Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders (MS)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Christine Holyfield

Committee Member

Rachel Glade

Second Committee Member

Kimberly Frazier


ABA, Autism, Behavior Modification, Communication, Neurodivergence


The use of behavior modification (BM) based treatment, the best-known example being Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), is established as an evidence-based practice for promoting communication and other outcomes for Autistic individuals. As such, many Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) use it in their practice to target various forms of communication. Among many autistic advocacy groups, however, ABA and other BM informed therapies are often described as a detriment to mental and emotional health. Organizations such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) have come out against the practices and recommend finding different approaches to teaching communication skills. Much research is needed to understand this disconnect between the scientific and clinical community’s understanding of BM based therapy as an effective, evidence-based therapy model, and the experience of autistic advocates as traumatic. As a small, early step in the large amount of research needed, this study takes a qualitative, phenomenological based approach, using semi-structured interviews to gain insight into the lived experiences of autistic individuals who were recipients of BM based intervention. The results of this study have the potential to illuminate future research directions, help therapists develop a more comprehensive understanding about the effects of BM on the lives of autistic individuals, and begin the work of building common priorities between the clinical and autistic communities.