How 'Fake News' Affects Autism Policy

Mickey Keenan, Karola Dillenburger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)


Since autism was first recognised, prevalence has increased rapidly. The growing economic as well as social cost to families and society can only be mitigated by effective interventions and supports. It is, therefore, not surprising that there is much heated debate and most governments have developed public policies to address the management of autism. This paper
describes how well-known ‘propaganda’ techniques, that have become prevalent in the helping professions have been used to influence autism policies by spreading ‘fake news’ about the scientific discipline of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Over the past 40–50 years, meaningful evidence has accrued showing that interventions based on ABA can help people with autism reach
their potential. In view of this, nearly all of North America has laws to mandate that ABA-based interventions are available through their health care systems. In contrast, across Europe there are no such laws. In fact, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the body guiding health and social policy in the UK, concluded that it could not find any evidence to support ABA, and therefore could not recommend it. This paper addresses the reasons for these
diametrically opposed perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 9 May 2018


  • applied behaviour analysis (ABA); autism; policy; public health; RCT; misinformation; propaganda; fake news


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