One of my tasks as coordinator of SOAR is developing and updating our listings of local, non-medication resources available in centres across Canada. We provide these listings to help individuals and families make informed decisions about treatment and support options. But I’ve run into a problem: almost any time “Autism Resources” in any city in Canada are searched online, ABA providers will show up. During the research and development of the SOAR Resource Lists for a number of Canadian cities, several resources had to be excluded since they included ABA services, limiting the number of acceptable resources that could be provided. This resulted, for example, in the postponement of the resource list for Toronto (along with many other Canadian cities) being added to our website. Despite the fact Toronto is the largest city in Canada, the pending resource list for Toronto currently includes only two resources, since so many of the resources considered for inclusion turned out to be ABA providers. This is indicative of a major problem: many of the resources that people - including parents of autistic children - may think are helpful, may actually be extremely harmful to autistic people. This applies especially to autistic children, who are the main recipients of ABA.
Many people on the Autism Spectrum, including me, are opposed to ABA, since it can have very harmful effects on Autistic people. In recognition of these harmful effects, efforts have been made to ban ABA.[i],[ii],[iii] One reason why this is crucial is that ABA has the potential to cause PTSD in autistic children. According to one study,[iv] almost half of autistic children who received ABA met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. This provides clear evidence that ABA is harmful and should be banned. [v]
ABA has been compared to dog training, since seeks to gain compliance the same way. However, when actual dog trainers were consulted, ABA proved to violate the ethical standards dog trainers used in training dogs[vi], which provides even more evidence that ABA is harmful. Additionally, ABA has been compared to “conversion therapy” a widely discredited practice aimed at changing a person's sexual orientation. Some ABA providers have actually studied and worked with conversion therapy providers to learn their methods and incorporate similar techniques into ABA[vii]. Fortunately, conversion therapy has been banned in Canada; [viii] by this standard, ABA should also be banned. Sadly, I have not heard about ABA being banned on even the municipal level, let alone the provincial or federal level.
In conclusion, when seeking “Autism Resources” in any given city, in Canada or in any other country, it is crucial to make sure those resources are reliable and safe - and not providers of ABA or other harmful therapies. For me personally, it is extremely crucial to make sure that all resources are acceptable before they are put on the SOAR resource list. It also of utmost importance for people looking at Autism resources, to make sure they are acceptable and reject resources known to cause harm. This will be necessary until ABA is banned.
[i] https://www.change.org/p/joseph-r-biden-outlaw-aba-therapy [ii] https://autisticstrategies.net/ban-applied-behaviour-analysis-global-disability-summit/ [iii] https://you.leadnow.ca/petitions/ban-autism-conversion-therapy [iv] https://theoxfordcenter.com/news/does-aba-cause-ptsd-in-autistic-individuals/ [v] [vi] https://neuroclastic.com/is-aba-really-dog-training-for-children-a-professional-dog-trainer-weighs-in/ [vii] https://nsadvocate.org/2018/07/11/treating-autism-as-a-problem-the-connection-between-gay-conversion-therapy-and-aba/ [viii] https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/conversion-therapy-is-now-illegal-in-canada-1.5731911#:~:text=That%20means%20that%20now%2C%20anyone,to%20two%20years%20in%20prison.