Eight Annual Conference in Athlone
This year’s conference was held in Athlone in early April and was well attended by academics, clinicians and students from Ireland and Europe. The programme included a broad array of experimental and applied research.
On the initial day of the conference, attendees had a choice of workshops delivered by Prof. Doug Greer & Dr. Lori Greer (CABAS, USA) on Protocols to Establish Verbal Behavior and Social Developmental Cusps and Capabilities, Prof Robert Mellon (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens Greece) on Generating Outsight: Natural Science Interpretation as Psychotherapeutic Intervention, and Dr. Kendra and Donny Newsome (Fit Learning, Reno, Nevada) on Introduction to Functional Mastery, What it Means to Really Know Something. All the workshops were well supported and engaging.
A poster and refreshments session followed the workshops. This provided students with the opportunity to present their research in a sociable environment and created scope for individual discussions on various research topics. The DBA and the Autism Special Interest Group (Autism SIG, PSI) hosted a student prize for the best judged poster. This year the prize was awarded to Niamh Lyons, student of the MSc in ABA at the National University of Ireland, Galway. A further social event closed the evening.
The second day demonstrated an excellent selection of experimental and applied research from speakers from Ireland and abroad. The day was filled with opportunities to attend symposia and papers on Precision Teaching, Positive Behaviour Support in Social Care Settings, Current Applications of Relational Frame Theory, Interventions for Feeding Issues and Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention. Prof. Julian Leslie (University of Ulster) presented an engaging paper entitled Consciousness: The View from Behavior Analysis, which was highly amusing. Dr. Rebecca MacDonald (The New England Center for Children, Massachusetts) presented on the NECC Core Skills Assessment Tool: Outcome Measures.
The two keynote speakers were engaging and well received. Prof. Doug Greer’s talk was entitled ‘Build Social Reinforcers and Language and Social Learning Will Follow’ and Prof. Mellon spoke on ‘Functions of “dysfunctional” cognition’. Prof. Greer illustrated the role of conditioned reinforcement underlying language as a social tool and social reinforcer. He presented the importance of understanding new and advanced expertise necessary to bring children’s verbal behavior under the natural reinforcers for language functions. These social reinforcers are the keys to what makes language social, and vice versa. His work has identified many key learned reinforcers and how they are learned incidentally and taught explicitly and their impact on language. Prof. Mellon discussed how repetitive patterns of thinking which are often regarded as ‘dysfunctional’ are indeed adaptive processes. He argued that “dysfunctional” thinking might be a form of self control and events produced by the effective form of “dysfunctional” thinking would acquire positive reinforcing potency. Prof. Mellon’s talk proved fascinating, as he led the audience through a serious of engaging examples to illustrate the rationale behind the theory.
The second day was drawn to a close by a panel discussion chaired by Denis O’Hora (National University of Ireland, Galway). Dr. O’ Hora invited questions from the audience and engaged both the panel and audience in a lively discussion on various current topics in behavior analysis in Ireland. The panel was comprised of Dr Bryan Roche (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Dr. Jennifer Holloway (National University of Ireland, Galway) and Prof. Robert Mellon (Panteion University, Greece). The questions focused on the relationship between ABA and EAB, effects of new legislation on the delivery of behavior supports within the national health service for individuals with intellectual disabilities, the DBA conference and the advancement of behavior analysis in Ireland.