Nicole Neil honoured with ONTABA Research Award

December 12, 2023

ONTABA President Jaime Santana (left) presents Nicole Neil with the ONTABA Research Award during the association’s 2023 annual conference.

Western Education’s Associate Dean of Research Nicole Neil has once again received a top honour from the Ontario Association for Behaviour Analysis (ONTABA).

Neil was presented the ONTABA Research Award during the association’s annual conference last month.

ONTABA is made up of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) practitioners, educators, and researchers from various fields across the province and strives toward fostering a culture of excellence, integrity, and expertise for the advancement and promotion of the science of behaviour analysis.

This is the second time Neil has received an award from ONTABA, after she won the ONTABA Teaching Award in 2018.

“Dr. Neil is a recognized leader in applied behaviour analysis in Canada and beyond,” said Education Dean Donna Kotsopoulos, who nominated Neil for the latest award.

“This award recognizes her immense contributions to this field.”

A Board Certified Behaviour Analyst, Neil’s work explores research questions that are immediately relevant to the practice of behaviour analysis and families of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Neil says it’s an absolute honour and privilege to be recognized by a professional association that she, along with many others in the field of ABA, holds in such a high regard. She considers the award to also be a recognition of those under her wing.

“The research that we do in this lab, it’s not my research, it’s the research of a collective of individuals. The work wouldn’t happen without the students, without their passions, without all the things that they’ve contributed,” Neil said.

“This is really an award for the whole group of us that says we’re doing amazing things, we’re making a difference, we’re making an impact.”

Nicole Neil (centre) smiles as she listens to a presentation hosted by her and several Education graduate students during ONTABA's annual conference.

The award comes at an exciting time for ABA in Ontario. Earlier this year, the College of Psychologists of Ontario announced that it would begin regulating behaviour analysts in the province.

On July 1, 2024, the College will also change its name to the College of Psychologists and Behaviour Analysts of Ontario. After that date, only ABA practitioners who are registered with the College will be allowed to use the title “Behaviour Analyst” in Ontario.

Ontario will be the first Canadian jurisdiction to regulate the profession of ABA, paving a path to accountability for providers and empowerment for Ontarians seeking ABA services.

Neil, who serves as the coordinator of Western’s Master of Professional Education in ABA, says it feels like a “seminal moment for ABA.”

“We have new program development happening, we have huge growth in students and practitioners in the field, and we’re starting to see the public recognizing what ABA is, why it’s important, and how we can contribute to the field of health and wellbeing,” Neil added.

“I predict that there will be big changes across Canada as a result of this.”