ABA therapy is a controversial field of psychological therapy. It trains an autistic person to behave in a socially-acceptable manner. Such training is extremely onerous for some autistic individuals. The therapy is often used on the minors, or other disabled persons, who are often unable to indicate consent.

There is a number of reports like this or this saying "Court ordered ABA" is a thing. I.e. the court may force impose ABA therapy. What legal regime gives courts the power to impose this controversial therapy on kids and disabled?

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    In what jurisdiction?
    – bdb484
    Jun 13, 2021 at 18:20
  • 6
    I get that you think there is some injustice and you want to speak out against it, but this site's purpose is to learn about existing laws.... not to be a bulletin board for activism. I'll try to make some edits to make the question less inflammatory. Bottom line question should always be "what does the law happen to be", not "what should the law be?" If my edits are too far from what you meant to say, please, let me know and I'll revert back.
    – grovkin
    Jun 13, 2021 at 18:32
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    @wizzwizz4 I would be against that edit. It (1) adds content not mentioned by the original author (e.g "stimming") (2) attributes motivations to those administering the training in a manner which is likely to be inflammatory (i.e.. by switching the goal from "socially-accepetable behavior" to "consistent with.. non-autistic.."). The (2) creates the impression that the goals of the training are arbitrary rather than well-meaning, but potentially harmful. And (3) it substantially changes the inquiry itself from being about legal theory (i.e. courts' powers) to being about jurisdiction.
    – grovkin
    Jun 14, 2021 at 23:35
  • @grovkin Thanks.
    – wizzwizz4
    Jun 15, 2021 at 10:57

2 Answers 2


In the US, it stems from some statute, such as RCW Ch. 71.05 in Washington state, which starts by stating the rationale for the law, and which are to protect the health and safety of persons suffering from behavioral health disorders and to protect public safety, and prevent inappropriate commitment of persons living with behavioral disorders and to eliminate legal disabilities that arise from involuntary commitment etc. The various laws in this chapter make it possible to commit a person to a mental institute or to undergo involuntary therapy. There is a separate chapter, RCW 71.34, applicable to minors.

In general, this law calls for professional evaluation and treatment, without legislating science. The trigger is generally evidence of a tendency towards serious harm or grave disability, with a requirement that the action be requested by a certain kind of behavioral professional. There are not many hard-coded limits on what can be ordered: while RCW 71.05.215 "has a right to refuse antipsychotic medication", that right is overridden when "it is determined that the failure to medicate may result in a likelihood of serious harm or substantial deterioration or substantially prolong the length of involuntary commitment and there is no less intrusive course of treatment than medication in the best interest of that person".

Along with the legislation cited, there are also regulations which don't require legislative action (they are "empowered" by the statutes), which could specifically forbid a treatment, but again choice of treatments are left to the professional. In some other jurisdiction, it's possible that a certain treatment would be explicitly outlawed.


Involuntary commitment or civil commitment is a legal process through which an individual with symptoms of severe mental illness is court-ordered into treatment in a hospital (inpatient) or in the community (outpatient).

The rules and provisions about involuntory commitment greatly varies countrywise.

Although involuntory commitment is meant for mental illness, it is often used for autism, which seems to be unintended or illegal.

Florida’s Baker Act directs police officers and some mental health professionals to hospitalize the mentally ill, but it was never intended to be used on children with autism or children who act out in class. The 48-year-old law even says those with developmental disabilities should not be committed unless they’re also mentally ill and a danger to themselves or others.

But more and more kids who do not meet the criteria are being taken from schools to crisis centers for up to 72 hours and more.

-- An autistic child melts down. An officer makes a decision. A family suffers the consequences.

A similar schism is emerging across mental disability communities: scientists and psychiatric providers who focus on research, treatment, and control on one side; neurodivergent activists, many of whom have experienced involuntary commitment and coercive treatments on another. The former view conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder as medical problems to be solved, with the latter often claiming “madness” as part of their identity while still seeking relief and support in managing the negative aspects. (Opinions vary, of course; many people don’t view their mental disability as part of their identity.) --- Autism Is an Identity, Not a Disease: Inside the Neurodiversity Movement

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    I don't see how this even attempts to answer the question of how a court may gain the authority to order ABA.
    – grovkin
    Jun 15, 2021 at 6:58
  • @grovkin Thank you i did my best. Do i need to delete the answer?
    – user38614
    Jun 15, 2021 at 17:13

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