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                                                                                                                             Ventura County

The Behavioral Treatment of Autism: Exploring the Controversies

  • 8 Mar 2024
  • 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
  • 955 Fairway Dr, Camarillo, CA 93010


  • Clinical Member of Ventura Chapter
  • Related Professional Member of Ventura Chapter
  • Prelicensed Member of Ventura Chapter
  • Registration 7 or less days prior to event


Continuing Education (2 Units) and Lunch
Please join Ventura County CAMFT
Friday, March 8, 2024 from 11:30 am-2:30 pm (check-in 11:15 am)
at the Las Posas Country Club: 955 Fairway Drive, Camarillo, CA
for our Chapter Annual Meeting and Continuing Education Speaker Event

Please review the registration/cancellation/refund policy at under event information at

About the Speaker

Ira Heilveil, Ph.D., BCBA-D, QBA is a licensed clinical psychologist and behavior analyst. He is assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Geffen-UCLA School of Medicine, where he has taught family therapy and problem-based learning for more than two decades. Dr. Heilveil is the author of “When Families Feud” and “Video in Mental Health Practice,” as well as multiple articles and presentations. He is the founder of Autism Learning Partners, one of the largest agencies in the U.S. providing applied behavior analytic services to children on the autism spectrum and is currently the president of Hyperion Behavioral Health Center.

Dr. Heilveil is a licensed clinical psychologist, and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Geffen-UCLA School of Medicine. He has a master’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology. He is licensed as a psychologist in four states, licensed as a behavior analyst in one state, and is board certified by both the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) and the Qualified Applied Behavior Analysis board (QABA).

Course Description and Educational Objectives
While the behavioral treatment of autism is generally considered the “standard of care,” it is burdened with controversy. We will explore the seven major controversies in the field of applied behavior analysis, the current state of the field and recommendations for the future.
1. Participants will be able to identify four of seven key controversies pertaining to the behavioral treatment of autism.

2. Participants will be able to explain at least two historical events that likely has fueled the controversies plaguing behavioral intervention.

3. Participants will be able to list at least two forms of behavioral intervention that are less vulnerable to criticism than early “discrete trial” methods.

Course Outline:
1. What is ABA: A brief history of ABA and how it developed.
2. The transmogrification of ABA as it applies to autism.
3. The transmogrification of the autism diagnosis.
4. Questions of power and effectiveness.
5. Desperation and abuse.
6. Two major cases of abuse.
7. Ivar Lovaas – His own worst enemy?
8. The seven controversies:
a. Reductionist approach
b. Lack of autonomy and self-determination
c. Overemphasis on compliance
d. Potential for abuse
e. Ineffectiveness
f. Disregard for neurodiversity
g. Lack of emphasis on emotional needs
9. Is the field of ABA itself its own worst enemy?
a. Unfortunate language and marketing
b. Hubris
10. Problems of diagnosis and the medical model
a. Proliferation of diagnosis – Szasz and social manipulation
b. Coincidence of diagnosis
c. Lobbying efforts and parity
11. A vision for the future and funding decreases
a. Greater emphasis on common factors
b. Proliferation of training by practitioners

-Wilkenfeld, D.A., & McCarthy, A.M. (2020). Ethical Concerns with Applied Behavior Analysis for Autism Spectrum “Disorder”. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 30(1), 31-69.

-Bates, Richard (2020) France's Autism Controversy and the Historical Role of Psychoanalysis in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Autistic Children, Nottingham French Studies, 59 (2), 221-235.

-Jarmolowicz, D.P., Tetreault, A.S. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support as Behavior Analysis in Practice: Why Is This Even Controversial?. Behavioral Analysis Practice 8, 86–87 (2015).

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