Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #453
CE Offered: BACB — 
Diversity submission Nurturing Neurodivergence: A Glance Toward a Humbler and More Inclusive Field of Applied Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 31, 2021
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Area: CSS; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Julie A Angstadt (Hummingbird ABA Therapy; Strawberry Fields Inc.)
Discussant: Amy Bodkin (A Charlotte Mason Plenary)
CE Instructor: Kayla Comerford, M.S.

Neurodiversity is an approach to learning and disability that argues neurological conditions such as Autism, ADHD, and Dyslexia are the result of normal variations in the human genome. This term was coined to shift the focus of discourse from deficits, disorders, and impairments to recognition and respect as any other human variation (Disabled World, 2020). Although the number of neurodiversity advocates is increasing and conversations around neurodiversity are more frequent, systemic oppression is evident in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. Neurodivergent clients, parents, and practitioners are expected to adopt and conform to ideas of normality. In this symposium, a group of neurodivergent ABA practitioners will create a vision for a more humble and inclusive field that embraces neurodiversity. The speakers will a) discuss the importance of presuming competence and explore ways to foster autonomy of autisitc clients, b) articulate the importance of autistic clients having access to a neurodivergent community, c) identify strategies to assess and meet the needs of families in ABA therapy, and d) examine challenges associated with invisible disabilities in workplace and offer recommendations to create a supportive environment.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Inclusion, Neurodiversity
Target Audience:

Prerequisite skills and competencies: can state ethical guidelines governing behavior analytic practice; evaluate scenarios and identify ethical violations; problem-solve strategies to resolve ethical violations.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) define neurodiversity and identify systemic oppression in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis; (2) State the importance of presuming competence and identify teaching strategies to foster autonomy; (3) State the social significance of autistic folks connecting with the autistic community and BCBAs role in supporting client’s to do so; (4) Identify strategies to assess and meet needs of neurodivergent family members; (5) Identify challenges associated with invisible disabilities and functional approaches to address those challenges.
Diversity submission 

The Road to Autonomy Begins With Presuming Competence

KIRSTIE RUHLAND (Los Angeles Unified School District )

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Professional and Ethical Compliance Code states that behavior analysts are to involve their clients in the planning of and consent for behavior-change programs (BACB, 4.02). In order to be involved and give consent one must be afforded an effective communication method. An estimated 25-35% of autistic children are considered minimally verbal and will need to learn communication methods other than speech (Rose, Trembath, Keen & Payntor, 2016). A functional mode of communication is a prerequisite to achieving autonomy; the ability to direct our own lives. The foundation of an effective communication method begins with presumed competence; believing that all individuals have something to say and possess the capacity to learn. This presentation will a) describe and give applicable examples of how communication partners can presume competence b) describe autonomy and how choices can be proactively presented c) describe the effect emotional state has on language output and how to prepare for that.

Diversity submission 

CANCELED: Community and Autism: Addressing the Lack of Supports for Autistics and Impacts to Healthcare Delivery

MARY-KATE MOORE (Florida Institute of Technology)

Long-term health prospects for autistics are currently grim. The average life expectancy for the autistic population is 36 years old (Guan & Guohua, 2017). Additionally, autistics report significant difficulty in gaining access to healthcare supports that could increase quality of life (Mason, et al., 2019). Autistics also suffer discrimination and hardship in their day-to-day lives and, while trauma-informed care is thought to be good practice for physicians, it is not yet the industry standard in medical practice (Purkey, Patel, & Phillips, 2018). Conversely, strong community ties are associated with better health-related outcomes. Lack of access to autistic communities has long been a barrier for autistics that contributes to feelings of isolation and the presentation of masking behaviors. Access to mentors secure in their neurodivergent identities with information on how best to access necessary support and accommodation for their needs could serve as models and resources for autistics. Given the fact that most supports fade out with adulthood for many autistics, fostering a sense of community to learn and grow with is a necessary next step to ensuring better outcomes for the autistic community overall.

Diversity submission Assessing and Responding to the Needs of Caregivers: A Family-Based Approach to Applied Behavior Analysis
JULIE A ANGSTADT (Hummingbird ABA Therapy; Strawberry Fields Inc.)
Abstract: All parents experience a large range of emotions as their children grow up, from joyful, happy, proud, and excited, to anxious, annoyed, upset, and tired, but how often do BCBAs take the emotional needs of the parents into account while they are assessing their child? Data shows that at least 18.2% of parents have a mental illness in the United States (Stambaugh, Forman-Hoffman, Williams, et al., 2017), yet many BCBAs are unaware of the resources that may benefit these parents. While the BCBA is likely being paid to work with the child, there should always be a transfer of skills to the caregivers; if the caregivers are having difficulty with their own emotional or physical needs, this could create a barrier for effective treatment. During this presentation, we will discuss how BCBAs can (a) assess the parents’ needs as a part of treatment planning, (b) become more aware of the resources existing for parents with mental illness and/or experiencing emotional difficulties, and (c) use strategies to routinely address barriers in treatment planning.
Diversity submission 

Still Hiding: Interventions to Promote Safety for Individuals With Invisible Disabilities in Professional Settings

KAYLA COMERFORD (Autonomy Projects, LLC; The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

Disabilities may be present in some environments and absent in others. In some contexts, disabilities may be both present and “invisible” (i.e., not observed). The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Professional Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts requires that behavior analysts refrain from providing services when their personal circumstances may compromise their delivery (1.07), but what happens when the personal circumstance results from a professional environment with inadequate arrangements to support disabilities that are unsafe to disclose? To minimize risk of harm and ensure that behavior analysts have the opportunity to practice to the best of their abilities, we must recognize the potential dangers of disclosure and consider the possibility that each one of us may be living with an invisible disability. This presentation will (1) define disability and provide examples of highly-stigmatized invisible disabilities, (2) discuss misconceptions, unique challenges, and overlooked exceptional characteristics of people with invisible disabilities, and (3) provide recommendations for empirically-supported interventions to promote the safety and wellbeing of individuals with invisible disabilities, for application in professional settings.




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