Our Commitment to Compassionate and Trauma-Informed Care

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Parenting an autistic child comes with unique challenges and finding the right support for him or her can be one of the most difficult. One approach that has evolved significantly over time is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). The science of ABA has profoundly impacted the lives of autistic individuals by offering a means of communication, teaching adaptive life skills, and enhancing overall quality of life. It is crucial to acknowledge, however, that ABA has not always been practiced using the compassionate and trauma-informed practices of today. Historically, some autistic individuals have faced challenging and distressing experiences in therapy that failed to recognize and respect their unique needs and preferences. Past practices often focused on compliance without prioritizing the individual’s voice or understanding the underlying causes of their behaviours. The concerns raised by autistic individuals about these approaches, lack of autonomy, and the potential for trauma within ABA are valid and deserve attention. As the field evolves and embraces a more person-centered and empathetic approach, it is essential to learn from these experiences, listen to the voices of autistic individuals, and actively work towards creating a therapeutic environment that is sensitive to their diverse needs and experiences. Examples of how clinicians can (and should) be practicing ABA compassionately are discussed in Dr. Greg Hanley’s paper, “A Perspective on Today’s ABA by Dr. Hanley.” (https://practicalfunctionalassessment.com/2021/09/09/a-perspective-on-todays-aba-by-dr-greg-hanley/). At KMBC, we are guided by the same principles and beliefs discussed by Dr. Hanley.

A Compassionate Approach:

Our Board Certified Behaviour Analysts (BCBAs) recognize the importance of listening to your child, understanding their likes, dislikes, and communication styles. Skills are built around your child’s interests and individual goals, rather than a predetermined agenda. This empathetic foundation ensures that therapy is not only effective, but also respectful of your child’s emotional well-being.

Tailored Learning Environments:

We emphasize creating an enjoyable and comfortable learning space. Our clinicians actively collaborate with you and your child to discover what brings them the most joy and use that to make learning fun. This might mean having ABA sessions in the backyard, at the park, or at the library! Our clinicians understand and recognize when motivations change and adapt with your child to maintain their interest.

Empowering Autonomy:

We recognize and prioritize your child’s autonomy. Today’s ABA acknowledges your child’s voice and their right to make choices. We teach and respect your child’s right to say, “no,” and even subtle signs of discomfort are noticed and actively responded to by the clinician. Both of these practices work to build trust between your child and the clinician, allowing for future opportunities to work through the scenarios your child may find challenging.


Clinicians practice through a trauma-informed lens, recognizing the unique challenges each individual has experienced. Previous goals for compliance have shifted to a focus on collaboration and partnership within activities. It is only once trust has been established and upheld that skills can truly be assessed. Our clinicians prioritize building and maintaining that rapport each time they see your child.

Today’s ABA is all about communication, individualized support, and a commitment to understanding your child’s unique needs. Contact us at kmaisels@kerrymaisels.com for more information about how our approach may be right for you.