This year, The ABAI held its annual conference in the McCormick Place Convention Centre, a HUGE  venue which could have easily simultaneously accommodated three or four conferences of similar size to ABAI (4,500+ delegates).

The sprawling nature of the venue made trekking between sessions sometimes quite arduous, with the need to take the proverbial Cut Lunch. Likewise, the vastness of the space was not conducive to an atmosphere of conviviality which had been more evident at past conferences. Thus there was little chance for the sort of social networking that adds an extra useful dimension to attending. Apart from a ten-minute chat with our old friend Gina Green, a two-minute exchange of greetings with ex-pat West Aussie Trevor Stokes, and a chance sharing of a taxi with Bridget Taylor, we missed out on meeting with other overseas colleagues whom we usually encounter and exchange ideas with at these events.

You may gather from the above, that I was somewhat disappointed in this year’s conference, and indeed I was, not only for the reasons above, but because there was less – at least in the autism-relevant sessions I attended – that was truly new or innovative being reported. Interestingly, there were more papers and talks on the subject of ABA with animals than in previous years – it seems behavior analysts are extending beyond human subjects in both research and practice. While dogs got the most attention, there were papers on the behavior of bees, and even cockroaches!

As I noted above, there was nothing really exciting to report in the field of Autism, but it was reinforcing to observe that ISADD is keeping up with best practice approaches. In particular, the use of picture-exchange, and pictograms (an area in which ISADD has been a forerunner) is apparently being applied more widely, with several papers reporting on the successful use of these tools.

Over the past couple of years, ABAI has also held an Autism-specific conference. These started as quite low-key events, but seem to be growing in size and significance. Perhaps this is why there was less autism “news” in this year’s conference: and perhaps it is time that attending the autism-specific conference should become the priority for ISADD.

Daryl Cooper

autism services and support, australia
autism services and support, australia

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