HomeCommunityBehavioral technicians essential for special-needs students on campus

Behavioral technicians essential for special-needs students on campus

BY CARA CONNER

Carmel High School has an abundance of student resources ranging from emotional support to educational support. One area that most students and parents might not be aware of is the work that behavioral technicians do on campus every day.

For the past 15 years at CHS, anywhere from seven to ten behavioral therapists can be found all over campus on any given day, assisting students who need any behavioral support to progress academically.

“Behaviorists create programs or systems for students with behavioral needs that allows them to access their education,” explains Sandra Mettler, facilitator for the special educationprogram. “They help level the playing field.”

Mettler also explains the day-to-day work the behavioristsat CHS do, which consists of working with teachers, communicating with parents, taking data on student behaviors and implementing strategies to help students overcome unwanted behaviors. It is important for the behaviorist to have attentive listening skills, emotional maturity, relationship building and problem-solving skills, self-awareness and quick decision-making, as these are all qualities vital to improving student behavior.

Behaviorist Parrish Taylor supports the CUSD district in behavioral needs. Photo by CARA CONNER

The work that behavioral techs do at Carmel High benefits not only the students but the teachers alike. English teacher Carli Barnett has had the assistance of staff members like Mettler for nine years now.

“They know which kids need what accommodations and can make sure those accommodations are being met,” Barnett explains. “They are specialized in ways that I am not when it comes to behavior modification, instruction and curriculum, so it is phenomenal having them in class.”

Parrish Taylor, a behavioral specialist who has been at the district for five years now, explains the experience and education required for the field. 

“Some specific things an aspiring behaviorist should study are psychology and then applied behavioral analysis,” Taylor says. “They should also gain experience in mental health because it’s good to be rounded in all three areas, so we can better support those students.”

Dr. Steve Gonzalez, a director of special education at CUSD whose main expertise is focused on social, emotional and behavioral practices, describes some of the educational routes he took.

“I started out in music therapy actually, and from there I went into school psychology, but it wasn’t until I was an intervention assistant with the China Institute with California State University, Northridge that I got my foot in the door,” Gonzalez explains. “They are really grounded and do a lot of innovative implementation of inclusive environments and do research in that arena.”

Gonzalez explains how behaviorists teach others to have long-lasting behavioral change, their positive effect on the students’ needs and the long-lasting impressions they leave on both the student and the staff.

“I think our outcome is to allow individuals to be independent and look to produce long-lasting and positive behavioral changes,” Gonzalez says.

Taylor adds how these practices benefit the students.

“It’s great for the students themselves because now they can experience things they may not have been able to without the support of the staff,” Taylor says. “It also gives them amazing goals where they can look at actually going places in a positive way.”

The behaviorist also describes the reward and the difficulty of the job itself. He says that it’s tough because the behavioral therapist may be working with students who don’t see that they need help.

“When they actually get that you’ve changed someone’s life for the better and helped them get on a better track, it’s amazing,” Taylor explains.

“The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” which organizes scholars from around the world in philosophy and related disciplines to create and maintain an up-to-date reference work, describes three different types of behaviorism and their backgrounds.

The first is the type of behaviorism that is analytical behaviorism. This type helps avoid substance dualism, which is the doctrine that mental states take place in a special, non-physical mental substance. Its past, dating to 1986 with the idea of logical positivism, or “verificationism.” This claims that mental concepts apply to behavioral tendencies. Next is psychological behaviorism, which relies on association without attraction to inner mental events. This type of behaviorism dates all the way back to 1632, with philosopher John Locke. Lastly is radical behaviorism. This type is more interested in the behavior of organisms, which is a form of methodological behaviorism. Radical Behaviorism grasps “behavior as a reflection of frequency effects among stimuli,” making it a form of psychological behaviorism.

For more information on CUSD behaviorists go to CarmelUnified.org.

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