An Open Letter to ASHA Regarding the new BCS-AAC and BCS-ASD Certifications18 min read

To the Board and Members of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA),

We are writing this open letter today because we are deeply con­cerned that ASHA’s guide­lines for pro­viding speech-language pathol­o­gist (SLP) ser­vices to the autistic pop­u­la­tion, of which we are mem­bers, are being increas­ingly influ­enced by the prin­ci­ples and pro­po­nents of behav­iorism to the detri­ment of con­sumers.

Our first con­cern cen­ters around the assump­tions and ethics employed by the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) industry. These include the industry’s reliance on the out­dated notion that autism is pri­marily “behav­ioral” in nature; the dubious sci­en­tific evi­dence the industry cites to try to val­i­date its prac­tices; the ques­tion­able actions of industry founders and leaders, including Ivar Lovaas; the emerging evi­dence — dis­counted or ignored by the industry — that ABA results in trauma; and the industry’s con­tin­uing dis­missal of the autistic com­mu­nity when any of the above con­cerns are raised.

Our second con­cern regards the influ­ence of behav­iorism within ASHA itself. This is evi­denced in sev­eral recent ASHA deci­sions: (1) the cre­ation of a spe­cialty cre­den­tial in autism requiring knowl­edge of ABA; (2) the cre­ation of a spe­cialty cre­den­tial in aug­men­ta­tive and alter­na­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion (AAC) requiring knowl­edge of ABA; (3) the pro­vi­sion of dis­pro­por­tionate speaking time to BCBAs at the upcoming 2019 ASHA Convention; and (4) the posi­tion state­ments spear­headed by BCBAs and adopted by ASHA in 2018 on Facilitated Communication (FC) and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM).

Our third con­cern cen­ters around the dis­re­gard ASHA appears to have for autistic con­sumers. Moving for­ward, we encourage ASHA to acknowl­edge autistic people as the pri­mary stake­holders in their own treat­ment and care; to ensure the involve­ment of autistic people, par­tic­u­larly neu­ro­di­ver­gent SLPs, when making deci­sions that affect them; and to recon­sider the direc­tion ASHA appears to be moving on the use of ABA in SLP ser­vice pro­vi­sion.

Ethical concerns about behaviorism and the ABA industry

Over the past sev­eral years, we have observed the ABA industry gaining ground within ASHA. By allowing this to happen, your asso­ci­a­tion has empow­ered those who hold fast to an increasingly-outdated def­i­n­i­tion of the autism spec­trum, largely ignoring research that con­firms what autistic people have always known: autism is not behav­ioral.

Advances in the field of autism are led not by ABA prac­ti­tioners, but by those psy­chol­o­gists, researchers, speech-language ther­a­pists, and other pro­fes­sionals who have lis­tened to and col­lab­o­rated with the autistic pop­u­la­tion. They have acknowl­edged strengths and weak­nesses of the autistic neu­rotype and explored the poten­tial for dys­reg­u­la­tion in motor plan­ning and sen­sory expe­ri­ences.

While behavior mod­i­fi­ca­tion may pro­vide “quick fixes” to behav­ioral issues, con­clu­sions sup­porting ABA as a therapy are weak; self-citations in research are high; and there are no long-term studies of out­comes or well-being. Further, the autistic com­mu­nity has long con­sid­ered ABA to be an abu­sive “con­ver­sion therapy” that pri­or­i­tizes com­pli­ance over autonomy. Emerging research con­firms the poten­tial for trauma in those exposed to it.

Not only does the behav­iorism industry refuse to acknowl­edge these con­cerns, it is also guilty of enabling much more egre­gious abuse.

At its March 2019 con­fer­ence, the Association for Behavioral Analysis International offi­cially endorsed the use of elec­tric shock as an aver­sive at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, the only res­i­den­tial facility to still use this bar­baric form of “treat­ment” in the United States. The BACB Code of Ethics allows for “eth­ical” use of pun­ish­ment, including elec­tric shock “therapy” that is admin­is­tered by the Judge Rotenberg Center with its GED, or grad­u­ated elec­tronic decel­er­ator. The GED device is used as “aver­sive con­di­tioning,” in which an elec­tric shock is admin­is­tered when an unde­sired behavior or reac­tion is dis­played by a JRC patient.

Most autistic-led edu­ca­tion and self-advocacy orga­ni­za­tions are dia­met­ri­cally opposed to behav­ioral therapy as a treat­ment for autism.

