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12/17/19 – ABA, Torture and Abuse: Addressing the Concerns of Autistic Individuals & Advocates *Ethics Webinar*


LIVE Webinar: Tuesday, 12/17/19

Recording Availability: 12/18/2019 – 12/22/2019 

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General Information

Title: ABA, Torture, and Abuse: Addressing the Concerns of Autistic Individuals and Advocates

Presented By: Professor Peter Sturmey

Date: Tuesday, 12/17/19

Time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm eastern (New York)

Recording Availability: 12/18/2019 – 12/22/2019 at 5 pm eastern


Some critics of ABA, including some self-advocates with ASD, reject ABA on grounds of social validity. Specifically, they claim that the goal of changing the behavior of individuals with ASD to be more like that of neurotypical individuals is unethical, and that targeting behavioral excesses, such as stereotypy, and behavioral deficits, such as lack of appropriate eye contact, are invalid goals. Rather, they claim that people should be more tolerant and understanding of diverse behavior. Second, they claim that the methods of ABA, such as positive punishment, and specifically electric shock, are torture not treatment and that ABA methods such as positive reinforcement are also coercive. Finally, they claim that ABA has harmful outcomes such as PTSD and anxiety. BEGIN NEW PARAGRAPH HERE As a more general critique of ABA, autistic individuals claim that ABA does not really understand autism, does not respect individuals with ASD and denies their personal autonomy. This webinar explores these issues, including ethical challenges for autistics, reviews behavior analytic conceptions of autonomy and how they can be applied when working with people with ASD, and identifies possible solutions for how ABA can engage with critics effectively and respectfully.

Learning Objectives

Participant will be able to identify:
1. The ethical critiques of ABA from autistics;
2. The evidence for their claims;
3. Ethical challenges for autistics;
4. Behavior analytic conceptions of autonomy; and
5. Actions the field of ABA and individuals can take to address these concerns.

Presenter Bio and Disclosure Statement

Professor Peter Sturmey is Professor of Psychology at The Graduate Center and the Department of Psychology, Queens College, City University of New York, where he is a member of the Behavior Analysis Doctoral and Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis programs. He specialized in autism and other developmental disabilities, especially in the areas of applied behavior analysis, dual diagnosis, evidence-based practice, and staff and parent training. He is the original resident speaker at ABAC and Chief Scientific Officer at Long Island ABA. He gained his PhD at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom and subsequently taught at the University of the South West (Plymouth) and University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. He then worked for the Texas Department of Mental Retardation from 1990-2000 as Chief Psychologist, first at Abilene then San Antonio State Schools during a federal class action lawsuit. There he supervised behavioral services and masters level psychologists, providing behavior support plans for severe behavioral and psychiatric disorders in adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities, and implementing large-scale active treatment and restraint reduction programs. Professor Sturmey has published 25 edited and authored books, over 210 peer reviewed papers, and over 60 book chapters. He provides webinars on ABA to qualified professionals and others on a regular basis. He has made numerous presentations nationally and internationally, including recent presentations in Canada, Brazil, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy. He has an active lab of graduate and undergraduate students working on developing and evaluating effective and efficient ways of training caregivers using modeling and feedback to use applied behavior analysis with children and adults with autism and other disabilities. He provides training and consultations widely.


Peter Sturmey is co-author or editor of books mentioned during the presentation. He receives royalties from the sale of the books. He also receives speaker and consultation fees for this and other related presentations.

Continuing Ed. Information

Certified/Licensed Behavior Analysts: 3 Type II ETHICS CEUs
Psychologists: 3 ethics continuing education credits
Social workers and counselors: Not eligible
Only behavior analysts and psychologists may view the recording for continuing education credit. All other professions must attend live.For ABAC’s continuing education approvals statements please view our Continuing Education page


10:00 am: Introduction
10:05 am: Webinar begins
11:30 am: 10 minute break
11:40 am: First Q&A session
11:50 am: Webinar resumes
12:45 pm: Second Q&A session
1:00 pm: Evaluation, post-test and attendance code submission forms