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 Symposium #326
Diversity submission Ableism, Professional Growth, and the Task Force for Quality and Values-Based Applied Behavior Analysis
Sunday, May 29, 2022
4:00 PM–5:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 253A-C
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Ruth Anne Rehfeldt (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Chicago)
CE Instructor: Ruth Anne Rehfeldt, Ph.D.

In the summer of 2021, ABAI pulled together a team of professionals and created the Task Force for Quality and Values-Based ABA. This symposium begins with an overview of the Task Force and then brings together three members of the Task Force to discuss the topic of ableism and how that connects to the mission of the Task Force. This symposium discusses the importance of behavior analysts with different views about social justice--diversity, equity, and inclusion convening to discuss the topic of ableism so that we can all begin making substantive changes to the practice of ABA without sacrificing the technical precision that supports skill development in areas identified as important by Autistic clients. Each presenter will address how involvement with the Task Force has changed their views on ableism, their role in the field, or pivotal growth opportunities that have helped them evolve as behavior analysts. Reconsideration of the ways social validity should influence professional decision-making, an emphasis on compassionate care, the need to provide person-centered behavior analytic services, and the myriad ways behavior analysts should challenge their own assumptions as providers will be discussed.

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 the purpose of the Task Force for Quality and Values-Based ABA; (2) explain why each behavior analyst needs to collaborate with others to gain insights and grow around the topic of ableism; (3) describe at least one form of ableism in their practice that they can begin discussing with behavior analytic colleagues.
Diversity submission 

Ableism: From the Journey Without to the Journey Within

AMY GRAVINO (A.S.C.O.T Consulting)

As an Autistic adult and member of the ABAI Task Force for Quality and Values-Based ABA, I have had the opportunity to bring a unique perspective to the Task Force’s work. My journey as a professional working in the field of ABA has dovetailed with my journey as a person on the autism spectrum understanding my own internalized ableism, and mention will be made of how each of these spheres work to inform the other. Emphasis will also be placed on the challenges faced as a member of the Task Force in overcoming the idea of my presence as an “other” in the group and the difficulties I experienced based on my own learning history. Engagement with and attitudes toward Autistic people influence the willingness of BCBAs to confront ableism and ultimately make changes to the culture of the field at large will be discussed. Examples of efforts that have been made to encourage dialogue between BCBAs and Autistic advocates will also be discussed, as well as the successes and limitations of these efforts.

Diversity submission 

Ableism: What's That Have to Do With Me? Some Reflections on a 50-year Journey as a Behavior Analyst

GORDON BOURLAND (Trinity Behavioral Associates)

As a person identifying as a behavior analyst for over 50 years, I have observed from a behavior analytic perspective many changes in my behavior, the scope and sophistication of behavior analysis, and in society in the United States during the time of that journey. Sometimes those changes are obvious and recognition of them unavoidable; at other times, they are noticed after comments by others or after times of personal reflection. Mention will be made of some relevant substantial changes in behavior analysis and in society at large as will changes in my personal perspective and practice as a behavior analyst during this 50-year journey. Particular emphasis will be given to changes in my personal and professional perspectives regarding persons said to have disabilities as well as persons whose behavior varies from what is commonly expected in society in the United States. One group of people regarding whom I have experienced and continue to experience changes in my perspective is the very homogeneous group of people identifying or identified as Autistic. As a member of the ABAI Task Force for Quality and Values-Based ABA, my thinking and behavior regarding the latter people, including regarding ableism, have changed and continue to change at an accelerated rate. Instances of the latter set of changes will be discussed.

Gordon Bourland completed his Ph.D. in General-Experimental Psychology at the University of Texas Arlington. Subsequently he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Behavioral Psychology at the John F. Kennedy Institute (now Kennedy-Krieger Institute) of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral and a Licensed Behavior Analyst in Texas. For over 40 years he has held a variety of clinical and administrative positions involving services for persons with a variety of needs in public and private settings, published a number of papers in behavior analytic journals, and participated in the editorial process for several professional journals. Currently, he is the owner and principal in Trinity Behavioral Associates, providing behavior analytic services to persons across the age span with a variety of needs and diagnoses and in a variety of settings. He has been an active member of the Texas Association for Behavior Analysis (TxABA) for over 30 years. He has been a member of the organization's Executive Council and twice elected President of the TxABA. Dr. Bourland has been the initial President of the TxABA Public Policy Group, Past President of the group, and now is a member of the Advisory Committee. He has been actively involved in activities promoting public policies related to behavior analysis in Texas, primarily licensure of behavior analysts. Following establishment of behavior analyst licensure in Texas in 2017, Dr. Bourland was appointed and continues as Presiding Officer of the Texas Behavior Analysis Advisory Board. In addition, Dr. Bourland has been active in the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). In 1975, he attended the first convention of the Midwestern Association for Behavior Analysis that evolved into ABAI, with membership in the organization spanning over 40 years. His roles in ABAI include: Coordinator of the ABAI Affiliate Chapters Board from 2010-2016 and 2020-present; membership on the ABAI SIG Task Force; and Chair of the ABAI Licensing Committee that consults with ABAI Affiliate Chapters regarding licensure of behavior analysts.
Diversity submission 

Coordinating, Collaborating, Leading, and Learning

SUSAN WILCZYNSKI (Ball State University)

Given the purpose of applied behavior analysis is to use our technology and principles to lead to socially meaningful improvements in quality of life, we should all be concerned with how ableism influences the way we interact with disabled people. According to the BACB, most behavior analysts serve Autistic clients, and Autistic clients often receive a large number of service hours. The Task Force for Quality and Values-Based ABA was convened, in large part, to identify and address some of the concerns raised about ableism in the practice of ABA. The need to coordinate and collaborate with others with whom you share differences of opinion have served as a growth opportunity for all Task Force members. But growth is always accompanied by some level of pain, and my role in the Task Force is no exception. For example, my effort to lead gave me insights into the differences between impact and intention that can cause pain based on the point of view of Autistics and neurotypical behavior analysts. Learning more about professional actions, I have historically taken that I have caused harm when I thought I was creating good, has also been painful. Balancing the need to regularly dedicate time to examine our own ableist thinking and actions with the self-care that is needed to maintain a long-term commitment to changing ableism in our practice, is challenging but critical for our success as a field.




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