We’re excited to share with you an exclusive article “Speech Language Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis: Can’t We All Just Get Along?” by co-founder of Bridge Kids of New York, Danielle McCormick, MA, CCC-SLP, with contributions by Ashley Stahl, MSEd. In this article, Danielle shares with us her quirky and humorous opinions on the importance of combining traditional speech-language pathology practices and those of Applied Behavior Analysis.
I have vivid memories of a professor in graduate school essentially condemning the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as the most “robotic” and “unnatural” way to help a child learn communication skills. As a passionate and dedicated Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), I took these words to heart and kept them with me as I continued my career. That was until my first job as a Clinical Fellow at an Early Intervention center—that (insert gasp!) followed the principles of ABA. This center was also filled with the most diverse, beautiful children I have ever known, many of whom were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder—my passion. I had to take this job!
As if starting my first job in New York City was not daunting enough, here I was surrounded by the enemy—the big, bad ABA therapists! As a newbie who was still building confidence in my field, and having been trained to always respect other professionals (especially those who are above you in the pecking order), I took a backseat and opened my ears and eyes to the ABA that was happening all around me. The voice of my graduate professor was ringing still in my ears, so in my sessions, I made sure there was to be absolutely no ABA (at least I thought at the time!). If they wanted to “do ABA” in the classrooms, that was their business, but I wanted nothing to do with it!
Except—wait a minute—how did they teach that child to start pointing so quickly?
As time went on, I started to notice that some of my children were exhibiting extreme interfering behavior that I had not been trained to deal with. I was lost and did not know how to support these learners. Much to my relief, in came my super hero colleagues wearing ABA capes, telling me exactly what to do and why to do it.