In The Politics of Autism, I write:
As long as government funds so much research, politics will shape the questions that scientists ask and determine the kinds of research that receive funding. Politics will even influence which scientists the policymakers will believe and which findings will guide public policy. In the end, science cannot tell us what kinds of outcomes we should want. ABA “works” in the sense that it helps some autistic people become more like their typically developing peers. Most parents regard such an outcome as desirable, but not all people on the spectrum agree.
IDEA is clear in affirming the importance of parent-school collaboration in education programming for students with disabilities. And when it comes to meeting the needs of children and adolescents with ASD, the research shows that this collaboration should include not just parents and teachers but also ABA-trained therapists and healthcare providers. While therapists will be the ones to provide the ABA services, the research also suggests that teachers and other school staff should receive some basic training in this approach, so that they know how best to support their students.
But while we have strong evidence as to the benefits of applied behavioral analysis, researchers have not yet provided much guidance on the best ways to manage these partnerships, provide the necessary professional development, and deliver school-based ABA effectively and efficiently, perhaps lowering the cost of these interventions. Whether parents or school districts ultimately prevail in litigation over ABA services, cost concerns will likely remain front and center for school system leaders — not only because they might be forced to provide expensive services but also because the lawsuits themselves tend to be quite expensive (Decker & Hurwitz, 2018). All the more reason for researchers and policy makers to work together to find smart, evidence-based ways to deliver high-quality ABA-based services at a lower cost. All of us — students, parents, teachers, ABA providers, school and district leaders, and policy makers — share a vested interest in doing so.
[Re-upping from 6/20/21] Justin B. Leaf and colleagues have an article at The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders titled "Concerns About ABA-Based Intervention: An Evaluation and Recommendations."
For over 50 years, intervention methods informed by the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) have been empirically researched and clinically implemented for autistics/individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Despite the plethora of evidence for the effectiveness of ABA-based interventions, some autism rights and neurodiversity activists have expressed concerns with ABA-based interventions. Concerns have included discontent with historical events and possible harm from the procedures and goals targeted. The purpose of this manuscript is to examine some expressed concerns about ABA-based intervention and suggest productive ways of moving forward to provide the best outcomes for autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD. The authors represent stakeholders from multiple sectors including board certified behavior analysts, licensed psychologists, parents, and autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD.