This is a complex topic, making it challenging to concisely and accurately summarize. It's hard to find a good way to start, but let's dive in and do our best.
Several years ago PBT founder, Heather, started to learn about the anti-ABA movement and strong criticisms of ABA from Autistic adults. While this movement was new to her, it is not new historically. Many Autistic adults and allied providers have criticized ABA for harsh, traumatic approaches and practices. Some of these techniques include: extreme planned ignoring and removing all attention or support during meltdowns or other challenging behavior, forcing eye contact, suppressing non-harmful self-stimulatory behaviors, intentionally evoking intense challenging behaviors, and heavily relying on extinction bursts to "change" behavior, in which preferred items, activities, attention, and/or breaks (i.e., reinforcers) are denied or withheld until a direction is followed or a task completed. There are other criticisms as well, but these are some specific examples.
In this case, a common assertion is that ABA supports ableist views that either outright or insidiously assume Autistic people are "broken" or inferior. Similarly, critics say that ABA clinicians do not embrace or even fully understand neurodiversity and they attempt to make Autistics appear more neurotypical or "normal."
At PBT we place immense value on Autistic adults' lived experiences and perspectives to better inform our therapeutic approach as well as our understanding of and appreciation for Autism. When seeking to learn more about Autism, search for resources from Autistic adults and Autistic-led organizations.
At PBT, we work hard to evaluate and change lingering ableist practices, which can be tough because some of these views are subconscious or deeply ingrained in ways we may not initially notice. We know and have seen that ABA can create meaningful, empowering change for people, including children, parents, caregivers, and the greater community. It is our mission to:
You can check out some of our social media content (links below) to get more information and examples about our philosophies and practices.
Check out this video to hear/see more from our founder. (This video includes subtitles.) You can find related content on all of our social media platforms as well. If you have additional concerns or questions, we encourage you to contact us. We are happy to discuss criticisms and concerns directly and transparently. We recognize ABA values and practices are continuing to shift to better and truly support Autistic and neurodivergent people.