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A Beautiful Hot Mess

Somebody Loves You

My course opens for the semester today. Next up…principles of developing, strengthening and maintaining behavior.

In behavior analysis, we learn that these tasks often accompany its counterpart which is decreasing responses that are maladaptive, problematic or destructive to an individual in treatment. It is important to understand why we are trying change a problematic behavior but perhaps even more important is developing a new behavior in its place. In many cases this means teaching the skills needed in order to acquire desired change. It is even more important to understand we are not trying to change a person to something they are not but rather helping them achieve a meaningful outcome that is important to them.

I sat in on a continuing education class this past week on the topic of social skills training for individuals with ASD. It could also be useful for individuals with various other DSM-5 diagnoses in which there are disturbances within interpersonal relationships.

The presenter had us begin the class with an experiential activity. The class was divided in to three groups and told there were different types of candy hidden throughout the room. The goal was to find as much candy as possible when each group was instructed to begin the task. Group one was able to begin first. A minute later group two was able to begin looking for the candy while group one could continue in the search. After two minutes group three could begin the task if they could find any candy left.

It is probably not surprising to hear group one had found the majority of the candy and group two had gathered the rest. It is also not surprising that group three was not able to find candy. It was what the presenter instructed them to do next that was the take away to this experience. They told group three to approach the others and ask to have some of the candy.

The various types of candy represents all of social behavior elements important for interpersonal relationships. Group one represents neurotypical individuals without skill deficits. Group two represents individuals with mild deficits and group three represents individuals with severe social disturbances. Group three most certainly felt the limitation on some level before they even attempted the task. They could understand to some degree that this limitation impacted them in their environment. If that wasn’t enough they were then faced with improving their candy situation themselves by interacting with the group who did not experience this limitation.

I don’t know about you but if I was in this scenario over and over again after a period of time I would probably say something not so nice like give me some candy now damn it! You already have enough. Or I might just go up and take the whole freaking pile to hell with it. I have the candy now but I still don’t feel great. So I might throw the candy across the room or maybe just throw it all away because I don’t deserve it. Hopefully you can see the cycle going on here…

In order to be an advocate for individuals we must not forget the overwhelming task of learning behavior we have never experienced. More over begin to understand how problematic behavior has formed to serve a person in the absence of something else. All behavior is communication with our environment.

The primary professor for my ABA program shared a great testimony of this in my Foundations of Behavior course. Dr. Jose Martinez-Diaz spoke of an individual he worked with in this area of social development. He described an adult who had been referred to his care after a second suicide attempt with little to no improvement in his wellness goal. This individual had a history of chronic depression with little to no social interaction who self reported himself as withdrawn from the world. The person in this testimony may have had some type of DSM-5 diagnosis but a specific disorder was not mentioned in the testimony. What Dr. Martinez-Diaz did shared was that this individual grew up in a home with one parent who themselves struggled with severe mental illness. As a child the individual did not experience healthy parental attachment nor learned social skills for relationships from an early age. He came to Jose after several clinicians and having seen a psychiatrist with no improvement. Medication had not been effective, cognitive talk therapy not helpful and the now second recent suicide attempt. This individual stated they had never developed close relationships with others, was lonely, lived alone and felt an inability to connect with others. The meaningful outcome for them would be to experience a close relationship with a significant other.

After assessment Dr. Martinez-Diaz determined this individual had severe deficits in social skills. Assessment in the direct natural environment observing them attempt interactions with others. While many of us know how to initiate appropriate social interaction this individual did not. He literally approached an introductory conversation with hello I’m lonely, I want to get married and have sex with you. Seems self sabotaging right? But it wasn’t to him.

None of these other therapies had been effective because it wasn’t targeting the function of the problematic behavior, observing it directly and then teaching the behavior necessary for their desired outcome.

The intervention plan identified the deficits present and the goals for teaching these skills. The individual spent intensive time with the behavioral staff with training in conversational activities with contingency of reinforcement toward acquisition. He was trained on appropriate hygiene, conversational skills, role playing video recorded sessions practicing asking open ended questions and play back of inappropriate conversation examples. Play back of his improvement with making eye contact and active listening skills. These tasks were broken down in to small steps and as each element was mastered the next set of social skills was introduced. The final phase of the treatment consisted of the individual wearing a hearing device while walking through the college campus. Staff would instruct the individual to approach a trained volunteer and introduce himself. They would coach him on what to say next and so forth. Data was collected throughout the treatment on his progress. The final phase was to encourage him to generalize the skills learned to his natural environment.

