Speakers

Shahla Ala’i, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA
Associate Professor, University of North Texas

Dr. Shahla Ala’i received her B.S. from Southern Illinois University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas. Shahla and her students collaborate with Easter Seals North Texas to serve vulnerable populations through caring and science-based interventions. Shahla is also a member of an interdisciplinary social justice collective. This collective creates a space for applied research and activism and includes faculty and students from Woman’s and Gender Studies, Applied Anthropology and Behavior Analysis. Shahla served on the governing board of the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) and is a subject matter expert on supervision and on ethics. She is currently on several boards and disciplinary committees, most notably the ABAI Practice Board, ABA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board and the APBA Task Force on Diversity. She has published and presented research on social justice, ethics in early intervention, play and social skills, family harmony, and change agent training. She currently has two books in press, one on supervision and the other on love and science in the treatment of autism. Shahla was awarded an Onassis Foundation Fellowship for her work with families, was the recipient of UNT’s prestigious, student selected “Fessor Graham” teaching award, received the 2019 Texas Association for Behavior Analysis Career Contributions Award, and the UNT 2020 Community Engagement award.

Benjamin Black, MD
Director of Medical Services, University of Missouri Thompson Center

Dr. Benjamin Black is a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician who serves as Director of Medical Services at the Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders.  He attended medical school at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, PA.  He then completed residency in Pediatrics at Children’s Mercy.  Following residency, he went on to complete a fellowship in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Children’s Mercy, along with a fellowship in Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology.  Prior to joining the Thompson Center in January 2020, he was on staff at Children’s Mercy Kansas City where he served as Associate Chief of the Section of Developmental Pediatrics.  Dr. Black’s clinical and research interests include pharmacological management of neurobehavioral disorders. 

Ashleigh Boyd, MHS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist, University of Missouri Thompson Center

Ashleigh Boyd is a speech-language pathologist with over 20  years of experience providing intervention and evaluation for children with autism and other speech and language disorders. She is the Clinic Director on the Missouri LEND grant (Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Disorders) and provides more than 20 hours a week of clinical supervision to budding SLP trainees.

Austin Campbell, PharmD, BCPP
Psychiatric Pharmacist, Missouri Psychiatric Center

Dr. Austin Campbell Pharm.D., BCPP, is a clinical pharmacy specialist in psychiatry with University of Missouri Health Care in Columbia, Missouri. Additionally, he is an adjunct clinical assistant professor with the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) School of Pharmacy and an adjunct assistant professor with the University of Missouri Medical School. He currently practices as an acute inpatient psychiatric pharmacist for children, adolescents, and adults at the Missouri Psychiatric Center in Columbia, MO. Dr. Campbell graduated from the UMKC School of Pharmacy in 2008. He then went on to complete a first year postgraduate residency at the Kansas City VA Medical Center and a second year specialty residency in psychiatry at the Center for Behavioral Medicine in Kansas City before obtaining his board certification in psychiatric pharmacy (BCPP). Dr. Campbell is an active member of the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP) serving as a member of several committees and editorial boards and is the incoming programing chair. Dr. Campbell is recognized throughout the state of Missouri for his outreach and education efforts with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Department of Mental Health, Missouri Telehealth Network, Project ECHO, and the Missouri Children’s Health Integration Learning and Development (MO CHILD) Center for Excellence in Child Well-Being. 

Erik Carter, PhD
Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair & Professor of Special Education, Vanderbilt University

Dr. Erik Carter’s research and teaching focuses on evidence-based strategies for supporting inclusion, belonging, and relationships in school, work, community, and congregational settings for children and adults with autism, intellectual disability, and other developmental disabilities. He has published widely in the areas of educational and transition services for individuals with disabilities, including more than 200 articles/chapters and 6 books. He was received research awards from the Council for Exceptional Children, the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. He cares deeply about ensuring best practices and strong values permeate our work—both locally and nationally. He lives outside Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and three children.

