The Battle Over Autism Therapy ABA

Listen 49:39

When Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) first emerged on the national stage, it was hailed as a ray of hope. It was an intensive, interactive therapy that seemed to have positive results with kids on the autism spectrum, teaching them valuable skills while eliminating unwanted behaviors. It was expensive and time-consuming — so parents lobbied to have it covered by insurance or schools. By the 2010s, they’d largely achieved that goal, and ABA became a standard treatment for kids with autism.

But over the past few years, that first generation of kids to receive intensive ABA has grown up — and they’re telling a different story. Many have criticized ABA as harmful and even abusive, calling it “conversion therapy for autistic people.”

On this episode, we explore the battle over ABA. We hear from a young man who received it as a kid, autistic self-advocates, experts, and parents — all of whom have a different perspective on ABA, its benefits, and whether or not the approach should be revamped or scrapped altogether.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

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