New Jersey ABA
By Stephanie Summers and Mary Louise Kerwin
The New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis had many accomplishments over the year. Organizationally, we have adopted revised mission, vision, and value statements. NJABA’s mission is to advance the science and evidence-based practice of behavior analysis through research, education, service delivery, and advocacy in the state of New Jersey. Our Vision is a statewide community in which behavior analysts and behavior technicians have the research, training, and resources they need to improve people’s lives. We value science, research, ethics, compassion, excellence, and collaboration. As a result of this revision of our mission, we have reorganized our activities around the four pillars of research, education, service delivery, and advocacy. Across these four pillars, we strive to attract, recruit, and retain our members, and communicate effectively and efficiently with them.
New Jersey has a long and storied history of meaningful contributions to the field of behavior analysis. Alpine Learning Group, the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, and the Princeton Childhood Development Center were early pioneers in the practice of ABA and some of the research and literature that came out of the state years ago continues to serve as models for practicing behavior analysts today. According to the CDC (Maenner et al., 2020), NJ has the highest prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnoses in the U.S., and, with that, there continues to be a growing need for properly trained professionals who can deliver evidence-based treatment effectively. NJ currently has nine colleges and universities that offer BACB-verified coursework sequences, many of which are regularly conducting and disseminating research in efforts to promote the science of behavior analysis. The research pillar’s foundation is our collaboration and communication with our New Jersey Applied Behavior Analysis ABAI Verified Coursework programs through our University Liaison. In addition to creating a statewide forum for researchers to present their work at our Annual Conference, we initiated a Research Round-Up column in our monthly newsletter to provide our members with access to empirical data on topics such as inappropriate touching and working with an individual who has difficulty cooperating with healthcare routines. Finally, we are in the process of creating a committee to review requests for contacting our members about participation and/or advertising research.
Our University Program Liaison, Jason Vladescu, Ph.D., BCBA-D, coordinates activities among our nine ABAI Verified Coursework Sequence programs in the state. In addition to highlighting each program in our monthly newsletter, NJABA has facilitated the development of a student committee, composed of a student representative from each training program in the state. Finally, we have modified our student representation on the NJABA Board of Directors. The student group has nominated a representative and an alternate to attend meetings to improve bidirectional communication between the Board and students. Our goal for the next year is to understand how NJABA may better serve the training programs and their students.
In 2020, NJABA established a Service Delivery Committee under the capable leadership of Craig Domanski, Ph.D., BCBA-D. This committee was formed to address the needs of NJABA members with respect to disseminating information about service delivery in the state, including any legal or policy changes that impact the delivery of behavior analytic services across different agencies. The Service Delivery Committee oversaw the development of several specialty area focus groups in 2020, including Diversity and Inclusion and ABA Services in Spanish, which join existing workgroups focused on Insurance, Medicaid, and Business Practices, Adult Services, Public Schools, and Early Intervention. We also led weekly information-sharing sessions for all NJ behavior analysts during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to providing information, the workgroups have been instrumental in providing a community for members with similar interests and challenges to learn from each other. Finally, NJABA joined the New Jersey Speech and Language Pathology Association to form the NJSLP-NJABA Collaborative Practice Group. The group developed a resource to assist members of both professions in understanding each other better to facilitate more integrated service delivery for our clients.
Within the area of advocacy, our Chair of Government Affairs, Suzanne Buchanan, Ph.D., BCBA-D, has been actively working towards a goal that has been years in the making. Governor Phil Murphy signed the Behavior Analyst Licensing Act into law on January 13, 2020. The law’s original enactment date was mid-July, but the implementation of this law and many others has been delayed until 90 days after the public health emergency per an Executive Order. In addition to advocating on NJABA’s behalf to secure licensure for behavior analysts in the state, Suzanne has worked extensively with the NJ’s Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (AKA Medicaid). In April 2020, the Division launched coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for children with autism ages 0–21. This is a wonderful accomplishment because 40% of the state’s children are covered under Medicaid.
Diversity & Inclusion
The Diversity and Inclusion committee was created in the past year under the leadership of Erin White, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Sandra Gomes, Ph.D., BCBA-D, and Pierre Louis, M.A., BCBA. The committee created a diversity statement, began collaborating with a university on a training project, shared resources to increase cultural competency and humility, and reviewed recent articles on diversity from Behavior Analysis in Practice.
This past year we saw a record-breaking increase in our membership. At the end of December 2020, we had 635 members. In addition to increasing our membership, we created a new membership category for Behavior Technicians at the suggestion of our Chair for Membership, Cat Santa, Ph.D., BCBA-D. We are also in the process of modifying our application for membership to capture more demographic data to better understand the needs of our members. Despite COVD-19, we have been able to keep our membership rates low. Currently, membership for BCBA-D, BCBA, BCaBA, and Affiliates is $50/year. Student and Behavior Technician membership is $25/year.
Like most state chapters, we were planning on holding our Annual Conference in the Spring. Once the implications of the pandemic became apparent, we rescheduled our conference to be held virtually on September 18, 2020, which was sponsored by ReThink. Pete Polgar of Glenmont Consulting supported the technical aspects of the conference. Our Keynote Speaker was Dr. Doug Woods from Marquette University who spoke about trichotillomania. We had 14 presentations with 30 speakers at the conference. The conference was a huge success! We had over 600 behavior analysts attend the conference, which was by far, the most attendees we have ever had. The recorded talks were available to registrants and for purchase until December 31, 2020.
Our second virtual conference occurred on April 16, 2021 using the Behavior Live platform. The Keynote Speaker was Bill Heward, who spoke about targeting learning outcomes most likely to yield optimal benefit to the child. In addition, 17 speakers presented their work and we had 10 poster presentations. The talks are available to registrants for 6 months as well as being available to purchase.
In addition to our Annual Conference, we offered other CE events. Including a two-part series by Kelsey Ruppel, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LABA of FTF Behavioral Consulting presented on the Balance Program, an approach developed by Dr. Greg Hanley for addressing severe problem behavior for children with ASD. This spring we started a Speaker Series comprised of five invited speakers presenting on a variety of topics throughout the year.
NJABA strives to communicate well with our members and potential members under the capable leadership of the Chair of Communications, Jenna Glennon, MA, BCBA. To accomplish this goal, we issue a monthly newsletter with regular updates on our activities and events. In addition, we’ve increased engagement appreciably among the behavior analytic community in New Jersey via social media. We have a social media presence across multiple platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn thanks to our Coordinator of Social Media, Emily Gallant, Ph.D., BCBA-D. More people than ever are now aware of our conference offerings, CE events, news digests, statewide programs, and workgroup activities. Follower counts continue to increase across three social media platforms, indicating that these communications provide valuable information to a growing population within our state. Finally, we completely redesigned our website over the past 18 months to match our revised mission and vision statements.