“I’m an Opera Singer turned Expressive Art Therapist turned Radical Behaviorist. It’s a long story.” …me
(The condensed version)
After years of singing, I decided that I wanted to use Music and Art to help children with special needs. In 2001, I began my graduate journey at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. I received my MA in Expressive Arts Therapy/Counseling Psychology a couple of years later. After numerous internships, I quickly found that my specialty is working with children with extreme behaviors. In Boston, I worked as a therapist for children in Intensive Foster Care (IFC) and am a certified MAPP (Massachusetts Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) Trainer for prospective foster/adoptive parents. My focus had always been Trauma Theory and how Trauma history/PTSD affects the brain.
In 2008, my wife at the time and I adopted two children who spent their first year in the foster care system. Our children had and still have significant trauma histories and behaviors that come with those histories. It was while participating in our kids’ various therapies that I was first introduced to ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). Though I wasn’t a huge fan initially, I began to realize something that would in time change how I think about approaches to extreme behaviors —
In order for a child to access any therapy, FIRST, the less desirable behaviors must go down.
This is not to say therapies like Art and Music and Play Therapy don’t work for extreme behaviors. THEY DO! For children with Autism, especially. But in my experience, the psycho-therapeutic aspect of these modalities are more useful once the extreme behavior is down.
After my divorce and moving back to my hometown of New Orleans in 2011, I became interested in what seemed to be a disproportionate number of behavior issues in schools vs. behavior supports. What I was seeing in the classroom were so many children in need of positive behavior interventions and so few professionals who could implement the plans. Also, I was amazed by the number of children with Autism in self contained classrooms due to eloping behavior and aggression. I knew in my gut that these children could be mainstreamed, it was just a matter of introducing ABA.
I work in the New Orleans metro area as an ABA behavior interventionist with children with Autism in schools and in the home. I am a community advocate for Autism supports and services. I am currently doing my coursework to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) at Florida Institute for Technology.
I am especially interested in the following topics:
Balancing Therapies for Children with Extreme Behavior
Parental Exhaustion in Families with Children with Special Needs
ABA and Trauma Informed Behavior
My partner, Mer, a 4th grade teacher and artist @kjungrlarts, and I have four (yes 4) dachshunds (two rescues) who keep us very busy. When we aren’t wrangling dogs, we are usually renovating our mid-century modern home we call the ranchOrama.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me on Twitter @simplesouth