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July 31 – August 3, 2017
The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel
State College, Pennsylvania

Francesca degli Espinosa

Francesca degli Espinosa

Francesca degli Espinosa, BCBA-D: Twenty-one years ago, when I started working as an ABA tutor for a child with autism, I knew very little about ASD, and even less about behaviorism other than what I had learned from introductory lectures on the history of psychology: behaviorism had been superseded by cognitive approaches because it could only explain observable behavior, and could not account for complex human activities such as language. Despite the not-so-indirect academic critiques, I continued my work as an ABA tutor throughout my undergraduate studies. Although I eventually became effective in the use of prompting and fading for the shaping of verbal topographies, I continued to be aware that my students remained, regardless of their level of functioning, unable to generate novel, untaught, responses. This issue did not appear to be something that could be resolved by teaching each response or response class through a program of generalization — but with generalized learning itself; the ability to demonstrate novel responses without each individual response having previously been individually reinforced. To explore this question, I began studying for a Ph.D. at the University of Southampton, under the guidance of Professor Remington, and took the first step into a journey in search of stimulus control for complex human behavior: a never- ending journey that continues to be both rewarding, when controlling variables are clearly evident, and frustrating, when the phenomenon requires the identification of the interaction between multiple controlling factors. My clinical and research interests eventually settled and continue to be on advanced applications of contemporary analyses of verbal behavior (Horne and Lowe, 1996; Lowenkron, 1998, 2008; Michael, Palmer, and Sundberg, 2011) as a basis for teaching generalized verbal repertoires, and, thereby, as a means of minimizing the need to teach specific individual verbal responses. I teach verbal behavior across a range of BACB–approved European graduate programs, as well as provide supervision to professionals designing applied behavioral interventions for children and adults with autism, both in the UK, where I live, and in Italy, my home country.

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