WIBA 2020 Speakers
Rita Gardner, M.P.H, LABA, BCBA
Rita M. Gardner is President and CEO of Melmark, a multi-state human service provider with premier private special education schools, professional development, training and research centers. Rita has devoted 35 years to non-profit management in the field of community-based services for children and adults with the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, acquired brain injuries, neurological disorders and severe challenging behaviors. In addition to leading Melmark’s $95-million operations across all of its divisions, Rita is the co-founder of Melmark New England in Andover, Massachusetts and a co-founder of Melmark Carolinas in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Rita has been recognized by the Commonwealth Institute and Boston Globe, on the organizations’ list of Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts for the past two years (#35 in 2018 and TBA in 2019). She is dedicated to creating opportunities for skills growth and advancement for women in the field of human services. Rita does this through her work with CASP (Council of Autism Service Providers), for which she and Melmark are founding members; her leadership role as a board member of maaps (Massachusetts Association of Approved Private Schools); and her vital role in WIBA (Women in Behavior Analysis), for which Rita volunteers her time and expertise as a mentor.
As a result of her far-reaching work, Rita is known throughout the disability community as a tireless advocate for services for children and adults with intellectual disabilities and autism. She has provided project consultation to nationally-renowned organizations and was appointed to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s Special Commission Relative to Autism in 2010. She continues to serve in that capacity, appointed by the current Governor Charles Baker. Rita has testified before the legislature on numerous issues related to Autism Spectrum Disorders, written articles for professional journals, and made a number of presentations on topics ranging from program expansion and behavior management to transitioning students with brain injury back into the community.
Rita has been involved in the organization, design, development and implementation of over 100 community-based programs for children and adults. Her professional experience is focused on high level organizational design using her skills in child advocacy, clinical practice, health service administration, legal issues, public policy and fundraising. Her demonstrated focus on fiscal prudence, ability to build bridges with funding sources, and experience in the development and ongoing maintenance of donor relationships, ensures the future of services for individuals with intellectual disabilities, at Melmark and beyond.
Rita received her Master of Public Health degree from Boston University’s School of Public Health in the School of Medicine. Most important, she holds the heart of Melmark’s mission at the core of her professional standards. She is dedicated to every child, adult and family served at Melmark, as well as every member of Melmark’s professional staff.
Dr. Darnell Lattal, PhD.
Dr. Darnell Lattal has spent a lifetime on issues of coercion and its fallout across educational, health, mental health, public policy, and workplace settings. She earned a B.A at the University of Alabama, as an American studies and English major with a minor in sociology-economics, (1965); M.A. Special Education (1968), Johns Hopkins University (Honors; multicultural studies, 1970); West Virginia University (Ph.D. behavior-based clinical psychology; 1980) and received her Clinical License in 1982. Darnell has has written articles in refereed journals, presented at many conferences, and is the published co-author of several books: Workplace Ethics: Winning the Integrity Revolution, Clark and Lattal, (Rowman & Littlefield, 1993; University Press, 1998);Ethics at Work, Clark and Lattal, (Performance Management Publications, 2005); A Good Days Work (2008), Lattal and Clark, McGraw Hill; Sustaining a Stress-Free Workplace using Positive Reinforcement (English translation of title) (2010), Toyo Keiza Press (printed in Japanese language); Life’s a PIC/NIC® when you understand behavior (Sloan Publishing, 2017) Chinese and Spanish translations, 2019. Darnell has one book in development with Carlos Zuluaga, The Wisdom Factor, working title.
Her career includes the following positions: teacher (general and special education); clinician (hospitals, prisons, mental health centers); Special Assistant to the Provost and President, adjunct faculty, WVU; Consultant, Corporate Behavior Analysts (1986-93), Sr. Consultant, the Continuous Learning Group (1993-1997); Senior Vice President
Strategic Consulting and then President and CEO of Aubrey Daniels International (1997-1914); Executive Director of the AD Institute, a 501c3 (2014-2015). During this time Darnell was active in Civil Rights in Alabama in the 1960s and served on national boards related to policy issues on reducing violence in America. She was invited to the While House for the passage of the Brady Bill. Both reflected her passion about reducing coercive control over others.
