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Behavior Today Newsletter 40(2)

behavior today 2023

From the President’s Desk

Timothy Landrum

As I write this latest update as President, extreme winter weather is bearing down on many of us in various parts of the country. The weather is not just cold, but dangerously so where I am, and I hope above all everyone stays safe. It also provides a reminder that last time I wrote we were preparing to meet in Tempe AZ—usually sunny and warm-- at the TECBD conference. Those who made it in person know the warm weather break many of us hoped for was not quite realized.  The weather this year was an anomaly— I don’t believe we saw temps rise out of the 60s in Tempe during the conference.  Nonetheless, the conference itself was a terrific success, and our partnership with TECBD remains strong and very positive. The sessions I saw (and presented!) were well-attended and very well-received. Lots of the latest research, translated into practice. This remains a partnership we are very proud of and see as mutually beneficial. We hope to see you there next year.

In addition to partnering with TECBD on the conference itself, our Executive Committee (EC) holds an extended half-day in-person meeting at TECBD. A wrinkle we have added and now institutionalized is kicking off the EC meeting with a ‘Presidential Breakfast’ meeting. We invite ALL former Presidents of DEBH (CCBD) to this event, conceptualized originally as a way to stay in touch, remain mindful of our past successes and initiatives, and learn from the wisdom of our previous leadership. A specific focus this year was to use this time as part of the strategic planning process we are currently engaged in. In short, we asked the group to react to our current mission statement, and the ways our goals and mission are (and should be) aligned with CECs goals and mission. The specific agenda for this presidential breakfast was to revisit and evaluate our mission statement, think about whether it may need any tweaking, and to then begin the process of identifying particular objectives and activities we might prioritize in order to better serve our mission. Lee Kern and Sarup Mathur, Co-chairs of our Advocacy and Governmental Relations Committee (AGR) are thoughtfully leading our strategic planning efforts (thank you, Lee and Sarup!), and you will see summaries emerging from our initial discussions in the coming months.

One of the broad strategic targets we identified, and plan to pursue, involves efforts to provide resources to our members, and, in fact, to the broader community around emotional and behavioral disorders. We feel that DEBH does many good things in this regard, between our conference presence (e.g., at TECBD, as well as the state conferences we’ve begun to partner with more overtly; KY, OH, MN, etc.), and the work of our professional development committee (PDC) in terms of quarterly webinars, our newsletter, live tweet-chats, social media presence, etc. In our initial discussions toward strategic planning, we identified a priority of being even more intentional in developing and housing a compendium of resources that are up-to-date, broadly applicable to the practice community, user-friendly, and easily accessible. The target in all this is for DEBH to enhance its position as the go-to source for professionals seeking information and resources about any and all aspects of the education, treatment, and support of children and youth with emotional and behavioral disorders and their families. We want to be the organization people turn to when they need trustworthy information!

As these efforts become more formalized— that is, as specific objectives are identified for activities we plan to engage in to reach our strategic targets, I’ll continue to update members through the newsletter. We also have a goal of reporting out to members—and seeking their input—on the priorities and strategic plans we propose for the organization at the CEC Annual Convention in Louisville, March 1-4, 2023.  Watch for more here, in Behavior Today, and look for us at CEC in Louisville (amazingly… just over two months from now!).  In the meantime, I certainly hope everyone stays warm, safe, and healthy, and that everyone gets to enjoy some measure of a restful holiday break. 

Tim Landrum


DEBH Call for Nominations

Open now through January 15, 2023

DEBH is calling for nominations for four open Executive Committee positions and one elected committee position to begin July 01, 2023. Full descriptions of each office are available on the DEBH website ( and more information can be obtained by contacting the DEBH Past President (Brian Barber; or the Nominations and Elections Committee (

Vice President – 1-year term (2023-2024)
The Vice President is an important role in shaping the vision and mission of the organization, as well as supporting member-related activities. The elected person will serve one year before ascending to President Elect, President, and then Past President over 4 consecutive years.

Representative to the CEC Representative Assembly (Representative “B”) – 2-year term (2023-2024, 2024-2025)
Representatives to the CEC Representative Assembly provide a crucial link between DEBH and the larger CEC organization, acting as a liaison between the DEBH Executive Committee, DEBH Regional and State Membership, and CEC.

Secretary – 2-year term (2023-2024, 2024-2025)
The secretary works with the DEBH President and other members of the Executive Committee to schedule and attend meetings, take minutes of the proceedings during meetings, and to disseminate information to the committee.

Student Member-at-Large – 2-year term (2023-2024, 2024-2025)
The Student Member-at-Large (MAL) represents and promotes student perspectives to the Executive Committee, facilitates communication with student DEBH members, and represents DEBH for student CEC activities.

