WOW! I am not a fan of Morton Ann Gernsbacher and her positions on ABA and autism but I have never seen anyone thoroughly, systematically and candidly dissect and demolish her criticisms of ABA as Edward K. Morris of the University of Kansas has done in an article published in The Behavior Analyst and posted at Paul Coyne's site. The title of the article gets right to the point: A Case Study in the Misrepresentation of Applied Behavior Analysis in Autism: The Gernsbacher Lectures. Morris pulls no punches and states with respect to Gernsbacher's ABA criticisms that :
Sentiment against applied behavior analysis is not, of course, necessarily anti science. No matter what Gernsbacher’s sentiments may be, her achievements are anything but anti science.What stunned me, then, was how she reached her conclusions: She inaccurately represented research reviews, wrongly characterized applied behavior-analytic interventions, misleadingly appealed to history, inaccurately conveyed research designs, selectively omitted research results, and incorrectly interpreted intervention outcomes. Although misrepresentations often only a minor nuisance in science, they can have harmful consequences, which I believe hers did (and do), both locally and more broadly.
The local consequences included misinforming KU’s community members about ABA-EIBI; hundreds of KU students about a science of behavior and its application; current and prospective ABS majors about course of study at KU (and careers); and KU staff, faculty, and administrators about scholarship in a department renowned for its research in applied behavior analysis. The broader consequences include Gernsbacher’s probable influence on behavioral, social, and cognitive scientists who teach, conduct research, and provide services in autism; funding agencies and foundations who set priorities and allocate resources for autism research and applications; and state and federal agencies that set standards for autism services and funding. She has standing and stature in most, if not all, of these venues: in APS, of course, but also in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where she is a psychology section member at large, and in the National Science Foundation (NSF), where she is on the Advisory Committee for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. Although Gernsbacher surely gained these highly respected positions by conducting first-rate science, the hallmarks of her science were largely absent in this section of her lecture.
Morris sent a copy of his critique of her ABA positions to Gernsbacher before publishing the article. Morris reports that after she received the article Gersnbacher continued to make the same misrepresentations of ABA which ... if she read the article ... might suggest that she did so knowingly. He invited her to participate in a symposium on the evidence for the efficacy of ABA- EIBI. She declined.
Morris offers his primary rationale for his devastating critique of Gernsbacher's ABA criticisms:
Mainly, though, I wrote it for the families of children with autism and, ultimately, for those children who need and deserve evidence-based treatments, of which ABA-EIBI so far has the best support. Unfortunately, many parents are dissuaded from using it by misinformed, misguided, or misleading advocates of other approaches. As a result, they often use these approaches until they see their children’s poor progress. When they begin using ABA-EIBI to good effect, they speak of their great regret and guilt for not having used it earlier, when their children had the most to gain and the most time to make those gains. The opportunity cost of not using ABA-EIBI, or any equally effective intervention, is that their children will be delayed in achieving their full potential or never achieve it at all. As a result, their children will need more supportive services and institutionalization later into their lives and perhaps for the rest of their lives at significant personal and social costs to them, and financial costs to us all. This is a crime.