M & I have had a couple crazy weeks. We’ve been posting less on Instagram and haven’t had time to write posts. I was sick and have had long days on days I was able to work. After talking with several of my favorite BCBA’s, we all have weeks like this. Multiple reports due, starting new clients, training staff and parents, providing direct service while you wait for more staff to onboard. It’s common for most of us to put our health and wellbeing on the backburner. We wouldn’t be in this field if we didn’t care about doing the absolute most for the people we serve.

How do we define “self-care”? Here’s my proposed definition for myself:

Self-care: Engaging in highly preferred activities and turning off work electronics at the appropriate time (i.e., 6pm after the last client of the day).

Schedule your activities

One way I like to protect my sanity is blocking off on my schedule time to balance the longer days during the week. It’s important for me to be able to have a balance between the amount of time I’m spending at work versus spending time with my family. With the company I work for, I’m able to block off time on my schedule that everyone sees and knows that nothing can be scheduled during that time. The exception, of course, is if there is an emergency or unexpected meeting with a client’s team.

It also helps to schedule time to engage in my highly preferred activities. I like to add blocks on my personal schedule denoting when I will be going to the gym, seeing friends, or other activities I enjoy. My husband works a typical work day and I sometimes go until 8:30 at night. Talking with him throughout the week about things we want to do together during the weekend helps when I’m feeling deprived of his attention.

Preference Assessment

If you were to fill out a preference survey for yourself, what would it look like? My low effort list would look like this:

  • Play soccer
  • Get coffee with friends
  • Walk my dogs
  • Watch The Office
  • Walk around Target

There are things I definitely prefer that require more time, money, and planning. But it’s important to have things on your list that are accessible. The only thing on my list that ~technically~ requires money is getting coffee. There’s things on my list that can be done any time of year, solo or with company, and varying locations. Think about these variables and how you can make your list accessible.


I spend So. Much. Time. in my car. It’s incredibly tempting every day to stop at the drive thru to get fast food. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll see lots of Insta-stories about caffeine and coffee from me. I’m trying to be better about drinking water instead of coffee! My favorite water bottle is a 40oz Hydroflask. I try to drink one in the morning and one in the afternoon. After a couple Pamplemousse LaCroix after work, I easily hit my water target for the day.

I hate using the bathroom at client’s homes. I try to avoid it at all cost no matter who the family is or how long I have worked with them. I’ve shifted my usual fast food stop to taking a pit stop at a grocery store or Target to use the bathroom and grab some fruit and/or an protein bar. It gets me out of the car briefly to stretch my legs and I can usually fill up my water bottle again for the rest of the day.  I also like to keep a box of Tone It Up protein bars from Target in my car/work bag to decrease the likelihood I’ll stop at McDonalds.

Keep yourself healthy and happy to be the best clinician you can be!


We aren’t always great models for our colleagues, staff, and clients. So often I tell my staff to make sure they’re taking care of themselves, staying healthy, and having fun daily. I’ve told staff to go home and rest while I’m blowing my nose and spending the next ten hours working. I tell them to look at the sick policy for our clients and see if they also fit the criteria for canceling. It can create a snowball effect when one person comes in sick and it can take a month or more before everyone on a child’s team is healthy.

Never feel guilty about taking a sick day. Never feel guilty that after spending 40-50+ hours working that you weren’t able to finish making stimuli cards for a client. Always take time to recharge to be the best clinician you can for your clients and staff. Always advocate for yourself when you find that you don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything completed. Maybe you need to stop taking on new clients. If you don’t have enough time to provide quality therapy to your current clients, you certainly do not have the availability to add more cases. Have a coworker that has a lighter caseload? Ask to have a case or two transferred. It may also be a great time to add a mid-level provider or another BCBA.

What are some preferred activities you have? Do you have any other tips for “self-care”?


Job Search Tips

The BACB released exam results on the 21st of March. Did you take the big exam in February? How did you do?! Now that you’ve passed, your email inbox will likely be flooded with job opportunities and companies looking to hire wonderful, talented, newly minted BCBA’s such as yourself.

When I passed my exam, I was promoted in my company to a BCBA instantly. Someday, M and I will have to share our stories of what we were doing when we found out we passed. I’ll never forget it! A little over a year later, my professional goals had changed and it was time to find a new company that I could grow with. Ideally, you should be working somewhere you see yourself working for years and will be able to make your professional goals. Here’s a few tips for looking for the perfect fit for you.

Determine what type of a company you’re looking for.

Sit down and make a list of what type of a job you want. What setting are you looking for? In-home, clinic, school? Do you want to work with early intervention kiddos, teenagers, or adults? Maybe you want to work with a population other than kids with autism. Take a moment to really think about what it is that you want.

Do your research.

See if there are any companies that fit what you’re looking for. ABA International Job Board is a great resource for job postings. Another good resource is your states ABA organization. ORABA (Oregon Association for Behavior Analysts) has a job board on their website. Occasionally, a member will make an announcement their company is looking for someone. Once you’ve found a company, look them up on Glassdoor and Indeed for employee reviews. It’s important to also know your worth. I like to look at job postings to see what is a common range for BCBAs in an area. Usually if I type in BCBA or behavior analyst into a website for salary ranges, the salaries reported are skewed to include RBT or BCaBA salaries. Many companies are also offering sign-on bonuses, relocation assistance, and/or a bonus structure based upon billables. It can be easy to see these shiny perks and not look at the company objectively. Your job satisfaction is worth way more than the perks.

