Applied Behavior Analysis And Autism: Diving Deep Into How Is ABA Perceived

Sep 21, 2023

There are tensions in the community towards seeing the applicability of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In this episode, we explore the nuances of ABA in the field of autism from various perspectives. We sat down with autism parent and BCBA, Yev Veverka from the University of Washington, to discuss her view on ABA and the impression it leaves to people on the spectrum and their families. In particular, she shares the article she published in Spectrum News titled, “Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism: Flawed Application of a Proven Science.” Yev dives deep into ABA reform, the challenges faced by families seeking ABA services, and the need for more individualized and accessible approaches. Plus, we also speak with Netflix’s Love on the Spectrum star Dani Bowman to hear about her journey to love and her perspective of ABA from the voice of someone living with autism. Both conversations are meant to provide perspective for those who care about the autistic community and the science of ABA. Join us as we learn more about ABA and its future in the autism space.

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Applied Behavior Analysis And Autism: Diving Deep Into How Is ABA Perceived

It is episode 2 of season 2. We are going to be talking about so many great things. We’re going to talk about the reputation that ABA has. This is something that I know we all care a lot about. We’re also going to talk to Dani Bowman, who is a star of Love on the Spectrum, a show on Netflix. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it.

Before we dive in, I want to tell you about two awesome conferences that are coming up. The first one is The Unpopular Conference, which I’m very excited that BHCOE is participating in. That will be happening on October 7th, 2023 in Savannah, Georgia. I know Anna is going to be there. I’m not able to join but if you haven’t had a chance to check it out, I highly recommend that you do. It’s put on by one of our near and dear accredited organizations.

The other conference I want to tell you about is the Disrupt Conference by Verbal Beginnings. It’s another one of our lovely accredited organizations. They are hosting that virtually on November 11th, 2023. Both of those are happening in October and November 2023. I hope you’ll put it on your calendar. Without further ado, we’re going to dive in and talk to Yev.

I’m so excited to have Yev Veverka on our show to talk a little bit about an article that she published in September in Spectrum News. It’s called Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism: Flawed Application of a Proven Science. I can’t wait to dig into it and piece it apart a little bit. Maybe Yev, you can start by telling me a little bit about your background. I understand that you’re a parent of a child with autism. Tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got here. I’d love to dig into this article.

Thanks so much for inviting me on. First of all, it’s exciting to be here. I’ll give you a little bit about how I got into ABA and what led me to the article. Like many of us in the field, I stumbled upon the field of ABA. I was in my last semester of undergrad and I took a class by chance with Dr. Eric Larsson at the University of Minnesota.

Through that, I was paired with a family who was receiving ABA services. I had never heard of what ABA was. I didn’t know much about autism, and I found it magical. I watched this little three-year-old go from behaviors like hitting, throwing, self-injury, and constant meltdowns to over a series of three months being able to use language to communicate his needs, cooperatively playing with his brother, and participating in family routines. He seemed so much happier.

I decided right then that I was going to go into this field. I started applying the principles in this afterschool program that I worked in and in my childcare positions working with children with developmental disabilities. I immediately went on from there to become a behavior therapist. Before there was the RBT/CBT distinction, I became a BCBA before continuing to get my PhD. I’ve worked in a variety of settings like so clinical settings, home settings, and schools.

I’ve run my small private practice. I was doing all that work and then fast forward a decade, my daughter was diagnosed with autism at age four. As an aside, I do have her permission to talk about her and her behaviors. I had the unique opportunity to experience the field of ABA as a consumer and as a family member. That’s how I’ve learned the most about the state of our field. I’m an instructor of Master’s students at the University of Washington. Also, I’m the Interim Director of our Master’s Program in ABA.

That is amazing and how fortuitous and what a blessing for her to be born into a family where you have a trained behavior analyst who knows the science and the field. How is she doing now? Tell us a little bit about your experience with ABA on the patient side of things.

