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Blog Posts

ABA Call to Action!

Did you know that there is a Congressional Autism Caucus? This 141-member caucus includes members from both parties in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S.
Now is the time to voice your opposition to ABA!
Contact your State Congressional Members of the Congressional Autism Caucus https://doyle.house.gov/issues/autism-caucus/autism-caucus-membership

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Confessions of a Previous ABA Technician – 2

Through the pairing procedure, children begin to learn that doing things that feel good to them (e.g. autistic play, stimming, etc.) are less valuable than the things that make the therapist feel good (i.e. neurotypical play, compliance). They learn to ignore their feelings of distress when confronted with a task they find aversive and mask their distress to please their caregivers. They become motivated by the praise they receive when they “do the thing” and become reliant on external reinforcement rather than intrinsic motivation, regardless of how much they are suffering.

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Contriving Situations

Confessions of a Previous ABA Technician

Through the guise of play, I often contrived stressful and frustrating situations and placed consistent demands on very small children. For instance, one of my kid’s goals was something like this: The client will engage in 3 turn taking exchanges by relinquishing to their play partner, waiting while their play partner takes a turn, and then requesting a turn with ___ # of prompts.

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So an SLP was late-diagnosed as Autistic this week…

“… scores on the CAT-Q indicate she engages in a significantly higher level of camouflaging than neurotypical people and elevated camouflaging even when compared to other autistic individuals. It is highly likely that she has camouflaged so much and for so long that she fails to see some of her autistic traits even though they may appear obvious to others.”

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Autistic & other Disabled Children’s Rights – Are Therapists in Violation?

“Disregard for the human rights of autistic children, and the belief that they are so fundamentally different from other children that they don’t have the same rights, have become cultural norms within many professional and educational spaces. Often, teachers, therapists, and other professionals working with autistic students don’t even realize the ways in which their treatment of their students is dehumanizing because it is what they have seen from the individuals around them and those who trained them.”

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Stuttering is a type of Neurodivergence

I am used to my stuttering and I wish everyone else would get used to it too. My reactions and my feelings about stuttering are relative to how you, the listener, react. I am only uncomfortable because you are uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable FOR you.

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Autism, language, and identity. Part 1.

I will raise my hand in shame. As a clinician, I have not always considered the effect that the words I choose. My reports were full of “impaired communication skills”, “limited ability”, “low-level skills”. And I felt quite free to use these labels because my clients would not be the ones to read my reports. If my report was directed to my client, the language would be different. So at least on some level, I recognised how negative these labels are. Yet I used them about people who as speech and language therapist I truly care for.

And then suddenly my world changed. And with my world my perception changed too.

Over the last year my family have all received the label of “Autistic Spectrum Disorder”…

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ABA Therapy and PTSD

I was called “unethical” by a professional colleague today.
The reason may surprise you—I said “ABA is abuse”. My peer was naturally taken aback because they are an SLP-BCBA and “would never dream of abusing a child.” I always find this rebuttal interesting because we usually don’t hear about people walking around admitting to abusing people; even overt predators somehow convince themselves that they are helping their victim. The sanctimonious SLP-BCBA told me that it was the “old ABA” and not “new ABA” that was harmful, and then only a small fraction of the time. She accused me of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” (I still don’t really understand how this idiomatic expression applies here) and she further went on to insist that there is “no way ABA could cause PTSD in people with Autism.” (She really meant “Autistic people,” I am sure.)

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Rebuttal to critique of “ABA is NOT Effective: So says the Latest Report from the Department of Defense”

“The DoD/TRICARE report isn’t a study in any real sense of that word.” This is FALSE. In fact, they included 3794 participants who had received at least 18 months of ABA services; 2,183 from the eastern region of the United States, and a replication in the western region of the United States with 1,611 participants. As such it is not merely the largest study of the effectiveness of ABA, it is the only large-scale test of ABA . And they determined that ABA services do not meet the TRICARE hierarchy of evidence standard for medical and proven care..

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Why We Model Language and Honor All Communication, instead of Using PECS®

Today in a virtual Zoom therapy session, the parent asked me why I don’t use PECS® in speech therapy (with non-speaking or minimally speaking Autistic children). After watching her child laugh, dance, and have fun during therapy, after watching them imitate action verbs, and spontaneously communicate a desire, spontaneously point to my assistant and me on the screen, and smile at us all, it became clear to this parent that there are different kinds of therapy sessions. This kind isn’t all about compliance.

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Q&A with Faye Farhrenheit

“They used food deprivation in my program and they made us pair up and do it to each other. I feel incredible guilt over this.

Every morning I’d cut up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into as many pieces as possible. Each piece was like a little bigger than an M&M.

Then I’d be told to force this non-verbal Autistic boy to do behaviors for each piece of the sandwich. He’d cry, hit his head in frustration, and say “hungry” which was one of like four words he could use.

I have no words to describe how bad I feel about being forced to do this as a child. If he didn’t “behave” he’d get no food and he’d go hungry.

He and the rest of us were expected to perform like trained circus animals for basic rights, like the ability to go to the bathroom.”

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A British, Autistic SLT’s Pro-Neurodiversity Paradigm Shift

My journey to realising that I was autistic is similar to that of many women, in that I was placed in the mental health system as a child. For the next 15 years, I was given various diagnoses – one of these being Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). My sensory and emotional difficulties were pathologised and misdiagnosed. What we know now is that there is a multitude of evidence showing how often autistic girls and women are misdiagnosed. But, that’s not what this blog is about.

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An Autistic SLP’s Experiences with Social Communication

When I first considered the possibility that I may be autistic, I thought the only missing piece was difficulty with social communication. I understood topic maintenance, turn-taking, figurative language, sarcasm, small talk, and the fact that no one actually wants a real answer when they ask how you are doing. I also knew that I hated small talk, talked about things I had no interest in for the sake of being social and polite, practiced responses in my head before saying them out loud, and had more difficulty expressing ideas verbally than in writing.

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On Writing Masking Goals for Autistic Middle School Girls – Stop It!

Our autistic female students are constantly mimicking and copying behaviors of peers so they can hide their autism. We, as clinicians, teach them to do this because we were taught that autism must be hidden and masked through the therapy we provide. We are licensed, credentialed ableists, “therapizing: our autistic students to learn to be in a constant state of making in order to be acceptable, to be worthy, to be liked.

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