Autism Society of America: Pseudoscience, Quackery And Autistic Conversion Therapy Origins #NotAnAutisticAlly


Dr. Bernard Rimland (bearded) in front of the Autism Research Institute. With him are his wife (on the left) Dr. Robert Sands and Kerri Rivera on the right.

Photograph taken by Matt Kabler of the Autism Research Institute and released into the public domain with his permission. | 10 June 2006 (original upload date)




Autism Society of America Origins

The Autism Society of America was founded in 1965 by a parent of an Autistic, and research psychologist, Bernard Rimland with Ivar Lovaas, the founder and pioneer of Conversion Therapy. Conversion therapy is more commonly known as Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA in many non-Autistic communities. Lovaas’ work is also responsible for Gay Conversion Therapy.

Bernard Rimland is noted for his work in dismantling the myth that Autistics were born from “Refrigerator Mothers.” The term came into existence in the 50s and stigmatized parents of Autistics, and parents of children with Schizophrenia. In 1949, psychiatrist Leo Kanner concluded that these children lacked a ‘maternal warmth’ and thus became Autistic or developed schizophrenia. This stigmatized parents greatly. Fortunately, Rimland discredited that theory in the 1970s and broke the ‘cold mother’ scorn these parents suffered.


“All my life I’ve been working with children whose life has been ruined because their mothers hated them.” — Bruno Bettelheim, The Emptry Fortress, 1981

Unfortunately, that’s where the good ends for Autistics with this researcher. Rimland promoted theories on autism, the cause and the cure, that have since been discredited. He founded the Autism Research Institute (ARI) and introduced Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) doctors to the world. These doctors followed Rimland’s belief there was a link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The ‘autism treatments’ offered were sheer quackery. Some of the more well-known ‘alternative’ remedies to ‘heal and recover’ an Autistic child included chelation, bleach marketed as Miracle Mineral Solution, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Worse, DAN! doctors created their own autism assessment test called Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist. Parents often refer to it as ATEC. This evaluation allowed them to ‘diagnose’ autistic children, offer ‘treatments’ to reduce the ‘vaccine harm’ and recover their child to neurotypical.

After these DAN! doctors diagnosed children as being Autistic – they helped these parents ‘recover’ their children from “vaccine injury.” Once these doctors felt the children were ‘recovered’ these children would then lose their autism diagnosis and be “cured.” Most of these children were never fully recovered because … well that would be detrimental to DAN! doctors bank accounts.

Celebrities like Jenny McCarthy touted DAN! and their harmful remedies heavily. They promoted Andrew Wakefield’s fradulent vaccine study, and then invented the big pharma shakedown via vaccines. It’s these types of treatments and doctors that McCarthy said cured her son from being Autistic.

These ‘autism treatments’ are incredibly expensive and aren’t covered by health insurance (no surprise here). After the passage of the Combating Autism Act in 2006, and further state-by-state legislation, they still aren’t. Sadly, many parents went broke trying to fund these pseudoscience treatments in the hope of curing their Autistic child from autism. Many of these treatments have seriously harmed and killed Autistic children and vulnerable adults worldwide. By 2009 it’s estimated that 3/4 of diagnosed Autistic children have been treated by an alternative treatment like the ones promoted by DAN!

Today Autistics and our real allies are still fighting the harm of this movement and people. Most recently you’ll have seen news stories about folks here in the United States facing prosecution for their sales of Miracle Mineral Solution. This was due to the work of Autistic and ally activists worldwide.

The DAN! Protocol was was established in 1995. DAN was shut down in 2011. Though another group has formed and replaced it called Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS). These doctors are under the guidance of Daniel Rossignol, and many autism organizations refer parents to them daily.

The autism organizations involved with lobbying for autism-related legislation via the Combating Autism Act that were part of the anti-vaxxer movement::

Autism Society of America

AutismOne 

Autism Speaks

Generation Rescue 

First Signs

National Autism Association

SafeMinds 

Talk About Curing Autism (TACA)

Unlocking Autism

US Autism and Asperger Association



“You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person int eh physical sense – they have hair, a nose and a mouth – but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but you have to build the person.” — Ivar Lovaas, Founder of ABA

Ivar Lovaas: Founder of Conversion Therapy and Co-Founder of Autism Society of America

Horribly, Bernard Rimland isn’t the only problematic person founding Autism Society of America. Just as disturbing, and maybe even more harmful, is Ivar Lovaas the pioneer of Conversion Therapy – more commonly known as Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA.

It’s Lovaas’ ‘autism therapy’ that insurance companies and Medicaid are now forced to cover due to the lobbying of these autism organizations on the federal and state level.

The autism organizations that were involved in lobbying for autism-related legislation that the Combating Autism Act (CAA) and the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act (ATAA) To Force Insurances to cover ABA:

Autism Society of America

Autism Speaks

First Signs

S.A.F.E. Inc.

Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC)

In 2007, after the passage the Combating Autism Act, the founding family of Autism Speaks, the Wrights, had a huge family fight and daughter, Katie Wright, departed. Though she did continue her brand of anti-vaxxer ‘autism advocacy’ with SafeMinds, Generation Rescue and more recently, Children’s Health Defense.


Has Autism Society of America evolved since the passing of Bernard Rimland and Ivar Lovaas? That I don’t know, but I highly doubt they’ve left their ABA roots behind. I will be researching and sharing about this organization in the future. – but, unless they’ve detracted ABA, this organization is not an Autistic ally.


Note/Warning:

Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid. 

ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.

The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t workIn study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work. 

What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.


The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth. 

The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome. 

This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.


Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.

Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.

Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.








Explore Autistic History

Explore Autistic History

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