Does ABA Harm Autistic People? – 5 Objections to ABA for Autism


Hey everyone, NeuroRebel here, and this week, we’re going to talk about my top five objections to ABA and I have a lot of objections to ABA. So I had to condense them into one video.

[00:00:13] Content warning on this one, because we will be talking about ABA and mental abuse  but if you’re ready and you have the stomach for it, let’s dive in.

[00:01:02] My number one, objection to ABA starts at the very beginning.  It is that ABA was founded on horrible principles by a horrible person.

[00:01:14] Dr. Ivar Lovaas, the founding father of ABA had the following to say about Autistic people. And I’m going to read this. And like I said earlier, content warning, guys, this is just really horrible.

[00:01:27] “You see, you start pretty much from scratch. When you work with an Autistic child, you have a person in the physical sense. They have hair, a nose and a mouth, but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person, you have the raw materials, but you have to build the person.”

[00:01:53] That is so gross.

[00:01:57] Ivar Lovaas  was also a pioneer in gay conversion therapy and was a major contributor to the Feminine Boy Project, which was a compliance-based brainwashing project to keep children from “acting queer”. He strongly believed in intense behavior modification interventions that included harsh aversive techniques, such as withholding touch and attention isolation, and even giving electric shock therapy.

[00:02:33] In 1976, the U S National Institute of Mental Health took away Lovaas’s funding due to complaints of excessive use of corporal punishment against children.

[00:02:45] When people say modern ABA is better or not my ABA, I ask how can something founded on these horrible principles, be anything but harmful to Autistic people?

[00:03:00] Objection, number two to ABA is that ABA forces, autistic people to be like everyone else and punishes them when they struggle to conform by ignoring or punishing undesirable behaviors and rewarding them for masking or camouflaging. The ultimate objective of ABA is to make the child indistinguishable from their peers.

[00:03:29] And because of that, ABA teaches children, rewarding them for acceptable behaviors, regardless of if these behaviors are natural or even comfortable for the autistic child.

[00:03:43] What I mean by this is. For example, let’s take eye contact. I can tell you as an Autistic person from personal experience, that eye contact for me can often feel like a very intimate experience.

[00:03:59] And it is an experience that I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with someone I did not know very well. Forcing me to make eye contact with a stranger can make me feel very uncomfortable almost as if they’re looking at me in my underwear.

[00:04:19] I often will look towards people, not at their eyes. I will maybe nod or acknowledge them in another ways that they know I’m receiving information but I rarely will give eye contact to people that I am not intimate or very close with.

[00:04:37] We wouldn’t and ask a child to let an adult touch them in a way that made them uncomfortable or do other intimate things with someone if they were uncomfortable, we shouldn’t ask them to give eye contact if that makes them uncomfortable because it is a very similar feeling for a lot of autistic people and when we do this, we are teaching these Autistic people that it’s okay if you are uncomfortable, as long as you are pleasing other people.

[00:05:13] ABA forces, autistic people to communicate, socialize, regulate, and move in ways that are unnatural and sometimes even uncomfortable in order to ease the lives of people around them or make them more attractive to their peers.

[00:05:32] It sends this message that natural Autistic ways of doing things are wrong and you are broken. So we need to fix you and that is terrible.

[00:05:44] Objection number three to ABA is ABA is manipulative.

[00:05:51] If we force a child to make themselves uncomfortable in order to please other people and ask them to ignore their own feelings and reward them over and over again for doing so eventually they will learn that their feelings and needs do not matter and the most important thing for them is to always be pleasing other people.

[00:06:14] They may learn that they are not allowed to say no. They may learn that they don’t have control over their bodies or what happens to them. They might learn to believe the lies that Lovass told years ago that autistic people are broken and need to be built up from nothing.

[00:06:32] The goal for autistic people should be to help them express and get their needs met, not to teach them that their needs are less valid than the needs of people around them.

[00:06:44] Even the sales pitch, ABA uses as manipulative, ABA uses fear mongering tactics to scare parents into unnecessary early interventions for Autistic children.

