Category: ABA News

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Applied Behavior Analysis programs earn international recognition for excellence

The Association for Behavior Analysis International’s (ABAI) Accreditation Board has awarded re-accreditation to Caldwell University’s Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and first-time accreditation to its Ph.D. in ABA program.Caldwell now becomes one of only seven universities worldwide with ABAI accreditation for both its Master’s and doctoral programs.

According to ABAI, accreditation is awarded only to programs demonstrating high levels of comprehensiveness, rigor, and quality related to the science and practice of behavior analysis.The site visit evaluation report of Caldwell’s programs applauded the faculty’s “strong scholarly activity” and “student-centered approach to teaching.” The report also noted that the opportunities for training of students in the programs’ Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis provide an “individualized practicum experience” that results in students becoming “high-quality ABA practitioners.”

We are very proud that the excellence of our ABA degree programs has been recognized by ABAI,” said Ken Reeve, professor of applied behavior analysis and graduate program co-coordinator at Caldwell. “Our students benefit from a rigorous scientist/practitioner model in our programs that prepares them for clinical, academic, and leadership positions in the field. This allows our graduates to effect real progress in the lives of others, particularly those diagnosed with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder.

ABAI Accreditation Board Logo

The Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis program was launched in 2005 and the Ph.D. program began in 2009 amid a growing demand for ABA practitioners in New Jersey and beyond. The Center for Autism and ABA opened in 2010 to provide training and research opportunities for graduate students and to serve individuals with autism and their families.

Founded in 1974, the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) has been the primary membership organization for those interested in the philosophy, science, application, and teaching of behavior analysis.

https://www.abainternational.org/welcome.aspx

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Telehealth program engages learners on the autism spectrum and their families

Like many young people, Ben was not crazy about the idea of learning how to do laundry. As a learner in Caldwell University’s Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis, Ben is receiving virtual in-home instruction through the center’s new telehealth model developed to meet the needs of the learners during the pandemic.

Picture of a learner in the Caldwell University Center for Autism and ABA shows her instructors via telehealth the figurine she made.

A learner in the Caldwell University Center for Autism and ABA shows her instructors via telehealth the figurine she made.

While trying to come up with a way to make doing laundry fun for Ben, graduate student Carleana Hickey had a lightbulb moment: playing sound effects on Ben’s computer when he carries his laundry bucket.  “This made doing laundry so much more fun,” said Dr. Sharon Reeve, director of the center.  Hickey’s innovation is but one of many ideas that faculty members and graduate students are incorporating into their remote teaching for children, teens, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Recently, another learner made a whale, using blocks similar to Legos, and wrote three sentences about her creation, dubbed “Whale-ita.” Throughout the afternoon, Whale-ita was invited by her creator to participate in the scheduled online activities. “We’ve had quite a few bellies laughs with our kiddos even though they are only with us virtually,” said Reeve.

Picture of Ben enjoyinng connecting remotely with his instructors in the Center for Autism and ABA

Ben enjoys connecting remotely with his instructors in the Center for Autism and ABA. During the pandemic, the Center’s telehealth model is providing intervention and daily routines for the learners on the autism spectrum and their parents.

Whether at home or on campus, the center always has the same focus—to provide the goal-oriented, individualized, science-based approach to learning of applied behavior analysis. In New Jersey, the state with the greatest prevalence of ASD, the center’s nationally renowned faculty members is preparing graduate students to offer the most effective instruction at schools and nonprofits for those with the disorder.

Learners at the center range from ages five to 20. Instruction is developed through a team approach with faculty, graduate students, clinical supervisors, and parents working in close collaboration. During these days of remote teaching, the center provides four to six hours of instruction and sends activities home for the learners to do with their parents. Graduate students provide lessons on topics such as self-care, including handwashing and teeth brushing, doing chores, remaining productive each day, creating a daily schedule, and effective resolution of behavioral issues.

Theme weeks are being featured. During the first week of virtual instruction, the timely topic of healthcare/health care professions included virtual hospital tours and videos that illustrate the ways in which viruses can spread. To make the Earth Day theme more fun, a learner went on a scavenger hunt to find organic objects that could be recycled or composted.

Picture of doctoral student Shariq Khan and master’s student Devin Williams-Buttari providing remote instruction to learner Ben via the Center for Autism and ABA’s telehealth program

During the COVID-19 stay at home order, doctoral student Shariq Khan and master’s student Devin Williams-Buttari provide remote instruction to learner Ben via the Center for Autism and ABA’s telehealth program.

Their first interactions via computer screens drew mixed emotions from the learners. That was to be expected since virtual learning was something new, explained Reeve. “Over time we showed all our learners that we could have fun at home while still learning about ‘awesome stuff,’” she said. A wonderful discovery has been that parents are instrumental in making all this happen. “With our help, they are teaching their children,” said Reeve.

