work with, that ABA stops children from self-regulating, that ABA uses aversives, and that it is very intensive for children involved, and the ABA has been linked to PTSD.

When behavior analysts/technicians leave the bubble of ABA and get exposed to the autistic community, disability rights, or child development, they often come to a tough realization- that everyone outside of ABA… hates ABA.

In the lengthy process of coming to terms with what they have unwittingly done, and unlearning the abusive methods and harmful ideology that they have learned, most former ABA providers have a lot of things to say about the field they once believed in.

Former behavior analysts have come to me repeatedly on social media to share their experiences- every one of them has confessed that they witnessed child abuse every single day that they worked in the field.

” We learned things like ‘planned ignoring’- how to ignore a distressed child until they comply with your demands, how to ‘properly’ restrain a 2-6 year old child, how to not show empathy when a child has a meltdown- that would only reinforce the behavior and we can’t have that, how to ‘desensitize’ a child to painful or uncomfortable sensory experiences (hint; they aren’t actually desensitized, just forced to endure it until they successfully and consistently don’t react), how to change the environment- not to make it more accessible, but to make it more conducive to compliance (ex; feed the child salty chips so that she’ll drink more water so that she’ll use the potty chair at the designated time.)”

– Birdmadgrrl

Former ABA providers speak about how they questioned whether behavior modification via operant conditioning was helpful or harmful, but were often dismissed because ABA is considered the “only evidence-based treatment for Autism” (Nevermind that the evidence is just proof that children will comply if they are faced with aversives, and that autism is not a disease to be treated.)

“Would you comply with demands if tortured enough? Probably. Does that make it effective? Well I guess that depends on what your goals are. If your goal is to gain compliance (which is the goal of ABA) then yeah I guess it’s effective at that goal, but that’s a pretty shitty goal to have, and at what cost?”

– Birdmadgrrl

The primary reason that most ABA providers leave the field is simple: They began listening to autistic people that described the ABA they experienced in childhood as abusive and harmful. They connected the experiences of those autistic people to their own workplace, and the abusive way they were instructed to treat their patients.

If autistic people are the experts on autism, and they’ve been tortured and abused and are living with PTSD… How could this “treatment” possibly be acceptable?

Former ABA therapists often describe an immense struggle to “let go” of their jobs and switch to a less harmful mindset, because learning that you are abusing people that you care about is not easy. The important thing is to recognize the harm and move forward, leaving ABA behind.

“I thought that because I cared about the kids’ well-being, because I had a strong desire to help them, everything I did must therefore be in their best interest. In my mind, it gave me a special immunity to making mistakes. Caring meant there was no way I could be hurting them. I now realize how dangerous this idea really is. I’ve hurt many people I care deeply about. Just because you care about someone or have good intentions does not guarantee you’re doing the best thing for them. “

– Socially Anxious Advocate

Additional readings from former behavior analysts who have left the field:

Aggression: can ABA help?

One of the most compelling complaints from parents who are seeking treatment for their autistic children is that the children are aggressive and harm themselves or other people.

Can ABA help? Short answer: No.

autistic meltdowns

Autistic meltdowns are an inevitable part of autism. We can reduce them, but we cannot eliminate them altogether. Being autistic means that a person will experience meltdowns at least a few times, if not more often than that, throughout their lives.

Autistic meltdowns are the culmination of several frustrating events and a catalyst event that pushes the autistic person over the edge. Meltdowns look differently on every autistic person and may even vary based on any number of things; they may look like hitting, kicking, crying, or throwing things.

Sometimes, an autistic child may hurt themselves or another person during a meltdown, but it is not deliberate. During a meltdown, autistic people cannot control their behaviors until they are calm.

The best way to help an autistic person move through a meltdown is to try to reduce any factors that may be distressing them. Meltdowns happen because a person is in distress, usually due to overstimulation.

aggression as a means of communication

On the other hand, behavior is communication, and we should be listening and trying to understand what each communication means. Aggression as a form of communication is an indication that something is wrong, and as parents and caregivers, we should seek out the source of distress and help to resolve it.

