ABAA Conference Recap: Interview with Ross Leighner, Behaviour Analyst

Ross Leighner

31 August 2022

ABAA Conference Recap: Interview with Ross Leighner, Behaviour Analyst

Behaviour Analysts from our team recently participated in the 7th Annual ABAA Conference, hosted by the Association for Behaviour Analysis Australia (ABAA). The annual conference aimed to celebrate “the various ways that Behaviour Analysis is a part of the Australian story and the potential for the field to have a broader reaching, positive impact across the country in the future.”

Today, we sat down with our ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) Clinical Lead, Ross Leighner, to find out the latest developments in ABA and his key takeaways from the conference. Ross completed his Master’s in ABA at The Ohio State University (OSU) in 2015 and was later recruited to come to Australia to assist in ABA dissemination efforts in 2019. Ross strives to instil valuable, human connection in his work and day-to-day interactions.

Fun fact: Ross had the opportunity to study under Dr Alayna Haberlin, CEO of ABAA, during his undergraduate degree in Special Education at OSU while Dr Haberlin was finishing her PhD in Applied Behaviour Analysis.

Article ABAA conference Dr Alayna Haberlin

About our Behaviour Analyst Team

Ross, we have exceptional Behaviour Analysts at Ability Consultants. Tell us who went to the ABA Conference and about their ABA qualifications.

We’re fortunate to have four certified behaviour analysts on our team at Ability Consultants. We hold various roles within the organisation ranging from Specialist and Senior Behaviour Support Practitioners as well as serving as Team Leaders.

The four of us have diverse educational backgrounds and experiences and have practised throughout all corners of the world. Many of our ABA team members also serve on ABA-specific professional advisory boards and have published academic and industry research. The team also has an extensive history in presenting at various conferences and providing training internationally.

We’re a passionate group with an aim to disseminate person-centred, inclusive, trauma-informed, neurodivergent affirming, socially valid, culturally competent, and modern ABA within the positive behaviour support framework. You might be thinking to yourself, “What in the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is he on about?!” Read on!

This said, our ABA Team endeavours to mindfully teach every member of our client’s support teams (i.e., our clinicians, their clients, stakeholders, and all team members) ethical and evidence-based practices to incorporate in their support to be not only effective, but equally important: compassionate!

Meet our certified behaviour analysts and read their profiles on our website:

Article ABAA behaviour analyst conference australia certified

Pictured rear, left to right:

  • Kaci Sweeney, M.Ed., BCBA, IBA
  • Ross Leighner, M.A., IBA
  • Akanksha Chhettri, M.A., BCBA, IBA
  • Marie-Morgane Hieulle, M.A., BCBA

Pictured at the front is our CEO, David Ackling-Jones. 

All our current team members are capable of supervising aspiring behaviour analysts (including toward certification) and providing training in a range of specific areas.

Behaviour Analyst Certification

Why is it important for behaviour analysts to gain certification?

Certifications in ABA are of vital importance to the field of ABA around the world. Certifications help protect consumers by giving them a way to identify those who have met the training, experiential and educational standards of the field. Certification also rewards the hard work and dedication of those who have devoted their lives and careers to helping those we serve.

What are the different types of certification for behaviour analysts?

Until recently, behaviour analysts within Australia lacked protection and, in some sense, accountability. The ABAA states that “There have been many challenges in advancing the field of ABA due to it being unregulated in Australia. This has led to a lack of understanding about what our profession is and in protecting the title of ‘behaviour analyst.’ [ABAA] sees the regulation [of] the field of ABA as a top priority and is actively taking steps to develop professional self-regulation” for the professional practice of Applied Behaviour Analysis within Australia. 

Previously, behaviour analysts could only gain certification through international organisations such as the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and the International Behaviour Analysis Organisation (IBAO).

NEW: Behaviour Analyst Self-Regulation in Australia

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! As of August 2022, we now have national, professional self-regulation within Australia! Behaviour Analysts in Australia can now benefit from obtaining their certification in Australia through ABAA as “Certified Behaviour Analysts.”

Certification levels include:

  • Certified Behaviour Analyst (CBA)
  • Certified Behaviour Analyst - Undergraduate (CBA-U)

Alternative Membership levels include:

  • Professional Member
  • Affiliate Member
  • Student Member
  • Supporting Member

Article ABA behaviour analyst certification levels (1)

Within this huge leap for our country, the ABAA has provided an Ethical Code of Practice, Professional Development Requirements, Supervision Standards, a Professional Competency List, as well as built a formal Complaints process. Find more info at www.auaba.com.au.

Article ABAA behaviour analyst certification

Ability Consultants specialises in Positive Behaviour Support (PBS). Do all behaviour support practitioners need to be ABA certified?

No, not at all. Ability Consultants is an organisation that specialises in PBS and we pride ourselves in taking a diverse, multidisciplinary team approach to ensure positive results for our clients.

