Cultivating Contingencies of Joy


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The purpose of this presentation is to provide an overview of practices that nurture joy in the lives of young children with autism, their families and their supporting professionals. The talk is divided into three sections. The first section explores the concept of joy and discusses the role of contingencies in understanding and changing behavior for the better. The second section focuses on the role of evidence-based practice, the need to go beyond reducing problems, and the importance of striving to preventatively and proactively foster healthy relationships at all levels. A program example is included. The final section provides a framework for continued progress by establishing intentional communities of practice. Communities of practice with a mission of increasing joy are likely to encourage ongoing learning, human connections and loving approaches to intervention.
This presentation is based, in part, on: Alai & Zueg (2010), Three Considerations; Alai, Toussaint & McGee (2018) Incidental Teaching: Happy Progress; Miller, Re Cruz & Alai (2019) Inherent Tensions and Possibilities: Behavior Analysis and Cultural Responsiveness; Alai-Rosales, et al, (2019) The Big Four; and, Alai & Heinkle-Wolfe (coming in Summer 2021) Between Now and Dreams (a book for parents)

About the Presenter

Shahla Ala’i, Ph.D. BCBA-D, LBA

Shahla Ala’i, Ph.D. BCBA-D, LBA, Associate Professor, University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service

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 community partners to serve people who are under resourced and marginalized within current societal structures. Shahla is a member of an interdisciplinary lab that includes faculty and students from Woman’s and Gender Studies, Applied Anthropology and Behavior Analysis. Shahla has taught courses on technology transfer, ethics, autism intervention, parent training, behavioral systems, applied research methods, behavior change techniques, and assessment. Shahla has served on several boards and disciplinary committees, most notably the BACB Board of Directors, the ABAI Practice Board and the ABAI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board. She has published and presented research on social justice, ethics in early intervention, play and social skills, family harmony, change agent training, supervision and the relationship between love and science in the treatment of autism. Shahla has over four decades of experience working with families and has trained hundreds of behavior analysts. She was awarded an Onassis Foundation Fellowship for her work with families, was the recipient of UNT’s prestigious “’Fessor Graham” teaching award, received the 2019 Texas Association for Behavior Analysis Career Contributions Award, and the UNT 2020 Community Engagement award.

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