Mixed Messages: How Behaviorists and Non-Behaviorists Think About Language with Sarah McKim Thomas, MA, CCC-SLP, AAC Specialist

Sarah McKim Thomas, MA, CCC-SLP, AAC Specialist

Connections Behavior Planning and Intervention is excited to welcome Sarah McKim Thomas, MA, CCC-SLP, AAC Specialist, for a Continuing Education webinar for Behavior Analysts!



While the broad influence of behaviorism on the fields of psychology and education is undeniable,  some academics and professionals in other fields argue that there are still areas of human behavior not adequately explained by behavioral theory.  Language is one such area.  By exploring the differences between how behaviorists and other academics (such as linguists and speech-language pathologists) conceptualize language and its use, we can come to a more nuanced understanding of how to make ethical decisions about scope of practice, scope of expertise, and evidence-based practice when it comes to communication interventions.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Summarize the key differences between Verbal Behavior, Relational Frame Theory and at least one non-behaviorist, linguistic hypothesis of language acquisition.
  2. Describe at least one example of a situation in which a behaviorist recognizes that a client’s language assessment and/or intervention needs are not within their scope of practice or expertise.
  3. Describe how to proceed in an ethical manner when language assessment/intervention needs are out of one’s scope of practice.

About the Presenter:

Sarah McKim Thomas has been a language nerd for as long as she can remember.  As a child, she loved spelling bees, learning to count in Japanese and German, and attempting to write novels (if you want to embarrass her, ask her about the epic fantasy novel “Wolf Song” that she penned at the age of 11).

In college, she studied Linguistic Anthropology because purely theoretical Linguistics struck her as too dry and detached from the everyday, real-world use that brings language to life.  From these studies she learned to value both cultural and linguistic diversity, especially in relation to the Deaf community and American Sign Language (ASL).

After earning her BA in Linguistic Anthropology from Brown University, she planned to become an ASL interpreter and possibly pursue academics as a linguistics researcher.  However, a job as a tutor for a girl with Kleefstra Syndrome introduced her to the world of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), and her fate was sealed.  During this time she also received training in Intensive Behavior Intervention (IBI) and worked part-time as an ABA technician.

She returned to grad school and earned her MA in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Kansas, participating in a fellowship grant that required intensive and specialized training in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) intervention for autistic children and young adults.  Through her varied work experiences – including providing services in homes, schools, tutoring centers, and private practice clinics – she has developed a particular passion for working with teenagers and young adults as well as individuals of all ages with complex communication needs.  She is currently the owner and clinical supervisor at Conduit Advocacy & Therapy in Redmond, WA.

Sarah is an enthusiastic lifelong learner and continuously seeks out professional development opportunities, earning the ASHA Award for Continuing Education (ACE) multiple times.  She has applied her passion for learning about cultural and linguistic diversity into learning from the autistic community and developing her ability to provide more neurodiversity-affirming services.

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys riding and training her horse, playing story-heavy tabletop and computer games, listening to podcasts, and singing in the car.

BACB CEU’s included, and Cost to Attend:

  • 2.0 Learning CEU’s
    • $39.99 (CEU’s included in price)

For questions, challenges with registration, or any other needed information, please contact Dusty, Director of Continuing Education and ACE Coordinator for CBPI, LLC, at continuingeducation@connections-behavior.com.

Connections Behavior Planning & Intervention, LLC, is a BACB-Approved ACE Provider (Provider # OP-17-2781). The BACB does not directly sponsor or endorse this event, its speakers, or its content.

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