Every time there’s a discussion about ABA, I hear the refrain of #NotAllABA. Today, for example, I read that “…the blanket ‘All ABA is abuse’ is counterproductive.” Counterproductive how? Counterproductive to whom? Counterproductive to what purpose?

The statement that all ABA is abuse is just a statement of fact. If it angers ABA enthusiasts, if it brings ABA defenders into the open, if it exposes those who believe that autistic children don’t deserve the same human rights as other children, then that statement will have served its purpose. It will have been productive.

If it makes even one parent stop and think. If it makes them realise that they have been sold a lie, that “the good kind of ABA” exists. If it makes them listen to autistic people who have written about “good” ABA . If it makes them realise that even reward-based behavioural therapies do not yield good results . It will have been productive.

There is a great irony in making blanket statements about blanket statements.

#YesAllABA is abuse.

[image of a red and blue and white and yellow tartan blanket.]


  1. It’s harmful even when you do it to yourself. Its goals are basically the ones I achieved through intense work and training. No reward/punishment involved. My own will was more than adequate to the task. But even without external control, I was driven to try to survive in a world that universally rejected and often acted to harm me. My motivation was basically to get others to treat me as a human being, the way they treated each other. And the absence of any consistent support anywhere from any caregiver placed all the weight on me. I accepted it. I made everything that went wrong my fault. I learned to manage everything. And I basically hid myself, my needs, my desires, and the parts that were ‘bad’ away from the world, at least for the most part. I keep digging deeper but I don’t know how to undo it. These aren’t thoughts. They aren’t feelings. They are the ground on which I stand, the air I breathe, the space I inhabit. They shape how I perceive the world, how I interpret everything, and form the thoughts and feelings that rise in response. This is the room in which I live, every moment of every day and it’s been killing me slowly my whole life. And now, I can’t even maintain as well as young me did, which feels like I’m failing him. My therapist keeps telling me I’m tired. That’s why it’s so much harder. And I guess? I can recognize how my actions saved me then. I can recognize how this all isn’t working for me now. I can even see and intellectually acknowledge how I judge myself more harshly and with less compassion than I treat anyone else, even the people who have harmed me. But that’s all in the front of my head. None of it changes how I feel at the core of my being.

    That’s what this stuff does when it’s not imposed through coercion by a powerful external person in some sort of caregiver role. How can that be anything other than abuse?

    Liked by 1 person

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