Within two weeks of ending the final phase of treatment the individual reported that he had successfully scheduled a first date. Within a month he came back to Dr. Martinez-Diaz with a different problem. He had met two people and he now had too many dates for it not to conflict. Jose’s response was he no longer needed him!

This was a pivotal change in the persons life. He was able to overcome a limitation that was holding him back from meaningful connection with other people. Suicidal ideation was no longer present because he had developed behavior that he had not experienced without help. My professor and treatment team had quite literally saved a life.

Which is why he is so passionate about teaching applied behavior analysis.

Loved By Grace,

Aimee

Space Stalker

It is possible to control ones reactions and feelings even when one is faced with frightening hardships. The psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl has been credited with the following:

Between a stimulus and a response there is space.
It is in that space where we find our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Many call what I do for a living the behavior super hero’s. I don’t know about super hero but I do know we hold this space mentioned as sacred. We are some epic space stalkers. Major ninjas and we wear black on Friday’s. Just kidding we wear flannel Friday, it’s almost Fall.

We are space stalkers because we will keep you in this space until you get it right. Whatever “right” might be that brings about meaningful change in the persons lives.

Not going to lie, sometimes people get super pissed. I mean, don’t we all want this space to ourselves? I know I do! Do not space stalk me and error correct me when I’m doing it wrong. WTF right? Then it means I have to change. That’s too much work. No thank you. Insert scar on the arm and bruise on my elbow from the past week.

You know what? Jesus space stalks all of us when we let Him. It might even feel like He put our sweet little selves on extinction when we aren’t getting it right. That is a fancy word for ignoring. Nobody there, yep crickets. But the minute we try it His way Jesus is right there beside us. Actually He never left. Perhaps we were just escaping the space stalking? Food for thought.

One of my kiddos learned this escape trick the hard way. Yes, the consequence was horrible. She was probably thinking WTF? If I don’t escape this space stalker lady it means I have to change and that is too much work. No thank you! I’m out of here.

You are probably curious what happened? Well…she stood up to run from the work, fell down mid escape over a chair, landed on her wrist to brace the fall and fractured it. All while we were trying to help her in this space with the different choice. This happened about six months ago and while her broken wrist healed quickly, the memory of it remains for everyone involved. Today she is learning to ask for what she needs by asking for a break instead of trying to escape. Which essentially is her learning that asking for help in this space can be life changing. At the very least it is a heck of a lot better than the six weeks in an arm cast.

Instead of broken bones she has healing.

I often think of the scars on Jesus when He chose the cross. Jesus also had a choice in the space and He chose to heal us. It takes work to let the space stalker change us. In fact we might escape to a few broken bones until we learn differently.

When we accept the help and no longer engage in the escape…Jesus will be our space stalker.

I don’t know about my super hero title in people’s lives with ABA but I do know the super power of Jesus. If we embrace our imperfections, I know love will do the rest. ❤️

Proud to be a space stalker.

Loved by Grace,

Aimee

What Makes A Good Christian?

Have you ever wondered what makes someone a good Christian? Well you can really never know everything about this topic but there a few things that are known traits that make people good Christians.

One thing that makes someone a good Christian is they follow Jesus’ example at all times as best they can and love others with their whole heart. This makes sense because Jesus loves everyone equally so one thing you can do is try your hardest to love everyone equally in your life.

One other thing that will really help you in life is acknowledging that you have faults and sins and instead of just being sorry about those things repent, change your attitude and pray.

This next thing you can do is something a lot of people do on a daily basis. It is to read the Bible and do what it says and along with that allow God to change you. Now I know it sounds simple like it won’t help you become a better Christian but it actually helps you see other situations in life in more of a faithful manner.

Another thing that you need to be able to do is understand that you will be persecuted for your beliefs.

One other thing that you need to do on a day to day basis is set aside time for effective and meaningful prayer because not only will it aid you to becoming a better Christian, it will also give you relaxation time away from the rest of your life.

