We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Elie Wiesel


This is a formal public request for an official response to a question. I have also submitted it by e-mail to the Director of Autism South Africa, and copied it to the National Education Officer.


Many autistic people around the world say that ABA is harmful. They deem Ivar Lovaas to have been an abuser, and ask the world to take heed of their experiences of ABA, and of the flawed reasoning behind this method. Some of the autistic people who write about this are non-speaking, communicating independently by using letterboards or keyboards.

South Africa has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities (CRPD). In terms of this Convention, the government and other institutions are obliged to put measures in place to ensure that disabled people are heard, and that they are able to represent themselves in all spheres of society.

Some non-disabled people say that ABA is appropriate if it is practiced under auspices of governing bodies which provide ethical oversight. In the USA, the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) uses a type of ABA which is the closest to what Lovaas practiced. The methods used there conform to the UN definition of torture. Staff of the institution who have been accredited by the BACB are permitted by the BACB to retain their credentials. The international affiliate organisation for ABA practitioners, ABAI, provides a platform for the JRC to teach people why this version of ABA should be expanded. CARD, another ABA-certiftying organisation, collaborates with the ABAI, and has failed to condemn the ABAI for this. Indeed, most ABA organisations which have been approached to condemn the ethics of the ABAI have not done so. We cite this as an example of why oversight by organisations does not help to stop human rights violations by practitioners of ABA.


In the light of the above, when non-disabled people in the autism industry recommend that people follow the path of Lovaas and that they use ABA, do you believe that as an organisation, Autism South Africa has the right to remain silent on the matter?

A reply from the outgoing Director

Interventions for ASD… do we listen?