Various models are used; parents work with the graduate students and they present to faculty, or parents record videos of home activities so faculty members can assess the learners’ skill levels and provide recommendations. “The videos are such very fun to watch! We have never been closer to all the families because we now spend so much time remotely in their homes,” said Reeve. This has been a beneficial learning experience for graduate students, who are developing strategies to help parents interact effectively with their children. It has also given them the opportunity to work with parents who typically do not have the time to train due to work obligations or the distance of their homes from the center in Caldwell. “Parents seem very appreciative of the training we are providing to help them through an average day,” said Reeve. As a result of this new way of learning, the center’s faculty members are evaluating a virtual post-pandemic instruction model.

Reeve and the other faculty members in the Department of Applied Behavior Analysis are proud of the graduate students who have stepped up to help them develop the telehealth model. They are “one big family in the center” and are doing all they can to ensure that the learners and their parents are getting all of the support and resources they need, said Reeve. “We are proud to still be making a difference in their lives—just in a somewhat different format.”

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Caldwell University Applied Behavior Analysis Master’s Receives ABAI Accreditation

 

Caldwell, N.J., July 2, 2014 –The Caldwell University Department of Applied Behavior Analysis has received accreditation for its Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis from the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). Caldwell’s M.A. in ABA program is the first ABAI-accredited program in New Jersey and only the 20th worldwide to be so recognized.

As the ABAI executive council stated in its letter to Dr. Sharon Reeve, chair of the ABA department, and Dr. Kenneth Reeve, the Alvin R. Calman Professor of ABA and director of research, the “accredited programs are distinguished by the quality of their education, and tend to attract the best students of behavior analysis.” ABAI is a professional organization that “contributes to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.” (www.abainternational.org).

“We are proud to be recognized for the quality of academic and clinical training we provide in our M.A. in ABA program,” said Dr. Ken Reeve.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, New Jersey has the highest rate of autism spectrum disorders in the United States, with one in 45 individuals affected. One in 28 boys in New Jersey is on the spectrum. “Given that New Jersey has such a high rate of autism, it is especially rewarding to know that we are providing high-quality training for those professionals who can provide the greatest benefits to individuals on the autism spectrum,” said Dr. Sharon Reeve.

To address the need for trained professionals to work with children on the spectrum, the Caldwell M.A. program in behavior analysis was established in 2005, and it was the first such program in New Jersey. The program is housed in the state-of-the-art Caldwell University Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis, which holds classrooms, observation rooms, video and auditory equipment, computer-based data collection systems, and areas designed to promote skill acquisition. Graduates of the program are making great strides in the field as evidenced by the work of professionals such as Mark Mautone, an alumnus and Hoboken educator, who was named Hudson County Teacher of the Year.

In 2009, Caldwell launched the first and only Ph.D. in applied behavior analysis program in New Jersey. Students graduate prepared for high-level employment in areas demanding competent professionals with expertise in applied behavior analysis including developmental services, special education, mental health and academia.

Caldwell University is a private, Catholic coed four-year university with a strong liberal arts core curriculum that enhances critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Caldwell offers 25 undergraduate and 30 graduate programs, including doctoral, master’s, certificate and certification programs, as well as online and distance learning options that prepare students for today’s global marketplace. The university has 15 NCAA Division II athletic teams and numerous clubs, fraternities, sororities and activities on a beautiful 70-acre campus located in the suburbs of Caldwell, New Jersey. Caldwell was founded by the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell.  Its core values of respect, integrity, community and excellence influence academic and campus life. For more information about Caldwell University, visit caldwell.edu.

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‘A Walk in the Park’ Brings Over $3K to Center for Autism and ABA

Shane Harper and his uncle, Frank Lisante handing cheque to Caldwell College Autism Center from “Walk in the Park” fundraiser

Left to right back row: Patty Blum Lisante and Jeannie Blum-Harper
Front row: Frank Lisante, Shane Harper , Vincent Christopher and Dr. Sharon Reeve

 

Caldwell, N.J.—May 23, 2013—Fifth-grader Shane Harper and his uncle, Frank Lisante, recently held a “Walk in the Park” with friends and family to benefit the Caldwell University Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis and collected more than $3,000 to be donated to the facility.

“Me and Uncle Frank were partners in fundraising,” Shane said.

Shane’s family participated in the Caldwell University 5 K RUN WALK for Autism in previous years, and since the event was not held this year, they decided to hold their own. Twenty-five of their family members and friends, ages 3 to 75, came out to support the cause.