When children who are already experiencing distress are exposed a therapy as abusive and harmful as ABA, they are trained to tolerate trauma and upsetting stimuli, forcing them to bottle up their emotional response until they inevitably explode.

“… if the ABA has done what it set out to do, your child has lost the only channel of communication available to them for expressing their pain and suffering in hopes of getting help with their distress.”

Maxfield Sparrow

Seeking out what is upsetting a child and trying to remedy it is almost certainly a difficult task, but nobody wants their child to suffer.

“Don’t take away your child’s voice; take away their suffering. ABA is a cruel response to aggressive behavior. Meet that behavior with love, calm, support, and an investigative search for the source of your child’s struggle instead.”

Maxfield Sparrow

ABA vs Speech Therapy

Kid Sense

Language acquisition and establishing a means of communication are key pieces of most ABA therapy. Many people enroll their children in ABA therapy specifically because they are nonverbal or minimally verbal and they have an immense desire to be able to communicate with their children.

Verbal speech is not the only way to communicate with children, but it can be an important way for many families.

It’s true that being unable to communicate with peers, family members, teachers, and medical professionals can set a child back. How can we expect children to socialize if there are significant barriers preventing them from communicating with others? Simply put, we can’t. And despite that verbal speech is not the only manner of communication, many people communicate almost exclusively via verbal speech, making the world inaccessible to those who don’t use it.

Of course it is beneficial for us to advocate for a more accessible world… But sometimes, verbal speech is important. So how do we foster the development of verbal speech in the best and least harmful ways?

ABA’s role in language acquisition

ABA therapists have no formal training in language or speech.

ABA typically aims to foster “correct” speech and an increase in “mean length of utterance” while attempting to reduce echolalia, which is repetitious speech.

Unfortunately this undermines the use of echolalic speech as a tool for the acquisition of language.

Besides the confusing goals and measurements for language acquisition in ABA, there’s a bigger issue at play.

Teaching children how to speak by forcing them to sit still, make eye contact, and focus their attention fully on an adult showing them flashcards is not ideal. Teaching children language that is relevant to them while they behave normally is a far superior method.

What’s more? ABA therapists may punish a child for being unable to utilize verbal speech “correctly”- that is, if a child cannot say the right word at the right time, they may be spanked, verbally scolded, or worse.

Speech Therapy for language acquisition

Unlike behavior analysts, Speech therapists (or speech language pathologists) go to college and get master’s degrees wherein they learn to teach and encourage speech in effective ways.

Speech therapists will work with children and their existing forms of communications as they attempt to foster verbal speech.

Speech therapy can help children with many speech-related issues, and even some that don’t seem speech related at all:

  • Difficulty articulating words
  • Stutter
  • Incorrect volume (too quiet, too loud)
  • Incorrect pitch or inflections
  • Others problems with the mouth (including feeding)
  • Difficulty understanding language that one hears
  • Difficulty expression oneself
  • Socially inappropriate uses of language
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia

Speech therapists use many different formats to work on these issues, including modeling or play-based therapies, articulation therapy, and even feeding therapy among other methods.

Alternative forms of communication (to accompany speech therapy, or stand alone)

Parents are often desperate to improve their child’s ability to communicate in their language- speech- all the while forgetting that nonverbal communication exists.

Autistic people who are nonverbal or minimally verbal do communicate, just not with sentences and phrases. Behavior is communication, and there exists an abundance of other resources to foster both verbal and nonverbal communication in children.

Children can learn sign language or use an Augmentated and Alternative Communication (AAC) device to communicate more effectively with others and using a better nonverbal method to communicate may even foster the development of speech and language.

can ABA “bring back” normalcy?

Bold claims of the ability to turn an autistic child normal or make them “less autistic” are among the most popular reasons that parents choose ABA.