She’s doing fantastic. She is a happy, creative, funny, and spunky kid. She is a total Taylor Swift fan and loves music and art. She is doing well. Our experience with ABA was interesting and challenging. It was what I wrote about in the article. Do you want me to go into that story?

I would love that.

My experience and my story were what inspired me to write about change in the field because I knew that if I was experiencing it as a practitioner in the field, other folks were experiencing it too. While she is in a good spot now and loves to tell people she’s autistic, what that does for her, how strong her memory is, and how artistic she is, it wasn’t always like that for her. When she was first diagnosed, what led us to a diagnosis was some pretty significant challenging behaviors.

She was having meltdowns on a regular basis and was showing some aggression towards us, her parents, and her younger brother. At the time, I had a one-year-old and was pregnant with my third child. In my mind, I knew that ABA was the answer. I knew that what I needed to do after diagnosis was get ABA support. Everything in my practice and my experience as a practitioner led to that decision.

I started exploring ABA and autism as a parent. That’s when I started encountering some criticism of the field. I talked in my article about how I tried to join a group that was recommended to me called Ask Me, I’m Autistic on Facebook and was not allowed to join it because I’m a BCBA. I started receiving a lot of criticism and was pushed to leave the field by the autistic community. I was left feeling confused and defensive, but also still needing support and believing in ABA.

I continued that search for services. In that search for services, I ran into a lot of issues with the field, things as simple as people didn’t respond to my inquiries for services. In some cases, I got responses that were lacking in compassion telling me, “I don’t have room,” but with no further referral information or no waitlist information.

I’m nodding my head because I’m like, “I’ve heard these stories before,” but it’s nice to hear you say it as a clinician because we talk to a lot of parents at BHCOE. We get a lot of survey responses. We get a lot of feedback from parents, but oftentimes those parents are not clinicians. It’s almost like the communication gap between the patient and the clinician isn’t there. It’s nice hearing you say it as a parent and a clinician because you’re in a unique position to create change and create some reform. Please keep going.

While it was not fun at the time, in a lot of ways, I’m glad that I experienced it and understood the field from a different perspective. It’s because as you said, it’s inspired me to talk about it and make change. Even leading up to services was challenging, but after about nine months of trying to get services, we finally had our first day. Even then, the services we received didn’t meet our needs.

That’s what I write about in the article too is that I knew what we need. As a BCBA, I knew that we needed some functional behavior assessment and some techniques for our family to embed this outside ABA perspective on her behavior and our environment. Also, how we could support her. What I got was this printed-out assessment saying, “These are the skills she needs to work on, and here are the hours she needs and she needs to come into the clinic.”

TSR 2 | Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis: We needed some functional behavior assessment and some techniques for our family to embed this outside ABA perspective on her behavior and our environment.

 

I knew that it wasn’t right because we didn’t need help outside of the home or we felt like our quality of life was suffering at home but not elsewhere. We still tried it and discontinued services after not too long of trying it because we didn’t feel like it was getting us what we needed. We didn’t talk about the behaviors that led us to make that call for services.

Going back to this idea of the Ask Me, I’m Autistic Facebook group that you weren’t allowed into and hearing some of your struggles with ABA, where do you think this has stemmed from of the idea that the BCBA is the enemy or maybe not a pro-autistic community? Do you agree that that’s the case? Thinking about yourself and what you’ve experienced, it feels like you’re already doing things differently on your end to try and change the narrative.

My experience showed me that we are doing things in ways that maybe aren’t showing compassion first and individualization first. We, as behavior analysts, take that criticism as behavior to heart and think about what we need to do to improve that experience if that’s truly the experience folks are having.

TSR 2 | Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis: We are doing things in ways that maybe aren’t showing compassion and individualization first.

 

In terms of the experience you had with getting on waitlists, getting care, and the curt responses and things like that. We have spoken before around BHCOE standards and everything we do is around quality. We have a whole section on intake and make sure the patient intake experiences are positive. It’s funny because I’ve always felt like people or the BCBA sometimes feel that patient experience starts the minute they start services.