Mark Dixon, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA
Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

Dr. Mark Dixon is currently a professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has authored 12 books and over 200 peer reviewed journal articles. Dr. Dixon has served as Editor of Behavior Analysis in Practice and The Analysis of Verbal Behavior. He has also been an associate editor for Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. Dr. Dixon has generated over 10 million dollars in funding to infuse behavior analysis within local schools and treatment facilities, and create a behavioral therapy clinic for persons suffering from problem gambling or obesity. Dr. Dixon’s research and/or expert opinions have been featured in NewsweekTimeThe New York TimesNational Public RadioThis American Life, a New York Times best seller, and regional affiliates of ABC, CBS, and PBS.

Jeanne Donaldson, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA
Associate Professor, Louisiana State University

Dr. Jeanne Donaldson earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Florida and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership at Texas Tech University. Currently, she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Louisiana State University. Her research focuses on solving problems common in early childhood and assessing child and adult (typically teacher) preference for interventions. She was the 2018 recipient of the B. F. Skinner Foundation New Applied Researcher Award from APA Division 25. She is currently an Associate Editor at the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. Dr. Donaldson is a BCBA-D and Licensed Behavior Analyst in the state of Louisiana.

Thomas Higbee PhD, BCBA-D, LBA
Executive Director, ASSERT Program

Dr. Thomas Higbee is a Professor and the Interim Department Head in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation at Utah State University and Executive Director of the Autism Support Services: Education, Research, and Training (ASSERT) program, an early intensive behavioral intervention program for children with autism that he founded in 2003. He is a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and a Licensed Behavior Analyst in the state of Utah. His research focuses on the development of effective educational and behavioral interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities as well as the development of effective training strategies for teaching parents and professionals to implement effective interventions. He is a former associate editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) and the European Journal of Behavior Analysis. Dr. Higbee is committed to the dissemination of effective behavioral interventions and has helped to create intensive behavior analytic preschool and school programs for children with autism and related disorders in Brazil, Russia, Portugal, and throughout his home state of Utah.  He is the past president of the Utah Association for Behavior Analysis (UtABA) and has served as a member of the Practice Board of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and the Psychologist Licensing Board of the state of Utah.

Marisela Huerta, PhD
Program Director, Felicity House

Dr. Marisela Huerta obtained degrees in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She completed a clinical internship at the University of Illinois in Chicago Developmental Disorders Clinic, where she provided diagnostic evaluations to children and adults and trained local school teams on the elements of Structured Teaching. She worked at the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center and the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, leading the adult services team for many years. She currently maintains an appointment at Weill Cornell Medicine and has co-authored papers in peer-reviewed publications focused on the assessment and identification of autism and the female autism phenotype. In 2018, she became Program Director at Felicity House, a unique social program for adult women with autism.

Shafali Spurling Jeste, MD
Director of CARTING Clinic, UCLA

Dr. Shafali Spurling Jeste is a behavioral child neurologist specializing in autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. She is an Associate Professor-in-Residence in Psychiatry, Neurology and Pediatrics at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, the director of the UCLA CARING Clinic, and a lead investigator in the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART). After earning a BA in philosophy from Yale University in 1997 and her MD from Harvard Medical School in 2002, Dr. Jeste completed a residency in child neurology and a fellowship in behavioral child neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Jeste has designed innovative studies in early predictors of autism in a genetic syndrome called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) that integrate biomarkers with behavior to define atypical development prior to the onset of autism. This work in TSC has led to the first randomized controlled clinical trial of behavioral intervention for these infants and has paved the way for other early intervention trials in rare genetic syndromes. To address the many gaps in medical care for rare genetic forms of neurodevelopmental disorders, she founded and directs the CARING Clinic (Care and Research in Neurogenetics). She holds several national and international leadership positions including the Board of Directors of the American Brain Foundation, Board of Directors of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, and the Board of Directors of the International Society for Autism Research. In 2019 she became Chair of the International Baby Siblings Research Consortium. In 2019 she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for her innovations in research in early predictors and intervention for genetic neurodevelopmental disorders.

