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 is perfect with no flaws. I do think this industry has flaws, and I think parents making treatment decisions for their child need to know that.

2. Although there are some in the ABA Reform movement who are pushing more for "eradication" and less for "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 literally). We cannot just stand by and watch this 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 quite a few years ago. I keep it up (even though my views have since changed) 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. 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, viewing the origins of ABA as unethical and inhumane, viewing the current state of ABA as unethical and inhumane, and 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, and 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 change/fix someone.

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.

Whether you are a parent, caregiver, or ABA professional, it is so important to be aware of what the main population served by ABA (*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


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

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"


  1. I can't tell you how relieved I am to read a post like this from a BCBA. Thank you for stepping up and doing the work of listening and honoring the experiences and perspectives of ND people. Highly recommend BCBAs + Autistics Toward a Reformed ABA; this is a good place to listen and learn from people, regardless of where you're coming from. I'm really glad that you've moved in this direction and I hope that others in your field will follow.

    1. Thank you for visiting the blog!

      I still stand by the statement that if you want to know about an Autistics experience with ABA, ask an Autistic. But as a practitioner, I can speak on ways this field needs to better itself, and be a part of helping push for that reform.

  2. Hi Tameika, I am a parent of a child with ASD and when I started my training with the BCBA we hired because everything failed to help my child gain independence, flexibility and communication he so desperately needed through other methods. At the time I bought your book as well as following your blog because I quickly became passionate. because there was the first glimpse of hope towards a better and more independent life for him. I now work in the field, work super hard to motivate the children I work with and studying for a MSc. The way it changed his life I wish this for all children who need it. I wish good ABA was more broadcasted and see how much a positive experience it is for children attending applied settings.

    1. Hi there! Firstly, I think thats amazing that you entered the field and started helping other families out there. I have worked with a few parent-practitioners, and what they bring to the table (as far as perspective and experience) is SO needed. Best of luck with your career.

      I really, really think the ABA community needs to do better with listening to voices who don't agree with us. Any group that ignores its critics leans more towards a "cult", and further and further away from a true helping profession.

      Yes, there are those out there who would say there IS no such thing as good ABA. While I do not agree with that, I do see room for improvement and more inclusivity of Neuro Divergent voices and perspectives. It can only help us as clinicians, to better serve our clients.

      Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. Thank you for making this post. I am an autistic RBT. I received ABA as a child and there were things that I liked, but many things that I disliked. ABA has a long way to go, but there are great people who are willing to make changes, and I am glad to see it being said and in action. I believe that more autistic people should work in the field and more practitioners should be more willing to listen to our input. Thank you for listening and providing good resources. It takes a lot to change your mindset and be willing to change the way that you practice.

    1. Thank you for reading!

      My clinical practice has only improved from listening to #ActuallyAutistic voices. ABA has much room for improvement and change, and like many other fields (education, healthcare) removing our Ableist lens.
      Our clients are not problems to be solved. They are people with life challenges, and our job is to work with them to help where we can, and when we can.

      I've had the opportunity to work with Autistic RBT's, as well as Autistic BCBA's, and the perspective they have taught me about how to best help my clients has been invaluable.


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