Ontario’s autistic-led advocacy group, Autistics for Autistics, strongly condemns the Government of Ontario for allocating $7.5 million to train provincial teachers in using a bogus autism “therapy” known as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).
On behalf of the autistic children of Ontario, we ask the Government of Ontario to de-fund this wasteful and abusive program now.
About ABA and Ontario education policy
- Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) was founded by O. Ivor Lovaas, a behaviourist who also co-founded gay conversion therapy.
- Much like gay conversion therapy, ABA is based on an “aversive” system to attempt to train children to comply with ABA providers (known as BCBAs). Aversives may range from denying play time to electroshocks.
- A year of ABA can cost $30,000-$90,000 per child. In contrast, inclusion-based alternatives to ABA are affordable and sustainable.
- ABA-based school programs have been sued for human rights abuses in Canada, including high-profile cases in Alberta and Ontario.
- When surveyed, autistic people consistently oppose ABA. In a recent survey of 3,431 autistics, just 5% supported ABA. ABA is also rejected by many parents, teachers, autism experts and therapists.
- Ontario’s association of ABA providers (ONTABA) hired the Pathway Group. The Bay Street lobbying firm targeted specific Members of Provincial Parliament who make budget decisions.
- ONTABA opposes equitable funding for non-ABA supports such as Occupational Therapy, Speech Language Pathology, nor AAC technologies for non-speaking children. In fact, BCBAs have lobbied to get all of the funding for their own industry, including shutting other therapists out of Ontario schools.
- While BCBAs argue that ABA is “the only way,” ABA is rarely used outside of the US and Canada. In the United Kingdom, ABA is not generally used nor funded because the Health Service doesn’t support services that are not evidence-based.
What the research says about ABA
- Research and retrospective reviews of ABA research show no evidence of benefit for ABA.
- Conflicts of interest are pervasive in ABA research, with more than 70% of research being done by persons with a financial stake in positive outcomes.
- ABA research design is flawed, with small sample sizes, absence of RCTs, detection bias and typically no assessment of risks or adverse events.
- There are many negative impacts to ABA, which are only recently being researched.
- See Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Adverse event reporting in intervention research for young autistic children); Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal; Advances in Autism, McGill & Robinson.
- Shkedy et al. note: “ABA therapists with evidently no training in human psychology or child development are engaging maltreatment incompatible with any formal education or knowledge regarding current research. … A therapist is duty bound to Do No Harm, and yet by these very actions [they] are causing more harm.”
- ABA does not improve quality of life and there is no compelling evidence to continue funding it. For more information, please see our research review and our report on the ethical issues with ABA.
Questions for policymakers
Ontario policymakers and educators need to ask themselves some hard questions
- When the very people being supposedly “served” by a therapy organize against it in such numbers and with such passion, is it ethical to provincially fund ABA?
- With no evidence of benefit, clear evidence of harm and parent demand for alternatives, is there any rational reason to invest in ABA?
Government of Ontario:Please reach out to autistic-led advocacy organizations so that we can connect you to better approaches to autism services and policy. Do what’s right. De-fund ABA now.