Stephen Kanne, PhD, ABPP (CN)
Director, Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, Weill Cornell Medical College

Dr. Stephen Kanne is the director at the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at Weill Cornell Medical College and the former executive director of the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. He is a pediatric neuropsychologist with specialized clinical training and experience in working with children with ASD. His research interests have focused on the measurement of ASD symptoms and traits, treatment outcome and measure development. He has been trained to the point of research reliability in the Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2). He is also an independent trainer for both instruments, allowing him to supervise and train others in the use of these assessment instruments.

Louis Kemner
Public Speaker & Autism Advocate

Louis Kemner graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in creative writing. In 2012, Louis sold his first fantasy novel manuscript to an independent publisher who went on to publish his work as an e-book. In 2018, Louis took a position with HubShout as a freelance SEO writer which launched his writing career. Louis was laterhired by Valnet, a Canadian company that publishes content on variety of websites around the globe. In addition to writing, he also enjoys public speaking and advocating for the autism community. Louis was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2018 at the age of 28.

Kerri Nowell, PhD
Clinical Psychologist, University of Missouri Thompson Center

Dr. Kerri Nowell is a licensed psychologist and an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Health Psychology within the University of Missouri’s School of Health Professions. She is housed at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders where she provides psychological services and clinical training, and conducts research She earned her PhD in School Psychology at the University of Houston and completed predoctoral internship training at University of Nebraska Medical Center (Munroe-Meyer Institute, Center for Autism Disorders) where she developed expertise in the treatment of feeding disorders and severe behaviors using applied behavior analysis. Dr. Nowell also has specific expertise in conducting evaluations for youth with suspected or identified neurodevelopmental disorders across varied contexts including schools, community mental health, and medical clinics. Dr. Nowell is also engaged in several research projects such as investigating differences in ASD phenotypes across gender and the sociodemographic factors affecting the timely identification of ASD.

RuthAnne Rehfeldt, PhD, BCBA-D
Assistant Chair and Professor ABA Program, Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Dr. Rehfeldt holds a BA in psychology from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA (1993), and masters and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Nevada (1998). Dr. Rehfeldt is now serving as assistant chair and professor in the Applied Behavior Analysis program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology Chicago campus. Dr. Rehfeldt has published over 100 articles and book chapters in behavior analysis. She co-edited a book with Yvonne Barnes-Holmes entitled, “Derived Relational Responding: Applications for Learners with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities,” and her next book is set to be released in 2021. Dr. Rehfeldt served as the editor and business manager for The Psychological Record for 12 years for which B. F. Skinner was one of the first editorial board members. She is or has been an editorial board member for a number of prominent behavior analytic journals, including Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, and has held a number of leadership positions within the Association for Behavior Analysis International. She is currently serving as Program Chair for the ABAI Annual Autism Convention, and at-large representative on the ABAI Council. Some recent accomplishments include being awarded ABAI Fellow designation, a recognition granted to outstanding contributors in research and scholarship, and co-authoring a chapter on relational framing which was published in the highly anticipated Cooper et al 3rd edition text (the “white book.”)

Brittney Stevenson, MOT, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist, University of Missouri Thompson Center

Brittney Stevenson is an occupational therapist and provides occupational therapy and evaluation to children with autism and other motor, sensory, and adaptive concerns. She is the co-director of the SWIM (Swimming and Water Instruction Modifications), an adapted swimming program through the University of Missouri. Brittney also teaches a variety of groups on life-skills, picky eating, and handwriting. In addition to her other roles, Brittney also currently serves on the Early Intervention ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) as a hub team member.

Jennifer Sykes, PhD
Clinical Psychologist, University of Missouri Thompson Center

Jennifer Sykes is a licensed clinical psychologist and has expertise in autism evaluations with children ranging in age from 18 months to young adulthood. Additionally, she is passionate about the family experience during appointments and parent training related to child behaviors.