Cassie Crosman, ABA sur­vivor and autistic self-advocate, says the fol­lowing about ABA and Lovaas:

ABA is legal­ized abuse of autistic people. It strips autistic people of their autonomy and is based on strict com­pli­ance. It focuses on autistic people adhering to desired expec­ta­tions and social norms. It pathol­o­gizes and pun­ishes autistic behav­iors. It is the begin­ning of a life­time of pain and trauma for many autistic chil­dren who grow up to be autistic adults with inter­nal­ized ableism and PTSD as a result of sub­jec­tion to strict com­pli­ance ABA therapy. There is nothing eth­ical, ben­e­fi­cial, or humane about ABA.

Lovaas, the founding father of ABA, did not even view autistic people as real people in the “psy­cho­log­ical sense,” and ABA is based on the ableist idea that autistic people are not real people, but have to be built, shaped, and “cor­rected” by ABA tech­niques.

Autistic self-advocate Cordelia Hecker says of hearing Lovaas’s name:

I feel creeped out right away. That man [Lovaas] was a mon­ster. He should be made the vil­lain in a horror movie.

Autistic self-advocate John Adams had this to say:

When I hear his [Lovaas’s] name I think of those atti­tudes that burnt people of dif­fer­ence at stakes, called dis­abled people worth­less eaters, and gath­ered people in camps to kill them. His name makes me cry, espe­cially because & for all those people who may have been hurt because of his words.

To see more of how autistic people react to the name, Ivar Lovaas, see this thread on Twitter.

The June 2019 annual report on the Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) pro­vided by the United States Secretary of Defense reports that “existing research data con­tinues to be insuf­fi­cient to effec­tively deter­mine whether ABA ser­vices result in clin­ical improve­ment of chil­dren diag­nosed with ASD. The research lit­er­a­ture avail­able regarding ABA ser­vices pre­dom­i­nantly con­sists of single-case design studies which does not meet cri­teria for “reli­able evi­dence” under TRICARE stan­dards.” It addi­tion­ally states that “the clin­ical effi­cacy doc­u­mented in the lit­er­a­ture does not meet the American Medical Association Evidence Based Medicine stan­dards for Category 1 codes.”

A Cochrane review of the evi­dence of early inten­sive behav­ioral inter­ven­tion (updated to 2017) con­cluded that, “There is weak evi­dence that EIBI may be an effec­tive behav­ioral treat­ment for some chil­dren with ASD; the strength of the evi­dence in this review is lim­ited because it mostly comes from small studies that are not of the optimum design. Due to the inclu­sion of non-randomized studies, there is a high risk of bias and we rated the overall quality of evi­dence as ‘low’ or ‘very low’ using the GRADE system.”

Applied Behavioral Analysis does not have suf­fi­cient research to define it as an “evi­dence based” prac­tice and its wide­spread use con­tinues to harm autistic people. Is this merger with the respectable field of speech pathology a bid by behavior ana­lysts to draw from the rich body of evi­dence val­i­dating SLP tech­niques? Do they hope to, by proxy, become an actually-evidence-based best prac­tice?

Influence of behaviorism within ASHA

A recent announce­ment from ASHA promises a coming spe­cialty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in autism.

As a brand new Specialty Certification Board within the Clinical Specialty Certification pro­gram, the AB-ASD will pro­vide SLPs—who have achieved advanced knowl­edge, skills, and exper­tise beyond the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP)—the chance to earn a for­mal­ized cre­den­tial reflecting that accom­plish­ment in the area of autism spec­trum dis­or­ders (ASD).

The SLP Neurodiversity Collective pub­lished a peti­tion calling into ques­tion the trans­parency and ethics of the Board Certified Specialist in Autism Spectrum Disorders (BSC-ASD) com­mittee. According to the peti­tion, which has been signed by over 3000 people to date, the ASHA Community Autism Group announced on 9/20/19 that the BSC-ASD:

“…absolutely is a board cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in the area of Autism that covers ALL com­pe­ten­cies spe­cific to SLP’se (sic) that we should have in order to word (sic) effec­tively with indi­vid­uals with autism spec­trum dis­order. This will include knowl­edge of many com­po­nents of applied behavior analysis…”

Lewis Golinker, a dis­ability attorney who founded the Assistive Technology Law Center, and who is a director at USSAAC, brought up these points with ASHA SIG-12 mem­bers in regards to the pending BCS-AAC, which also has sig­nif­i­cant oppo­si­tion from ASHA-certified SLPs and the public. Golinker has 35 years of expe­ri­ence helping fam­i­lies obtain med­ical cov­erage for dis­ability ser­vices. Most of the con­cerns raised by Golinker are reit­er­ated at the newly-formed web­site, StopAACcertification.org, and can be read by clicking here.