There are many issues with this argument- firstly, a child who is autistic has always been autistic. It’s inaccurate to imply that they could “return to normalcy” when they have always been and always will be autistic. Secondly, autism is not curable, and even Lovaas himself cautioned that recovery is not a reasonable expectation (despite trying to assimilate children to behave as typically as possible.) Third, there would be no benefit to being less autistic, even if it were possible.

However, the Autism Spectrum is not linear and there is no “more” or “less” autistic. An autistic person’s entire brain works differently, not just part of it, and you can’t make part or all of their brain work like their allistic counterparts.

Throughout literature on ABA one will see phrases like “correct behaviors”, “desired behaviors”, and “appropriate behaviors”, which reinforce the idea that ABA can bring an autistic child back to normalcy.

How do we define normal? The distinction between normal and abnormal is certainly not black and white. Different cultures have different social expectations and typical behaviors, there is no universal sameness for which we should strive; forcing autistic children to blend into the societal norms of allistic people does not serve to do them any benefits.

Donald King

Another closely related reason for subjecting children to ABA is the belief that ABA will somehow improve the quality of life of autistic people.

“People seem to think that if you act normal, you must feel normal.”

Carol Millman

For autistic people, acting in a way that others perceive as normal is unnatural and unpleasant- a necessity at times, but exhausting and an inevitable step toward meltdowns for most autistic people.

“Non-autistic people believe that ‘normalcy’ is a fundamental need; indeed, a stated goal of ABA is to make the autistic child ‘indistinguishable from [neurotypical] peers.’”

Carol Millman

the importance of stimming

Many non-autistic people have a lot of misonceptions about “stimming” (also called self-stimulatory behaviors). Some of them believe that stimming is a result of boredom, while others believe that autistics stim for fun… and yet others are still hopelessly confused as to why autistic people behave so “strangely.”

Everyone stims a little bit, and its true that in some cases, stimming can curb boredom or bring happiness.

But when autistic people stim, it usually serves a deeper purpose.

Stimming for autistic people is a means of self-regulation. It helps autistic people learn, feel comfortable and safe, and handle their emotions.

Stimming is not meant to collect a child’s boredom, it is meant to be a built-in self-soothing mechanism that helps with emotional regulation and learning.

“In an initial ABA session, a therapist might enforce the suppression of an autistic client’s self-stimulatory behaviors, which is merely a visceral reaction to seek meaningful change in one’s environment in an effort to prevent sensory overload.”

C. L. Lynch

Forcing a child to stop stimming is effectively removing their ability to comfort themselves in a stressful situation- and ABA intends to stop stimming altogether.

Stimming is a critically important behavior that should not be stopped, and any therapy that exists to stop it is removing a child’s ability to cope with stress and increasing the likelihood that they will have a meltdown simply to make their behaviors less unusual.


Ink and Daggers

If traumatized autistic voices are not enough to make people understand the truly horrible ramifications of ABA therapy, perhaps a proven link between ABA and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is.

In a recent study, 46 percent of participants exposed to ABA met the diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD.

The ABA exposed respondents also have a substantially higher probability of PTSD symptoms when compared to those not exposed to ABA.

“Respondents of all ages who were exposed to ABA were 86 percent more likely to meet the PTSD criteria than respondents who were not exposed to ABA.”

Henny Kupferstein

In particular, children receiving ABA have a nearly 50% chance of meeting the diagnostic criteria for PTSD within only four weeks of beginning ABA.

ABA undeniably increases the risk of PTSD in autistic people, who are already more likely to get PTSD as a result of trauma because of the specific genetic makeup and brain processes seen in autism.

The most chilling takeaway from this study is how rapidly an autistic child receiving ABA may develop PTSD.

“The Average 18-month-old autistic child who is exposed to 40 hours of ABA per week will be expected to surpass the severe threshold of the PTSD criteria within six weeks… The average three-year-old autistic child who is exposed to 20 hours of ABA per week will be expected to surpass the severe threshold of the PTSD criteria within five months of ABA exposure…”

Henny Kupferstein

aversives and torture in ABA

Aversives used in ABA therapy span a wide range from strategic ignoring and verbal disapproval to smacking and spanking to electric shocks.