Elections and Nominations Committee Member – 3-year term (2022-2025)
The Elections and Nominations committee members work with the Past President to conduct elections according to the DEBH Constitution and By-Laws.

Nomination and Submission Instructions

Nominators must send a signed letter to the DEBH Nominations and Elections Chair, Brian Barber. This letter must include the nominator's DEBH membership number to validate DEBH membership of the nominator.

DEBH Past President
Brian Barber

Nominations and Elections Committee
Erika Pinter
Rebecca Sherod
Mary Rose Sallese

Individuals nominated by another party must affirm their agreement by a separate letter to the Nominations and Elections Committee Chairperson, and must include the following materials:

  • Statement from nominee, separate from the nominator’s letter, agreeing to be nominated.
  • CEC membership number of the nominee, to validate DEBH membership.
  • Three-part statement that presents, in 1,000 words or fewer, the following:
    • issue(s) relevant for the Division for Emotional and Behavioral Health (may involve students, professionals, or other issues);
    • proposed responses needed to deal with issue(s) identified, and
    • how the nominee, if elected, can work on the DEBH Executive Committee in responding to these issue(s).
  • Condensed resume or vita (maximum of three pages).
  • A ballot statement describing nominee’s qualifications, perspectives, and/or goals. This will be included in the ballot verbatim, and length must not exceed 100 words.
  • A photograph (ideally professional headshot) to be used on the ballot and DEBH social media (website, Facebook, Twitter, Behavior Today newsletter, etc.) Submitting the photograph serves as permission to use the photo in DEBH media.

The deadline for nominations and all supporting material for offices is January 15, 2023, and the election period will begin no later than January 23, 2023 and end no sooner than February 24, 2023.


DEBH and DEBH Foundation Awards 2022

The Division of Emotional and Behavioral Health (formerly the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders) is pleased to announce the following call for awards. Each award application may be submitted at the links below by Friday, January 31st, 2022. Awardees will be recognized at the DEBH Business Meeting at the 2023 Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo on March 1-4, 2023 in Louisville, KY.

  • Carl Fenichel Award
  • Interventionist Award
  • Outstanding Leadership Award
  • Regional Teacher of the Year
  • Professional Performance Award
  • Doctoral Interventionist Scholar Award

Please see below for descriptions, eligibility, and requirements for each award. For further information, contact Tia Barnes, DEBH Awards Committee Chair by emailing her at All applications may be submitted via the links below.

The DEBH Foundation is excited to announce five awards dedicated to supporting practitioners working with students with behavior disorders and students pursuing degrees with an emphasis in behavior disorders.

The Dr. C. Michael Nelson Professional Development Support Grant:
The purpose of the Dr. C. Michael Nelson Professional Development Support grant is to encourage the professional development of all persons involved in providing education or related services to children and youth with emotional or behavioral disorders (E/BD) consistent with the mission of DEBH. Professional Development Support will provide funding up to $500 to enable practitioners to attend professional development activities that are supported by DEBH (e.g., TECBD, CEC conferences).

The Dr. Frank Wood Practitioner Grant
The purpose of the Dr. Frank Wood Practitioner Grant is to recognize the professional application of knowledge and skills to improve academic, social, emotional, and community employment-based outcomes for children and youth with behavioral disorders. The DEBH Foundation will award funding of up to $500 to implement ahigh quality practice or program that directly serves students in their educational setting.

Academic Scholarship Program
Dr. Eleanor Guetzloe Undergraduate Scholarship
Dr. Douglas Cheney Graduate Scholarship
Dr. Lyndal Bullock Doctoral Scholarship

The purpose of the DEBH Foundation Academic Scholarship is to support undergraduate and graduate study in the area of emotional/behavioral disorders. The DEBH Foundation will award a $500 scholarship to one undergraduate, one graduate, and one doctoral student towards educational expenses.

Interested in applying? Applicants must be employed as an educator working with students with EBD or be registered to attend/attending undergraduate or graduate studies at an accredited institution of higher education. The following link will provide access to the applications. Download your application today and get started!

Application deadline: Completed applications should be mailed to by December 9, 2022. Awardees will be notified in late January 2023.

Questions? Email Sue Kemp, DEBH Foundation Secretary at


My Most Memorable Student: Voices from the Field

Jim Teagarden & Robert Zabel, Kansas State University

janus project

The Janus Oral History Project collects and shares stories from leaders in education of children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). The project is named after the Roman god, Janus, whose two faces look simultaneously to the past and future.

One Janus Project activity is recording and sharing educators’ descriptions of memorable students. They are asked: Who is your most memorable student? What did you learn from this student? How has the student impacted your career or life? Here, Dr. Mary Margaret Kerr shares an encounter on her first day of teaching.