So what is ASHA’s ratio­nale for rolling out this ASD cer­ti­fi­ca­tion? According to ASHA’s bul­letin:

Across a variety of work set­tings, con­sumers often seek the ser­vices of a pro­fes­sional with “expert” status, and employers are looking for staff who demon­strate that they have spe­cial­ized clin­ical exper­tise at an advanced level. Board cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­vides evi­dence that you have earned that status.

When you become a Board Certified Specialist in Autism (BCS-ASD), you will join a net­work of out­standing pro­fes­sionals who share your inter­ests and expe­ri­ence. And, the BCS-ASD will pro­vide an addi­tional cre­den­tial for career advance­ment in the job set­ting.

The inau­gural board of the AB-ASD have been working toward com­pleting a detailed prac­tice analysis study to use its data to define the respon­si­bil­i­ties of the CCC-SLP, BCS-ASD. It is antic­i­pated that the BCS-ASD cre­den­tial will be avail­able by late 2019 or early 2020.

E‑mail lynnkoegel@gmail.com to find out more about joining this highly skilled group of spe­cial­ists!

CCC-SLPs already have expert status. This spe­cial­ized “autism” cer­ti­fi­ca­tion isn’t med­ical; it’s behav­ioral. It’s ABA. This is a fur­ther sur­render of autistic phys­ical autonomy and emo­tional well-being to a therapy model that most (almost all) of us con­sider to be abu­sive and a vio­la­tion of our human rights. This is a sur­render to the preda­tory ABA industry.

The inau­gural American Board of Autism Spectrum Disorders (AB-ASD) is headed by Lynn Koegel, co-founder of Pivotal Response Treatment, an ABA-based therapy. Her hus­band, Robert Koegel, was a pro­tégé of one of modern ABA’s chief pio­neers, Ivar Lovaas, who was also a pio­neer of gay con­ver­sion therapy. To autistic people, “Lovaas” is syn­ony­mous with tor­ture, abuse, and era­sure.

While pro­po­nents of ABA con­tinue to dis­miss argu­ments against ABA with claims that Lovaas was not the founder of ABA or that he rep­re­sented a dated form of the cur­rent iter­a­tion of ABA, that argu­ment does not hold water when the Koegels are so deeply entrenched in the world of ABA.

In the peti­tion from the SLP Neurodiversity Collective, the fol­lowing is cited in a list of con­cerns about the new cer­ti­fi­ca­tion:

The entire BCS-ASD Committee and its plans for this cer­ti­fi­ca­tion are con­cealed from dues paying ASHA mem­bers, despite mul­tiple requests from for trans­parency. The com­mittee mem­bers were made to sign non-disclosure agree­ments, and the com­mittee has obfus­cated their deci­sions of this cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process as require­ments are being deter­mined.

Further, StopAACcertification.org expresses the fol­lowing sim­ilar con­cerns regarding the BCS-AAC:

  • The AAC Specialty Certification Board is moving ahead with their undis­closed process. SIG 12 mem­bers were given no infor­ma­tion about where money is coming from to hire lawyers to draft agree­ments or do any work that is not vol­un­teer work.
  • There are grants to sup­port the work through the CSCC, but the CSCC won’t say who is on their own com­mittee or what the process is for get­ting the money or where that money ulti­mately comes from.

Why is infor­ma­tion about such impor­tant deci­sions as these two spe­cialty board cer­ti­fi­ca­tions being with­held from the dues-paying SLPs of ASHA? More impor­tantly, how did ASHA specif­i­cally form the board cer­ti­fi­ca­tion com­mittee for each spe­cialty and why are both processes sim­i­larly non-transparent?

Is ASHA’s Special Interest Group 12 (SIG-12) aware that adding a higher tier of cre­den­tials spe­cific to autism will likely force insur­ance com­pa­nies to require that this new qual­i­fi­ca­tion be used in the treat­ment of autism, forcing CCC-SLPs who object to ABA on moral and eth­ical grounds to lose access to autistic clients?

