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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Invited Panel #218
Diversity submission Affirming Neurodiversity Inside Applied Behavior Analysis: Evolving Toward Inclusivity and Compassion
Sunday, May 29, 2022
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Meeting Level 2; Room 253A-C
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)
CE Instructor: Jonathan J. Tarbox, Ph.D.
Panelists: KRISTINE RODRIGUEZ (Autism Learning Partners), AMY GRAVINO (A.S.C.O.T Consulting), WORNER LELAND (Sex Ed Continuing Ed)

Neurodiversity is a concept that asserts that the idea of normal cognition is a false premise, based on the medical model of disability. Instead, neurodiversity, which was conceptualized by the neurodiverse individuals we serve, states that all humans are born with different cognitive strengths and skills and that difference in cognition is valuable and even important for human evolution and creativity. As applied to ABA, advocates in the neurodiversity movement have pushed for a more flexible, more compassionate, and less ablelist approach to ABA supports for autistic people. Some of the criticisms from the neurodiversity movement appear controversial to many in the ABA field and many behavior analysts have rejected the concerns and/or attempted to defend our field against neurodiversity. This panel discussion will engage in an honest, vulnerable, and frank discussion of the strengths and limitations of what we do in ABA and use the neurodiversity movement as an opportunity to discuss practical steps the ABA field can take to moving our field to a future of greater inclusivity, flexibility, and less ableism. The neurodiverse panel of presenters includes researchers, practitioners, family members, and advocates.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) define neurodiversity; (2) define ableism; (3) describe simple strategies for centering autistic voices in ABA research and practice.
KRISTINE RODRIGUEZ (Autism Learning Partners)
AMY GRAVINO (A.S.C.O.T Consulting)
Amy Gravino, M.A., is an autism sexuality advocate and Relationship Coach in the Center for Adult Autism Services at Rutgers University. She is also the President of A.S.C.O.T Consulting, which offers autism consulting, college coaching, and mentoring services for organizations, schools, individuals on the autism spectrum, and their families. Amy is an international speaker who has given TED talks, spoken twice at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day, and presented worldwide to audiences on a variety of topics related to autism, with a dedicated special focus and research on the subject of autism and sexuality. Ms. Gravino obtained her Masters degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Caldwell University in 2010 and currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Specialisterne USA, Yes She Can, Inc. and the Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City, as well as the Scientific Advisory Board of Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research (SPARK). She is an award-winning writer whose work has been featured in Spectrum, the leading online news source for autism research, Reader’s Digest, special education textbooks, and other outlets. Visit to learn more.
WORNER LELAND (Sex Ed Continuing Ed)
Worner Leland, MS, BCBA, is an agender, neurodivergent human, a former researcher and educator with Upswing Advocates, a current educator with Sex Ed Continuing Ed, and an organizer with the annual SexABA Conference. Their work focuses on assent and consent education, harm reduction and coercion reduction education in behavior analysis, and maximizing autonomy and access to appetitives. Worner is also a past President and past Research and Dissemination Liaison of the ABAI Sexual Behavior Research and Practice SIG.



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