I always feel like it starts the minute they call the clinic and say, “How can I get care? What do I do from here?” It’s the entire journey that they’re through and not the day that you show up at their house for services. When you did find the ABA provider that was right for you, was that experience positive from the beginning all the way through when therapy started or did you still find that the bookends of your therapy were not ideal?

They still weren’t ideal, and I don’t even know that I would say we found the provider that was right for us. It ended up being with the help of colleagues and friends. I’m lucky to be surrounded by other BCBAs that we were able to embed ABA into our daily lives rather than trying to find that perfect fit because it didn’t feel like it was out there.

I have a friend from college whose son was diagnosed with autism as well. She called me and she’s like, “I can’t get in here. I can’t get in there.” I was like, “I felt the same way. I was very lucky enough to know so many colleagues in the state that I could pick up the phone and say, ‘I have a friend who’s dealing with this. Can you help her?’” I’m thinking that so many family members don’t have that like you and I do.

It’s crazy to think about the fact that it’s challenging for people who know the field and imagine if you’re someone who has no relation to the field or how you’re supposed to handle that. What prompted you to write this article? We’re going to go into more about the areas that you think we need to improve on, but you’re dealing with this as a parent and a clinician, but what prompted you to take this to pen and paper?

There are a few things. I was also talking to colleagues at the University of Washington about my experience and hearing similar stories or worse stories. My colleague Ashley Penney and I had this standing meeting where we would talk about the field and write about the field. It kept coming back to, “What are we going to do about the field? We still believe in science. We still see a space for ABA, but what are we going to do about all these areas where we see the need to change?” I had been thinking about writing my story for a while and that prompted me to share that and to think about this idea of, “Can we push forward and change the way we apply our practice without abandoning the science of ABA entirely?” I think the answer is yes.

How do you feel the response has been so far? Spectrum News is a pretty popular trade publication for the field in the sense that they write a lot about what’s happening in the autism spectrum field. The distribution I’m sure was pretty wide for an article like this, but I’d love to hear what feedback have you gotten since you put this out.

I’ve gotten a spectrum of feedback. I’ve been happy to see that there were a lot of folks that either reached out or joined us on our social media page for our reform coalition saying, “This is how I feel too,” that there’s more to this conversation than, “Is ABA good or bad?” There was quite a bit of that middle space. People are saying, “Yes. This resonates. I feel this way too.”

Also, there were those polarized views that I anticipated. The folks that said, “No way. ABA can’t be reformed. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation,” to people who love ABA and don’t want to see it talked about in a negative light saying, “How dare you talk about ABA this way?” It’s good. It helps people. It’s a little bit of everything.

I love hearing you say that because, at BHCOE, we’ve had similar responses because we do quality assurance and we ensure that providers are providing quality care and that we’re evaluating providers and holding them accountable. We get a lot of similar responses where people are like, “We love what you do.” Also, people are like, “Why are you telling us what to do? We’re great. ABA doesn’t need this.”

When I read your article and I heard you say similar feedback, I was like, “This sounds familiar.” There’s always going to be that spectrum of folks who fall on either side of it but the interesting part for me is that the idea of ABA being good or bad is a very polarizing perspective, and it feels very black and white.

Over the last few years, I’ve started to learn that there’s a difference between quality ABA and not quality ABA. That distinction is so important, and that’s the hill we die on here at BHCOE. You want to make sure that you’re providing quality care at a level that can be not only legally defensible but also morally and ethically defensible.

It’s important to recognize that there are good and bad services out there. Sometimes, that’s challenging to say that there is a bad idea out there. People think that ABA is great. It’s wonderful. We’re going to all rally behind the science but unfortunately, we get judged by our lowest common denominator.

Also, you have parents who have a bad experience with ABA and that’s what they walk away with. Your article’s important to shine a light and reflect on where we’re at. You mentioned this ABA reform movement or coalition. Can you tell us a little bit about the coalition and what are the goals? What are you trying to accomplish? What have you done so far?