Of course they are.

The SLP Neurodiversity Collective’s peti­tion also calls to ques­tion con­flicts of interest and inquires who profits or ben­e­fits from ASHA’s lack of trans­parency:

There appear to be poten­tial finan­cial con­flicts of interest with the person in charge of the BCS-ASD com­mittee. There may be more finan­cial con­flicts of interest by other mem­bers who are SLP-BCBAs, but we may never know, as the rest of the com­mittee mem­bers are a secret to us dues paying ASHA mem­bers, and they have signed non-disclosure agree­ments. Will the pur­suit of a BCS-ASD channel more money into the therapy pro­grams they sell? Their books? Their speaking engage­ments? Who exactly ben­e­fits from the secrecy? Certainly not SLPs who are pro-neu­ro­di­verse and anti-ABA. Definitely not Autistic people.

Are these com­mittee mem­bers the same people respon­sible for this new pub­li­ca­tion, ABA for SLPs, the same ones on ASHA’s decision-making com­mittee? Koegel, of course, is among the names. In fact, many of the names in this book are those most widely regarded by the autistic com­mu­nity, and espe­cially non-speaking autis­tics and their fam­i­lies, as being the most aggres­sively antag­o­nistic and dam­aging to autis­tics. The price tag on this book is $54.95.

Will Nikia Dower ben­efit?

 

Conflict of Interest
An oppo­si­tion between the pri­vate inter­ests and the offi­cial or pro­fes­sional respon­si­bil­i­ties of a person in a posi­tion of trust, power, and/or authority.

‑ASHA Ethics Code

 

On the heels of these coming spe­cialty cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, we have also noted that nearly 20 BCBAs are pre­senting at ASHA’s 2019 con­ven­tion on sub­jects such as lan­guage, feeding dis­or­ders, and trauma-informed care. SLPs, by default, are already qual­i­fied on these sub­jects. Education in learning methods and applied behav­ioral analysis to become a BCBA does not require any knowl­edge of these sub­jects, while a degree in Speech-Language Pathology does. Why are non-SLP BCBAs being granted pre­sen­ta­tion space by ASHA when an SLP could do it better?

The last area of behav­ioral influ­ence in ASHA comes in the form of the posi­tions on Facilitated Communication and Rapid Prompting Method pub­lished in 2018.

The ASHA web­site describes the ad hoc com­mittee as “including researchers and prac­ti­tioners in speech-language pathology or related pro­fes­sions who are knowl­edge­able about Facilitated Communication and the Rapid Prompting Method (FC and RPM).”

What it doesn’t say is that four out of five of these com­mittee mem­bers– Bronwyn Hemsley, Russell Lang, Ralf Schlosser, and Howard Shane (all except the chair of the com­mittee)– are out­spoken critics of both methods and had already pub­lished lit­er­a­ture in col­lab­o­ra­tion with behav­ior­ists, focusing almost entirely on tests com­pleted in con­trolled set­tings and com­pletely dis­missing any of the evi­dence to the con­trary.

These were not SLPs who had expe­ri­ence teaching the method and who reg­u­larly engaged with people who com­mu­ni­cate with them. They were people who had already made up their minds about the effi­cacy of the methods years before the com­mittee was formed. Any chance for a fair eval­u­a­tion of either method was gone before it even started.

Despite the sub­mis­sion of more than 150 let­ters from “long­time ASHA mem­bers, speech-language pathol­o­gists, occu­pa­tional ther­a­pists, spe­cial edu­ca­tors, neu­ro­sci­en­tists, psy­chol­o­gists, physi­cians, pro­fes­sors, judges, lawyers, grand­par­ents, sib­lings, and—most importantly—users them­selves” out­lining suc­cesses with the methods and exten­sive crit­i­cism of the basis upon which the com­mittee made their deci­sions, the posi­tions that resulted were biased and mis­leading.

The effect of these posi­tion state­ments effec­tively pre­vents autistic people from easily accessing two methods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that allow fluent con­ver­sa­tion (rather than simply pointing at pic­tures and being lim­ited in vocab­u­lary). It also dele­git­imizes those who have been com­mu­ni­cating suc­cess­fully with the methods for decades, calling their very lives into ques­tion. This is surely a vio­la­tion of human rights.

