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Report from the 1st annual Pennsylvania Association for Behavior Analysis conference.

We just returned from an awesome conference (held March 16, 2000 in Harrisburg)--what a great service this organization has begun to provide for the state of Pennsylvania! We are one of 37 affiliate chapters to the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA), the international organization for behavior analysts working in a wide range of domains ( The current PennABA board was elected at ABA 2000 in Washington last year and will remain in place for two year terms. This first annual conference included five educational presentations, an awards ceremony, an open business meeting, and a panel discussion on "Behavior Analysis in PA," for which 5 CEU's for the behavior analyst credential were offered. This bulletin will highlight these events, let you know about the PennABA upcoming goals for 2001-2, and provide contact information at the conclusion. Please feel free to contact any of us for further information!

The first presenter was the always entertaining and enlightening president of PennABA, Richard Foxx, PhD, BCBA. His humorous, yet provocative talk was entitled, "Tenge familia: Behavior analysis in PA--opportunities and threats, friends and foes." Tenge familia meaning, "the family sticks together," made use of cartoons, colorful metaphors and latin terms, historical references and current events, and actual state agency vituperatives against behavioral strategies, to explore issues such as language and cultural barriers to the dissemination of behavior analysis, the current state of research on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of behavioral interventions, and areas of hope. For example, he cautioned that "we are so used to being out of the mainstream that we don't have a mainstream repertoire" and gave examples of how we need to watch our language and presentation. He also emphasized multiple reasons why parents of children with special needs are major allies, being outcome-oriented, educated and motivated. Ultimately, he concluded that "our time has come." With the publication of clear outcome data that support many of our interventions, recent coverage of behavior analysis on major networks, and certification, "this is a wonderful opportunity for us" and thus we must work together and stick together to bring excellent services to families who need them.

A special guest was not a behaviorist, but a lawyer, Edmond Tiryak, J.D. who followed up on some of the themes raised by Richard Foxx with a focus on state and federal level organizations and regulations, how they influence the practice, or not, of behavior analysis, as well as how behavior analysis can influence the ways that policies are established. He pointed out that different divisions of child services housed in the same building in PA hold completely disparate views of behavioral interventions and gave very specific examples of the ways that institutional resistance to behaviorism leads to practices and policies that block the use of behavior analytic interventions and experts. He told fascinating stories of class action law suits for which he was council, and specifically explained how behavior analytic emphasis on data and outcomes helps him win cases. Overall he encouraged us, stating that as an outsider he sees behavior analysis as a "distinguished and effective method of solving problems."

Given all of this talk about dissemination, it is no wonder that Fran Warkomski, Ph.D., the director of the PA Bureau of Special Education, was given an award for her tremendous support of behavior analytic interventions on account of their efficacy. Anyone who has met her knows what a passionate advocate she is for parents and their children with special needs. This award recognized her contributions to behavior analysis, PennABA, and behavior analyst certification in Pennsylvania.

There were three clinical presentations. The first was by PennABA treasurer, Rick Kubina, Ph.D., covering the problem of generalization for children with autism in a particularly stimulating manner. Giving a new twist by using a precision teaching conceptualization, he discussed the ways that typical educational strategies inhibit, or place ceilings, on generalization of newly learned material. Following some fun audience participation demonstrations to clarify the problem, he concluded with several suggestions on how to modify instruction to avoid these problems for children both with and without special needs. Board member at large, Kimberly Schreck, Ph.D. gave an energetic yet scholarly review of the surprisingly spare research literature on the treatment of sleeping difficulties in children (for both typically developing and those with special needs), and specifically described the range of behavioral interventions and their efficacy. Saul Axelrod, Ph.D. spoke in his warm and engaging style on the topic of trigger (antecedent stimulus) analysis for enhancing self-control. Given that he has been in the field a long time, he had an interesting historical perspective on the relative underuse of antecedent control procedures (both respondent and/or operant) as compared with the emphasis on functional analysis and consequences. He pointed out several benefits of heightened focus on antecedents including the ease of non-professional observers to identify and change antecedents, the self-image that teachers often have of themselves as changers of antecedents, and the rapidity of on-the-spot antecedent procedures, as compared with consequent manipulations. (Of course, he was not saying that they always work or that consequent manipulations are not often necessary!)

Last, but not least, a panel discussion was held by the board members and presenters in a lively dialogue with over 100 participants at the conference. The accomplishments of PennABA this year were reviewed and goals for the upcoming year were developed in conjunction with the new membership of PennABA. We were thrilled at how eager people were to engage. Among the goals discussed were: a Penn ABA listserv, a PennABA web site with links to areas of interest to practitioners and families, including a link listing certified behavior analysts, a series of public service pamphlets on topics such as "What is Behavior Analysis?" "Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis," and "Behavior Disorders and Applied Behavior Analysis," an effective snail-mailing list, and a newsletter. The final goal for the coming year is the 2nd Annual Penn ABA Conference. Kudos to Kim Schreck who took the lead organizing this successful conference, to Richard Foxx for his guidance, and to Rick Kubina who agreed to take the lead for next year's conference to be held at Penn State University. If you live in Pennsylvania and would like to help with any of these activities, please join and jump in!

Who are we? The Executive Board of PennABA includes Richard Foxx (President), Richard Weissman (Secretary), Richard Kubina (Treasurer), Beth Rosenwasser (Member at Large), and Kim Schreck (Member at Large), and Angela Smith (Student Representative).

Joining PennABA: Please contact Rick Kubina at (814) 863-2400 or and request a PennABA Membership pamphlet.

Joining PennABA Listserv: Please contact Beth Rosenwasser at

Beth Rosenwasser, M.Ed., BCBA, CAC

PennABA, Board Member at Large
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Author:Rosenwasser, Beth
Publication:The Behavior Analyst Today
Date:Mar 22, 2001
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