The group started completely accidentally. As I said, my colleague Ashley Penney and I were meeting and continuing to have these conversations and we said, “If we’re having these conversations here in our bubble at the University of Washington, surely, they’re happening elsewhere.” At the same time, we were hearing those loud polarized views.

We decided that we wanted to get people together who are doing work for change and to be louder and say, “Let’s change. Let’s reform. Let’s talk about how to improve the field.” We gathered a group of colleagues to brainstorm and then we decided to put it out to our networks and some of the ABA groups on social media saying, “Are you interested in seeing reform in the field? We would love to hear from you.”

It’s just to see. We had no clue what we were doing if I’m honest. Our goal was never to dictate how reform looks or what that work should look like, but our mission’s been to create this community of people who are doing the work because it can feel isolating to be the person that’s like, “I believe in the science of ABA, but also I want to see all these big changes to the field.” We wanted to create a community that has that view to work together, to resource share, to hear stories of the field, and a space to brainstorm and problem-solve.

Your personal opinion and not speaking on behalf of the coalition or your colleagues, but what do you think is the biggest win that we could do to see ABA improve for the better? What do you think are some low-hanging fruit that any clinician can start doing to make a change now?

There are lots of little things that we can do but we think about reform in bigger categories when we talk about it in the coalition. There are categories like BCBA training, for example, behavior tech training, supervision policies, agency policies, how we write programs, and how we teach new BCBAs. Within all of those, there are these low-hanging fruit action items that we can do.

Something that we’ve started seeing more is programs being written with the ascent in mind where clients are giving ascent for programs or able to withdraw ascent. We are talking about things like doing some culturally responsive assessments and doing some self-assessments of biases. There are lots of things that are already happening that people don’t know about.

I love that you said that because I see the movement too of new webinars being offered and training. You go to these clinical conferences and ascent is such a great topic that I feel like was not talked about a few years ago. That’s great to see. How can people get involved? If they want to learn more, is there anything that you want to point them to so they can start their journey?

We are a volunteer-based Facebook group. We have about 700 people. We are gathering volunteers to do more in 2023 to start gathering those stories and resources. For example, somebody might ask about what are folks doing when it comes to trauma-informed practice. What does that mean? What does it look like? What are the resources? We’re trying to be able to answer those questions.

Again, do not necessarily say, “Let’s create something,” but point people in the right direction into the resources that are already out there and identify places where people might want to do the work. Finding us, the Coalition for the Reform of Applied Behavior Analysis on Facebook for starters, but then we’ll be off of Facebook eventually as well.

After this, we’re going to be talking to Dani Bowman from Love on the Spectrum and talking a little bit about her experience as an autistic individual with ABA. We didn’t say the A word in this conversation, but the conversation is around, “Is ABA abuse,” and the perspective that it’s the case. I’m excited to follow this conversation up with her perspective on the topic.

If you’re reading now and want to stay tuned, we’re going to get to that but I would love to hear a little bit about your hopes for the field and any advice that you can impart on new BCBAs entering the field because they’re the new generation that’s going to take us to where we need to go. It would be great for them to hear a couple of words of wisdom from you.

I’ve thought about my hopes for the field a lot. I have three big categories of hopes for the field. The first and what led me to this article and what I’ve been thinking about since talking to folks about my story is to embrace that there’s nuance to this conversation. There are a lot of absolute statements happening like, “ABA doesn’t need reform. All ABA is abuse.”

Those blanket statements about the application of ABA detract from individualization and even from the way that we prescribe ours and the way that we decide what goals we do and don’t work on. For example, we’re hearing a lot from the neurodiversity movement about working on things like eye contact and it’s easy to want to say, “I never work on eye contact.” However, if we say that absolute statement, are we going to miss the case where it’s important for that individual in their culture to work on eye contact?