Were James Todd, Jason Travers, Nikia Dower, or Matt Brodhead involved in these deci­sions? Does the entirity of the case against FC and espe­cially RPM depend on arti­cles either authored by Todd, Travers, or Brodhead or drawing heavily from those indi­vuals as pri­mary sources of cita­tion?

Is ASHA aware of the long his­tory of anti-autistic sen­ti­ments from these people? Is ASHA aware of their involve­ment with “dis­sem­i­nating ABA” via anti-neurodiversity trolls? Their involve­ment with van­dal­izing and editing the Wikipedia.org pages of non-speaking autistic indi­vid­uals and their cre­ative ven­tures?

It is unsur­prising that a stronger push for behav­iorist prin­ci­ples fol­lowed these posi­tion state­ments. Those who have learned to com­mu­ni­cate with these ASHA-maligned methods are almost uni­ver­sally opposed to behav­ioral therapy, which mea­sures their inability to con­trol their motor func­tions as intel­lec­tual dis­ability. Having their methods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­demned con­ve­niently dimin­ishes the mes­sage that ABA is use­less, even for those deemed to be “low-functioning.”

Nonspeaking autistic teen advo­cate Philip Reyes says this about his expe­ri­ence with ABA:

ABA never suc­ceeded in helping me com­mu­ni­cate what I really wanted. ABA was frus­trating because it assumed I was the sum of my behav­iors. My inability to progress was due to my body not being able to per­form as expected. But I was wrongly assumed to be unin­tel­li­gent. ABA did not see my problem cor­rectly so it could not help me.

Moving Forward

The autistic com­mu­nity, espe­cially those with com­mu­ni­ca­tion dis­abil­i­ties, have faced antag­o­nism and have suf­fered the fallout from behav­ior­ists who oppose the exis­tence of sen­sory pro­cessing dis­order, who fail to address the role of apraxia and motor coor­di­na­tion and plan­ning in speech pro­duc­tion, and who oppose the notion of pre­suming com­pe­tence.

spd-dower

Not only have these behav­ior­ists worked to influ­ence global per­cep­tion against com­mu­ni­ca­tion choice when it involves teaching methods like facil­i­tated com­mu­ni­ca­tion, rapid prompting method, and S2C (spelling to com­mu­ni­cate), but they also have bul­lied indi­vidual autistic non­speakers and their fam­i­lies. We have reason to believe that these same people were of pri­mary influ­ence in ASHA’s 2018 posi­tion state­ments con­demning the use of facil­i­tated com­mu­ni­ca­tion and rapid prompting method.

Since ASHA claims a marked affinity for “evi­dence base,” The Aspergian has col­lec­tive over 500 pages of evi­dence demon­strating the pro­fuse pat­terns of anti-autistic behavior from the indi­vid­uals we believe are pri­marily respon­sible for ASHA’s autism policy deci­sions– and those who stand to ben­efit most from them.

There is a spe­cial interest group for the Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) for speech lan­guage pathol­o­gists called the Speech Pathology Applied Behavior Analysis SIG of ABAI. There’s a public-facing Facebook page for this group, and also a Facebook group called the Speech Pathology-Applied Behavior Analysis (SPABA) Special Interest Group.

In March, Nikia Dower, who admins many of the groups related to board cer­ti­fied behavior ana­lysts, posted this in the SPABA group:

As far as we can tell, this was only posted in one group. Though it has “share” on it, we can’t find it any­where else other than Nikia Dower’s per­sonal pro­file.

This is prob­lem­atic for many rea­sons, chiefly that Dower has a long his­tory of shut­ting down neu­ro­di­ver­sity advo­cates and blocking them. In fact, she blocked The Aspergian’s Twitter account before we were even aware of Dower and Associates’ exis­tence. Those SLPs who advo­cate for lis­tening to the autistic com­mu­nity or who oppose behav­iorism encroaching into other dis­ci­plines (like speech lan­guage pathology) find them­selves removed from groups and blocked.

Not only are neu­ro­di­ver­sity advo­cates blocked, but she and her cohorts also con­tribute to group cul­tures and atti­tudes which equate autistic people and our allies into “rad­i­cals,” “extrem­ists,” “emo­tion­ally driven,” “ide­o­logues,” “science-hating,” “brain­washed,” “une­d­u­cated,” “dan­gerous,” pro­pounders of “pseu­do­science” and “woo.”