Darnell as co-owner of Context Management, Inc, is on special assignment to ABA Technologies, Inc., and a member of the Board of Directors of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. She is also a member of the Association of Behavior Analysis, as well as state associations; Board of Directors, Women@theFrontier; Board of Advisers, The University of Alabama, College of Arts and Sciences. She serves as a volunteer for the Low country Symphony Orchestra organization and the Art Center of Coastal Carolina. Her three children and their families give hope to what lies ahead. Her constant source of purpose and delight is her husband Andy, also a behavior analyst.
Dr. Jonathan Tarbox, PhD., BCBA-D
Dr. Jonathan Tarbox is the 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 Editor-in-Chief of the journal Behavior Analysis in Practice and serves on the editorial boards of several major scientific journals related to autism and behavior analysis. He has published four books on autism treatment, is the Series Editor of the Elsevier book series Critical Specialties in Treating Autism and Other Behavioral Challenges, and an author of well over 70 peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters in scientific texts. His research focuses on behavioral interventions for teaching complex skills to individuals with autism and applications of Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) to applied behavior analysis.
Dr. Ellie Kazemi, PhD.
Dr. Kazemi is a Professor at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) where she has developed and teaches undergraduate and graduate coursework in behavior analysis for the past 10 years. She founded the Masters of Science Program in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2010 and has collaborated with the CSUN community to provide graduate students high quality supervision experiences. She currently has two different lines of research. Her applied research interests involve identification of efficient, effective strategies for practical training, supervision, and leadership. Her laboratory research involves leveraging technology (e.g., robotics, virtual or augmented reality) for efficient training and feedback using simulations. She is currently working on several nationwide large projects (e.g., with FEMA and NASA) with a focus on effective training and behavioral outcomes. She has received several mentorship awards including the ABAI Best Mentor Award, the Outstanding Faculty Award, the Outstanding Teaching Award, and the Outstanding Service Award. She has published articles and book chapters on a variety of topics including training, staff turnover, and the use of technology in behavior analysis. She is the leading author of a handbook written for both supervisors and supervisees that is titled, Supervision and Practicum in Behavior Analysis: A Handbook for Supervisees.
Suzanne Letso, MS, BCBA
Suzanne Letso is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Milestones Behavioral Services, formerly known at the Connecticut Center for Child Development. Mrs. Letso currently serves as the founding President of the Behavior Analyst Leadership Council, on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Organization for Autism Research, and as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for Marrakech, Inc. Mrs. Letso has also served as the Treasurer and member of the Board of Directors for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, the Board of Directors of the B.F. Skinner Foundation, the Association for Professional Behavior Analysts, the Council for Autism Service Providers, and has participated in the establishment and management of a number of other service organizations, autism-related initiatives, and state task forces.
Mrs. Letso was the recipient of the Association for Professional Behavior Analysts’ 2016 Jerry Shook Award that honors individuals whose achievements have enhanced the value of sound professional credentials in the practice of applied behavior analysis, the Marrakech Founders’ Advocacy Award in 2009, and Enterprising Woman Magazine’s Advocate of the Year Award in 2007.
Mrs. Letso has worked as an advocate on a number of legislative issues in several states including leading the successful initiative for licensure of Behavior Analysts in Connecticut. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analysis, and licensed as a Behavior Analyst in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts.
She is also the parent of son with autism.
Francesca Delgi Espinosa, PhD.
Francesca began her career in behaviour analysis working as a tutor for a child with autism, in the UK in 1996. During that time she became interested in interventions that could both define and establish generalised learning: the ability to demonstrate novel responses within and across operant classes without each individual response having been previously reinforced. She was the Lead Clinician for the first UK-based EIBI outcome study (Remington et al., 2007) at the University of Southampton and within that context developed the Early Behavioural Intervention Curriculum (EBIC) an intervention framework derived from functional analyses of language to establish generative multiply controlled verbal behaviour, which subsequently formed the principal focus of her Ph.D. (2011).
Her clinical and research interests focus on advanced applications of contemporary analyses of verbal behaviour (Horne & Lowe, 1996; Michael, Palmer, & Sundberg, 2011) as a basis for teaching generalised verbal repertoires, and, thereby, as a means of minimising the need to teach specific individual verbal responses. Currently, she runs a small diagnostic and assessment clinic in the UK and teaches behaviour analysis at the University of Salerno, Italy, her home country.