If we say, “We always see clients in the clinic and at home,” like what happened to my family, are we going to miss the case where families need that home support and juggling driving to the clinic is going to lessen their quality of life and make it more difficult? That’s one. It’s thinking about the nuance in the conversation.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is not gatekeeping or science and trying to share and disseminate it in ways that are accessible. Thinking again about my own experience during my doctoral studies, I was doing some caregiver coaching on applying basic ABA strategies to mealtime. It’s super basic like the first time, how to embed some choices, and how to use reinforcement. After a successful mealtime at home, one of the caregivers I was working with said, “I don’t understand why I didn’t already know this. As a parent, why didn’t I know this?” I’d love for us to emphasize making our science accessible rather than doing that gatekeeping.

[bctt tweet=”Make our science accessible rather than gatekeeping.” username=”bh_coe”]

I agree with everything you said, and I was going to say on the gatekeeping side, a big part of our ethics code is making sure things can be digested and consumable, but that comes down to using more colloquial language and trying to be overly technical. That’s great to hear. I love both of those. Those are fantastic suggestions and hopefully, I can take some of them at least for myself.

For those reading, if you’re able to integrate some of that into your day-to-day, we’ll all be in a better place. Thank you so much, Yev, for sharing more about your work and for summarizing this important article. I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with your coalition and I’m excited to keep collaborating. Thank you so much for your time.

Thanks so much for having me.

Dani, welcome to the show. We are so excited to have you here. We have so much to talk about. You have an incredible career that I can’t wait to share with some of our readers here. Your most recent experience was being a star on the hit TV show, Love on the Spectrum. I can’t wait to get your thoughts on the broader autistic community. Before we dive in, give us a little bit of background.

I’m the Founder and CEO of DaniMation Entertainment. I am based in La Cañada, Flintridge which is between Glendale and Pasadena. DaniMation is an animation company that I started years ago and its mission is to educate, elevate, and empower youth on the autism spectrum by helping them turn their passion for animation into a career.

You’ve had this company for a while. What does it look like now? Funny story, you and I met on an airplane if you remember. I was on a flight back from Dublin from a conference, coming to the US. We were both on the tarmac together and you were there training autistic students in the UK. Is that a lot of your day-to-day, you’re training people on how to learn animation, or what do you do?

We, at DaniMation, provide one-week summer animation workshops. The first one after we left Dublin was the DaniMation UK camp at the University of Plymouth. The second week, we taught animation at a new camp known as our London Animation Workshop followed by Brunel University London, our newest animation camp part of the DaniMation UK branch.

Dani, my daughter is autistic. She was diagnosed when she was two. She’s had a lot of experiences. She did some dating in high school, and had some good experiences and some bad experiences, as you probably could imagine. I’m always trying to help guide her. I was curious as to your experiences in high school and how that changed as you became an adult and the show and how that evolved into the Netflix series.

Did I ever date in high school? I had a few crushes in high school but those don’t count as an official date. I did not have any official dates until I was attending university. While I was attending university, I dated about 3 to 4 people before Love on the Spectrum. None of the dates I had were the right fit for me. Even the one date from Love on the Spectrum wasn’t a good fit for me. I’ve met several candidates who would like to go on a date with me.

You have a couple of guys that you’re now interested in and didn’t date until college. How has your experience been on the show so far? It sounds like you’ve enjoyed it.

What I’ve learned from Love on the Spectrum is never kiss on the first date from the beginning or express it out loud. It was a little too awkward for me. I should have done that but I also have to set boundaries from the beginning because what if the guy is disrespectful about my boundaries?

[bctt tweet=”Never kiss on the first date from the beginning or express it out loud.” username=”bh_coe”]

I loved that you were forward. I always admire that in a woman. I hope that you don’t lose that piece of it in future experiences of dating because, with my husband, I feel like within the first month, we said, “I love you,” and wanted to move in together. It was one of those things where when you find the right person, it doesn’t matter how forward you are. They’ll appreciate that.

Thanks for giving that advice, too, because that’s good advice for everyone. I have three daughters. My middle daughter is my daughter who’s autistic but I have 2 other daughters and 1 is married now. It’s such good advice to set your boundaries upfront. Whether you’re dating someone to have fun or whether you want a serious relationship, it’s good advice for everyone dating.

