Therapist Neurodiversity Collective


11/5/2021, by Julie Roberts, M.S., CCC-SLP

Reader Note: Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBIs) = ABA.

“As noted above, evidence-based NDBIs are based upon wellestablished principles of applied behavior analysis. Thus, they represent ABA treatment. “

Schreibman L, Dawson G, Stahmer AC, et al. Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions: Empirically Validated Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015;45(8):2411-2428. doi:10.1007/s10803-015-2407-8

A recent 2 am Autistic monotropic flow led me to a recently published paper where the Therapist Neurodiversity Collective is cited in a gross, seemingly financially motivated, performative neurodiversity commentary that attempts to marry “Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBIs)” with neurodiversity-affirming practices.

“…and some assert that all intervention based on behavioral theory is flawed, given its typical lack of acknowledgement of mental states (Therapist Neurodiversity Collective, n.d.; Tolley, n.d.).”

Schuck, R.K., Tagavi, D.M., Baiden, K.M.P. et al. Neurodiversity and Autism Intervention: Reconciling Perspectives Through a Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention Framework. J Autism Dev Disord (2021).

The authors of  Neurodiversity and Autism Intervention: Reconciling Perspectives Through a Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention Framework propose “reforming behavioral intervention”.

A big, fluffy rebrand, if you will.

Reader, it’s quite understandable if you are a little fuzzy about what this means because, in order to continue to lure in prospective clients, the people who earn their living through providing ABA to non-consenting humans need to keep those controversial” waters muddied for increasingly informed parents who are actively seeking to avoid ABA in any form.

The authors write, “we believe that interventions that combine behavioral and developmental theory have the capability to work in concert with the core tenets of the neurodiversity movement.”

News flash: They’re completely wrong.

The ABA industry has a tremendous financial incentive to reinvent ABA in light of the Neurodiversity Movement.

  1. So they can keep pushing ABA treatment (“It’s just play-based ABA.”) to the parents of autistic children.
  2. So that they can mislead the unsuspecting therapists who attend their training into believing that NDBIs are neurodiversity-affirming frameworks.
  3. Because all these ABA providers would have to figure out something else to do career-wise.
  4. It’s rebrand ABA, or be toast, so to speak.

The purpose of this paper “is to identify and explore areas of overlap between the values and objectives of the neurodiversity movement and contemporary autism intervention approaches, specifically in the context of Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBIs)”.

Message to the authors of this paper: Zero overlaps exist between the values and objectives of ABA and the Neurodiversity Movement.
How many overlaps? None.

And let’s talk about considerable ethical and financial conflicts of interest with this paper and its authors, shall we?

Reader, every single author of this paper is trained in ABA, (three of them are actually BCBAs), so clearly each author has a vested financial interest in duping people into believing that ABA is “Neurodiversity Approved”.
(It’s always about the $$$.)

Currently, seven of the authors are clinicians, and an eighth is a director at the Koegel Autism Center, a center focused on providing Pivotal Response Treatment, which is an NDBI, which is ABA. Three of these Koegel Autism Center staff members are BCBAs, including the Director.

Let’s break it down further:

There are 11 authors listed on this paper in total. At the time this paper was drafted, 9 out of the 11 authors were doctoral students who worked as NDBI clinicians (let’s actually call them what they are – ABA providers) at the Koegel Autism Center. Seven of the nine still work there.

Two of the nine students authors are Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). The third BCBA is the sole Faculty member on the paper as well as the Director of the Koegel Autism Center Director.

Three authors on this paper identify as Autistic.
Oh, hey! That’s great, right?
Well, it’s great for Autistic people who are convinced that ABA is an ethical “treatment” for autism.
Not so much for the rest of us.

One of the three identified autistic authors is included within the group of nine students above. This autistic person is an NDBI/ ABA provider at the Koegel Autism Center and is managed by the BCBA faculty member/center director who also happens to be an author on this paper.

Are you still with me?

The second Autistic author was trained in NDBI (ABA).

The third Autistic author “worked at community-based applied behavior analysis (ABA) companies providing behavioral “intervention to Autistic individuals”.

So, to sum up, all three autistic authors on this paper are trained in ABA, and at least two of the three earn their living by providing ABA.
Do you think it’s possible the autistic authors on this paper just might be biased in favor of ABA?
I surely do.

What’s absolutely appalling is that the authors state, “we believe it is important for researchers to explore the opinions and feedback of members of the Autistic community, as well as those of the broader neurodiversity movement, regarding intervention goals and practices.”

If that’s really their goal, then where’s the unbiased Autistic feedback (from Autistic people who don’t stand lose both financially and career-wise if ABA for autistics goes the way of ABA for the conversion of LGBTQs)?
It’s glaringly missing.

So, Reader, if you, like me, are emphatically opposed to the use of ABA on non-consenting autistic and otherwise neurodivergent human beings (all non-consenting human beings, actually),

the authors of this paper have neatly, although probably unintentionally, spelled out some of the NDBI/ABA frameworks for you to AVOID:

ABA cannot be reformed. ABA is not and never will be neurodiversity-affirming.

Here’s the performative neurodiversity paper if you want to read it:

Schuck, R.K., Tagavi, D.M., Baiden, K.M.P. et al. Neurodiversity and Autism Intervention: Reconciling Perspectives Through a Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention Framework. J Autism Dev Disord (2021).

Julie Roberts, M.S. CCC-SLP