#30DaysAntiABA Guest Post: The Many Names of ABA by Rory McCarthy

Rory McCarthy writes the blog Rory Reckons

Applied Behavioral Analysis is a shapeshifter. The important part to remember about the methodology is that it’s based on B.F. Skinner’s ideas of behaviorism and is used to alter the Autistic person’s environment through either reward or punishment to bring about “desired” social norms. It denies the autonomy of Autistic children and adults, and treats them like rats in a cage pulling a level to get a reward – just as Skinner did in their experiments. 

It’s unethical and abusive in whatever form it takes on. The biggest giveaways is where it mentions teaching “social skills” and has a focus on making allistic methods of communication the absolute goal.

It denies the autonomy of the child and fundamentally doesn’t understand how the Autistic brain works – this ethical dilemma has been covered in this paper: Autism, autonomy, and authenticity

If the child is not the centre of the therapy based on their needs, wants, and sensory issues – all therapy like this is torture.

ABA can be disguised or incorporated under many acronyms or names, or it’s parts can be in the core of various forced or coercive ‘treatments’:

-Anything mentioning Skinner or Lovaas or Operant Conditioning or Extinguishing


Adaptive Modular ABA


Functional Analysis


Applied Behavioural Analysis / Verbal Behaviour Therapy


Verbal Behavior Intervention


Antecedent-Based Intervention


A to Z ABA (Orange County)

UCLA/Lovaas Method

University of California LA Lovaas Intervention or Method


Pivot(al) Response Treatment or Training


Early Start Denver Model Therapy


Social Cognitive Training

School-based Communication Therapy


Behavioral Management Therapy


Discrete Trial Training


Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention


Relationship Development Intervention

Ealing Method

Errorless Learning / Precision Teaching


Adaptive ABA Treatment for Children with Autism


Extended Pivot(al) Response Treatment


Intensive Behavioral Intervention



Friend 2 Friend – Integrated Play Groups


Positive Behaviour Support


Picture Exchange Communication System

Using pictures, minus the ideology, is OK


Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children


Radical Behaviorism Approach (Florida Inst. of Tech)


Functional Behavior Assessment


Behaviour Modification


Operant Conditioning


Incidental Teaching


Enhanced Milieu Teaching


Natural Environment Teaching


Judge Rotenberg Centre Aversion Therapy (skin shocking)

Davis Method

A discipline that also uses beeping devices to bring about control. 

There will be more – any time your child is being denied their autonomy as long as it does not hurt other people through harm – you will be doing psychological damage to your child and reducing their capacity to think for themselves. 

I never had ABA – I had Applied Bullying Analysis – I was systematically abused out of being an Autistic person. It ended up with me trying to please everyone in my life till I had Autistic Burnout – when I discovered that I am Autistic. I nearly died due to it. 

I just need people to understand we can think for ourselves and have empathy, I am beginning to think that we might be the only ones to truly have empathy for others.


  1. I cannot understand how incidental teaching became caught up in ABA – certainly, not what I learned as a teacher. Life is full of moments if discovery, of learning, of opportunities to learn from a mentor.

    Unless it’s referencing times when an a teacher doesn’t realise the particular approach at that stage in the classroom is causing confusion for an autistic student who’s wondering what the teacher is talking about….or why…
    Or has some group of rather rigid behaviourists come up with a very limited approach to it.
    Or is it the ‘see this here?’, ‘this mistake this person has made?’ done badly, in a way that turns the spotlight on someone.
    I’ve only heard of TEAACH in the context of a primary school classroom, particularly an autistic class, where child-centred learning is the priority and each individual’s tasks are clearly organised so that they can keep track of what they’re doing…the tasks/’work’/stuff you do from independent fine-motor development to expressing creativity.
    Unless it’s a case of a teacher not actually prioritising the learner in their planning.
    It is more complicated in a larger group, but differentiation for different types of learner/personality can be planned – or, at the very least, things can be discussed and adjusted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TEAACH is one of those ones that on the surface look ok but when you delve into it, read the books written by the developer of the model etc, you realise it’s still rooted in ABA.


      • Ahhh – our child development lecturer critiqued every psychologist we covered, using Piaget’s work on children’s perspective’s as one example..as did our methodology lecturers, even the mean one. The priority – well, to those who were paying attention- was put the learner at the centre, when possible, and one doesn’t change a person, ones changes and adapts one’s methods to suit the group or person.


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