Thank you so much.

One of the co-stars of the show was your aunt and it sounds like she played a huge part in making sure that you were able to get to where you are now. I’m wondering if you could share a little bit about when you were first diagnosed. When we spoke on the airplane, you mentioned that she was a big part of your ability to become who you are now and that she coached you and gave you a lot of skills. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with her and what your childhood looked like living with her?

I was first diagnosed with autism when I was five years old. I did not know that I have autism and I had no idea why I was put into Special Ed until I moved in to live with my aunt and uncle. My aunt told me that I have a diagnosis known as autism. She told me the symptoms of autism, being in my daydreaming world but that I feel like, “Do I need to get the cure or stuff?” She says, “No, there is no cure for autism. All you have to do is be able to control all these bad habits if you’re on the spectrum like daydreaming, when or not to daydream.” There are no excuses for autism. This is also known as the loving push. She gave me the loving push to help me be able to strive better and be better.

It’s interesting that you said bad habits because I think about that as something that most kids have to think through. I make my daughter make her bed in the morning. There are things that you have to learn as a kid, as you grow to make sure that you are able to be a fully functioning adult when you grow older. I would be curious. What do you think is the difference between a bad habit versus something that maybe is going to interfere with your ability to grow and be independent? I’m looking at you and I remember seeing you in the airplane and on the show. It seems like you’re a very independent person, but do you think that you could have gotten there without that loving push? Do you think that’s an essential part of what a person with autism might need to be successful?

The loving push is essential. Every parent wants their child on the autism spectrum to be successful, so a loving push is necessary. You love your child so much but you want them to be successful. Therefore, you have to show them that there are no excuses involved. You might have to help them get rid of those bad habits into what’s considered socially acceptable and what’s considered not socially acceptable.

For example, stimming. You can’t be stimming or humming in a public space. You have to control that. It’s okay to do it privately but not in public because some people would stare at them and be like, “What’s wrong with this kid? Why is the kid covering the ears and stuff?” If the parent is able to explain it in advance and if the child knows in advance what to do and not what to do in public, they get it.

I love the term loving push. We had that with Ava, too, because we wanted to make sure Ava knew that she could do anything she wanted to do, but she did have to have loving pushes along the way to say you can, but you also have to deal with some of these things that are preventing you from doing that. Eating in a group was one thing. She still doesn’t love to eat in a group or a crowd, but that’s a big part of life. When she’s at home, we let her eat in her room like you’re saying, but also eating out and eating in a group is something that we knew had to be a part of her life.

In other words, how is she going to have friends if she doesn’t eat with a group?

It’s an example. Everybody has different things that are challenging for them. Having that person in your life, your aunt, or whoever that might be, in a loving way get you to where you need to be is to me a huge part. I was curious if you have other people that are friends of yours now. You have been public about your autism with your show and all. I always don’t know what to say to Ava, my daughter, and other people I know. When do you share that? When do you share your autism with friends or even maybe someone you’re dating? Do you feel that’s something you should be upfront with immediately or you should wait to talk about that?

I started to feel way more comfortable about my diagnosis when I was attending university. It’s essential because every time I mention that I have autism in advance, it’s easier for people to understand me. My biggest advice is to have a small little conversation and then mention that I have autism later onto the line but not too long. Otherwise, I would have the wrong label. I am dumb, immature, or worse, but it’s everybody’s choice if they feel comfortable disclosing it or not.

Similarly, you talked about self-stimulatory behavior and how you were taught not to do that in public. I’m not sure how familiar you are, Dani, but I’m online a lot and I see a lot of autistic individuals talking about how self-stimming is something that shouldn’t be done in private. It’s normal and neurotypicals are trying to control autistic people’s behavior. I’m wondering how you feel about that and if you think there’s a place for stimming in a public environment.

When it comes to stimming in a public environment, if somebody wants to stim, dancing would be a good place if they could do the stimming while they’re dancing. It’s something that works but generally, stimming is not recommended for public places, especially if they don’t like certain noises and also social distancing in their businesses.

