An Open Letter on ABA Reform


I have been presenting/speaking, writing, and training on the topic of ABA Reform/anti-ABA sentiments for some time now. I have spent time engaging in intentional community and dialogue with people who disagree with ABA, and even have traumatic experiences from therapy services (some which really should never have been called “ABA”), as well as doing the work daily in my sphere of influence to train up/mentor/coach supervisees on this topic. Lots of listening, closing my mouth, being open to changing my own mind, being open to critique and feedback, and letting people tell their own stories.


I’m not alone in this. I know many ABA clinicians and providers who are also moving away from defensiveness and being closed off to criticism or shutting down Autistic voices because they disagree with ABA. I know people personally who have completely changed the way they practice, and I have mentors in this field that I look up to who have helped model for me the way forward, towards a more compassionate and respectful ABA. There is still lots of work to be done, and I know many providers committed to doing that work, every day, across all their clients.




I get lots of comments, questions, and emails, from anti-ABA people who want me to do more. They want me to close up shop, rip up my certification, terminate all my client contracts, and find something else to do. They want ABA to just go away. Reform isn’t enough, changed mindsets isn’t enough, and listening to the Autistic community isn’t enough.


To that, I want to openly and publicly say: I respect your point of view, and I’m not here to tell people what to think. You have formed an opinion and are 100% convinced it is correct.  You believe ABA is conversion therapy, it is abuse, it is terrible, and that any ABA provider must therefore be terrible. You aren’t interested in dialogue or collaboration, you want ABA providers to shut up, and go away.


I hear you.


But I’m committed to change. For myself, for those professionals within my sphere of influence, for the clients and the client families I support and work with every day, and for the field in general, as far as my own advocacy and activism will allow. I speak out regularly about better ways to do ABA, issues with this field/industry, and the need to better support clinicians, and better train Technicians. I feel strongly about ALL of these issues.


To Autistics I say: keep speaking up and keep speaking out. Yes, you will find that trying to dialogue with some ABA providers or company owners will be an exercise in futility. But, there are those of us out here who WILL listen. Who won’t shut you down, who are willing and interested in engaging in respectful communication and truly want to learn. We are here.


You may not want to speak to us, you may not want to dialogue with us, and you may not want us to continue supporting individuals and families, but again: We are here. We will remain here, and we will commit to growth, own up to our mistakes, and stop acting like we know it all. We don’t know all. No one knows all.


So for those who ARE interested in learning, growing, communication, collaboration, and improving the quality and soul of ABA services: We are here.


Let’s work together.


** Recommended Reading:

What is ABA/Can it be Reformed?

Toward ABA Reform

A Perspective on Todays ABA

ABA Reform Movement podcast episode

List of ABA Facebook Groups

Toward Trauma Informed Applications of Behavior Analysis 

What is Trauma Informed ABA podcast episode

Taylor, B. A., LeBlanc, L. A., & Nosik, M. R. (2018). Compassionate Care in Behavior Analytic Treatment: Can Outcomes be Enhanced by Attending to Relationships with Caregivers?. Behavior analysis in practice12(3)

Compassionate Care in ABA

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