2022 Conference Speakers


Courtney Tarbox, BCBA, Director of Clinical Development, FirstSteps for Kids 

Jonathan Tarbox, BCBA-D, Program Director for the Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis Program, University of Southern California, Director of Research at FirstSteps for Kids

Title: Compassionate Care within Applied Behavior Analysis  


Decades of research have established the benefits of ABA-based interventions and supports for individuals on the autism spectrum. However, many in the Autistic community and throughout the neurodiversity movement have been calling for a kinder, more compassionate approach to ABA. Previous researchers (e.g., Taylor, LeBlanc, & Nosik, 2019) and families living with autism have expressed concern that ABA professionals do not consistently demonstrate the care and compassion that we feel in our hearts, in the way we interact with those we serve. Members of the neurodiversity self-advocacy community have called on behavior analysts to acknowledge that our procedures can cause harm and have asked that we prioritize the perspectives and values of the individuals we serve. The field of ABA is at a critical point in its evolution, where we have the opportunity to be open and courageous enough to take the next steps in developing a more compassionate approach. In this workshop, we provide practical strategies for infusing compassion into our everyday work as behavior analysts, across our work with the Autistic community, their caregivers, and across our own colleagues and organizations. We begin with a conceptual analysis of how empathy and compassion are part of the science of behavior analysis, and we progress to providing practical tools and approaches for leading with our hearts, while not compromising the science and effectiveness of our field. The tools and practices included in the workshop were developed on the basis of earlier work on compassion in ABA and include strategies based on self-reflection, perspective-taking, relational frame theory, and Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT).


Courtney Bio: 

Courtney Tarbox serves as the Director of Clinical Development at FirstSteps for Kids. Ms. Tarbox earned her Master of Science Degree in Counseling, with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from California State University, Los Angeles. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and is passionate about contributing to research that is informed by real-life practice. She is actively engaged in treatment evaluation research on topics including complex skill acquisition, naturalistic discrete trial training, compassionate and kind ABA treatment, and the infusion of acceptance and commitment training (ACT) within comprehensive ABA programs for children with autism. Ms. Tarbox is committed to fostering ongoing community-wide discussion and collaboration with the aim of dispelling common misconceptions of ABA and advocating for effective ABA treatment that is also dynamic and compassionate. Ms. Tarbox regularly presents at community events and professional conferences and has co-authored a training manual for Registered Behavior Technicians.


Jonathan Bio:

Dr. Jonathan Tarbox is the Co-Founder and Program Director of the Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program at the University of Southern California, as well as Director of Research at FirstSteps for Kids. Dr. Tarbox is the past Editor-in-Chief of the journal Behavior Analysis in Practice, a Board Member of the ABA Task Force to Eradicate Social Injustice, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Women in Behavior Analysis (WIBA) conference. He has published five books on applied behavior analysis and autism treatment, is the Series Editor of the Elsevier book series Critical Specialties in Treating Autism and Other Behavioral Challenges, and an author of over 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters in scientific texts.  His research focuses on behavioral interventions for teaching complex skills to individuals with autism, Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT), and applications of applied behavior analysis to issues of diversity and social justice. Dr. Tarbox is proud to have multiple neurodivergent family members and is working hard to become a more effective ally to the Autistic community.



Shannon Penrod President, The Autism Network
Title: The Parent’s Perspective: What I wish ABA providers knew about ABA



Shannon Penrod is a proud PONI (Parent of a Neurodiverse Individual).  Her son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2 ½.  At that time, he was considered non-verbal, and Shannon was a teacher/performer with no knowledge of Autism or how to treat it.  It was a harrowing journey to learn what would help her son, but she eventually found help and hope.  Her son is now 19, fully verbal, and a college student on the Dean’s List with no accommodations.  Shannon spends her time trying to help others to find their help and hope.  She is the host of Autism Live, the #1 rated Autism Podcast and the Executive Producer of Stories from the Spectrum which solely features the talents of individuals on the spectrum.  Shannon’s book Autism: Parent to Parent is currently available at all major book sellers and features all the tips and secrets she has learned over the years.


Title: Disability Justice In Behavior Science
Mari is a Mesoamerican Indigenous woman, wife, mom, and board-certified behavior analyst with over 13 years experience working with Neurodivergent individuals and their families.
A former special education teacher, behavior specialist, and inclusion coordinator, Mari has a deep passion for advocacy work with both schools and clinics to develop trauma-responsive, neurodiversity responsive practices. Her work focuses on shifting language used in practice to reframe and move away from unintentional ableist frameworks that are often rooted in traditional therapy and educational settings. Much of this work pulls from IRM (Indigenous Research Methods) which deconstructs traditional Western approaches.
Mari has her PhD from Texas Tech University in Special Education.
She recently opened her own trauma-responsive center, The Lighthouse Learning Center in Lubbock, TX with the goal of creating a model of true neurodiversity affirming and assent-based practices. Mari is also the co-founder of the The LEAP Institute, a non-profit with a mission to address the disparity of diverse practitioners in the ABA field.