International Interview Dr. Eitan Eldar, PhD, BCBA-D, Israel
Conducted by Daniela Fazzio, PhD, BCBA-D SIAT Co-Editor
It was pleasure to talk with Dr. Eitan Eldar, PhD, BCBA-D, Chairperson of the Israeli Applied Behavior Analysis Association and Director of the Applied Behavior Analysis Certification Program at Kibbutzim College, Israel. He has done so much for the field not only in Israel, but internationally too.
Daniela: Dr. Eldar, please tell us about your background and how you became a behavior analyst.
Dr. Eldar: I came from the sports world. While working with physical education, I realized that through sport and movement I could do clinical and pedagogical work. I then looked for a psychological model or approach that would fit my interests and goals, and found behavior analysis. I then received my PhD at Ohio State where I came in contact with Cooper, Heron, and Heward, and connected physical education with applied behavior analysis. In the late 1980s, I returned to Israel and started the first academic training program in behavior analysis in 1990, at the Physical Education College at the Wing Institute.
Daniela: What is autism diagnosis and treatment like in Israel?
Dr. Eldar: We have leading experts advanced in diagnostics, and well acquainted with assessment tools; the Israeli system is very sensitive. Staff in our hospitals who see children for routine check-ups are trained to spot any red flags; consequently, children are diagnosed early. Parents and clinicians are aware of signs and symptoms, and the experts are familiar with ABA and recommend behavioral intervention as the first choice of treatment.
Daniela: How are diagnosis and treatment funded?
Dr. Eldar: There is governmental support offered by several offices such as the Ministries of Education, Health and Social Affairs and Social Services. Support should be available through health care coverage, yet most families still find themselves supporting the home/ school programs substantially. There is a pending law proposed which deals with services and support to autistic populations.
Daniela: How has autism treatment changed in your country during the course of your career?
Dr. Eldar: It has changed dramatically as a result of the hard work of professionals who recognize and promote behavior analysis as first choice of intervention. The first steps were done by parents who were exposed to ABA effectiveness and spread the word to parent groups, and to the educational and clinical systems. Twenty five years ago, there were only a few behavior analysts in Israel and, as of June 7, there are 88 of them listed in the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s registry. These articles, Eldar, Talmor, and Dayan – Romem, 2009; Eldar, Talmor, and Wolf-Zukerman, 2010, identify some important steps I believe have contributed, and will contribute further, to the practice of applied behavior analysis. Examples include: specific training for support staff, educators, parents, peers and other decisions makers, and an evidenced based model for inclusion.
Daniela: In the US there is a gap between available services for young children and support to adults on the autism spectrum once they no longer qualify for special education. How is Israel responding to the demands for continuation of services into adulthood?
Dr. Eldar: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services supports a wide variety of activities such as individual support, social and vocational activities and more for adults on the autism spectrum living either at home or in a group home.
Daniela: Are there organizations that promote applied behavior analysis? How about organizations like ASAT?
Dr. Eldar: Parents are the greatest supporters and they organize to recruit public funding to operate behavioral programs for children with autism. They also work actively to propose laws. One such organization is The Israeli Society for Autistic Children, ALUT (www.alutfriends.org). They worked to implement a special education law, which was approved in 1998.
Daniela: Is there an ABAI Chapter in your region?
Eldar: Yes, in 2003, the Israeli Association for Behavior Analysis, IABA was established. We have 180 members and hold conferences and workshops every year. Our association strongly supports the dissemination of ABA in Israel, connected to government offices as well as to educational institutions. We publish a newsletter in Hebrew, allowing professionals to be updated in their native language. We also offer a few academic conventions every year, inviting leading experts from Israel and other countries to share their knowledge. Continuing Education credit is offered at all of these events. This is a great time for behavior analysis in Israel! The dissemination strategy we have implemented has been based on broadening the clinical foundation and adoption of behavior analysis in the education and health arena. At this point, there are hundreds of behavior analysts providing services to institutions and families while disseminating ABA among decision makers.
Daniela: You are also the Head of the Applied Behavior Analysis Certification Program at Kibbutzim College. Could you tell us about the program?
Dr. Eldar: The program has prepared hundreds of behavior analysts since 1990. It has been approved by the BACB for BCaBAs and BCBAs, including practicum courses. Besides the practicum, the two-year program includes 16 courses which present Applied Behavior Analysis in different contexts. Currently, there are 140 students enrolled in the programs with over 10 staff members.
Daniela: You were involved in establishing a behavioral treatment center in China. How did that come about and how was your experience?
Dr. Eldar: My involvement with the Wucailu center in Beijing started following the 2005 ABAI conference held in that city. For six years, I served as their clinical director, developing a comprehensive clinical and data collection program, based on Applied Behavior Analysis principles and procedures. During this time period (there were 16 students at the beginning), the center expanded to three other locations in Beijing serving over 200 students.
Dr. Eldar, representing ASAT, I thank you sincerely for taking the time to share information about your professional career and ABA treatment for autism in Israel. I was delighted to hear about your experience and the support for science in autism treatment you describe exists in Israel.
For more information about Dr. Eldar:
Eldar, E., Talmor, R., and Wolf-Zukerman, T. (2010). Successes and difficulties in the individual inclusion of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the eyes of their Coordinators. The International Journal of Inclusive Education, 14, 97-114.
Eldar, E., Talmor, R., and Dayan Romem, Z. (2009). An integrative model for including children with ASD in general education setting- a practical lesson in Israel. International Journal of Special Education, 24, 66-76.
Citation for this article:
Fazzio, D. (2015). An interview with Dr. Eitan Eldar. Science in Autism Treatment, 12(3), 37-39.