Letter to academics on ABA

1 October 2021 | Advocacy

This letter followed a meeting between Tania Melnyczuk and academics who are developing an autism awareness programme. It provides an example of how ABA promotors violate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) and mentions the international #BanABA movement.


Just a quick note, something I hadn’t noticed before: I see that you have some recommended reading for students from an ABA source.

Like the vast majority of autistic activists, I am vehemently opposed to ABA. Some of my autistic friends are ABA survivors, while other friends are former ABA practitioners who now campaign against ABA. Many of my friends also suffered lifelong trauma from ABA-like approaches by their parents, leading to estrangement and severe psychological damage. ABA studies do not track these long-term harms.

I understand that some of the research you refer to was done by Prof. Petrus de Vries, who is sponsored by ABA providers, and who has openly promoted becoming an ABA provider to young people as a lucrative career. This may account in part for why you thought it a good idea to include such a link. Prof. de Vries has never provided the requested avenue for autistic people to state their research priorities and to participate in the goals, study design or results interpretation for autism research in South Africa. He does not listen to any autistic activists who are AAC users and survivors of ABA. You will perhaps understand from the information which I provided yesterday on representation and Arnstein’s Ladder why this is a violation of the CRPD; it is not clear, then I can go through the CRPD clause by clause to explain this.

I also understand the extent of the control that the multibillion dollar ABA industry has in the US, and why you may have thought that this source is credible because of their level of influence.

I am part of the international #BanABA movement, and will actively and publicly oppose any attempts by academics, professionals, governments or anyone else to introduce, impose, sponsor or otherwise promote ABA to parents. I have written a letter to Parliament to ask that ABA be explicitly mentioned in the new proposed bill to ban conversion therapies, and I am supported in this by fellow activists locally and internationally, and also by many parents and therapists in South Africa, including members of SASLHA.

If you need detailed training in why ABA is a highly problematic and abusive pseudoscience, and how it violates the CRPD, I can arrange to provide that with an international team of advocates, or provide extensive materials which have been collected by people from the #BanABA movement. The link which I provided to the video on early intervention research would be a good place to begin from an academic and research perspective.

All the best


Autistic Strategies Network