17th Annual Autism Preview: Cultivating an Evidence-Based Practice 

Photo by Sean Mullowney on Unsplash

By Terry Falcomata and Ruth Anne Rehfeldt

Historically, one of the elements of applied behavior analysis (ABA) that has set the field apart from other disciplines and fields is its focus on empiricism. ABA’s focus on empiricism has included an emphasis on the implementation of both (a) practices that have a grounding in scientific evidence demonstrated via a peer-reviewed literature and (b) analytic methods during the application of procedures by practitioners to gather evidence regarding the effectiveness of their procedures in “real time” as the data come in (i.e., the integration of science and evidence into practice). As our field continues to evolve in many important ways (e.g., integration of compassionate care; the integration of voices from outside our discipline) it is vital that we continue to remain actively rooted in our traditional focus on empiricism and evidence-informed practice; both in terms of the practices we utilize and our on-going evaluation of their effects during clinical practice. This year’s conference is intended to extend our knowledge of evidence-based approaches to the assessment and treatment of Autistics/individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is also imperative that we continue to expand our knowledge and continue to incorporate the findings of researchers and professionals from other empirical-based disciplines as well as the views of various stakeholders of ABA (clients; clients’ care givers). The conference will take place February 19-21 in San Diego and will include a variety of topics presented by researchers and practitioners from our field, other disciplines pertinent to ABA, and individual stakeholders.

The first day of the conference will feature workshops that focus on practical topics pertaining to ABA. The first workshop will be conducted by Dr. Joel Ringdahl (University of Georgia) and will focus on the assessment and treatment of problem behavior. Dr. Ringdahl will provide practical insight and guidance with an emphasis on applications in naturalistic settings. The second workshop, presented by Dr. Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College), will focus on the important topic(s) of interpersonal relationships, professional collaboration, and compassionate care in the practice of ABA.

In the morning of day two of the conference, two presenters will discuss several important and timely topics regarding ABA practice as well as staff training. First, Dr. Valerie Volkert (Emory University and the Marcus Autism Center) will present on novel and state-of-the-art approaches to the assessment and treatment of feeding challenges exhibited by Autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD. Next, Dr. Dennis Reid (Carolina Behavior Analysis and Support Center) will present innovative and practical information regarding evidence-based staff training. Later in the morning, a group of panelists that will include both professionals and consumers of ABA engage in a conversation that is essential to the field regarding concerns with ABA-based interventions that exist among individuals focusing on autism rights, neurodiversity activists, and behavior analysts. The speakers on the panel will consist of Amy Gravino (The Child Mind Institute), Dr. Robert Ross (Beacon ABA services), Cole Fitzpatrick, and Dr. Justin Leaf (Autism Partnership Foundation); with Dr. Mary Jane Weiss chairing and moderating. The panelists will engage

Day two, in the afternoon, will see three presenters and one panel address an assortment of topics. First, Dr. Rajinder Koul (University of Texas at Austin) will discuss advanced assessment and intervention techniques for understanding, teaching, and promoting communication skills. Next, a group of panelists consisting of parents, advocates, and applied behavior analysts will discuss the vital topic of parent and caregiver perspectives on autism and ABA. The speakers on the panel will consist of Shannon Penrod (Autism Live), Dr. Missy Olive (Cultivate Behavioral Health & Education), Mike Wassmer (Council of Autism Service Providers), and Dr. Mrinali Gupta (Retina Associates of Orange County); with Dr. Joe Cihon chairing and moderating. The panelists will engage in an open, candid, and constructive conversation about ABA with a focus on parent and caregiver perspectives. Third, Dr. Dorothea Lerman (University of Houston at Clear Lake) will present on the topic of utilization of telehealth formats and the application of ABA assessment and intervention practices. Finally, Dr. Wendy Machalicek (University of Oregon) will present on the topic of applications of single subject research design methodology to assessment and treatment practices pertaining to Autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD.

Day 3 of the conference begins with a presentation that will cover the assessment and treatment of issues faced by Autistics/individuals diagnosed with Dr. SungWoo Kahng (Rutgers University) describing research he has been conducting in the important and understudied area of supports for Autistics/Adults diagnosed ASD.

Later in the morning, three presenters will discuss important and timely topics pertaining to Autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD. Dr. Iser DeLeon (University of Florida) will present his most recent work with regard to assessment and treatment practices. Next, Dr. Thomas Frazier (John Carroll University) will present innovative work on research-informed tailoring and monitoring of early intensive behavioral interventions. Finally, the conference will conclude with a presentation provided by Dr. Tina Sidener (Caldwell University) that will advance our knowledge of methods for teaching development-matched play sills to Autistics/children diagnosed with ASD.

The aim of the conference is to expand attendees’ knowledge regarding ABA practices for Autistics/individuals diagnosed with ASD with a particular focus on evidence-informed practices. We hope to see you in San Diego!

Learn more about the 17th Annual Autism Conference and register today!

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