There’s been a lot of feedback around a therapy that’s used a lot for people with autism called ABA Therapy or Applied Behavior Analysis. I’m wondering if you had any experience interacting with ABA Therapy. If you have, what your thoughts are on it, and if not, if you’ve heard of some of the criticisms around it from other autistic people?

What is my take on the allegations? I am 27 years old this 2023, but when I was first diagnosed as a child, ABA was horrible, according to my family. That was several years ago. It has come a long way now. To me, the right ABA can help people on the spectrum fit into social norms, avoid bad habits, and motivate themselves to live independently.

However, there are still ABA that is considered a red flag. For example, they don’t accept feedback from the families and so many other red flags to look out for. Now, there are some reputable ABA therapists but you have to look for them like finding a good doctor or dentist. These allegations that ABA is “abusive” whereby people with autism themselves were put into the wrong and dubious type of ABA.

Do you feel that the type of ABA they received maybe wasn’t the best or maybe it wasn’t someone who was doing the best quality care possible?

They were put into the dubious kind.

My daughter Ava received ABA Therapy. She started when she was two and a half and she had no language at all. I was told to put her in the Special Education classroom and that she would never speak. She was talking by the age of five. We did have a very good ABA provider who always took my input. You’re right. One of the main signs of a good ABA provider is how much they include the family, talk to the family, and value the entire family, the parents, and the child.

A big part of what we do here at BHCOE is evaluate ABA organizations since we look carefully around that collaboration piece. Hopefully, if you’re a parent reading this or someone with autism who wants ABA, you’re looking for that accreditation badge and that’s also a big mark of quality that you can know that organization is held accountable and has standards around what good ABA looks like. I completely agree with you. I don’t know how you could run an ABA program without thinking, talking to the family, and getting their input.

It’s so exciting talking with you. I’m curious about your university experience because it’s a huge challenge. My daughter started this 2023 at university and we were blindsided about the challenges that she would face. I don’t think she knew how hard it was going to be and I feel there are a lot of autistic 18-year-olds and 20-year-olds out there trying to go to university. I was curious if you have any advice because I keep telling her, “Keep going. You can do it.” It’s all I keep saying.

The most important thing for adults transitioning to college or university, there are always special accommodation programs. For example, my school, Woodbury University has a center for special accommodations where they do provide recorders, somebody who can take notes, or you can have extended time for tests. That’s what I do and something that you could look out for.

Thank you for that.

Family support is always important as well.

Did you live at home when you were in college or did you stay on campus? I

I lived at home with Sandy and Patrick because it’s only a half-hour drive to get to my university though.

The other question is, now that you’ve graduated and you have self-proclaimed yourself as an example for the autistic community, how do you feel about the treatment options available for other people on the spectrum?

To me, there are now more options to provide the right help compared to decades ago. Again, I didn’t think I had that type of treatment, but if you’re a parent with a child with autism, it’s always good to go find some good services available with ABA Therapy, with the excellence gold label you’ve mentioned.

TSR 2 | Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis: If you’re a parent with a child with autism, it’s always good to go find some good services available with ABA Therapy with the excellence gold label.

 

What do you think about people who are a lot more impacted? When a lot of people hear about people with autism, they probably have someone like you in mind. A lot of people love the show and they have a better visibility of what it means to be autistic, but there are so many people who are a lot more impaired. How do you view the options available for those people? Do you relate to the other people who are autistic?

For those of them who are nonverbal, communication is a key. Even if you can’t talk, keyboards or sign language is another option. It’s the most important thing if they’re severely impacted. Just because they’re severely impacted doesn’t mean they don’t have any talent. They can have the services that allow them to live independently. Although they might still need help from a provider that will help take care of them with their needs.

I’m curious and we do ask a lot of our guests this. What’s next for you, Dani? What’s on your mind? What are you thinking?