The next thing you can do every day whether you are with friends or even if you are just out and about is trying to see the perspectives of others around you. In other words the point of view of others. I know that sometimes I get into little fights with my friends and I sometimes need to just think about what they feel like and think of if I were to put myself in their shoes how hard this fight is for them. This helps you become a better Christian because you are thinking about others and not only yourself. This also goes along with being patient with people who do not make you happy or even with people who make you upset. This trick helps me a lot. Sometimes if you are just so upset about something and you can’t forget about it just work and pray for others to the best of your abilities because if they are that bad of people they really need it. This is a trick I got from my mom.

Lastly, it is very helpful to think about keeping your faith through everything because if you are constantly worrying about things you will never live your life to the fullest. All of these things together if you try to work at them every day you will slowly become a good Christian.

This was written by one of my students and to say I’m proud of them would be an understatement.

Loved by Grace,

Aimee

Helium

I asked her if she knew the song was about love? I asked her what the song meant to her in life? I asked her how she connects to it?

The answer was simple. It is about my faith, it’s about Jesus. Okay babe. You already understand the most important lesson about love. The motion picture soundtrack kind of helium…well, it only leads to an empty trail of destruction.

You lift me up and I am found
You lift me up before I hit the ground
You lift me up when I am down, down, downI am stronger because you fill me up
Your love lifts me up like helium
Your love lifts me up when I’m down, down, down, it lifts me up before I hit the ground
You’re all I need
‘Cause your love lifts me up like helium
So very true. ❤️
Loved By Grace,
Aimee

Fueling Up

We can either walk in the flow of God’s power or out of it. We don’t have to fight an uphill battle on our own to live good and pure lives. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves as we try to muster up as much goodness as we possibly can. The Christian life has never been about what we can do in our own power. It’s about fully stepping into the grace-filled flow of His power.

I found myself needing extra Jesus today as I finish out the week. I can never forget that I need to fuel up myself before I can help others. Because that’s precisely when the doubt creeps in and the million questions follow constantly rolling around in my brain. It always comes back to this: Do I handle myself in this world like Jesus would handle it? I’m trying as hard as I can Jesus but is it enough? It doesn’t feel like enough.

Thank you for the reminder this morning Jesus. Needed it. ❤️

Every day I’m faced with this truth at work. The day may go well or it may be a mess. Another child of God may decide to hurt others, hurt themselves or me that day as they learn the small steps of success. Their family has placed them in our care to do the hard work.

To all of the people in my world, we live this creed daily:

It’s not shocking that a disorder marked so deeply by intense emotional dysregulation is so polarizing. The truth is in the middle. Yes, many of us who love a person do not love the disorder because at times we have been devastatingly hurt. It is also true that those we love suffer unimaginable pain. That doesn’t excuse how they’ve hurt us, but some of us – including me – can also recognize all the good in those we love and understand that how they hurt us stem from a horrible disorder – not because they’re awful people.

That’s honesty what sent us on the journey of learning. It is hard to understand how a person we so deeply love and at times make us feel incredible – can also do such horrible things. Honestly, the more we learn the more empathy and deep sorrow we can feel for the struggle and what the internal reality of that must be like.

Does that excuse or lessen the horrible pain inflicted? No. But it helps understand and empathize. We don’t hate the child of God, but do hate the disorder.

I would not be equipped to do my job without a deep personal understanding of this creed. No matter how frightening some of the words within it seem, God’s hand is in everything. Love you Jesus. ❤️

WE ARE ALL A CHILD OF GOD, NOT AWFUL. We do the work, we put in the time.

To my babies at work, to myself and to anyone who needs to hear it. Small victories are always enough. ❤️

Loved by Grace,

Aimee

The Journey To BCBA

I knew it had been about a year since my last blog post. A year and one month to be almost exact. First year down, one to go. What a year, what a journey.

“What can change in a year?”

“Everything,” I reply.

“Even the people you love?”

“Especially the people you love.”

A year ago I was accepted to an ABA graduate program preparing for licensure as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. It was a whirlwind process to say the least but God has always been in complete control. One of my favorite aspects of this entire experience was how it all just fell right in to place. Almost effortlessly. Even so, the biggest unknown a year ago was finding a field practicum site. Remember how I mentioned God is in control? Before I had even received a list of school or agency possibilities from the program I happened to drive right past a Center on the way to my child’s athletic facility. It was then I immediately knew God’s answer to the prayer. Sure enough, there was the name of that Center on the list of approved practicums waiting in my email the very next day. Sure enough, I sent the application. The rest is history…nope just kidding but I am half way there! Only 27 more unit tests, 3 final exams and a killer BCBA licensing exam to go…Did I mention God is in control? Yep, sure is because this girl could not be accomplishing all of this on my own.

