ABA is abuse… yes all ABA.
The ultimate objective of ABA is to make the Autistic child indistinguishable from their peers. This holds NeuroDivergent People to NeuroTypical standards, which is cruel and sets us up for failure.
We are not and will never be NeuroTypical – ignoring this fact helps nobody.
ABA’s messaging suggests that natural Autistic ways of doing things are wrong and you are broken, and therefore must be corrected – that the Autistic Person is broken and must be molded to be more palatable to non-Autistic people.
This harms Autistic people’s sense of pride and identity.
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.
ABA teaches Autistic People that their own needs are less important than pleasing and making people around them comfortable. Making us overly compliant, leaving us more vulnerable to manipulation and abuse.ABA teaches children by rewarding them for “acceptable behaviors” – regardless of if these behaviors are natural or even comfortable for the autistic child.
For example, let’s take eye contact. As an Autistic person, eye contact can feel like a very intimate experience (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. We wouldn’t and ask a child to let an adult touch them in a way that made them uncomfortable.
ABA teaches Autistic people that it’s okay if you are uncomfortable, as long as you are pleasing other people.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.
Even the sales pitch, ABA uses as manipulative, ABA uses fear mongering tactics to scare parents into unnecessary early interventions for Autistic children.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 and the costs for Autistic Conversion Therapy can be astronomical over an Autistic Person’s lifetime, when there are better things parents could spend their money on that would actually help their child, instead of this horrible abusive manipulative “therapy”.
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:There is no way to know what your child will be capable of as an adult.
Don’t let anyone pressure you into something you’re not comfortable with and may regret in the future.
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15 thoughts on “ABA is abuse… yes all ABA.”
I didn’t enroll my child in ABA, but I will always wonder if it would have helped her with social communication with peers. Making eye contact was not important to us as her parents, but learning social engagement is important. She also flaps, and although adults understand, peers her own age do not. She does not have typically developing friends. Only 2 friends that are also Autistic. She is in high school and kids are mean. I fear that doing only speech therapy and OT therapy up to 1st grade was not enough. She did not have therapy after that has she never had any challenging behavior and we thought we would focus our limited funds for her elsewhere. I wonder how she will do at a job interview. Flapping when she is nervous. Will an employer ever see past that, who knows.
I encourage you to focus on other things instead of worrying about what she can’t or won’t do. First of all, certainly some employers will be able to look past nervous flapping, or she’ll learn how to prepare until she’s not nervous, but past that, maybe she’ll start a business and be her own boss. Maybe she’ll turn her attention to parenting. Maybe her spouse will also be autistic or otherwise neuroatypical and that will be okay, because they’ll be able to figure out what works for them! If kids weren’t being mean about signs of her autism, I PROMISE they would be mean about something else, the autism is not causing this.
If she’s happy and basically functional, having a lot of friends or having a great time in high school is not important. High school sucks for everyone. She has college to find and make her real friends, where no one has the time to play Mean Girls.
Hi….please understand that I’m not trying to say anything against you. I definitely get worrying about socialization, and I understand that what you said was out of love and concern.
A couple things you said made me think that perhaps you haven’t heard or don’t know some things that might really be helpful to be aware of…
There is research data and studies now, that *seem* to be showing that regardless of how well an autistic person learns to manually mask, or “socially pass” or however you want to word it, allistic people have a subconscious uncanny valley-esque reaction to us. There is a greater than 89% unemployment rate for autistic people, and it is entirely unrelated to our ability to perform allistic behaviors well enough.
One set of data showed autistics and allistics listening to others read a passage, and rating how likely they were to be good friends with the other person in their regular life. Autistics rated both autistics and allistics about the same, all the allistics rated the autistic readers as significantly less likely to be their close friends.
There is something called the double empathy problem, where because we’re just different in enough in our processing and communication, allistics and autistics almost universally misinterpret or entirely miss in the first place, the others’ communication attempts, intent, intentions, effort, etc.
ABA has been shown to cause severe trauma and PTSD. It is *literally* conversion therapy for autistics. Nothing useful or helpful comes from it.
Also, prolonged masking can cause very serious health problems, including burnout, stress related health conditions, and a severe neurological event that occurs from prolonged masking under high stress that can cause a sometimes permanent extreme loss of skills: I lose all ability to communicate with oral or written words, pictures, or gestures, and can basically only cry and bolt to say no for up to weeks, can’t do any executive functioning for up to months, and I recover about 70% after about 3 years, with each one being cumulative. If I have another, I’m not sure I’ll regain oral speech.
