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Where Magic Lives

Every week in my graduate program, I’m tasked with completing online video content which culminates in an exam at the end of each week. It takes most of my weekend to complete the material so I will be able to focus the rest of the week on practicum work with clients, supervision and further study time. But folks, the video content is honestly some of my favorite hours spent because it is in the quiet of these moments that I hear Jesus speaking the most.

My first thought ~ I could listen to Dr. Patrick McGreevy talk for hours.

My second thought ~ His testimony brings tears to my eyes.

My third thought ~ This is the stuff Jesus is made of right here.

Dr. McGreevy was in the middle of stressing the importance of not responding (other than physical management if necessary) during disruptive, problematic or dangerous behaviors to self or others that can often be seen while teaching alternative more functional behavior. This would include not providing reactions such as directing attention to the person or allowing their ability to leave the situation.

This task of strengthening across the verbal operants is a super fancy term for teaching God given needs inherent in every living human person on earth. Because it is teaching a repertoire that allows us to fully and meaningfully connect with others including God. Without this repertoire or with lower functioning areas of this repertoire, we can exhibit a lot of inner or outward pain displaced as ugly hurtful behavior.

Behavior as believable to the person in their reasons for doing it as breathing is to staying alive. Yet along with it, a persisting void in the human heart.

You know what Dr. McGreevy said about this kind of behavior? Do not respond with attention but do not allow the person to get away from the more functional task either. Why is this so important? Because enough people have let them. Dr. McGreevy challenged those of us serious about behavior analysis to understand the urgency of staying the course. He used the words ~ Person up.

His strong words immediately took me back to my introductory coursework on ethics. Ethics…quite a loaded word right? I don’t know about you but I’m certainly not without human fault in the area of ethical perfection. As far as I’m concerned the only human who lived with perfect ethical conduct was Jesus. It is why Behavior Analysts have ethical guidelines a mile long because “person-ing” up can not cross the lines of other relationship.

Stopping the cycle means a person needs a human connection who will not leave. Only then can we ever begin to develop connection on progressively higher levels. Friends, this is why knowing Jesus is so important.

Person-ing up is to exemplify the character of Jesus and that is gigantic responsibility. For the purposes of my work, it is also the responsibility of a behavior analyst.

Testimony from Dr. McGreevy:

A boy he worked with named Stephen was in and out of special education programs who exhibited dangerous problem behavior when being taught to interact with others. Stephen had a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder. In the past the boy was left alone, allowed to stop activities with others or in some cases moved to an entirely different school setting when his behavior had become so dangerous that getting away from him seemed the only viable option. Dr. McGreevy worked with Stephen over the course of some time, not allowing him to escape the alternative functional tasks. In some cases it meant starting again the next day but the same task began again exactly as it had been before. Sometimes physical restraint was necessary when Stephen’s behavior was so dangerous it was harmful for those involved. The process was always the same, the alternative task did not go away and the dangerous behavior did not make it go away.

Over time, Stephen made so much progress that he was placed in a general education setting with his peers. Stephen would come back to visit Dr. McGreevy at times and on this particular day that Stephen visited he was working with a younger boy who also had behavioral challenges. As a matter of fact during this particular visit and in that particular moment Dr. McGreevy was holding the boy from attempting to stab peers around him with a pencil. Stephen approached the classroom and asked if he could talk with the boy. He didn’t ask to let him go from the restraint but simply asked if he could talk to him while he remained held. After having permission, Stephen kneeled down next to the boy and offered a statement. His advice…you can stop doing this now because he isn’t going any where.

What happens when children like Stephen become adults with dangerous behavior and unlearned connection? At best, protective equipment and/or numerous psychotropic medications. At worst, behaviors ending in death.

This is deeply important stuff. A void in human connection can and will create pain even a small child can recognize on some degree. In its absence we see destructive behavior in its place.

Because God created our hearts for connection.

There are days my job requires the very most of this truth and it is the reason why behavior analysts do this work. Last week one of my young learners did something similar to Stephen when instructed to do a task. She stood up from the chair, walked over to me, grabbed the top of my head with both hands and twisted her fingers around my hair. With hair in tote she pulled me up out of the seat laughing during the entire episode. If it weren’t for her BCBA in the room for supervision I would have needed more help. Once my head was released from the grab she continued to climb the partition up the wall to get to the exit. After a few minutes of scaling the partition she climbed down and tried to grab my head again. These attempts continued among other self-sensory alarming behaviors. All the while no reaction from us even during the most dangerous of the aggressive behavior which thankfully stabilized and physical restraint as was the case in the Stephen testimony was not necessary.

This momentarily delayed the task with behavior that has reliably gotten her out of situations because enough people have left her alone. In Applied Behavior Analysis, the alternative task may be delayed but it is presented again in its original form no matter how many times it takes to get there.

This is the same child who will throw herself on my lap and sit there in my arms asking for a hug so many moments of the day. At times it pushes me to the limits of my own humanness and every where in between.

It is where the magic lives. 💗

Love by Grace,

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

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

Little Rosa

You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right. ~ Rosa Parks

A few weeks ago I had an encounter with a third grader that has stayed on my heart ever since we sat together. It’s a story of little Rosa.