Shane, who attends Cedar Hill School in Montville, is president of the student council. He is passionate about helping the Caldwell Center for Autism and ABA. Shane and his uncle said it didn’t matter how much money they raised, but that they raised awareness.

One of the big contributors to the walk was the group Vero Amici for Charity, a nonprofit that supports those in need in the local community. “One hundred percent raised is given back to community,” said Vincent Christopher , one of the founders of the charity. He came with Shane and his family to present the check to Dr. Sharon Reeve, Ph.D., BCBA-D, executive director of the Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis. Christopher founded Vero Amici with Dom Aiello and Joe Garamella both of West Caldwell. Garamella is the current president of the organization.

Shane’s entire family has a passion for helping children on the autism spectrum. His mother, Jeannie Blum-Harper, a Mount St. Dominic Academy alumna, has been a school nurse for special needs children. His aunt, Patty Blum Lisante, also a Mount alumna, has worked with special needs children. She first met Dr. Reeve when she was enrolled in the post-baccalaureate teacher certification program at Caldwell.

It is clear that young Shane Harper already has his focus in life and his heart in the right place. “People say ‘why,’ and we say ‘why not’?” he said.

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From Columbia, South America to the Caldwell University Center for Autism & ABA

 

Carolina Lenis, Master’s student in ABAMaster’s student blogs on how becoming a behavior analyst is her passion

By: Carolina Lenis, master’s student in ABA

My name is Carolina Lenis, and I’m currently pursuing my master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at Caldwell University. I am originally from Colombia, South America, and I have been in the United States for about 7 years now.  When I completed my bachelor’s degree in psychology at a college in Colombia, I decided to come to this country to learn English; my plan was to stay one year. I came as an au pair with an exchange program, and a trip that was supposed to last a year turned into the journey of my life.  I was intrigued when I received an offer to be an au pair for a family in the States who had a teenager diagnosed with autism.- I had always been interested in learning more about individuals with disabilities. Before I arrived in New Jersey, Matthew’s mother described him to me as a very caring, smart and fun young boy who attended an amazing school based on a scientifically-validated intervention called applied behavior analysis (ABA).

During the first months, I had the opportunity to observe Matthew at school and learn how to teach him in different settings. At first, I started to go a couple of days a week and ended up volunteering at that school for almost a year. After the first month, I was amazed with the teaching methods at the school, how every learner had their own curriculum and behavior plan in place, and how well the teachers arranged everything to maximize every learner’s potential. I remember calling my family in Colombia and telling them, “I have found what I want to do in my life. I want to learn more about autism and ABA, and acquire the necessary experience to help individuals diagnosed with autism.”

After about three years, I started my master’s degree in ABA at Caldwell University. It has been a great professional and personal experience learning the science of behavior analysis, and I’m able to apply it during my practicum experience at the Center for Autism and ABA at Caldwell University. As a student of behavior analysis, I am able to help individuals diagnosed with autism to have a better quality of life by teaching social, leisure, communication, academic, and vocational skills. Every day is full of challenges, but it is a very rewarding career that I enjoy and I would not change for anything. Each child at the Center is unique, and we focus on their strengths and abilities to help them reach the highest level for individual growth, achievement, and independence through teaching based on ABA. Being a behavior analyst is my passion – Every day I look forward to teaching new things to learners and learning from them as well.

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Dr. Sharon A. Reeve and Dr. Mary Beth Walsh join Brenda Blackmon on My 9 TV’s New Jersey Now

Dr. Sharon A. Reeve and Dr. Mary Beth Walsh join Brenda Blackmon on My 9 TV’s New Jersey Now to talk about issues affecting families with children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Dr. Sharon Reeve of the Caldwell Colleg eCenter for Autism talks about recent breakthroughs in autism research in the Garden state, while Mary Beth walsh, the mother of a son with autism, talks about the obstacles her son has overcome.

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Corner Butcher Block Supports Center for Autism and ABA

Corner Butcher Block Handing Cheque to Center for Autism and ABA

Left to right: Brian Provost, owner of the Corner Butcher Block in Caldwell and Mike Stevens, Jr., present Kevin Boyle, vice president of development and alumni affairs, Caldwell University with a gift of $1,000.00 to support the college’s Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis.

 

Caldwell, NJ – April 15, 2013 – Caldwell University was thrilled to receive a donation of $1,000.00 from the Corner Butcher Block to support its Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis.

“We are delighted to receive this generous gift from our friends at the Corner Butcher Block. Their support of the Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis will benefit the Caldwell students who work closely with children on the autism spectrum at the Center,” said Kevin Boyle, vice president for development and alumni affairs.

