No ABA Mandate for SLP Autism Board Certification!

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ASHA, (American Speech & Hearing Association) Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) will soon be able to obtain Board Certified Specialist in Autism Spectrum Disorders (BCS-ASD) if we “have completed training related to the implementation and supervision of evidence-based intervention programs in a variety of areas including social communication skills, speech, language, and behavioral programs.” The reason for this new credential is “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…you will join a network of outstanding professionals who share your interests and experience.”

Deeply concerning to those of us ASHA Certified, State Licensed SLPs, some of whom have been members for over 20 years, and who are morally and ethically opposed to the use of ABA methodologies in our therapy practices, the mandate for ABA knowledge and use will be a requirement of obtaining a BCS-ASD.

BCS-ASD Certification: http://www.autismspecialty.org/bcs-asd/
Competency Areas: http://www.autismspecialty.org/competency-areas/

Per information released to hundreds of ASHA members in the ASHACommunity Autism Group on 9/20/19, the BCS-ASD “absolutely is a board certification in the area of Autism that covers ALL competencies specific to SLP’se that we should have in order to word effectively with individuals with autism spectrum disorder. This will include knowledge of many components of applied behavior analysis… (sic)”

We, CCC-SLP ASHA Members and the Public at Large have serious ethical concerns regarding the following, and are requesting that ASHA address our concerns, not just to ASHA members, but publicly:

  • Lynn Koegel, Ph.D., listed by ASHA as the primary contact for questions regarding BCS-ASD, is one of the founders of Pivotal Response Training. Pivotal Response Treatment, or PRT, is a behavioral treatment for autism. Per Autism Speaks, “PRT is based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).” Dr. Koegel founded the Koegel Autism Center which offers paid courses for certification in PRT. Her husband, Robert L. Koegel, Ph.D is the Director, Koegel Autism Center, the founding editor of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions and the author of several ABA books.
    (About PRT: "A lot of people think this method is just about the use of motivation, but it also incorporates self-management and child initiations. 1988 was the first time the word pivotal was used to describe this method. It was referred to previously as the NLP. It is considered a behavior intervention with similarities to the Lovaas method/ABA." 
  • At the 2019 ASHA convention during an "open" Town Hall meeting for CCC-SLPs, therapists with concerns were only permitted to submit questions written on index cards in order to supress any anti-ABA discussion. We watched as Dr. Koegel shuffled through the cards, choosing only those questions that she and Dr. Camarata wanted to address, thereby censoring ASHA CCC-SLP attendees. 

    The entire BCS-ASD Committee and its plans for this certification are being kept secret from dues-paying ASHA members, despite multiple requests from us 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.
  • The description of this certification does not state a requirement of working knowledge and application of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). A substantial portion of the autistic population uses AAC to communicate.
  • The description of the certification does not state a requirement of working knowledge and application of Auditory Processing, which is another aspect of communication that presents a significant difficulty to many autistic people.
  • To our knowledge (due to the lack of transparency) there is little reference to the involvement of autistic people in the development of the Board-Certified Specialist in Autism Spectrum Disorders (BCS-ASD). This secret committee, headed by the creator of an ABA-based therapy program is making decisions that will affect autistic people without including them ("Nothing about us, without us." ASAN Autistic people have told us CCC-SLPs that ABA causes significant trauma, even PTSD, is disrespectful and mandates forced compliance without regard to violation of human rights or human dignity. (See Judge Rotenburg Educational Center, which still used negative electric shock reinforcement in 2019 on children as young as 10 years of age and is fighting the government to continue, as just one example of the way ABA violates human rights). If we are ethically bound by ASHA to listen to the voices, opinions, and experiences of the people we serve (ASHA - Evidence-Based Practices), why would we ASHA members, who ARE listening to autistic people, even remotely want to be eternally linked with ABA?
  • ABA is specifically listed as a requirement for BCS-ASD per the communication in the ASHACommunity group on 9/20/19. Even the U.S. Education Department acknowledges that ABA is not the only treatment method for autistic people after ASHA specifically lobbied for this. How will SLPs who refuse to use ABA in their practices on moral and ethical grounds obtain BCS-ASD without agreeing to practice and use it? Why is ABA methodology required for the BCS-ASD, but not methodologies which acceptable to autistic people and to us, such as DIRFloortime, SCERTS, Hanen, etc.? Who made this decision, and why? Who exactly benefits?
  • 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 CCC-SLP 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 and CEU events? Who exactly benefits from the secrecy? Certainly not SLPs who are pro-neurodiverse and anti-ABA. Definitely not Autistic and other neurodivergent people.
  • If the purpose of obtaining the distinction of Board-Certified Specialist in Autism Spectrum Disorders (BCS-ASD will distinguish ASHA Certified Speech-Language Pathologists as Communication Experts in the field of Autism, why mandate ABA treatment methodologies as a requirement, in lieu of other methodologies (DIRFloortime, SCERTS, Hanen)? Why the secrecy? What about financial conflicts of interest? AAC? Auditory Processing? And especially, WHERE ARE THE AUTISTIC VOICES? 

Let Your Voice be Heard Today if You want ASHA to:

  • Address the moral, ethical, and human rights issues surrounding ABA, and have them require the committee to eliminate mandating a practicing knowledge of applied behavioral analysis for the BCS-ASD certification.
  • Address the lack of transparency regarding the makeup of the BCS-ASD Committee members to dues-paying, CCC-SLP ASHA members and to the public at large.
  • Address whether or not there are Autistic SLPs and other Autistic voices at the table in these BCS-ASD meetings, and if not, why?

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Website: https://therapistndc.org/

For further information: 
https://therapistndc.org/fundamental-research-problems-bcs-asd/

https://neuroclastic.com/2019/11/07/an-open-letter-to-asha-regarding-the-new-bcs-aac-and-bcs-asd-certifications/

https://deepcontemplationblog.wordpress.com/2019/09/24/an-open-letter-to-the-board-creating-the-special-autism-certification-for-slps/