ABA Inside Track
Diana Parry-Cruwys, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA
Robert Parry-Cruwys, MSed, BCBA, LABA
Jacquelyn MacDonald, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA

ABA Inside Track is a podcast about applied behavior analysis and the research the fuels the field. Two BCBA-Ds and their BCBA host lead spirited discussions on a wide range of different topics. The podcast hosts a variety of distinguished behavior analysts and is also a popular source of continuing education credit for BCBAs, BCBA-Ds, BCaBAs, and RBTs. ABA Inside Track assures their audiences that listening to the podcast is “way more fun than pressing a lever.”

Amber Valentino, Psy.D., BCBA-D
Chief Clinical Officer, Trumpet Behavioral Health

In 2008, Dr. Valentino received a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. She completed a predoctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the Marcus Autism Center/Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in Atlanta, GA. After completion of her postdoctoral training, she remained at the Marcus Autism Center, serving as program coordinator of a community autism parent training program and as a senior psychologist in a language and learning clinic. In 2012, she transitioned to Trumpet Behavioral Health where she has held various leadership positions. She currently serves as the Chief Clinical Officer for Trumpet Behavior Health. In this role, she oversees clinical services, all research and training initiatives and builds clinical standards for the organization. Dr. Valentino’s clinical and research interests include the assessment and treatment of verbal behavior, primarily in children with autism. She is also interested in evaluation of programming to address unique adaptive skill deficits, and in developing standards for effective supervision in the field. Dr. Valentino currently serves as an Associate Editor for Behavior Analysis in Practice and previously served as an Associate Editor for The Analysis of Verbal Behavior. She is on the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) and serves as a frequent guest reviewer for several behavior analytic journals.  She is an active board member of CalABA and several other professional organizations.

Oliver Wendt, PhD
Director of Research Lab on Augmentative and Alternative Communication in ASD, University of Central Florida

Dr. Oliver Wendt is Director of the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Autism Research Lab at the University of Central Florida. His research lab develops AAC interventions and technologies for minimally-verbal individuals on the autism spectrum. Dr. Wendt specializes in single-subject experimental designs and meta-analyses of these studies. He is first editor of the textbook “Assistive Technology. Principles and Applications for Communication Disorders and Special Education” (Emerald Publishing). Dr. Wendt serves on the Scientific Advisory Council for the Organization of Autism Research and as Associate Editor for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. He is recipient of the 2018 Autism Hero Award by the Anna Kennedy Charity, the 2015 Outstanding Research Award by the Autism Society of America, and the 2005 Editor Award for the Most Significant Research Article in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (together with Schlosser, Angermeier, & Shetty). 

Jennifer Weyman, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA
Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Special Education, University of Missouri

Dr. Jennifer Weyman is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a Licensed Behavior Analyst in the state of Missouri. She started working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder and related intellectual disabilities while earning her Bachelor’s degree at University of Florida. She received her Master’s degree in Human Service Psychology from University of Maryland, Baltimore County while working at Kennedy Krieger Institute and she earned her Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis from University of South Florida. She is currently an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Special Education at University of Missouri and she supervises master’s level students in both clinical and research settings at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. In addition, she is currently President-elect of the Missouri Association for Behavior Analysis. She is passionate about mentoring students working toward their certification in behavior analysis and using Applied Behavior Analysis to improve the lives of children with autism spectrum disorder and their families. Her research and clinical interests include functional analysis, treatment of severe problem behavior (e.g., aggression, self-injury) and restricted and repetitive behavior.

Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, MD
Director of Autism Research, University of Alberta

Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum is an Edmonton Zone Clinical Department Head for Child Health with Alberta Health Services and Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta. He is also a Clinician Scientist supported by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Chair in Autism, Distinguished Scientist Award of Stollery Science Lab, and national awards from CIHR (Foundation grant), Brain Canada, and Autism Speaks Canada. His research focuses on early detection and diagnosis, as well as factors influencing development and outcomes, of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). He also directs one of the two Canadian sites of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, which focuses on optimizing health care for children and youth with ASD and co-led a study on experiences related to health care delivery in acute settings of youth with ASD, their parents and front-line care providers. 

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