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Neurodiversity x Autism (part 2) ABA

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

We were privileged to have Andrea Fernando (Paediatric Mainstream SLT, ST Links Mentor) and Serena Lo (Special School SLT, ST Links Founder) co-lead this journal club exploring papers that critique and support ABA, and its relationship with our practice. This is part two of our series hoping to explore a range of journals behind neurodiversity and its implications on our practice as SLTs.

In this journal club, we discussed two papers which provided critiques and support for Applied Behavioural Analysis.

We had insightful discussions with therapists at different stages in their SLT journey.

The journal club provided a space for us to reflect on:

  • Our knowledge (not everyone knew what ABA was, and that's ok! We are at different stages of learning and are here to learn more).

  • Our experiences on working with ABA therapists or seeing overlaps of ABA principles being implemented in our settings.

  • Our reflections and observations on principles of ABA, why do people use it, why it can be harmful.

  • Discussing what are the arguments for and against ABA approaches from the papers; can they co-exist?

  • Reflecting and sharing practices on what alternatives are there to extend service user's communication (AAC, Means Reasons Opportunity model, communicative functions, how to reduce prompt dependency).

  • Reflecting on outcome measures, whether these are measuring meaningful things to the client, and why were these measures chosen? ABA's targets usually have a 'social value', which means they are based on societal expectations of what a person should be able to do. Reflect on these and whether they are meaningful to the service user.

Here is what some of our attendees have kindly shared about the journal club:

Andrea Fernando:

Today's discussion really helped me think and reflect on ABA and it's impact on people. A new point around AAC and its importance in supporting a child to communicate is something to remember and ensure students are given the opportunity to learn how to use these systems to communicate effectively.


It was really interesting to hear about ABA, coming from someone who’s new to the field of SLT, and what alternatives there can be.
Also hearing case studies from each of your respective areas/fields/experiences helped to put things into perspective.


Helped me understand the long term effects of ABA into adulthood, how it may make people even more vulnerable. Also made me think about how to move away from it and what tools/resources we have to support transition towards more people-centred practices.

Thank you to everyone who attended! We look forward to seeing you in our next Journal Club on Neurodiversity :)


Sandoval-Norton, A. H., & Shkedy, G. (2019). How much compliance is too much compliance: Is long-term ABA therapy abuse?. Cogent Psychology, 6(1), 1641258.

Leaf, J. B., Cihon, J. H., Leaf, R., McEachin, J., Liu, N., Russell, N., ... & Khosrowshahi, D. (2022). Concerns about ABA-based intervention: An evaluation and recommendations. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 52(6), 2838-2853.


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