In fact, mes­saging that the neu­ro­di­ver­sity com­mu­nity (that is, autistic and oth­er­wise neu­ro­di­ver­gent advo­cates and our non-autistic allies) is dan­gerous and cannot be included in decision-making processes about their own liveli­hoods have per­me­ated the ABA-SLP SIG group ran by Nikia Dower:

The thread was longer, claiming that “they” (pre­sum­ably the SLP Neurodiversity Collective) protested at ABAI. A group did protest there against elec­troshock tor­ture at the Judge Rotenberg Center, but it was not the SLP Neurodiversity Collective. In fact, the SLP Neurodiversity Collective have never dis­rupted anyone’s pre­sen­ta­tions. To our team’s knowl­edge, autistic people have never dis­rupted anyone’s speeches.

Nikia sent an email about dan­gerous autis­tics and SLPs? “Disgusting” dis­rup­tive people? And look how these groups of thou­sands of people are being pushed to see autis­tics. You’re con­tin­uing to empower this, ASHA. Your people are in these groups. You see it.

You know.

Are these your decision-makers? Are you com­plicit in this “dis­sem­i­na­tion” scheme?

“Maybe the pos­i­tive is how sup­portive ASHA is being.”

Do you see what hap­pened there? Autistic people and our allies became the enemy to mem­bers of that group. What does this manip­u­la­tion of group per­cep­tion to bias tens of thou­sands of pro­fes­sionals against autis­tics do to the autistic chil­dren they are sup­posed to be sup­porting?

ASHA IS NOT THERE TO SUPPORT BEHAVIOR ANALYSTS AND PROTECT THEM FROM AUTISTIC PEOPLE BEING “DISRUPTIVE.” ASHA SHOULD BE PROTECTING AUTISTIC PEOPLE FROM BEHAVIORISTS.

This sys­tem­atic con­trol of group per­cep­tion, through thou­sands of posts across sev­eral groups with mem­ber­ship in the thou­sands, paints autistic people as unworthy of being heard. Sounds like behav­iorism…

We are being painted– with a star­tling lack of evi­dence– as rad­ical extrem­ists who are “dis­gusting,” irra­tional, and dan­gerous. As these spe­cific behav­ior­ists rank as most influ­en­tial in the field of ABA, they are able to con­trol the nar­ra­tive that autistic advo­cates are not worth hearing.

We are not extrem­ists. We are pas­sionate, like Greta Thunberg… but this is human rights advo­cacy, not just for our­selves, but for our autistic fam­i­lies and friends. For our chil­dren. It is uneth­ical to fur­ther empower the behav­iorist com­mu­nity who sum­marily dis­miss our com­plaints with, “Oh, that’s anec­dotal,” or “That’s not evi­dence based,” or “There are some bad ABA providers, just like in any field.”

Almost every autistic person could point out, imme­di­ately, the mas­sive flaws in this “RESEARCH-BASED” “evi­dence.” This isn’t evi­dence of any­thing other than that Todd doesn’t care about research design or ethics. It coin­cides with his non-research-based under­standing of autistic stim­ming and rein­forces (errantly) his posi­tion that SPD is not real. Autistic stim­ming or stereo­typy is con­tin­gent on many fac­tors– or no fac­tors.

The real reason autistic advo­cates are being dis­missed– and autistic com­pe­tence, and autistic accounts of trauma, and autistic apraxia, and sen­sory pro­cessing dis­order, and autistic self-determination– is because if we are seen as cred­ible, then behav­ior­ists will need to account for the damage they have done.

ABA does work. It’s pow­erful for use in adver­tise­ments and mar­keting cam­paigns to get people to buy things they don’t need, training whales to do tricks at theme parks, and get­ting vul­ner­able patrons addicted to slot machines in casinos. It’s also extremely inap­pro­priate as inten­sive therapy for young chil­dren.

And again, since evi­dence is impor­tant, The Aspergian will be happy to pro­vide more than five hun­dred pages of evi­dence which indi­cates bul­lying, harass­ment, and a total dis­re­gard for sci­en­tific evi­dence while simul­ta­ne­ously speaking from a plat­form of being the har­bin­gers of “sci­ence” and “evi­dence based” prac­tices.

Look what ASHA empow­ered to happen with the state­ments against FC and RPM:

The era of human rights now con­siders the human col­lat­eral of treat­ment and care and involves the voices of mar­gin­al­ized pop­u­la­tions to inform prac­tice. While other cre­den­tialing bodies have made this prac­tice inte­gral to their decision-making oper­a­tions, you have con­tinued to ignore the autistic com­mu­nity and our allies to favor BCBAs and SLP-BCBAs.

