Rector awarded Prof. Karola Dillenburger the Gold Medal on Masaryk University's 105th anniversary.

Karola Dillenburger, Director of the Centre for Behaviour Analysis at Queen’s University  Belfast received the Gold Medal at Masaryk University's 105th-anniversary celebration on January 31. She is a significant contributor to the development of behavior analysis at Masaryk University. We interviewed her to discuss her accomplishments and perspectives.

15 Feb 2024 Monika Oswaldová

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How did you come to collaborate with the Faculty of Education?

The story started with an email from a mother of a child with autism named Jana Gandalovičová, who wrote to me. She knew that I was working in the field of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) and contacted me to ask for help and collaboration in the Czech Republic. I immediately responded, along with Professor Mickey Keenan. Our assistance in the Czech Republic was aimed at providing support, methodologies, and know-how on ABA. However, the people in the Czech Republic had to create the education system themselves, and we could not do that for them. In 2015, only a few trained behavior analysts (experts in behavioral interventions) were in the Czech Republic. The first step was to find a university teacher interested in ABA.

Jana knew Professor Karel Pančocha from the Faculty of Education at Masaryk University, who is fantastic, responded quickly, and we created a team including parents, academics, and politicians. Professor Pančocha also visited us in Belfast, and within a month, he organized a large conference in Brno at which our research and practical experience were presented. Professor Pančocha has done an admirable job from the very beginning of our collaboration. This action had a significant impact on the 2016 parliamentary hearings in Prague. We had discussions with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education of the Czech Republic, which directed further developments. Our collaboration led to the amendment of the Non-Medical Health Workers Act, the creation of educational courses on ABA at your university, and the initiation of research in this area. Prof. Pančocha created a great team of collaborators, who trained at our University in Belfast on our MScABA first online course. We helped until the MU Faculty of Education staff were qualified to provide behavior analysis instruction.

Karola Dillenburger is Professor and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Analysis at Queen's University  Belfast. For over 30 years, she has been involved in autism research, educating parents of autistic children and raising awareness of applied behavior analysis (ABA). Professor Dillenburger is a frequent contributor to national and international journals and a speaker at international conferences. She has made significant contributions to the development of behavior analysis at Masaryk University. She played a crucial role in developing the content of the curricula and obtaining international certification of the study of behavior analysis by the Association for Behaviour Analysis International and accreditation of professional education (accredited qualification courses) by the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic.

Currently, the Faculty of Education MU is the only institution in the Czech Republic that offers this type of study. At the same time, it has helped to establish the Centre for Applied Behaviour Analysis at the Faculty of Education. This center is the first of its kind in the Czech Republic. It represents an important step towards strengthening evidence-based interventions for children and adults with an autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

“The whole of Masaryk University is very supportive. We knocked on the door and the door opened, that doesn't always happen.”

How does this collaboration work?

First, we worked very hard to prepare materials for the creation of the new profession of behavior analysis. Our goal was to anchor this profession in the Czech Republic legislatively. Currently, the Czech Republic is the only country in the European Union with legislation that sets standards for the education and practice of the behavior analyst profession, which is an extraordinary achievement. For example, this is similar to the United Kingdom and the United States of Amerika. Subsequently, we focused on teaching MU students, participants of accredited qualification courses.

How would you explain what ABA is to someone who doesn't know it?

ABA stands for Applied Behaviour Analysis, a discipline that deals with understanding and changing socially significant behaviors. ABA is not just one of the therapies for autism, and this is a common misconception. It is a systematic approach dedicated to examining and influencing human behavior to bring about positive change and improve quality of life. Its findings can be applied to any person, including a child with autism.

“It's great to see that some parents and their children are benefiting from our work and to see the motivation of the students is amazing.”

What does the Masaryk University Gold Medal mean to you?

Winning the Gold Medal is of massive importance to me. To be awarded for something that fills me with joy is just phenomenal! The award was unexpected, and my happiness was incredible. This Gold Medal will have a significant international impact and strengthen our whole behavioral science field. The recognition of my work is an affirmation of the importance of what I do. My efforts have contributed significantly to the reputation of Masaryk University, Faculty of Education, and my own university, Queen's University Belfast. However, most important to me is that this award adds weight to my scientific work and its positive impact on society. I am filled with joy and gratitude and wish to express my deep appreciation to Masaryk University for this prestigious award.

What are the goals and visions for the future?

Our goal is to bring together behavior analysis experts around the world. The profession of behavior analysts still needs international recognition, and we are trying to champion this cause and help other countries in the process. We will also be working on the preparation of an international conference soon. The European Association for Behavioural Analysis has chosen the Czech Republic for this year's conference, and your university has been entrusted with its organization. Thus, Masaryk University will host a major international conference in September this year, and Professor Pančocha is preparing a parallel session in Czech for Czech experts and the public in addition to the main program. The conference in Brno will be an essential event where experts from many helping professions and caregivers of people with neurodevelopmental disabilities will meet.

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We extend our congratulations to Professor Karola for the well-deserved award. Wishing her continued success, enduring scientific inspiration, and widespread appreciation in all your future activities.

CABA - Centre for Applied Behavioural Analysis.

The mission of the ABA Centre is to develop applied behavioral analysis in the Czech Republic.
What we do: Education and training of specialists.
We provide two-year ABA training for professionals working toward national and international certification.
We hold accredited courses for those who want to become behavioral technicians.
We operate a training center where our students seeking certification can practice with clients under supervision.
Seminars for parents and professionals
We provide seminars and courses for educators, parents, and other professionals working with children with PAS and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

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