Updated: Aug 19, 2022
I started BreathBodyBehavior during a time when I felt the field of behavior analysis needed a big shift. I had worked in behavior for nearly fifteen years and practiced yoga for about the same amount of time. I began to see that true behavior observation and change must be addressed holistically; no longer dealing with what shows up on the surface. Diving deeper and addressing the needs of the caretakers first. True wellness for a family begins at the individual and expands outward.
I fell in love with naturalistic behavior analysis when I was just nineteen years old in the backyard of a client in Thousand Oaks, California. I was studying psychology and working part time for the Koegel Autism Clinic based out of Santa Barbara. My first client and his family were an absolute dream to work with. The kiddo was then eight years old – into trains, trampolines and being a teacher. We began to target language acquisition - specifically how to get the kiddo to initiate to others for what he needed. Behaviors like these fall into a category of initiations for my training. My approach targets categories, like the previously listed initiations – instead of individual behaviors. This results in widespread and collateral improvements in social, communicative and behavioral areas not individually targeted. On this idyllic California afternoon, we were on a trampoline. This was a jumping off point for future work with him where he advanced to express curiosities of others, share insights – to deepen his expressive and receptive communication skills. My job was so…fun. It felt natural – like an intentional playdate. Jumping on the trampoline, tossing him up in the air when he asked, doing somersaults and flips. It was then that I realized…I play. For a living. That’s my job. I teach through play, through whatever the child’s interest are. And I do so wherever the need is - home, school, community.
When I ventured to Texas after living and training only in Southern California, I was flabbergasted to learn that most behavior centers, groups and individuals had a much different approach to working with families. The behaviorists were also trained differently. My sessions were typically done in the homes in California. In Texas, they were done at specially designed clinics. In California, it was not unusual to find a behaviorist sitting during a meal with the kiddo and helping with dishes - integrating with the family. In Texas, everything was separate, sterile. To me, true teaching happens in those real life, natural and non-contrived moments. I worked for several years in Texas, feeling like I was swimming upstream from the current conditions. It was hard. I felt alone and far away from my California colleagues that saw things the way I did. Ever feel like you’re on an island or an alien that thinks totally differently than others? Me too! I was lucky enough to meet and work with some incredible like-minded leaders but ultimately paused to pursue my passion in breath and bodywork. Yoga and mindfulness changed my life and I wanted to learn more and HOW! To this day I am eternally grateful for every teacher and student that crossed my path in the yoga world; some of my greatest challenges there taught me the most lessons.
Before long, I connected that these tools that created peace and regulation for myself were simply…a set of behaviors. They can be individualized and shifted to promote more peace.
And then…WHAM! My first daughter was born! The genesis of BreathBodyBehavior truly started during my tender and vulnerable postpartum days – you know the ones. Where you’re exhausted, living a two-hour unpredictable schedule and can’t remember the last time you washed your hair? Those few minutes I gathered to be present with a hot cup of coffee or luxuriate in the warm laundry from the dryer became my yoga and my mindful moments. The heart-bursting love I felt for my daughter broke me open to my core and knowing she regulated her nervous system off of mine and other caregivers was a huge motivator for me to find peace through practices. Self-care shifted from pedicures and wine night with gal pals to taking a hot shower and advocating for just a few moments alone. Breath and bodywork were the practiced behaviors that brought me home to myself again and again.
I do what I do because I love living a behavior filled, full of breath and present in my body - life. I myself am reinforced by how I feel and my most powerful reinforcement is seeing the positive impact these practices have on my own family.
Harmony. Understanding. Presence. Laughter. Oh, and let’s not forget the very important - Imperfections. Afterall, I’m a real person – a real mom.