The gift was particularly timely given the fact that April is Autism Awareness and the college is celebrating the month with activities being planned by the student-run autism awareness and applied behavior analysis clubs.

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April, Autism Awareness Month Spotlight

Caldwell graduate student Danielle Schatz with her advisor Ruth DeBar

Student Research Focuses on Techniques for Getting Teenagers on Spectrum to Drink Water during Exercise 

Caldwell graduate student Danielle Schatz will present her thesis research project, “The Effects of a Tactile Prompt on Water Consumption during Exercise in Adolescents with Autism,” at the International Association of Behavior Analysts in May.  Schatz, a resident of Little Ferry, N.J., who is completing her master of arts in applied behavior analysis, recently presented at the New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis conference.  She found that applied behavior analysis techniques were effective in prompting those on the autism spectrum to consume water while exercising.

Schatz, an instructional paraprofessional working with people on the autism spectrum, said the impetus for the project came after she observed that some of the adolescents she was working with day to day exercising in the gym never consumed water. “They always had a water bottle available to them, but they never took a drink from it without someone telling them to,” she said. “When I personally exercise, I reach for and drink from my water bottle consistently throughout my workout.”   Because of their skill deficits, individuals with autism may not understand that if they are hot or thirsty they can drink water to gain relief, she said.

“After going through the literature, I was troubled that the research in this particular area and population was scarce. So, not only was there a gap in the learners’ skill sets, but there was a gap in the overall literature,” Schatz said.

Her faculty advisor, Ruth DeBar, Ph.D., was supportive, saying the topic choice was “very timely given the focus on childhood obesity in the United States.”

It was a big project for Schatz, but she said the many months of research paid off.   “As we like to say throughout the thesis process, you become ‘married’ to your project. In the beginning stages, you research and learn everything you can about the topic. Then, based on what you’ve learned, you create a procedure that you think would give you the ultimate result. Finally, you run the project and hope that all your work pays off,” Schatz said.   “I am extremely proud to have been able to run such a project and proud of my participants for learning such an important skill.”

Schatz plans to sit for the exam to become a board-certified behavior analyst, and continue working with and learning from individuals with autism.

“The Caldwell University ABA program has prepared me by teaching the concepts, terminology and techniques necessary for work within the field of ABA and working with individuals with autism. They have given me the tools necessary to further my career through research and clinical settings as well as fill the demand for ABA professionals,” she said.

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Turning the Tables: Using Behavior Analysis for Good…My Own Good!

Sandra Bendokas

By: Sandra Bendokas

As I approach the end of my academic studies in applied behavior analysis (ABA) at Caldwell University, I am proud of what I have learned, the skills I have acquired, and what I am able to offer the children with autism who I serve. I spend most days, and more than a few evenings, studying and applying the principles of my field so that others may benefit from what ABA has to offer.

As a full-time worker in autism treatment/ABA, full-time graduate student, and full-time mother of two small children, I sometimes find myself lost in the needs of others. I’m sure I don’t need to convince anyone that raising children is time-consuming. If you have been, or are currently a student, it doesn’t take much to convince you of the enormous time commitment. And full-time work in any field is just that, full time! And I would argue the field of ABA demands even a little something more.

In light of all of this, it seems that I have lost track of some of my own needs. After having my second baby a year ago, I have struggled to lose the weight. Now you may think, she has great excuses, right? Work, school, kids…..I even had my parents move in with us after their house was destroyed in the hurricane! What better excuses could I have?! It was impossible for me to diet and exercise…right?

Well, I am going to stop the pity party right there. Life can be tough! We all know that. What is even worse is that I knew they were just excuses. If it was important enough, I would have done it. Enter my last elective for my required coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis. As I walked into class the first week, our professor asked, “Has anyone made a New Year’s resolution this year?” Not thinking much of it, I raised my hand and said that I wanted to lose the “baby weight”. And so it began….my journey to use the applied behavior analysis techniques with myself to lose weight.

It is probably important to tell you the topic of this class….it is called “Self-Management.” I realized that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to apply my skills in ABA, only to myself this time. Maybe all of my excuses are obstacles, and I need a better plan. I need to develop better strategies and set more reasonable goals.

So, as a part of this class, but more importantly, as a part of my new life goal, I decided to blog, and publicly post my plan, strategies, and progress toward my goal. I decided to share this as a way to become accountable for my behavior, and hopefully, increase my motivation to adhere to my plan and use the strategies I develop.

I will be updating my progress periodically and will let you know just how well I am able to turn the tables and use ABA for my own good. I would love your feedback, and if you have any questions, I would love to hear them!

 

Sandra Bendokas is a graduate student at Caldwell University currently pursuing her master’s in applied behavior analysis.