I attended the 17th annual National Autism Conference held at Penn State University. I had the honor of meeting many important researchers in the field of autism and applied behavior analysis as well as teachers, parents, and advocates.
Jodi DiPiazza, a young lady with autism, has been working with a board certified behavior analyst who uses applied behavior analysis techniques to improve Jodi’s vocabulary and skills. She was the focus of the keynote opening speaker and even performed two songs on the piano. Jodi is a talented, sweet, funny young lady. She has even performed with Katy Perry.
David Palmer discussed joint control and how natural it comes to typically developed people but people with autism struggle with joint control because they don’t have strategies to account for each component. Joint control is where two variables simultaneously control one outcome. For example—problem solving, memory tasks, and matching.
Mark Sundberg discussed motivation based off of Skinner’s book Verbal Behavior. He discussed that motivation can evoke or abolish behavior, what constitutes motivation, and other components that motivation does or doesn’t account for. He even said that “we’ve barely scratched the surface for what behavior analysis can do for children with autism.”
Later in the afternoon, I saw Carl Sundberg who discussed how useful sign language is because of how functional it is. Using communicative devices are bulky and time consuming and although not everyone knows sign, there are ways around that. Parents and teachers will say it’s hard to teach but they really only have to learn the signs as fast as the child is acquiring them.
Vincent Carbone (whose mentor, Jack Michael, attended and spoke during his presentation), discussed the reflexive conditioned motivative operation (CMO-R) which is in the presence of worsening conditions/onset of stimulus establishes own removal as type of reinforcement which will evoke behavior that previously was reinforced. Teachers do not want to be CMO-Rs or else students will try to run away when they see the teacher so in order to get around this, make instruction time enjoyable and fun and slowly work in the actual instruction.
Barb Esch discussed speech and effective ways to teach it and Faith Fisher presented on direct instruction to teach literacy to children with autism. The whole conference was an incredible experience and not only did I have fun, I also learned so much!