FIRST, WHAT IS ABA?
ABA therapy was developed in the 1960s by a man named Ivar Lovaas.
The original form of ABA therapy used physical abuse as liberally as loving reinforcement. I don’t want to get too deep into its dark history, so unfortunately you will have to go elsewhere for that (“good” news is there are plenty of resources).
“In short, the original forms of ABA amounted to physical and mental abuse done by adults to autistc kids. Some punishments included slapping children in the face and electric shocks.”
Things have since changed, cutting out all or most forms of physical abuse, and it’s now claimed to be a humane and effective treatment for autism. However, we have countless accounts of adults who have gone through ABA therapy and their experiences say otherwise.
Today, ABA makes use of operant conditioning to stop or create certain behaviors in response to prompts. ABA therapy is recommended at 40 hours a week, often in addition to school and sometimes more if parents implement it at home. In treatment, autistic kids learn how to comply with the therapist’s expectations of them. Therapists encourage compliance by offering rewards, such as snacks, candies and attention, but also punishments, like taking away toys, ignoring the child, and sometimes even actions like squirting the child in the face with water (something I’ve found purely ineffective on pets, so why would it work on a person?).