Ethical Issues with Applied Behavior Analysis: Past and Present (Presented by NJACE)

In this webinar, we review our argument that a dominant form of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which is widely taken to be far-and-away the best “treatment” for Autism Spectrum Disorder, manifests systematic violations of the fundamental tenets of bioethics. Moreover, the supposed benefits of the treatment not only fail to mitigate these violations, but often exacerbate them. Warnings of the perils of ABA are not original to us—autism advocates have been ringing this bell for some years. However, their pleas have been largely unheeded, and ABA continues to be offered to and quite frequently pushed upon parents as the appropriate treatment for autistic children. Our contribution is to argue that, from a bioethical perspective, autism advocates are fully justified in their concerns—the rights of autistic children and their parents are being regularly infringed upon.

Specifically, we will argue that employing ABA violates the principles of justice and nonmaleficence and, most critically, infringes on the autonomy of children and (when pushed aggressively) of parents as well. We discuss some reactions to our article, and conclude with a modern legislative debate regarding the use of ABA in the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts.

Allision M. McCarthy, Ph.D.
Core Faculty, Center of Biomedical Ethics & Society
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Vanderbilt University

Daniel A. Wilkenfeld, Ph.D.
Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Disability, and Bioethics
Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh

For more information and to RSVP, please visit the Facebook Event page. To participate in this webinar, please visit the NJACE YouTube Channel.

This webinar is presented by NJ Autism Center of Excellence.