As a teacher we spend time reading with the kids and having them read to us which is important in the growth of developing readers. It is usually these moments that stop me in my tracks because children will tell you their fears, hopes, dreams, you name it they tell you. On this particular day A, initialed for privacy, asked if I would sit down with her to read and because she had some questions. She was reading an non-fiction book about Martin Luther King Jr. and was already a few chapters in to the book. At the end of the chapter, the paragraph she began to read out loud to me about the woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus. We all know from history this woman is Rosa Parks.

What A and I read about Rosa was no less inspiring than any history book might cover but it was the question A asked me which hit deepest. The paragraph described a time when black people would have to stand in line at the front entrance of the bus, enter on the bus, give the bus driver their ticket, then exit off and walk to the back of the bus where they were allowed to re-enter to a seat in the back.

We all know Rosa Parks changed the trajectory of this practice, a misguided belief system which was unjust but A just read it. A paused, looked up at me and asked if this could or would ever happen to her on a bus. If I keep in mind she is a black female student in a predominately white community I can immediately begin to sense her concern. It sounded as though she wasn’t quite sure this could or would never happen again.

It was hard to fight back tears. What do I say? I can’t promise her without a doubt that injustice will never happen to her and that means every one of us holding accountability in continuing to speak up at injustice. I can reassure her that Rosa Parks is a hero because she stood for truth and empower her to hold tight to what this incredible woman did in history. To remind her that she has the same freedom regardless of any fear that surrounds us.

A is a little Rosa legacy. At the end of the day I reflect and remember the book of Esther when fear feels too great of thing to change. Rarely has choosing it over love changed the world.

Love demands that we start to push back on shame, and start showing up in our own lives. For many of us, this will be a risk. A huge leap of faith into the hopefully present but sometimes seemingly invisible arms of love. ~ Hillary McBride

Loved By Grace,

Aimee

Tearing Down Forts

I haven’t felt like writing much over the past several months for a variety of reasons but mainly because of one key point. My morning devotion shined a razor focused light on that point right toward my brain so thank you Jesus for the jolt awake today. No amount of the self induced caffeine fort is going to cut it today. HA!

So, I’m simply going to write from my heart regardless of the whopper sized day ahead. You see, one of the biggest forts that I build for myself is protection from fear. One of those has always been death or the lack of control thereof from the reality of death. But it is something we all face no matter how far away we run from it. I suppose I’ve done what many people probably do which is the use of self made protection or we could also say the use of our own forts. We all have them to some extent because we are special little hellions that Jesus loves regardless. The point is when we follow Jesus there will be fear surrounding us and it will be hard and not all of it will be pretty. The cross was pretty. Not everyone likes that kind of hard but Jesus loves that kind of hard. In fact the Bible references do not fear at least 365 times which is our daily affirmation to dismantle it.

Back to my forts. Running from it, putting it out of the mind, thinking about it as little as possible, trying to forget, sometimes even numbing it. But you can’t forget because it exists. All of these self induced forts are futile because hard things exist under God’s sovereign plan of life. Question is when to stop running and when to start facing.

There are a lot of self made things I’m still dismantling so this girl right here is far from perfect. However, I’m working hard at dismantling them because of Jesus. One of is a commitment I made in working with grieving children. Let’s just say there would have been no way on earth my previous self would knowingly walk in to a room full of death and grief and pain. Who am I kidding, my current self wouldn’t be able to do it without Jesus either. But I’m doing it with Him by my side. It is some is heavy stuff and with the hard, heavy stuff there is so much love.

He was the one who found her and had to cut Mom down from the rope.

When I’m here I know I am not alone.

Suddenly, any of my own first world problems melt away.

To be continued…today hopefully. Tearing down more forts over here peeps!

Loved By Grace,

Aimee

Who You Are

One of the best messages I have heard in a long time. The most valuable gifts are not tangible and this young lady behind the camera is one of them. Wish we had video of her dance because every young person should hear it and see it. 💛

#thegiftofdance

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Dreams

Yesterday we honored and remembered a legacy. Martin Luther King Jr. was an incredible leader, all around authentic human being and faithful man of God.

Reflecting on this leadership statement today I automatically think of him but more importantly, I think of Christ.

I don’t want to be a person who leads along an easy path, the route of taking or following where others want to go. If Martin Luther King Jr. had done that we would not have his legacy. If Jesus had done that we would not have a savior.

A great leader takes us where we don’t want to go, but ought to be. Leadership like it can count on one single truth; it will always be met with resistance. Go down the path anyway, it means we are on the right track.

This month in particular is the start of new paths for me, not because it is the beginning of 2018 but because it is time. It is a time of serving and being, a long time coming. Not all are comfortable to go here with me but I’m doing it in the right time, in the right way, and doing so following His voice and direction.

Completely off topic, favorite Cranberries lyrics right here even though I owned every song. If this was music for hippys then people, I guess I’m a hippy and damn proud of it! Dolores O’Riordan, R.I.P.

Loved By Grace,

Aimee

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