16th Annual Autism Conference Preview: Autistic People and Applied Behavior Analysis: Collaboration and Community

Photo by Ben Dutton on Unsplash

By Terry Falcomata and Ruth Anne Rehfeldt

The last year has seen continued challenges resulting from the pandemic and other societal pressures and issues. Clinicians, researchers, and educators continue to be confronted with numerous barriers and complications as they approach serving Autistics/individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)*. As such, it is vital that our field continue to diversify our knowledge and approaches to addressing the issues experienced by our clients and their families by listening to voices from outside our discipline (i.e., social work; neuroscience; relationships/sexuality); pursuing knowledge on domains issues less frequently studied by applied behavior analysts, such as quality of life for adults, neurodiversity, and acceptance and commitment training; and extending and expanding our knowledge and skills pertaining to specific areas of need, including social skills, language and communication, and telehealth-based service delivery models. This year’s conference is intended to do expand our horizons across numerous areas, perspectives, and approaches to practice. The conference will take place March 5-7, 2022, in Seattle and is comprised of diverse topics that will be presented by individuals from the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and a variety of other disciplines.

The first day of the conference will feature workshops that focus on topics germane to the practice of ABA. The first workshop will be conducted by Dr. Peter Gerhardt (The Epic School) and will provide forward-thinking guidance on the challenges associated with the pursuit of a meaningful quality of life for adults. The second workshop, presented by Dr. Akihiko Masuda (University of Hawaii), will focus on the vital topic of cultural considerations in the practice of ABA with an emphasis on the application of contextual behavior science (CBS). Dr. Masuda will provide insights for combining functional and contextual approaches to cultivating cultural sensitivity in our work.

On day two of the conference, three presentations will cover several relevant and timely topics. Amy Gravino (A.S.C.O.T. Consulting) will present unique and practical information and perspective regarding sexuality and Autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD. Dr. Hedda Meadan (University of Illinois) will present on a novel and innovative model for building capacity for the delivery of effective interventions within clients’ natural environments via telepractice-based procedures. Stephen Gillaspy (American Psychological Association) will provide practical insight on the subject of reimbursement for ABA services.

In the afternoon of day two, four presentations will address a variety of topics. Dr. Adriana Di Martino (The Child Mind Institute) will present on brain imagining and connectivity pertaining to Autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD. Innovations relating to acceptance and commitment therapy and relational frame theory, with a specific focus on application with Autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD, will be discussed by Dr. Giovambattista Presti (Kore University). Dr. Sandy Magaña (University of Texas at Austin) will provide unique perspectives on culturally tailored parent mediated interventions. Finally, the subject of distress experienced by individuals and effective interventions aimed at addressing related noncompliance during necessary medical and dental appointments will be presented by Dr. Keith Allen (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center).

Day three of the conference begins with a pair of presentations that will address challenges faced by many Autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD and practical approaches to addressing those challenges. Dr. Marjorie Charlop (Claremont McKenna College) will present on the crucial topic of social skills and inventive research on treatments that are implemented within dyad and group formats. Next, Ralf Schlosser (Northeastern University) will discuss cutting edge technologies and their use with assessment and intervention strategies for facilitating language and communication with children with minimal verbal skills. Both presentations will include telehealth components.
Later in the morning, the important and timely topic of neurodiversity and Autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD will be discussed by a group of panelists with diverse perspectives. The participants on the panel consist of Dr. Justin Leaf (Autism Partnership Foundation), Amy Gravino, Joy Farrah Johnson (Spectrum Support), and Dr. Robert Ross (Beacon ABA services). The panelists will engage in an open, candid, and constructive conversation about ABA and neurodiversity.

The conference will conclude with presentations on the assessment and treatment of challenging behavior and reading. Dr. Henry Roane (Upstate Medical University) will present findings from translational and applied studies on treatment relapse pertaining to challenging behavior with a focus on practical implications for application. Dr. Martha Costa Hübner (University of São Paulo) will conclude the conference by describing research on innovative strategies for helping children acquire reading repertoires.

The aim of the conference is to enhance the range of attendees’ knowledge and understanding across a diverse array of topics. We hope to see you in Seattle!

*The terminology utilized in the presentation titles and abstracts for this conference was selected to adhere to the seventh edition of the American Psychological Association Publication Manual and to be inclusive of those who prefer person-first as well as identity-first language.

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