Our certified behaviour analysts support our wider team by ensuring that we are successfully identifying functions of targeted behaviours of concern and consequently producing effective proactive/preventative and functionally equivalent replacement behaviour skill support strategies in our behaviour support plans (BSPs). We also assist our team in developing effective coaching strategies to acquire treatment fidelity and building effective training models for plan implementers! We are here to assist with the tricky, complex situations and aim to provide our team with guidance in their journeys to successful intervention and client relations.

If you’re looking to review some of the literature that divulges on PBS and ABA, consider looking at the abstracts from these 2 recommended articles:

Article ABAA behaviour analyst conference session

ABA Conference Highlights

Tell us your top ABA Conference highlights!

My personal conference highlights include:

National, professional, self-regulation in Australia

It is a gigantic win that Australia has secured national, professional self-regulation for the field of Applied Behaviour Analysis! For in-depth information, please refer to the ABAA website on this topic.

Alex Brown’s pre-conference workshop: Writing Quality Behaviour Support Plans

Alex Brown’s (B Psych Assoc. MAPS, BCBA) pre-conference workshop “Writing Quality Behaviour Support Plans for the NDIS Quality & Safeguards Commission”.

Alex’s presentation reassured me that what we’re doing at Ability Consultants is on-par with not only meeting NDIS expectations, but setting our clinicians up for success to provide high quality and effective services to our clients. Akanksha, Marie and I all got to participate in this interactive workshop. There were a number of times that other participants voiced how impressed they were with the support Ability Consultants is providing within our templates and service provision.

This was a double-win for us behaviour analysts as we earned 6 CPDs (continuing professional development) units for participating in Alex’s exciting discussion. As behaviour analysts, we are expected to acquire up to 40 CPDs every two years to maintain our certification.

A presentation by Dr Geoff Potter and Matthew Spicer about Multi-Element Behaviour Support

Dr Geoff Potter (BCBA, PhD) and Matthew Spicer (Psychologist) delivered a presentation, “Multi-Element Behaviour Support: Conceptualisation of Positive Programming and Episodic Severity in Applied Behaviour Analysis”.

I felt that this presentation accompanied Alex Brown’s presentation like peanut butter does jelly. As behaviour support practitioners, we wear a number of “hats” (hypothetically speaking for all of our roles and responsibilities)! Geoff and Matthew clearly articulated that in order for our behaviour support plans (BSP) to be effective, we have to successfully incorporate many elements — including trauma-informed approaches — within our service. Thankfully, at Ability Consultants, we’ve developed detailed templates to ensure we include these important elements.

Geoff and Matthew emphasised the importance of constantly aiming for higher quality services whilst touching on the very important topic of actively working to reduce the number of restrictive practices (RPs) as we enhance the quality of life of the individuals we advocate for.

Goodness… when I get going, it makes me so pumped to be a part of a crew (i.e., PBS practitioners and ABA providers) that are constantly striving to make this world a better and more inclusive place for everyone in future generations! Go, team!

Applied Animal Behaviour Stream

It was awfully cool to also see an applied animal behaviour stream offered at this year’s conference! Yes, ABA does not only encompass working with children with autism or individuals with disability. See more on subspecialties in ABA, here.

More speakers including Dr Marc Lanovaz

At the conference, there were many others that stuck out. We had a barrister/lawyer discussing support of clients and stakeholders with NDIA disputes.

The keynote speaker, Marc Lanovaz (Ph.D., BCBA-D), blew the crowd out of this universe with his address on using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to apply toward behaviour analytic problems. Dr Lanovaz dispelled common myths about AI for us and shared “How [he] stopped fearing Skynet and started worshipping magical bunnies!” As you can see, the field of behaviour analysis attracts quite the eclectic bunch! During a lunch break, I shared with our very own CEO, David Ackling-Jones, that I feel his dreams and aspirations are on par with visionary practitioners like Dr Lanovaz!

And of course, the food

The food at the conference was pretty darn tasty this year, too! Next year, the 8th Annual ABAA Conference will be held in Brisbane, Queensland. We are hoping some of our ever-growing Queenslander team will join us!

Article ABAA behaviour analyst conference behaviour support pbs


All in all, I am extremely proud to be a part of a field that continuously leads the way in quality practice; acknowledges its downfalls, limitations and aspects that warrant change; and aspires for improvement. The ABAA Conference instilled a lot of inspiration and hope for me. Let’s continue to work together to amplify voices that need to be heard and continue supporting the growth of emerging leaders in our field with hope to create a better (and more inclusive) tomorrow for everyone!

Consider joining us next year at ABAA’s 8th Annual Conference in Brisbane (we might even have a few ABA Team Members presenting!).

You can find more information about Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) in our article about the ABA Conference and the ABAA has also published a handy article called “What Actually is ABA?”.

Interesting in joining our team? Find out more about ABA and careers at Ability Consultants here.

ABAA Conference Recap: Interview with Ross Leighner, Behaviour Analyst

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