“There’s nothing in the [Behavior Analyst Certification Board] ethics code that says you can’t use electric shock. In fact, it doesn’t say anything at all about what type of ’aversives’ are acceptable.”

Carol Millman

In fact, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board explicitly states that the only cautions for using aversives is that they should be practiced by professionals with “increased training”, for which they have not specified what type of training is required.

While most places have done away with electric shock therapy since the UN and FDA have both condemned them as torturous, there is still one ABA-based school program in the United States that routinely performs shock “therapy” on its students- the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC)

At this year’s Applied Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) annual conference, the JRC will be featured and will be speaking about their use of aversives and their electric shock device with the full support and endorsement of ABAI.

“ABAI’s endorsement of the abuse taking place at the JRC is a symptom of longstanding problems in the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). ABA was founded by O. Ivar Lovaas, and derived from the same principles as conversion therapy, of which he was a co-creator. Conversion therapy for LGBTQ individuals has since been condemned as a form of torture, and survivors describe conversion therapy and ABA as having similar traumatizing consequences. Yet ABAI routinely ignores the voices of autistic self-advocates who challenge the harmful methods that ABA practitioners use every day. By hiding behind the claim that ABA is “evidence-based”, ABAI continues to avoid accountability for ABA’s abusive history and current practices. “

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

It seems incomprehensible to support ABA with the knowledge that ABAI, the worldwide organization dedicated to teaching and encouraging ABA, endorses torturous practices. 

the origins of ABA: O. Ivar Lovaas, the father of ABA and gay conversion therapy

The origins of ABA for Autism are extremely dark and disturbing.

ABA and Gay Conversion Therapy

Created at the same time as Gay Conversion Therapy, and by the same co-creators, ABA seeks to train the autistic person to behave as if they are not autistic, just as gay conversion therapy seeks to train the gay person to behave as if they are not gay.

Neither of these two “treatments” can actually change the personality and brain of the person, they can only create a shroud of shame and painful concealment of oneself.

Ole Ivar Lovaas is considered to be the father of ABA therapy, and alongside Robert Koegel, he drafted the guidelines and pioneered the studies that changed the world of gay conversion therapy as well as laying the foundation for ABA therapy.

One key difference between the two, however, is that ABA has marginally more abusive origins– aversives were not used in Lovaas and Koegel’s initial trials on queer youth, but they were used in their initial trial of behavior therapy.

Lovaas’ disturbing beliefs about autism

Lovaas saw autistic children as subhuman, deeming them “severely disturbed,” “very underdeveloped,” “retarded,” and “psychotic,” and implying that they were objects to be created rather than human beings with a differing neurology

Lovaas’ harmful rhetoric and disturbing opinions do not stop there- in his paper explaining the initial trials of ABA, he stated:

“Throughout, there was an emphasis on making the child look as normal as possible, rewarding him for normal behavior and punishing his psychotic behavior, teaching him to please his parents and us, to be grateful for what we would do for him, to be afraid of us when we were angry, and pleased when we were happy. Adults were in control.”

O. Ivar Lovaas

This is duly disturbing and manipulative.  Lovaas’ himself said that at the time that he introduced behavior therapy for autism, it was “considered harmful by most psychiatric professionals.”

He then followed to explain that at the time, autistic people were often institutionalized where the focus was on accepting their behaviors. One could reasonably argue that Lovaas set the neurodivergence acceptance movement back several decades by hijacking the standard of care to introduce a harmful and hateful practice like ABA.

Radical Behaviorism, from which ABA stems

Radical behaviorism, from which ABA stems, asserts that your thoughts and feelings are behaviors that can be modified or altered through reward and punishment as consequences.  As well as behavior therapy being considered harmful in the 1960s at the inception of ABA, radical behaviorism is currently considered outdated.