ABA therapy

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Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, or "ABA therapy," is an pseudoscientific and ineffective[1][2][3] treatment for autism and related conditions that emphasizes practice and repetition to overcome undesired behaviors. This treatment is empirical in using "direct measures of performance that tell us whether a child is making progress" and it is "systematic in that when we look at what things in the environment are likely to cause certain behaviors to occur, we arrange them in a systemic way that increases the likelihood certain behaviors occur."[4]

ABA therapy uses rewards ("consequences") in order to promote desired activities, such encouraging the child to interact more with others. It is criticized by some for being robotic in nature, but supporters of the therapy explain that practice has value. ABA therapy does not address or cure the underlying causes of the autism.


The value of eliminating autistic behaviors is disputed by proponents of neurodiversity, who claim that it forces autistic people to mask their true personalities on behalf of a narrow conception of normality.[5] Masking is associated with suicidality and poor long-term mental health.[6][7] Autism advocates contend that it is cruel to try to make autistic people "normal" without consideration for how this may affect their well-being.[8] Instead, these critics advocate for increased social acceptance of harmless autistic traits and therapies focused on improving quality of life.[9]

A 2020 study examined perspectives of autistic adults that received ABA as children and found that the overwhelming majority reported that "behaviorist methods create painful lived experiences", that ABA led to the "erosion of the true actualizing self", and that they felt they had a "lack of self-agency within interpersonal experiences."[10]


  1. Recalling hidden harms: autistic experiences of childhood.
  2. Schuck, Rachel K.; Tagavi, Daina M.; Baiden, Kaitlynn M. P.; Dwyer, Patrick; Williams, Zachary J.; Osuna, Anthony; Ferguson, Emily F.; Jimenez Muñoz, Maria et al. (2021). "Neurodiversity and Autism Intervention: Reconciling Perspectives Through a Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention Framework". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 52 (10): 4625–4645. doi:10.1007/s10803-021-05316-x. PMID 34643863. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-021-05316-x. 
  3. Ne'eman, Ari (2021-07-01). "When Disability Is Defined by Behavior, Outcome Measures Should Not Promote "Passing"". AMA Journal of Ethics 23 (7): E569–575. doi:10.1001/amajethics.2021.569. ISSN 2376-6980. PMID 34351268. 
  4. http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-14/1245643548239650.xml&coll=1 (dead link)
  5. The Autism Rights Movement.
  6. Cassidy, Sarah; Bradley, Louise; Shaw, Rebecca; Baron-Cohen, Simon (2018). "Risk markers for suicidality in autistic adults". Molecular Autism 9: 42. doi:10.1186/s13229-018-0226-4. ISSN 2040-2392. PMID 30083306. 
  7. Cook, Julia; Hull, Laura; Crane, Laura; Mandy, William (2021-11-01). "Camouflaging in autism: A systematic review" (in en). Clinical Psychology Review 89: 102080. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2021.102080. ISSN 0272-7358. PMID 34563942. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735821001239. 
  8. Commentary: The autistic community is having a reckoning with ABA therapy. We should listen (en).
  9. Template:Multiref2
  10. McGill, Owen; Robinson, Anna (2020-10-23). ""Recalling hidden harms": autistic experiences of childhood applied behavioural analysis (ABA)". Advances in Autism 7 (4): 269–282. doi:10.1108/aia-04-2020-0025. ISSN 2056-3868. https://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/73753/1/McGill_Robinson_AA_2020_autistic_experiences_of_childhood_Applied_Behavioural_Analysis.pdf.