[00:06:57] They scare parents by telling them all the things their kid may never do because they are Autistic and set up ABA as the only solution to the “problems” of having an Autistic child. Parents are told that their two-year-old children may never speak and some people, some children just speak later than others.

[00:07:19] Two years old is so young. You can’t know what an a person is going to look like as an adult when they are two.

[00:07:28] They guilt trip parents. They claim that you need to start ABA as soon as possible to give Autistic children the best chance at life and if you don’t do ABA, they’re going to make you out to be a bad parent, because you “must not want the best for your child.”

[00:07:45] This is cruel and mean, and they know exactly how to get you as a parent because  “doesn’t every parent want what’s best for their child after all?”

[00:07:57] My next objection to ABA is the cost. ABA is expensive. I poked around online for just a few minutes and I found a bunch of different prices that range from $15,000 a year to $50,000 a year.

[00:08:13] So let’s just do a little bit of our own math right now. Services can cost from $100 to $120 an hour. And so if a family is even paying for 10 hours a week, that’s easily $1000 a week, times 50 if we give the kids a couple of weeks off in the year, that’s $50,000 right there for just 10 hours a week of ABA.

[00:08:35] Some kids are in ABA for 40 hours a week or more on top of school or during school. These poor kids have no childhood. They are constantly under this behavior modification framework. So the costs can be astronomical over an autistic person’s lifetime and I can think of so many better things that parents could spend their money on that would actually help their child instead of this horrible abusive manipulative therapy -therapy.

[00:09:12] My top objection to ABA therapy is that Autistic people do not need therapy just for being Autistic. If you want to help your Autistic child and you are being pressured into ABA therapy, please remember the following:

[00:09:32] There is no way to know what your child will be capable of as an adult.

[00:09:38] Don’t let anyone pressure you into something you’re not comfortable with and may regret in the future.

[00:09:45] Also remember spoken communication isn’t the only form of communication. Some Autistic people will never speak in the traditional way, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. Focus on learning to help your child express their needs and build autonomy.

[00:10:07]Remember that behavior is communication. If an Autistic person is having a meltdown or is lashing out, there’s a reason behind that behavior, there is a need that is not being met.

[00:10:26]Does the autistic person have other complex health needs?

[00:10:30] Do they have insomnia? Are they getting good nutrition? Do they have epilepsy migraines or other neurological events? Does the autistic person have chronic digestive troubles like IBS or heartburn? Because those things will make anyone not feel well and potentially not act their best that day.  I speak as someone who has several and can check a lot of these health problems listed here. When I’m not feeling well, I’m not doing well, so let’s not surpress these signals, these behaviors as ABA would do.

[00:11:12] Behaviorism is only looking at the behavior.  Let’s look at the root of what’s going on with the Autistic person.

[00:11:20] Okay. Internet humans. Thank you so much for hanging out with me this week. Let me know your comments below -what do you think about ABA therapy?

[00:11:28] Are there any people watching who experienced ABA and have been through ABA? I would love to hear from you drop me a note, and if you have a suggestion for a topic on a future video, please do drop that below as well.

[00:11:42] I put out new videos every Wednesday, and I’m always looking for new topic ideas, or to hear what you want to learn about, or you would like for me to cover.

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[00:12:38] Thank you all so much. I will talk to you next week. Bye!


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3 thoughts on “Does ABA Harm Autistic People? – 5 Objections to ABA for Autism

  1. I have been through this as a teen. It was so awful and even now years later as an adult I can’t trust people because I now know that if I do anything or trust anyone parts of me will be taken away. This has caused me to not be able to talk like 85% of the time .at the ABA place one doctor raped me. I was told “you have to do what we tell you or it’ll happen again ” I have autism and ataxic cerebral palsy. Makes life hard but I would not be myself without it. Lucky for me my mum had no money and we had to stop going. She was also very lazy and stopped bothering about me at all. recently she robbed me. In my life the choices still are be abused by my mother or by complete strangers. Either way I was treated very badly
    The things that I was told to do I physically can’t do, they tried to force me to do it breaking both my arms and causing permanent disability. This is just one session of ABA

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