Giving Thanks

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Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States and thank you to everyone who reads the blog and supports all my other efforts.  I have so many things to be thankful for!  I get to make a living doing what I love, I have a wonderful family, I’m healthy, I have wonderful friends….I could go on forever.  However, today I wanted to take time to share my appreciation of some of my professional experiences that have shaped me into who I am as a behavior analyst, consultant, teacher, professor, author…whatever you care to call me today.

I am blessed to have a wonderful family with a rich history of supporting education.

My mother always supported whatever I wanted to do; she taught me the value of education early on.  She was a teacher, professionally and at home after she stopped teaching.

My stepfather made sure I took advantage of every opportunity and that I ventured out beyond to seek what I needed to move forward.  He’s largely the reason I went to graduate school.  When I applied to graduate school, I came home at Thanksgiving my senior year of college and he handed me the phone (back when long distance was costly).  He told me to call the people who had been writing the articles I had been reading on autism and find out about their graduate programs.  (You have to remember that this was before the internet–hard to believe I’m that old!).  It was the best way (at the time) to find out where to go and it led me in the direction that got me where I am.

My mother’s sister, Cora, was also a teacher and taught special needs students of all different types over the year. She influenced me in so many ways, but most significantly by one thing she said.  When I told her I was going to graduate school to become a researcher, she told me this:

“Make sure that your research is real.  Don’t go sit in your ivory tower and tell me what to do in my classroom when you have never been in it!”  

Those words have stuck with me everyday of my education and career and continue to guide everything I do.  Even though I haven’t gone on to be a researcher as my career, that statement focuses my training, my teaching, and my classroom consultation.  It has to be real and connected to the everyday life of a classroom.

I have a sister with autism who inspires me everyday to work toward making the world a better place for a wide diversity of people.  She lives independently with her husband and is an inspiration for all of us to remember that the limits people set on us are only there to be surpassed.

I have another sister you know as Superteach from Superteach’s Special Ed Spot.  She inspires me everyday with her dedication to her students and her continued desire to learn how to improve their learning.  She keeps me grounded in reality and reminds me that so many things that are “new” in education are really just recycled.

Professionally I have also had many, many mentors and teachers that I couldn’t possibly go on about them here.  However, there are two that I want to highlight here.

I was extremely fortunate to work with Edward Carr as my graduate advisor.  Ted’s approach to behavior, at the start of Positive Behavioral Support, was a good fit with my background and was probably the most influential in how I see the world of autism and behavior.  He taught me to look at the whole person, not just the behavior, and to improve quality of life with whatever you are doing.

In addition to Ted, I have to thank Susan Kabot, who I have had the privilege of working with for the last 15 years.  Sue has taught me more about how to apply what I learned in graduate school than any of my professors.  She has taught me the importance of setting up systems in school districts to expand the impact of consultation beyond one student. She taught me leadership and really taught me how to administrate a program for children with autism.  The lessons usually began with a statement she first said to me on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m. when my only speech pathologist had just resigned from a program that opened on Monday…”Welcome to administration!”  When she was my boss she put me in positions that challenged me far beyond anything I thought was capable and through those, and with her support and others’, I have grown.

And finally, I must thank all the students and families that I have worked with over my career.  I have learned something from every single interaction and encounter with them and continue to learn so much.  I still have lessons I learned from preschoolers I worked with when I was in graduate school that inform my work today.  The perseverance, the struggles and the victories of all of the clients and families I’ve worked with over the years continue to be an inspiration to me.

So, thank you for reading through my sappy recollections.  If you have someone in your experience who have influenced you professionally, please give them a shout out in the comments….all of us can use some inspiration from time to time.

If you live in the States, Happy Thanksgiving.  Regardless of whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving where you live or not, take a moment to thank those around you who make you what you are….

Until next time,

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