ABA Haters Pt. II

 *Recommended Reading: ABA Haters 

I feel very unqualified to write this post.

The ABA Reform movement (also referred to as Autistic Activists & Allies) is not new, but you may be unaware of it. Many ABA peeps are. 

There's a vocal community of Autistics and pro-neurodiversity/anti-ABA parents, individuals, and professionals who work diligently to spread the word about their viewpoint of ABA. Sometimes this is due to actual experience with ABA therapy, but not always. 

If you want to understand why an Autistic dislikes ABA therapy, obviously the best person to ask would be an #ActuallyAutistic.

However, there are a couple of reasons why I am writing this post anyway, despite feeling unqualified to do so:

1. Lots and lots of parents come to my blog as a source of information about ABA. I don't want my silence on this topic to make it seem like I think ABA therapy is perfect with no flaws. I do think this industry has flaws, I have worked for low-quality employers, and I think parents making treatment decisions for their child need to know how to navigate this issue.

2. Although there are some in the ABA Reform movement who are pushing more for "ABA Eradication" and less for "ABA Reform", I think ABA professionals should be a part of this conversation. We are the ones in the field, day in and day out, working with vulnerable populations who don't always have a voice (either figuratively or quite literally). We cannot just stand by and watch this ABA conversation happen, we need to join the conversation.

If you think ABA, as a treatment or as an industry, is perfection and needs no improvement, you may want to stop reading now. <------------------------------------------

If however, you see the field's issues with clinician burnout, inefficient staff training, low-quality employers, person-first treatment planning, questionable research, teaching Autistics to mask, or respecting client dignity, and want to be a part of the CHANGE for the better, then read on.

My 1st post on anti-ABA'ers, or "ABA Haters" was written several years ago. I keep it up because I think it's important to see the evolution of change. 

Most of us do not change our minds about something instantly. It is a process. We receive new information, analyze that information, reject it and return to old thinking, or accept it and enter into a different level of understanding. Of course, I'm also minimizing the reality of defensive mechanisms, circular logic, and cognitive dissonance, and how these concepts impact our ability to change our mind.

I used to think people were anti-ABA because they had never experienced quality ABA services, or maybe received ABA decades ago when there was less accountability of providers, more "old school" tactics used, etc. I thought if they could see for themselves what ABA can do, how it can help, and how we impact lives everyday, that anti-ABA'ers would "come around".

I have since changed my mind on that.

For those of you that don't know, receiving low-quality/unethical ABA treatment is not the only reason why someone may hate ABA. 

Other reasons could include: being against the idea of "treatment" for a neurological difference, seeing Autism as a cultural identity and not a problem to solve, being against the high intensity of ABA services, taking issue with the tiered service-delivery model ABA uses, being angered by ABA providers or companies using "cure" or "recovery" talk (yes, this still happens today), viewing the origins of ABA as unethical and inhumane, viewing the current state of ABA as unethical and inhumane, and a strong displeasure with the lack of Autistic voices/input in the top Autism advocacy organizations, Behavior Certification Board for Behavior Analysis, leadership/ownership of ABA agencies and companies, or leadership in ABA state associations.

These are valid points, and they deserved to be heard without the lens of professional defensiveness.

Again, there are some in the ABA Reform community who think the best way to fix ABA is to 




But there are others who do want to see ABA improved, implemented more compassionately, and become more receptive to Autistic feedback and experiences. More about support and accommodations, and less about trying to force someone to not look or act Autistic.

Below are a ton of great resources for more information about Autistic voices, differing views on ABA, and anti-Ableism advocacy. The best consumer is an informed consumer, and I think it's important to present the information and let people decide what is best for them.

It is so important to be aware of what the main population served by ABA providers (*It is true that not all ABA professionals work within the Autism community, but a gigantic chunk of us do*) has to say about ABA therapy, and the ways it can improve.

If you aren't willing to at least non-defensively listen, then what you're really saying is you aren't willing to change your mind. And how sad is that?


Do Better Professional Movement 

The Great Big ABA Opposition List

Autistic Self-Advocacy Network 

BCBAs + Autistics Towards a Reformed ABA Facebook group

ABA Reform Facebook page

Beautiful Humans Podcast: The ABA Reform Movement Ep. 26 (Go take a listen, this is an amazing conversation!)

A Perspective on Today's ABA from Dr. Greg Hanley

5 Important Reasons Even "New ABA" is Problematic 

The Controversy Around ABA

Stimming Deserves Acceptance 

Nice Lady Therapists 

"I Am a Disillusioned BCBA" 

ABA Inside Track Podcast: Trauma Informed Care Ep 134 

Behavioral Observations Podcast: What is Trauma Informed ABA Ep 131

What's Wrong with the Autism 'Puzzle Piece' Symbol

"Why Autism Speaks Doesn't Speak for Me"

Avoiding Ableist Language: Suggestions for Autism Researchers 

"Why Autism ABA Goes Against Everything B.F. Skinner Believed In"

Eye Contact for Recipients Validation

"Autism Doesn't Have to be Viewed as a Disability"

"How To Ask an Autistic"

Outdated Autism Terms & Language

Autism Wars 

The Controversy over Autism's Most Common Therapy

For ABA Practitioners: How to Respond to ABA Hate


  1. Great post, Tameika! I have found myself confronted by many ABA haters in the past, and I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that behavior analysis is constantly occurring both incidentally and in planned situations. ABA is very useful for individuals who do not have the skills to advocate for themselves, and can lead to a well-rounded future.

    1. Thank you for visiting!

      Agreed, I like your point that the science of behavior change is all around us, and used within other disciplines as well whether it is labeled as 'ABA' or not.
      Right now there are 3 very distinct camps regarding this conversation: parents and caregivers of Autistics, professionals who primarily work within the ASD population, and Autistics. Hopefully these camps can be less combative over time, but at the moment it can be very hard to find consensus, and open, respectful communication. On ALL sides, I am not saying ABA'ers are always respectful either.

  2. I love your blogs, they are very informative and I'm happy you spoke about this topic.

    1. Thank you! This is such a critical conversation for ABA clinicians to listen to, and respectfully join.


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