ABA Therapy for Autism Criticism: Is ABA Dangerous?
ABA is a behavioral therapy with the objective of transforming observable and measurable behavior, often by manipulating antecedents or reinforcing positive behavior, with the ultimate goal in rewiring the “autistic brain.” Data is then used to check how the rate of behavior evolves from these manipulations.
Although manipulating consequences and environments to sway behavior may seem quite safe and how most people parent, ABA may not be harmless. There exists no universal definition of ABA. Some therapists use “ABA” word more loosely than others, and in the USA some therapies are specifically given the ABA label to access insurance funding. Some ABA therapists have the objective of trying to make their autistic patients indistinguishable from their non-autistic peers.
Although several autistic individuals criticize ABA, smaller numbers mean their voices frequently go ignored or unheard.
The popularity of ABA comes from various factors such as society not willing to accept the difference, not understanding people with autism, not knowing how to properly support autistic people, and not trusting them to learn anything without ABA. How did ABA emerge? The more vocal and more powerful party, those without autism, make sweeping judgments about the behavior of autistic people. Since they do not approve nor understand what they see, they decide that they must change this behavior instead of accommodating it. This does not always come from bad intentions. Usually the most caring people believe what is the best way to treat autistics and to help them become more “normal.” This occurs when you take a medical approach to autism. Though many autistics do have medical problems, this does not mean autism is medically-related.
There is no question that it’s possible to change behavior by using ABA, but not as effectively as many would have you assume. What does matter is whether we should even modify the general behavior of autistic people, which is usually harmless and usually useful; rather, the chief beneficiary is not autistic people, but the people around them.
Dr. Ivar Lovaas believe that the objective of ABA is to make autistic individuals “indistinguishable from their peers.” This goal places the heavy responsibility for change on the shoulders of autistic people, who try extremely hard not only to get by but also fit in in the world of non-autistics at the price of compromising themselves. Because they force themselves to do what hurt or make them uncomfortable, this explains the high rates of suicide and mental health issues in the autistic community. And in spite of all this effort, they stand out as “freaks” and still are judged and criticized. The aim of “indistinguishable” is yet cited by ABA providers. As society strives to fulfill this goal of making all autistics “normal,” their human right are getting violated right and left. Striving for “normal” is unethical and not realistic, and several first-hand accounts indicate it comes at an excessively high price to people with autism.
Critical thinking is important when evaluating a prospective treatment for autistic persons, and unfortunately this is not being applied. If you are seriously considering using ABA, ask yourself these questions first:
Does the person promoting ABA have a financial or professional incentive for doing so?
Does the writer, like parents, have a strong emotional reason for supporting ABA?
Do you want to torture your autistic child unnecessarily?