ABA in Australia: Diverse and Relevant… The Second Annual ABAA Conference

The 2nd Annual Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia conference happened, the first weekend in November. It was a time to come together, meet old and new colleagues and friends, and most importantly, spend an entire weekend talking about ABA with like-minded people! There is just something about being in a room, with people who love ABA as much as you do 🙂

We had two jam-packed full days, with Dr. Dana Reinecke kicking off Day 1, discussing working with older clients, in particularly, utilising technology to increase independence (a current special interest of mine). Lots of great take-aways, including her mention of Dr. Peter Gerhardt and ‘planning for the next five years’ – which ever life stage you are in.


Dr. Dana Reinecke discussing utilising technology with students.

We then heard from a range of different presenters, covering topics such as the Association for Science in Autism Treatment’s presence in the media, creative ways to assess PICA (eating non-food substances), and supervision.


Dr. Tessa Taylor sharing some great information to help with assessing functions of PICA.

We wrapped up the day with a lively speech from Dr. John McEachin and teaching receptive language skills. We also we privileged to hear about Jay Birnbrauer, by his friend and colleague, Dr. Alan Ralph, who shared with us Jay ‘Birnie’ Birnbrauer’s contribution to behaviour analysis, in Australia.

It was a long, but really interesting day, topped off by fantastic discussions with ABA colleagues, long into the night.

Day 2 was off to an extremely interesting and renewed start. We heard from Dr. Johnathan Tarbox, on the Benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Applied Behaviour Analysis, which just blew everyone out of the water. We all seemed to take away something from this session.


Dr. Johnathan Tarbox, sharing his amazing presentation of ACT and ABA.

The day continued with a very interesting presentation, from Dr. Erin Leif, sharing Dr. Greg Henley’s Interview Informed Functional Analyses in Clinic and Home Settings. We heard about teaching social skills to students with autism, as well as some more on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Behaviour Therapists, and wrapped up the final day of the conference with a panel discussion on advocating for services through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

There was so much to take in, and I personally feel like I learned so much. Now, its just about finding the time to synthesise the information, and apply things where needed. I also figured out about 10 different things I wanted to look further into!

It is really great to be able to be a part of a community such as this. I never thought, when I first started this career, over ten years ago, that we would be in a position where we have annual Australian ABA conferences. The field is only growing, and with new opportunities to become a BCBA (through Monash University), the Victorian Department of Education hiring 3 state-wide BCBAs, as well as the Victorian Government providing scholarships for teachers to complete postgraduate study in ABA, we can only continue to expand, from here.

And finally, something that made me smile – applying the principles of ABA, to increase recycling behaviour 😀


A Behaviour Plan to help everyone increase their recycling behaviour, after the conference!

To find out more about the Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia, visit their webpage, http://www.auaba.com.au.

ABA in Australia: Diverse and Relevant… The Second Annual ABAA Conference

While I’m killing more time in an airport…

I figured I’d sum up my experience at the ABAI 2016 Convention.

Convention is the right word, it’s much bigger than a conference! I took away so much, met so many people, had some new ideas, and came to the general conclusion that, while ABA is more used and understood in the US, people working in the field can still face the same difficulties we do in Australia – misunderstanding/misrepresentation, lack of funding, lack of collaboration and teamwork. On the whole, it is most likely more accepted, and used in the a States, but in a sad sort of way, that was nice to hear.
On the other hand, there were a few things that stood out to me that seemed a bit backwards, but I can possibly try to understand them. One in particular was the talk on fads and fallacies in autism intervention – what to watch out for. I would have thought that any good, qualified BCBA, would be aware of how to think critically about the latest “cures” for autism intervention, but apparently not. This kind of ties into when I was discussing with my supervisor the pass rates for the BCBA exam, and how people who fail, multiple times, can keep re-sitting it. Firstly, universities advertising their courses as “75% pass rate” is not actually that encouraging! (And I think that’s pretty average!) But I know the higher education system is a little different over here, so I can understand why that is important to people. (For the record, I plan on sitting the exam only once, and passing first go. 😳) There also seemed to be a lot of people discussing the notion of collaboration, teamwork, and working with the families. This is completely opposite of what we (try) to do in Australia. I think the systems here traditionally have been set up very differently.

It was good to catch up with, and meet a few Aussies. I like the fact there are other individuals in Australia, willing to travel half way round the world for a convention, to learn a little bit more about what is happening in the world of ABA. I like like-minded, committed professionals. (It doesn’t hurt that you can turn it into a holiday at the same time 😊)

It was also great to be able to share some work that I am doing in little old Sydney, with people from all over the world. I feel like this was a nice introduction, but it made me think a bit more about where my specific research interests lie (hint – it’s not activity schedules!) So this convention has been good because it has given me a bit more specific direction. Watch this space… 🎓

On the whole, I’m very glad I came! I heard so many great presentations, and had some good chats. I probably won’t be back for another few years, but do plan to go to the Interbational conference in Paris at the end of next year. And of course, the inaugural Australian ABA Conference, in Melbourne, September this year.

While I’m killing more time in an airport…