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CAS Graduate Study Success Stories

A Scientific Approach to Solving Practical Problems

Ainsleigh sees a trend in special education to certify educators as behavior analysts.

Simmons instructor Susan Ainsleigh had never worked with individuals with special needs or even considered a career as a teacher when in 1990 she accepted a job at a private, residential school for children with severe special needs. "I wanted a challenging, interesting job, and when I went to interview, something clicked." Ainsleigh says she looked forward to being there everyday and soon decided to pursue a master's degree in special education, which she received from Simmons in 1993.

While working at the school, Ainsleigh learned about the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. "As I was studying to complete my master's degree, I was trained as a behavioral educator. When I graduated from Simmons, I accepted a position overseeing behavioral services in a large agency serving individuals with disabilities. Since then, Applied Behavior Analysis has been the focus of my work in human services and education."

Applied Behavior Analysis, as pertaining to education, is a scientific approach to solving practical problems related to human behavior. It demands the most effective, efficient instruction for all students, including those who are more challenging to teach. "It requires that we are accountable for our teaching by continually measuring the effect of our teaching on students' learning," says Ainsleigh. "This was the way I approached education, and discovering a scientific framework that was aligned with my own philosophy was affirming."

In 1996, Simmons approached Ainsleigh about teaching an introductory course on Applied Behavior Analysis; she now teaches full time in the Behavioral Education Program. "My students are dedicated, talented, proficient professionals who desire to advance their skills in the field of behavioral education. Most of them work directly with children and families of children with special needs. They have very high expectations and are not intimidated by the course's exceptionally difficult content. My students have gone on to become leaders and innovators in this field, and every day I share in their success. There is no greater experience than that."

Ainsleigh, who is a doctoral candidate in educational leadership at Johnson & Wales University, says Simmons is responding to a trend in special education to certify educators as behavior analysts. "In Massachusetts, there are currently more than 150 Board Certified Behavior Analysts™. Less than 10 years ago, there were none. Many of these behavior analysts are alumni of Simmons. This movement is setting a standard for the provision of behavioral services in this country, and to watch the process evolve has been amazing."