ABA, Abusive Bullying of Autistics

The first time I heard of ABA, it was a newspaper article about parents of autistic children fighting the Irish government, trying to get funding for their children to attend ABA schools. At the time, I thought of it as a classic ‘David vs. Goliath’ situation, and I was naturally on the side of David. But, because my son was just a baby at the time, and I knew very little about autism, or that we were autistic, I didn’t think very much beyond that.

How things have changed. I’m now grateful that the Irish government won’t automatically fund ABA. Now, I’m not naive and I realise this is more about cost-saving by the government, as ABA is very expensive. But I’m still grateful as it limits the number of autistic Irish children being exposed to this so-called therapy.

My first realisation that ABA is not the wonderful thing it was made out to be in that article, was when I started reading books and blogs written by autistics. The first such book, was an anthology published by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, called Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking. The title is a reflection of the ABA demand for “Quiet Hands”, where autistics are forced not to flap or wave their hands, often by making them sit on them. It was a very eye-opening, and heart-breaking, read.

And then I read this, and this and this. Written by the mother of an autistic child, Emma, who developed trauma due to ABA.

And this, another traumatic account by the parent of an autistic child.

And this from yet another parent.

And then there’s this. From a website dedicated to busting myths about autism.

This post was in response to a newspaper article similar to the one I’d first read about ABA.
Many adult autistics are also speaking out against ABA. Here is Amy Sequenzia’s take on it.

And here is another piece written, with advice for parents and for therapists.

And this by Sparrow Rose Jones is a very well written piece.

This piece is an answer to parents who say ‘but my child enjoys ABA’.

This piece is written by a professional who teaches autistic children to communicate.

And here is a piece written by a former ABA therapist.

As is this one.

And for those who go on about ‘Old ABA’, this was written in 2015. So, not long ago at all.

There are many many many more.

My final link is by Michelle Dawson. It’s very long but very thorough, about the ethics and science surrounding ‘treatments’ such as ABA.

I recently got some fight-back and defensiveness from parents of autistic children, who are big defenders of ABA. And my question to them was ‘why do you think autistics are against ABA? We’re not saying these things for the fun.’

Unsurprisingly, I never got an answer.
UPDATE: I have just come across this wonderful post with many more links than I have here. Not only on ABA but on ‘social skills’ and ‘compliance’ and ‘indistinguishability’ training. I urge anyone with any interest at all in ABA to read these posts.

UPDATE AUG 2017: Seems ABA has given rise to an offshoot, PBS (which an autistic friend suggested stands for Punish Bloody Stimmers!). Do not be fooled, this is ABA ‘rebranded’ to appear less harmful. Here’s a brilliant blog post about it.

UPDATE MARCH 2018: Here is another brilliantly written piece on ABA written by Shona Davison.

UPDATE JULY 2018: Another piece written by a former ABA therapist is this one. Plus a response to a response to the same blog post.

Plus I also came across this post today, with even more links to read.

A review of the ME book that was written by ABA founder Ivar Lovaas.

This is a pro-ABA piece in which the therapist talks about training autistic children in the same way chickens (and dogs etc) are clicker-trained. Yes, really.

And this in Unstrange Mind, again in why Behaviorism is wrong even if some therapists mean no harm.

And yet another post emphasising why autistics are against ABA.

And one by Frank Ludwig.

Another by Frank Ludwig sharing the good news that funding for ABA has been withdrawn by a German charity.

And a Masterpost by Amethyst with tonnes of links.

UPDATE AUGUST 2018: This piece mentions how ABA is now being extended to children with Downs Syndrome.

This piece is written by a teacher about why rewards and punishments used in ABA and elsewhere, such as mainstream classrooms, don’t work, and what to do instead.

And here is another piece by Michelle Dawson I hadn’t seen before, critiquing the study design of studies that “prove” that ABA “works”.

And yet another by a former ABA therapist about why they left, which includes many many fantastic links at the end.

And this piece explains why “gentle” ABA is still abuse.


And this piece by Michelle Swan on how behaviour modification does work, but at what cost?

And I absolutely LOVE this ABA supporter bingo produced by Giraffe Party.


This piece is by an “autism dad” but it’s actually very well written and shows that even if you don’t forgo ABA completely, you can still make sure it’s not abuse.

This piece examines the similarities/links between ABA and Gay Conversion Therapy.

By the same author, This piece discusses “new” ABA and how it’s still abusive.

This piece talks about how ABA therapists treat adult autistics who try to engage with them.

And this Piece is by an autistic person who interned at an ABA-based school.

And this piece includes descriptions of abuse in the name of ABA


This piece by a dog trainer who wouldn’t use ABA techniques on a dog as they would constitute animal abuse.

This piece shows how ABA is abusive even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface.


This piece is truly shocking and upsetting but an important one to read.

And another post in The Aspergian, Irving parents not to fall for ABA rhetoric.

This piece contains excepts from non-speaking autistic people who underwent ABA.

This one shows how ABA doesn’t comply with the CRPD.

This post addresses how even “new ABA” is bad.

Another piece written by an NT parent on why they stopped doing it.

This research paper examines the harm done to autistic people, especially non-verbal ones, by ABA.

Another great post in The Aspergian, mentioning the above paper.

This one analyses responses to critiques of ABA.

This is a link to a twitter thread that’s a masterpost of anti-ABA stuff.

How ABA therapists condone torture in the form of electric shocks.


This Blog post from The Autistic Bride was written in April but I only saw it now.

This article by journalist David M. Perry on the harm ABA does by suppressing stimming.

And this statement by a music therapy association warning about the dangers of ABA.

And another brilliant post by Ann Mammott.


Here’s a whole website dedicated to fighting ABA.

Why ABA based feeding therapy is abusive. By an expert in the area.

And here is part two of the blog post about feeding therapy.

And here’s Part 2 of a post about why a teacher quit ABA.


This piece is long but very good concerning the lack of ethics in ABA.

[image of the words: ‘Abusive Bullying of Autistics’ in red]


  1. Behaviorism is backed by “Science”. How can the “science” of ABA be fought? By science that shows the positive value of respect, and emphasizes quality of life over managing behavior. It is slowly working…scientists are moving towards regard for the autistic way of being…but it’s hard to put it on paper, with statistical analysis.Someone has to put the “experts” to shame. I like the way this begins that journey: It calls out the BS: http://www.annualreviews.org/eprint/cYPKN5z9uDnANv5UBCMx/full/10.1146/annurev-linguistics-030514-124824

    We need autistic scientists, who can put numbers to the abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the link to that study. It’s a fascinating read. I too long for the day when autistics design their own studies. So many studies by so-called ‘experts’ make too many assumptions or are just plain wrong.


  2. Hmmmm. “Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking.” How very telling. No wonder there’s so much pressure to suppress flapping/stimming, damn newts don’t want autistic people speaking up for themselves!!!

    That’s got my claws flexing over the keyboard now…


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