Helping write behavior programs this summer while giving the old brain a break from studying and weekly exams. This mind of mine? It for real hurts from learning at the rapid pace. Writing evidence based programs is making it feel all the more real because I’m not only writing the programs, I’m also using them with the kids I work with each week.

I’m so proud of them and the progress they make every day in a world that doesn’t always understand. They are my hero’s. 🌈💙 #lightitupblue

Loved by Grace

Aimee

Confessions of a Teacher, Party Edition

At times, I can be more sensitive than my own good which a trusted person often says is what makes me a truth teller. This right here above was not one of those play it safe kind of non truth telling days.

I feel like remembering that day by writing because God is making it abundantly clear what His call for me might be coming next and why I’m to keep the doubting away.

The other week was part of an end of a school year tradition, parties for meeting reading goals. However, if you didn’t make the goal, you didn’t make the party. It’s not so much the no party part that bothered me but rather the shame witnessed because of it. I’m not involved in all of the reasons why certain kids had not made the goal but I was involved in the exclusion. Why? Because I was the teacher in the room with them at the time of the exclusion.

Regardless of the reasons why, it is already hard enough to be different. In this case, why they were different mattered zip, zero, zippo reading points in the slightest to me. Because here they were being subjected to words from the non different peanut gallery about all the reasons why they weren’t going. Reminder after constant reminder that they were not invited to the party.

Oh my ever loving Jesus this is not okay, nothing about this feels okay. The look on their faces speaks the words that aren’t spoken because I’m too much in tuned for my own truth telling good. Let’s just say had I known, we would have had some cake that day but instead I got to be the one to exclude.

You know what I thought to myself? Not me Satan! It might not be a piece of cake party but we just fine having our own mental health pow wow. I still made them do their school work as any teacher needs to do but not until we had a little group chat and it went something like this…

  • You are wondering what we will be during this hour because you were whispering the question earlier. Feeling like you needed to whisper is hard.
  • We aren’t invited to the piece of cake party and we can’t change that.
  • What do you guys think about the reading party goals? How does it make you feel?
  • You are all exactly right, reading comes differently to everyone and it is not always easy.
  • We should not stop trying but not feeling like trying is understandable, especially when it is hard.
  • Take a break and try again.
  • When you keep trying, it can all change but only when you don’t give up.
  • Here is an example of someone like you, still not easy, but proof in change.
  • We are still celebrating, here are tickets and coupons just for being you.
  • AND, maybe a few last minutes of free time.

Those four kiddos worked hard that next hour and while shame might still come their young way, in that hour, they knew truth. Their different is completely what makes them special. In that hour, it was all they needed to be.

Confessions of a Teacher, Party Edition

Loved By Grace,

Aimee

Wednesday Wisdom, Thursday Thoughts

We can all have days when the expectations of life or the world around us weigh us down. Those are the days when I find Jesus speaks most clearly.

Sitting half awake with my eyes closed, it’s early morning, I need you. Can you say something to me today so I know you are here? Remember mindfulness Aimee, let the thoughts flow freely without judgement. There I sit and quietly think, Proverbs. Then a second thought, the number 10.

Naturally I turn to Proverbs 10 and read the scripture but it just doesn’t seem to make any sense to me in this moment. The scripture, although good and nourishing in its own right, only left me confused. I just didn’t really get what He was trying to say to me.

Not even an hour later sat my favorite devotion, what’s new in updates.

Within it…Proverbs 18:10. Whoa! Now it makes perfect sense. I just didn’t sit still long enough, just a little bit creeped out in a good, blown away, this is our Jesus sense of the word!

Because Jesus is the best of course!

Our Bible.

Loved By Grace,

Aimee

Tuesday Truth

Today on this national teacher appreciation day, Tuesday thoughts.

How can one possibly know all there is about the mysteries of life if they’ve never written with its color? It is those who have been brave enough to write with different colors who have always moved us beyond the black and white.

The greatest teacher of this was and is Jesus Christ on this earth. Here is to the many others who live in that truth. ❤️

#keepteachingtruth

Loved By Grace,

Aimee

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