Laura Fuhrman

People often ask me, if ABA* is bad, then what is the alternative to ABA?

The problem lies in the assumption behind the question. It is like asking, “If bleaching Black people with hydrogen peroxide is wrong, what alternative is there?”

The question isn’t appropriate, because the best question isn’t actually on that level. The first question should be, what are you trying to achieve, and why?

This is the level where we need to start talking about alternatives: alternative paradigms, alternative values.

Then, at ground level, the other questions and answers will fall in place.


*ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) is a kind of behaviour modification ‘therapy’. It was in use for years for making ‘effeminate’ boys and men behave in a heterosexual manner. Although now banned for that purpose in many countries, it remains in widespread use in the autism industry, in spite of protests by autistic people. In some institutions, ABA includes the use of physical torture, such as the use of electric shocks as punishment for appearing autistic or showing distress. In many cases, it uses coercion through the withholding of access to self-regulation or favourite activities. The American government sponsors ABA.