Practice interviewing with a fellow BCBA and brush up on some general ABA terminology you don’t have in your day-to-day clinical toolbox.

Before my last interview, I went over practice questions with a friend to get used to answering questions. He was tough and did a good job pretending to be an interviewer. My actual interview was way more laid back and comfortable, but I felt prepared! During the interview, I was required to provide an informal presentation as I would when leading a training. I called M to practice giving my presentation and to get feedback from her.

Aside from the normal questions you would ask in any job interview (i.e., time off, salary, benefits), M and I have a few things we each like to ask during interviews:

  • How many billables are expected and what is typical for this position?
  • Do you offer parent groups or social groups?
  • How is data collected? Is it an electronic system or on paper?
  • What does training look like for RBTs?
  • How many miles is typical for this position to be driving during a day?
  • What opportunities are available for professional development?

I hope this is helpful! What do you look for when searching for a new BCBA position? Are there any questions that you always be sure to ask?

  • K

CalABA 2018

A couple weeks ago, I attended the 2018 Annual Western Regional Conference hosted by the California Association for Behavior Analysis (CalABA). This was my first time attending – first time attending a professional conference and first time ever in California! Lots of firsts this weekend (I also had In-n-Out Burger for the first time. So worth the hype). The conference was held in Santa Clara. It was nice to get out of the Portland rain and spend a couple days in the sunshine.



Thursday night, I checked in ahead of time at the convention center. I’m so glad I checked in the night before the conference started. There were no lines and I was able to obtain my badge quickly. CalABA also had an app that allowed you to make an agenda and make it easy to see which sessions you were interested in. There was a message board on the app for both general posts and posts specific to your session. The session message board came in handy when I missed something the presenter said, like their contact information!


Friday morning started off with the Presidential Welcome and first keynote presentation of the weekend by Dr. William Heward. I very much enjoyed listening to Dr. Heward as he showed us videos tracking the progress of a client over the years and making parallels between baseball and working in this field. The next session of the day was a symposium, Outside the Box: Novel Approaches to Reducing Challenging Behavior in Individuals with Autism. Three presenters discussed considerations when implementing extinction, a case study on sensory diets* effectiveness at reducing stereotypy, and evaluating the effectiveness of non-contingent access to music to reduce stereotypy. While little new information was presented, it was a good reminder to take parent’s behavior and emotions into consideration when implementing extinction. We will explore this further in a future post.


In the afternoon on Friday, I attended a panel discussion, Does Normalization for Dinner Mean Resentment for Dessert? Perspectives on Ethical Treatment of People with Autism. This was one of my favorites from this conference. A parent with a child with ASD, a psychologist, and a BCBA discussed how people with ASD view ABA, representation of ASD in media, and considerations to take when working with a client. I recently attended an event held by Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) School of Public Health talking about neurodiversity and rethinking how people perceive autism. These two events really seemed to work together to answer some questions I’ve been having about how to provide effective and ethical treatment for my clients. I’ve been striving to step more outside of the cut and dry assessment tools to focus on goals that are important to the family and clients themselves.

Saturday morning set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The keynote presenter was Dr. Dick Malott and was supposed to be about rule governed behavior. I am still processing the events that occurred that morning and debating how I want to tackle this issue. We’ll save that for another day. If you want to know our thoughts and want to see a post about this, please leave us a comment below.

My first session of the day was a panel discussion, Autism Prevalence in the Transgender Population: A Review of Current Research and Implications for ABA Providers. I can not say enough good things about this session. Sarah Trautman-Eslinger, President of CalABA, led the panel. According to the presentation, those on the spectrum are “7x more likely to express gender variance compared to their neuro-typical peers”. It’s incredibly important we are being mindful of gender bias and taking the families wishes into consideration when developing programming. Another important note from this presentation is to refer out when you’re not experienced working with a population you’re unfamiliar with, just as you would for a behavior you lack exposure to. CalABA will be developing a guide for appropriate referrals and resources when working with the transgender population. I was so energized and excited by this discussion. I can’t wait to help this community flourish, find their voice, and gain independence just as with all my clients!


I ended my first CalABA experience with an invited presentation from Corey Stocco, Understanding and Treating Lying. This was an entertaining presentation and a nice way to end the weekend. The main takeaways from this presentation 1. There is little to no research in lying 2. We may need to re-evaluate how we talk to small children about lying. Honesty is punished at a young age. So often, parents will see their small child clearly doing something they aren’t supposed to and will ask a question about what they see (i.e., Marker is all over the wall and the child’s body. Parent asks, “who colored on the wall?”. Child says, “I don’t know!”). Instead of presenting the opportunity to lie, tell the child what you see and deliver the consequence. This eliminates the opportunity to punish telling the truth.


Next up – ABAI! Who’s going? What session are you most excited to attend? Most importantly, how close is In-n-Out Burger to the venue?


*Sensory diets are not an evidence based practice. The researcher was also working with an occupational therapist to determine the effectiveness for the client. They did not find a significant difference in the individual’s engagement in stereotypy when using a sensory diet.