ABA therapy and autism: What is it, and does it work?

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  • Kevin Smith says:

    Even if your child hasn’t officially been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, he may still benefit from certain treatments.
    Kevin ||

  • Angelica says:

    The website is called “Healthy Debate”, yet you seem to think it’s acceptable to exclude important information for people trying to make a decision on ABA. Why did you fail to mention that a large number of autistics – especially the ones who have received ABA as children – call it abuse? Why bring up Lovaas and not mention that his initial results included *giving children electric shocks if they didn’t do what he wanted*? Or that ABA methodology is the same methodology used in Gay Conversion Therapy… which, in Ontario, is illegal to subject children to? (Give the Feminine Boy Project a Google – it’s hilarious that it was discontinued because they couldn’t get the same results as they got with autistics, because they weren’t allowed to use physical abuse on the potentially gay children the way they could with the autistic ones. And by hilarious, I mean extremely alarming.)

    How about mentioning the gaping holes in the ethical standards for their profession – that they aren’t required to put the needs of the service recipient above the needs of the person paying for service (they’re both defined as “client” in the ethical code)? Or that literal torture (see: Judge Rotenberg Center’s use of GEDs, which was acknowledged as torture by a UN Special Rapporteur on Torture) will not get someone’s credentials stripped… because physical punishments are considered ethical in the profession? As long as a BCBA says, “This will change their behaviour”, physical abuse magically becomes ethical.

    Seriously, think before you post things. Research *both* sides. If the site is called “Healthy Debate”, it’s disingenuous to present only one side. This is particularly important when the side you present as positive has a profit motive, and the other side is a marginalized group screaming that we need the abuse to stop.

  • Nauneet Sohal says:

    I have a 30 year old son with Autism. During his teen years and young adult life three was little support for dealing with extreme behaviours resulting from Autism and later dual diagnosis as he developed Schizophrenia. He is on strong medications to deal with all this. Mental health care is dire in this country considering it’s one of the G7. The resulting stress on the child, plus carers is phenomenal. This results in many carers and family members developing medical concerns due to stress and thereby costing the government a lot more longterm.
    It’s a case of pay now or pay a great deal more for longer later.

  • Beatrice A Stacey says:

    This form of teaching has been used as a way of teaching self care skills to people with developmental handicaps not just autism. I worked in a government run institution and learned this method from a psychologist who developed it. It worked well and didn’t require one on one constantly just daily teaching sessions which were positive and reinforcing. We were criticized by many community groups for using this teaching method. While I agree there is a benefit to intensive teaching and behaviour intervention for people with autism, it also works for other developmental disabilities so why should the extra funding only go to those children??Remember that all those funds are from the tax payers. The government needs to review some of their policies for all people with developmental disabilities as those who are living in group homes and receiving support are also getting these funds when they have 4 to 2 staffing 24/7. We have agencies funded by the government that could be amalgamated to free up funds for families in need.

  • Janis Bisback says:

    The amount of funding offered by the current government is not sufficiently going to make any incremental difference in a young child’s behaviours. I worked for decades in the group home setting a witnessed the lives of individuals who were never diagnosed or treated. They had not way of integrating with their communities and never held any form of employment. If this system plays out for too long, we will need far more group homes for adults and that will be far more costly than early childhood intervention.


Dafna Izenberg


Dafna is the Managing editor of special projects at Maclean’s Magazine.

Francine Buchanan


Francine Buchanan is a mom and primary caregiver to an amazing little boy who is thriving with complex medical needs. When she isn’t watching or playing baseball with her family, she is a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto studying physician/patient communication.

Maureen Taylor


Maureen Taylor is a Physician Assistant who worked as a medical journalist and television reporter for the CBC for two decades.

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