5 Red Flags on ABA Therapy that Parents Need to be aware of

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a widely used approach to support individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While ABA can yield positive outcomes, it’s crucial for parents to be aware of potential concerns. In this article, we will explore red flags in ABA therapy, including issues related to long hours, forced eye contact, ownership structures, restrictions on stimming, and signs that a child may be uncomfortable. We have previously captured some of these in the narrated aba therapy horror stories here.

  1. Extended Therapy Hours: ABA therapy sessions are generally structured, but excessively long hours can be detrimental. If your child’s therapy sessions seem extended beyond what is reasonable for their age and attention span, it may lead to fatigue and reduced engagement.

  1. Forced Eye Contact: ABA therapy should be flexible and respectful of individual comfort levels. If therapists insist on forced eye contact, it could be distressing for some children with autism who may find direct eye contact uncomfortable or overwhelming.

  1. Corporate Ownership and Profit Motives: Some ABA therapy centers are owned by hedge funds or corporations, potentially influencing the focus on profitability over the well-being of the children. Parents should be aware of the ownership structure and ensure that the primary focus is on providing quality care.

  1. Restriction on Stimming: Stimming (self-stimulatory behaviors) is a natural and often comforting practice for many individuals with autism. If the ABA program enforces a strict prohibition on stimming without considering its purpose or impact on the child’s well-being, it might be a cause for concern.

  1. Visible Signs of Discomfort: Pay close attention to your child’s behavior during and after therapy sessions. If your child appears frightened, consistently unhappy, or expresses a strong aversion to the therapist, it’s crucial to investigate the reasons behind their discomfort.

  1. Hesitancy or Fear of the Therapist: If your child displays signs of fear or discomfort specifically towards the therapist, it’s essential to address this issue promptly. The therapeutic relationship should be built on trust and understanding.

While ABA therapy has shown positive results for many individuals with autism, it’s essential for parents to be vigilant and advocate for their child’s well-being. If any of these red flags are present, consider discussing your concerns openly with the therapy team. A collaborative approach, where parents and therapists work together to create a supportive and flexible environment, is key to the success of ABA therapy. Always prioritize your child’s comfort, individual needs, and emotional well-being throughout the therapy process.