While our stance against ABA has long been firm oppo­si­tion, the autistic self-advocacy com­mu­nity has con­sid­ered expe­ri­ences with speech-language pathol­o­gists to be overall pos­i­tive. The ability to com­mu­ni­cate — whether through speech or AAC — should be the first pri­ority for autistic chil­dren, and SLPs have the right edu­ca­tion (and lack the false assump­tions) to make this happen.

If ASHA con­tinues to allow this hos­tile takeover of behav­iorism within its orga­ni­za­tion, the sup­port and trust the autistic com­mu­nity has had for speech-language pathology will be broken.

We urge ASHA to take an eth­ical stance when it comes to autistic people, not a regres­sive one. Adopt the find­ings of new research into your prac­tices; don’t rein­force out­dated notions about our behavior. Help autistic people find autonomy and inde­pen­dence through com­mu­ni­ca­tion; don’t col­lab­o­rate with those whose ther­a­pies reward com­pli­ance and obe­di­ence and who deny the neu­ro­log­ical impli­ca­tions of autism.

Furthermore, we ask that ASHA hold an open forum to allow autistic stake­holders and dues-paying ASHA SLPs to ask ques­tions about the decision-making process behind these new cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.

Signed,

The Aspergian Team

Further Reading:

Please sign the SLP Neurodiversity Collective’s Petition

An Open Letter to ASHA from an Autistic SLP

On ABA Therapy, Self-Determination, and Healthy Psychological Development

Becoming an ABA RBT Before Knowing I Was Autistic

Double Standards: ABA v/s Facilitated Communication

Life Skills Aren’t What You Think

Unapologetically Non-Compliant: A Neurotypical Mother’s Perspective After Leaving ABA

A Mother’s Fight Against Court-Ordered ABA

Is ABA Really Dog Training for Autistic Children

ABA: Invisible Abuse and the Things Only Autistic People Can See

ABA Rhetoric: Difficult Choices for Parents

We’ve Been Commoditized

Neurodivergent in a Neurotypical Narrative

The “Severe Autism” Concept is Behaviorism’s Final Stand

How to Spot a Good– or Bad– Therapist for Your Autistic Child

 

 

The Aspergian
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6 Comments

  1. Thank you for this letter. This is the same back­ward atti­tude that other groups have used to harm, mar­gin­alize and euth­a­nize others throughout his­tory — “Aryan” pseu­do­science killed Jews, Roma, gay people, etc. This is also the same “logic” that has par­ents giving their chil­dren harmful chem­ical “cures”. Good grief! Pseudoscience is NOT the hall­mark of good med­ical care of any kind. If it were, we would still be bleeding people out to cure all their ills. REAL sci­ence advances our under­standing and replaces pseu­do­science with facts, which for any rep­utable med­ical dis­ci­pline, helps inform better treat­ment for their patients.

  2. Dear Ivar Lovaas,please jump in to a jet engine

    1. Ivar Lovaas died August 2, 2010

  3. We are writing to cor­rectly artic­u­late ASHA’s stance regarding the use of behav­ioral approaches in ser­vice delivery. ASHA believes that indi­vid­uals and their fam­i­lies must be pro­vided with the full com­ple­ment of ser­vices designed to meet their indi­vidual needs. ASHA does not have any posi­tions that favor ABA or any other treat­ment approach over another. ASHA’s view is con­sis­tent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which states that stu­dents should have access to mul­tiple treat­ment options and that inter­ven­tions should be indi­vid­u­al­ized. It is also con­sis­tent with guid­ance by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). ASHA main­tains an advo­cacy page (https://www.asha.org/Advocacy/Applied-Behavior-Analysis/) on issues of con­cern around ABA prac­tice and licen­sure to pro­vide com­plete and trans­parent infor­ma­tion to those who are inter­ested.

  4. I just found the link to this article, which seems inter­esting and i hope to have the time to read it later.

  5. Excellent article! Although I do need to read again care­fully and look at the links. James Todd and I have been “dis­cussing” Facilitated Communication for over a decade. I espe­cially appre­ciate your crit­i­cism of his September 14, 2019 tweet and I decided to reply to his tweet by quoting that sec­tion of the article. I hope he posts a com­ment here so there can be more “dis­cussing” about his views.

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