And if it is in any way reassuring, I’m 29, married, with a seven month old, and I don’t irl interact or orally speak to anyone who isn’t autistic AND queer AND LostKid Jongleur/traveler-busker who isn’t being paid to interact with me as part of their job. My life is SO much better without the kind of horror shit show that happens when allistics try to figure out what I mean or why I’m doing a thing. I have a wonderful life and it doesn’t require close intimate friendships with allistic people, and I flap anywhere and anytime I need to in order to be regulated enough to do the things I need to do.
I am a father of an autistic child. We focus on the physiological aspects of our child’s development. Out of all the interventions we have done to improve my son’s life, by far the most effective has been on his diet and his biological make up. For me, this is the foundation. Biomedical intervention, which focuses on natural supplements, minerals, vitamins, in tandem, has been extremely effective. I empathize with parents who want their child to fit in, however, the power is in being different. Finding those individuals who have a clue about diversity, acceptance of differences, and are curious about others. You won’t find this in schools.
Please read the article you commented on. ABA is abuse which causes PTSD in autistics. End of.
Retired special education teacher here. I do not nor have I ever felt comfortable teaching ABA. I always felt it was abusive and degrading. I was just diagnosed as being high on the spectrum and I’m 61 years old. It has now answered my question as to how I’ve been able to communicate and modify unacceptable behaviors for those on the spectrum when none of my co-workers have and any success. I am now building a virtual business on transition training on the spectrum. I work one on one with young teens and I love seeing how we connect.
This is exactly what I just witnessed with starting and now ending AbA services for my son. They took over our lives with parent shaming and blamed regression on attendance..it was a constant push for more hours for there paychecks. Even after I watched an rbt push and pull on my son the bcba came back with some bullshit backed with statistics and parent shame . I ended services immediately .sadly the progress my son first made is now not seen but I believe its just being withheld with fear . My son has regressed to no school refusal and now will not leave the home and all’s anyone is pushing for is making him go to school which may be important later but I’m asking all involved to try and help determine the reason he is refusing as opposed to the fact he’s refusing. I bring up sensory overload or the fact that maybe he’s scared to get sick being the unmasked one. All school faculty and outside intervention are pointing the finger at me his mom stating he’s working me . I don’t believe this to be true entirely because I have seen him willingly go and than it changed. The problem is not him it’s what has caused him to refuse .
As an autistic former kiddo myself, school itself was miserable for me, especially after I learned the hard lesson that my peers saw my divergences as signs that I was a good target for them to take their frustrations out on. The teachers (with a few exceptions) weren’t much better, constantly finding fault with something and punishing me for it- usually, I was being scolded for putting my head down on my desk so I could concentrate on what I was writing without being distracted by my surroundings. I would honestly guess that your son’s reluctance to return probably has more than a little to do with stresses caused by the school itself. It’s certainly not your fault, and he’s not manipulating you.
For me, homeschooling was the solution. I am now in college and finishing up an associate’s degree in history. The solution for your son might be different, or it could be similar to mine, but you’ll find it.
Thank you for this article. I had heard it said that ABA is abusive but needed more information, and here it is. I don’t believe I am autistic (though I’m neurodivergent) but have always felt drawn to people on the spectrum, probably in the quest to find some commonality or reassurance about my own confusing brain. But I digress. I’m sharing this article to others.
Ever notice how proponents of ABA only ever cite research indicating that ABA changes behavior of autistic youth? They never actually provide research on long term differences in mental health, PTSD, self esteem, or compliance levels/ inability to say no to authority. It is such an underhanded tactic, and even the studies surrounding behavior that they do cite often tend to be quite poor. The rest of their citations are just apologist essays.
When I was formally identified on the spectrum, my parents were advised to put me in an ABA school, but refused to do so. One reason was that I was already indistinguishable from my peers, as they saw it (my peers being other autistic children). The other reason was that when they pointed this out, they were told that I had to go through ABA if I ever wanted to learn anything useful, such as reading and writing, and I had already been doing those for two years. No, I wasn’t hyperlexic; I was seven years old.
We did four sessions of ABA in home. My toddler is three. Every since he was diagnosed every pediatrician we saw asked if we were in ABA and told me my child needed 40 hours. He is currently enrolled in early childhood special Ed and that is absolutely amazing and positive!
The sessions of ABA were hard I mean hard. Screaming and crying for two hours. Parent shaming. It shook me to my core and my sons. I literally cried while the therapist was here. It was cruel, mean and not kind in the least. Total abuse. It may work for others and I am not judging anyone who feels it’s good for their baby, but, I will tell you I feel sad for those children who go everyday and don’t want to. It was the most stressful two hours. I can’t say enough bad things about our experience and I do not ever want to give it another chance and the next time one of his doctors asks me in ABA im going to ask them if they’ve spent anytime working with ABA therapists or observed?!