Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis 2007 Conference Report

Autism and Behaviour Analysis ONTABA Conference 2007

By: Taline Sagharian

November 28, 2007

The Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis (ONTABA) held their annual conference on November 15 and 16, 2007. The two-day conference provided an exciting opportunity for attendees to learn some of the most up-to-date and innovative methods of incorporating Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) techniques in various significant issues including autism.

During the Awards Ceremony segment, retired MPP Shelley Martel was presented with an honourary lifetime ONTABA membership award in recognition of her outstanding dedication and commitment to families and individuals with autism and in supporting ABA in Ontario . Ms. Martel said that she is thrilled to continue her involvement with the autism community and feels that there is great merit in developing an accreditation process for professionals working in the field of autism and ABA . “This is necessary to assure parents that high quality treatment services are being delivered to their children and that the money being invested in recruitment, training and retention, is being well-spent,” said Ms. Martel. “Models of regulation have been developed in other jurisdictions and we should examine those models to determine what would work in Ontario .” When asked why it would be paramount for the government to recognize and work with ONTABA in this development process, she said; “Since ONTABA has the expertise in behaviour analysis, it only makes sense for the Ontario government to work with ONTABA in developing any such criteria."

In his opening remarks, Dr. James Porter, now past president of ONTABA, announced the birth of the Canadian Association for Behaviour Analysis Inc. (CABA), for which he is the founder and will serve as its first president. The website will be uploaded in the next 48 hours . “The primary focus will be on creating a national voice for behaviour analysis and behaviour analysts,” he said. “This includes helping to establish ethical, accountable behaviour analysis services with quality assurance in all provinces -- all regions -- from one end of Canada to the other through certification of behaviour analysts throughout Canada .”

Malcolm Stanley, executive member of the Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) made a presentation on day two of the conference for which he received a standing ovation. The presentation pointed out that the ONTABA brand is based in the quality of ABA service and that there are dangers in the organization not being involved in ABA implementation strategies in Ontario . "Appropriation of the ABA concept by politicians and unqualified service providers weakens not only ONTABA but threatens the overall quality ABA service provided to all Ontario children (with autism)", said Mr. Stanley. “The OAC strongly urges ONTABA to aggressively 'police' the use of ABA-based word marks and concepts in the Ontario marketplace”, he said. The OAC is also pushing for ABA to be implemented under the guidance of ONTABA member professionals and offered a number of possible solutions such as the development of a professional college. "A key step in this process is the achievement of an agreement with the Provincial government to put in place a college for ABA professionals and ensure proper credentialing of ABA service providers," he said. "This strategic goal must be achieved by ONTABA before school programs are set up which ignore or disallow the presence of ONTABA and its members."

There was an abundant flow of energy throughout the two days. Indeed, it has been a remarkable year for autism in Ontario . There is no question that the newly formed relationship between autism advocates and ONTABA provides the critical backbone in the fight for the implementation of authentic ABA in our province. The first step in achieving this goal is for Ontario to embrace the existing international standards of board certification for those practicing ABA . However, qualifications specific to both autism and ABA expertise requires that the individuals overseeing the implementation of ABA for autism not only meet the international board certification standards, but that they also carry autism experience as outlined in the Autism SIG Guidelines for ABA Consumers .

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