Why Perspective-Taking and Neurodiversity Acceptance? (Part 2 of “Training” Social Skills is Dehumanizing: The One with the Therapy Goals)

Wasted years upon years of endlessly drilling autistic children and adolescents to memorize and parrot “appropriate” rote phrases for specific social situations will not lead to their peers perceiving them as more likable. Social skills training is not a “cure” for autism despite what the ABA industry would like for us all to believe. All “social skills training’ does is to teach autistic people how to mask their autism. And the potential harms of masking (exhaustion, anxiety, depression, frustration, decreased self-esteem suicidal ideation) are significant.

Neuro Rehab on The Mandalorian, by Julie Fechter, MS, CCC-SLP

Now let’s talk about one of the recent episodes, “The Reckoning.” There’s a loving montage of a character Kuiil rehabbing a droid, named IG-11, who’d been killed. Kuiil rebuilt the droid from scratch after “Its neural network was almost completely gone.” He had to piece IG-11 together, which may be a little beyond our day-to-day job, but the recovery process is certainly something many of us speech-language pathologists have participated in.

The Problem with PECS®

PECS® uses Operant Conditioning, which is a behavior technique that can be used to target and increase a behavior by pairing performance of the target behavior with a positive or rewarding outcome.[2] Per Andy Bondy, inventor of PECS, “Skinner’s analysis of Verbal Behavior forms the basis for teaching particular skills at specific points in the training sequence and also provides guidelines for how best to design the teaching strategies.[3]” PECS uses picture-based prompting and reinforcement tied to error correction in order to teach language skills. The method allows the trainer to artificially cause frustration through the withholding of highly desired objects or food until the targeted behavior is achieved, even if the communicator becomes upset or angry. It is not a natural or nice way to teach language.

“Training” Social Skills is Dehumanizing (Part 1)

Dictating how a neurodivergent person is expected to communicate in specific social situations takes away their self-determination. Training people as one trains animals is appalling. SLP Neurodiversity Collective believes in respecting the authentic social communication of all people, rather than compelling compliance for neurotypical expectations through a system of rewards and punishments.

A Letter from an SLP to a Parent, Immediately After an Autism Diagnosis for a 5-Year-Old

“Please remember what we talked about regarding eye contact, echolalia, sensory needs, picky eating and especially how to choose therapies that will respect his dignity and autonomy, and that won’t crush the joyous and precious little person that he is. I will advocate for him; but because you will need to learn how to become be his biggest champion, I have sent you links to resources for you to begin to educate yourself about Autism. I understand that you were very upset yesterday when they told you the diagnosis. My hope is that you begin to view this diagnosis differently.”

An ASHA Certified SLP’s Personal Perspective on Collaboration, Interprofessional Practice and ABA:

ASHA has guidelines in our ethics code for “collaboration” and “interpersonal professional practice” (IPP), which are two terms ABA practitioners often use in order to attempt to intimidate or gaslight both CCC-SLPs and ASHA into believing that speech-language pathologists are being unethical if we dare to voice negative opinions against the use of ABA practices and/or BCBA and RBT incompetency (as they dangerously or inadequately provide speech therapy services for which BCBAs and RBTs are not educated or trained).