What’s next in my journey? That is where I am right now, the want-now phase. I am developing my company and I’m planning to get my PhD in Positive Developmental Psychology, but it’s a challenging time for everyone after finishing a degree. What we want to do and what is offered or available to us, sometimes it’s different than what we expect. It can be scary, but all I can say is take it one day at a time, like I have always done, and hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

You can only take life a day at a time. Otherwise, you stay overwhelmed and then end up not doing anything. I hope that you find that next place and you seem one of the people, Dani, that makes their way too. I feel like if there’s not a place, if there’s not the right job, or if there’s not the right company, you can make it happen. You’ve done so much. It’s so incredible.

Thank you. What if my company doesn’t work out? What if I don’t get to develop my series like I would? There always has to be a plan B or C and so on.

We certainly wish you the best of luck and we thank you so much for coming on and talking to us. We’re going to have an exciting episode. We’re talking to you and then, also to one other individual who has had a similar experience and also talking about the ABA Reform Movement in general and some more commentary around some of the abuse allegations. We appreciate you sharing your thoughts and hope to have you back sometime.

Thank you so much for inviting me to the show. This is excellent.

 

Important Links

 

About Yev Veverka

TSR 2 | Applied Behavior AnalysisDr. Yev Veverka is a proud graduate of the University of Washington’s doctoral program in Special Education (2018). She is serving as the Interim Director of the Applied Behavior Analysis program at the University of Washington for the 2022-2023 school year. Her research interests are in the areas of Autism Spectrum Disorders, parent and caregiver coaching, mealtime supports and intervention, and the reform of the field of Applied Behavior Analysis.

With the Haring Center’s FEAST (Feeding, Eating and Supporting Together) team, Dr. Veverka has developed a tiered approach to mealtime supports for early learning settings. The FEAST team has been manualizing, researching, and disseminating their approach to use in early learning settings across the nation.

Dr. Veverka is passionate about the reform of the field of Applied Behavior Analysis to promote equity of service delivery and compassionate care. She strives to disseminate ABA in a way to make it accessible and lead to improvements in quality of life for consumers of the science.

 

About Dani Bowman

TSR 2 | Applied Behavior AnalysisDani Bowman founded her company, DaniMation Entertainment, at age 11. She has worked professionally in the animation industry since 14. Bowman has premiered 11 award-winning animated short films at San Diego Comic-Con each year for the past 10 years. Her shorts feature the voices of Joe Mantegna, Tom Kenny (Sponge Bob), June Foray, Debi Derryberry and Stella Ritter in addition to other voice actors on the autism spectrum. Knowing the special talents of people with autism, Dani employs others on the spectrum at DaniMation Entertainment as musicians, artists, and voice actors. Dani utilizes her six passions of Autism Advocacy, Public Speaking, Animation, Illustration, Fine and Visual Arts, and Teaching Animation to show young adults on the spectrum and with other disabilities that anything is possible and inspire them to leverage their unique ability. Dani’s team of students won the Easter Seals Disability Film Challenge for Best Director in 2021.

Since age 15, Dani has led summer animation camps around the country, initially with Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films, and then expanding out on her own to teach to over 2,000 teens and young adults followed by the launch of Danimation UK in 2019. Dani not only teaches animation, but also works with her students as a role model and mentor, encouraging them to follow their dreams. Her contributions to the autism community have been widely acknowledged from receiving the Temple Grandin Award from Future Horizons to being the first American with Autism honored at Anna Kennedy’s “Wear It for Autism” event in London.

Additionally, Dani enjoys speaking about autism, the need for self-sufficiency and employment for those with disabilities. Among other speaking engagements, she was the keynote speaker at the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALICON), the Oklahoma State Autism Conference (OSACON), and the Alaska Autism Roadshow, ABC of North Carolina, and the California Transition Alliance.

Dani graduated Woodbury University with a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts (BFA) in Animation, followed by Master’s Degree of Business Administration (MBA) in Management and Leadership, also from Woodbury University. Dani is currently on the cast of Netflix “Love on the Spectrum US”.

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