Ethical Issues in ABA-based Service Provision for Autism in Limited-Resource Contexts: A Case Example of the People’s Republic of China


Applied Behavior Analysis

Document Type


Publication Source

Behavior Analysis in Practice

Publication Date



Recommendations for intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) focus on early, intensive, and often individual intervention based on methods of applied behavior analysis. In much of the world, there are few options for early intervention. This article examines this question: in a context where intensive and high staff-to-student ratio intervention is not possible, how can provision of high-quality evidence-based intervention be ensured? We consider the case of China, where intervention for young children with autism is provided at diverse educational organizations, and funding limitations impact teacher-to-student ratio. Due to challenges, rigorous use of evidence-based methods often lags behind best practices. This article presents an ethical analysis of the choices educators face and research-based recommendations consistent with the ethical analysis. Given the current context, we recommend a socially valid approach of systematically using group instruction based on ABA principles to increase the effectiveness and intensity of each aspect of intervention programs. While focused on the case of China, recommendations and analysis have implications for other settings with limited resources.


Autism, ethics, China, group instruction, applied behavior analysis