ABA: Beyond the Table and Little Kids

Ok, with the school year upon us, we’re kicking off a 5 part series about how ABA is not just for little kids on the autism spectrum learning to sit in a chair and make eye contact with their teachers. ABA can, has, and probably should be used across all settings and ages…but most people don’t know that or don’t know how to make it work. That’s where we come in. Over the next few weeks we’ll share information on different strategies to use in the classroom that will help in many ways: 1) understanding the challenges teachers face, 2) how to address the different functions of problem behaviors, 3) increasing motivation, and 4) how to use different types of assistance to ensure the best possible student performance.


Before we get too deeply into the different topics and strategies that can be used in all classrooms, I want to share one point of passion I have for my job and the worldview of behavior analysis. I share this with you because I believe with all my heart that behavior analysis is a compassionate and loving strategy that keeps everything (even the most difficult things) framed in a positive light to highlight the hope of growth for all of us.

One question we often hear in the world today is, “What’s wrong with that kid that he would do that?!” (or some variation of such). Nothing positive can possibly come as a result of such a question. All that question does is place blame and insinuate that other people need “fixing.” Behavior analysis helps reframe that question into “What can I do to foster positive change? Where/how can I support growth in others?” How much more supportive and growth-focused is that question? If we can frame our approach to working with kids (or co-workers) in a way that is necessarily focused on growth rather than blame, how much more impact can we have on the kids we are working so tirelessly to help, teach, and mentor?

This question and this approach is not to say that some of the kids we work with don’t need to learn to make better choices and don’t need to stop doing some of the things that they do. I am NOT saying that kids can do no wrong and we (i.e., the adults) are the ones “to blame.” This worldview, rather, posits that our own behavioral changes support and motivate behavioral changes in others. I love what I do and the science of behavior analysis because my own actions have helped to turn around kids and adults that were on a very difficult path of destructive and dangerous behavior.

My belief is that beginning with the question of “What can I do?” sets the stage for the most positive and healthy relationships in the classroom, and we hope to share the different impacts of this worldview with you over the next few blogs. Walk this road with us and feel free share struggles and success stories with us, too!


We’re Almost There!


It was October 7th, 2012…a Sunday. Why Stephanie decided to reinforce my ridiculous idea to run a full marathon with basically ZERO bits of running experience in life thus far, I do not know. What was even more surprising was that she did this after just finishing the same year-long process herself! Anyway, there we were…running the Chicago Marathon for Team World Vision…and we (literally) ran across the poster that summed up our feelings & thoughts exactly. It said, “Punch anyone who says you’re almost there.” As you can see, we connected so much to this poster that we decided to sacrifice our awesome positions in the race to take a quick photo. It was just too awesome to pass up!

Now, fast forward to 2014…Stephanie and I began training for a half marathon. As SOON as I made this decision, I thought to myself, “Why in the world are you doing this!?!?!?” Let me just clarify…I do not have a runner physique, I do not enjoy running very much, and I’m not all that good at it. So, why?? As I wrapped my head around this question, I began to realize that, for me, there is something very reinforcing about meeting big, long-term goals. There was honestly nothing like crossing that marathon finish line back in 2012. That second of my life was one of the best examples of delayed gratification that I may ever personally experience. But that can’t be it, right? The fact is, training for an entire year at something that you aren’t good at and don’t like to do is a LOT of response effort. So you’d think there must be other, more immediate reinforcers along the way, right? For me, one of those reinforcers was seeing my donation money rise each week & knowing it was going to an amazing cause. The one I want to talk about the most, though, is the invaluable bond that grows between two people who run the race together.

Don’t get me wrong, there were probably many days that one of us was oh so annoyed with the other. Whether it was because they wanted to run too fast, too far without stopping, or even at all…no joke. Regardless of our words or actions, there was something about the comradery of working towards a common cause/long-term goal that was constantly reinforcing my hard work. I truly believe that God places particular people in our lives that are a perfect match for each of us in this way.

The race that Stephanie and I ran 2 years ago is, in many respects, similar to the race that we have been running since 2011. I’ll call that race the “FOC” race. Never did I think the FOC race would be as long and tiring as it has been. Looking back, it definitely wasn’t a race that I could have run with just anyone. And even though we haven’t quite contacted the “BIG” reinforcer that we’ve been waiting on for so long, the ongoing reinforcement of comradery with a business partner that was hand-picked for me is more than enough to keep running. I can even say that, “We’re almost there!!!” without a single flinch. 🙂


Not According to Plan

Ok, everyone; I was charged with writing an opening post for For Love of ABA & Football, to introduce you all to myself (Stephanie) and Liz and the idea behind our new blog. But, for those of you who don’t know me, I am a HUGE Denver Broncos fan and am feeling slightly less-than-chipper this morning. For the non-football fans out there…that’s because they lost a horribly painful game (in the Super Bowl, no less) last night. Let’s just say, their game did NOT go according to plan! And, thus, neither did my Sunday night.

But I digress…well, sort of…Liz and I did not decide to start a blog for Footsteps of Change simply so we could rant about disappointing football games; but we did envision a place for us to share our thoughts on ABA, the state of our field and the work being done, and our love for the families we serve, as well as our own personal passions (which, needless to say, include football!). We are both blessed beyond what we could have imagined to be able to run Footsteps in the way we know to be best and to be able to work with each other and the wonderful families and professionals we have already come to know in the life of our young company.

As entrepreneurs and behavior analysts, Liz and I have seen that things do not always go according to plan…and that’s OK. (Anyone who has known me for more than a few years knows how hard it is for me to say that deviation from “well laid plans” is ok, because I am/was a planner!) But I think there is something inherently optimistic and maybe a little naive to the reality of limitations in both of those titles that has led us to where we are and will carry us through to a greatness we might not even yet see. If we’re being honest, though, where we see our plans not quite playing out as originally envisioned, we are building something even greater and full of joy and passion than we would have had otherwise.

Now, don’t get me wrong…last night’s football game not going according to plan is NOT one of those things that I see working out for the best in the long run. That truly was a let down for me and probably a massive disappointment to the Denver players and coaches…that one simply needs to be chalked up to a failure to be learned from. In our real lives–you know, the ones where we are behavior analysts and friends and supporters to our clients and loved ones (as opposed to the fantasy lives of being personally involved in the success/failure of our respective favorite football teams)–we’re learning to love to see things go not according to plan and we’re thrilled for what the future brings for us (in work, life, and in football)!