Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Autism and ABA: Morris's (Unanswered) Challenge to Gernsbacher Will Be Featured at CalABA Annual Conference 2010

Edward K. Morris is scheduled to give what should be a fascinating keynote speech at the 28th Annual Regional Conference of the California Association for Behavior Analysis. Professor Morris's topic will be The Gernsbacher Lectures: Cut Aways, Outtakes, and Bloopers - and Essentialism. The CalABA conference is scheduled for February 18 to 20, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine California.

Professor Morris published a scathing article in the Behavior Analyst, A Case Study in the Misrepresentation of Applied Behavior Analysis in Autism: The Gernsbacher Lectures, in which he thoroughly, systematically and candidly dissected and demolished her criticisms of ABA. To my knowledge Professor Gernsbacher has not provided a public reply to Professor Morris's challenge.

Professor Morris's speech at the CalABA conference should be interesting. Hopefully Professor Gernsbacher will attend and reply, or at least offer a public rebuttal in some forum, to explain her anti-ABA crusades in light of what appears to be a devastating challenge to her opinions from Professor Morris.

Gernsbacher has influenced people, helping to turn some parents and professionals away from ABA as an intervention for autism, one recognized by state agencies, the Association for Science in Autism Treatment, the US Surgeon General and the AAP as the most empirically validated autism intervention to date. Having done so, she should back up her views in public debate with an informed and capable opponent of her views. .... if she can.

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KA said...

Ask Edward Morris why there has been no research published on long term adult outcomes from early ABA? I'm not talking about teen outcomes, but adults, the 30 and 40 year olds that were subject to the initial research and formulation of ABA techniques popularized by Lovaas.

Unknown said...


That is an interesting question but does not really address the point of this comment.

Do you not think that someone like Professor Gernsbacher who has crusaded against ABA, and presumably, turned many parents and professionals away from ABA should be able to provide a direct rebuttal to Professor Morris?

I think she should back up her position or refrain from further commentary that might dissuade parents from seeking for their autistic children the intervention that is consistently evaluated as the most evidence validated intervention for autism.

KA said...

I don't think Gernsbacher's beliefs are all that unusual from my experience. I've had many neurologists, developmental pediatricians and others in university settings say basically the same thing she has. Noam Chomsky believed Skinner was wrong. I don't think there is a huge controversy in what he wrote that she said.

Lovaas has never been replicated outside of a researcher that was either a student of Lovaas or worked for and with Lovaas.

Having said the above, I do believe ABA is effective at teaching some basic skills.

Unknown said...


Whether the exact numbers and findings of the Lovaas study have been duplicated exactly by people with no connection to Ivar Lovaas does not address the critique provided by Professor Morris.

Perhaps, since you are supportive of Professor Gernsbacher, and since she appears reluctant to answer the Morris critique you could publish a serious reply to Professor Morris article on her behalf. One in which you address all the points raised.

ABA is the most evidence backed intervention for autistic children, bar none. It has been the subject of hundreds of studies which have been reviewed by many responsible authorities.

Professor Gernsbacher has, according to Professor Morris, resulted in parents and professionals forgoing this evidence based intervention for some autistic children.

As an ethical matter I believe she should come down from her mountain top and reply to the charge.