* * * * *

The Word That Made All the Difference

by Mary Margaret Kerr

I was about 21 years old when I was allowed to begin my internship at Duke University. The Department of Child Psychiatry had a school where I'd volunteered a year before as an undergraduate in psychology. So, I knew the school, and I had a sense of what I was getting into. At least, until the night before when I panicked. A grabbed every book in the library and managed to stay up all night so I'd be extremely well prepared for my first day of teaching. There's not that much help in textbooks especially when you read them all the night before.

I did not sleep all night and realized about 7 o'clock that morning I had left my contact lenses in all night. This resulted in an emergency room visit whereupon I left the emergency room with not one, but two, eye patches to begin my first day of teaching. It was quite a challenging day as you might imagine. When I tried to take the eye patches off, my eyes watered, I looked terrible, and I was in pain. It was quite a morning, and I knew then I was not going to be asked back. Then of course when you cry after you have scratched your corneas, it just gets worse.

At the end of the day, I was sitting at my desk thinking "Wow, this was really going to be such a great career. But I don't know what I'm going to do now that it's over." A child came back in the room, and he said the word that changed my entire life. He said, "Teacher." I turned to him having never been called “teacher” in my entire life. He said, "Will you be back tomorrow?" I said, “No, honey, I won't be back tomorrow, but they'll get you a real teacher. They'll get a really good teacher and it's going to be great. I'm sure you'll do well. I sure had fun with you today, we had a good time, and you are a good student." He listened to me and then he turned and walked out of the room.

Then he came back into the room and said, "I think if you keep coming back every day, you could be a good teacher too." I made a decision right then and there: They were probably going to kick me out of Duke's masters program, but I would apply to any program on earth. I would claw and scratch my way to get back into this field because that's what I wanted to do.

* * * * *

This story is a part of the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders video series, “My Most Memorable Student.” Dr. Kerr’s video is available at:  and more than 40 other stories of memorable students can be viewed at:


Upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Hearing: Perez v. Sturgis Public School

Mitch Yell

On January 18, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a special education case, Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools. In this case, the Supreme Court will consider whether families that have settled claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can pursue lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act without fully exhausting all administrative proceedings (e.g., due process hearings) under the IDEA.

The case involved the family of Miguel Perez, a deaf student who attended the Sturgis public schools in Michigan. When he was nine-years old, he and his family emigrated from Mexico and moved to Sturgis, Michigan. In the 12 years Miguel was educated in the Sturgis Public Schools, the district failed to provide him with a qualified sign language interpreter. During this time, the family assumed Miguel was on track to earn a high school diploma because he had received As and Bs in most of his classes and always made the school’s honor roll. A few months before graduation, however, Miguel’s parents were told that he would receive a certificate of completion instead of a regular diploma.

Miguel’s parents filed a due process hearing request with the Michigan Department of Education alleging that the Sturgis public schools had failed to provide Miguel with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA. Before a due process hearing could be held, Miguel’s parents and school district settled the claim.  As part of the settlement, the school agreed to pay for Miguel (a) to attend the Michigan School for the Deaf, for post-secondary compensatory education; (b) for sign language instruction for Miguel and his family; and (c) for the attorney's fees accrued by the Perez family. As part of the settlement, the Perez family agreed to dismiss the case against the Sturgis school district and would not bring another claim under the IDEA. The administrative law judge (ALJ) dismissed the case.

The Perez family then filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against the Sturgis Public Schools under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The parents alleged that Sturgis Public Schools discriminated against Miguel by not providing the resources necessary for him to fully participate in class. As part of the settlement, the Perez family sought compensatory damages for the school district’s failure and emotional distress.

The attorneys for the school district argued that before parents could file a claim under the ADA, they had to exhaust their administrative remedies under the IDEA (i.e., due process hearing). The district furthered asserted Miguel’s parents had not exhausted the administrative procedures because they settled before the administrative procedures were completed so the lawsuit was barred. The federal district court agreed with the school district and dismissed the ADA claim because the family had failed to exhaust their administrative procedures. The Perez family appealed the decision arguing that pursuing the administrative remedies would have been futile because the administrative process would not lead to monetary damages. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled for the school district and denied the Perez family’s ADA claim, ruling that by taking the settlement, Miguel Perez had not fully exhausted his options under IDEA.

Miguel’s parents filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the ruling of the 6th Circuit Court required students with disabilities to turn down even full IDEA settlements and forgo their ability to immediately receive an IDEA mandated FAPE to preserve their non-IDEA claims. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on January 18 and issue their ruling in June, 2023 at the latest.

Information on this case, including friend of the Court briefs by various parties and the U.S. Solicitor General’s official position on the case, and the briefs by Miquel Perez and the Sturgis Public Schools, can be found on the excellent SCOTUSblog website at



recreational reinforcement

“Putting the Generality in New Year Resolutions”

Eric Alan Common, Ph.D., BCBA-D, University of Michigan-Flint


Recreational Reinforcement is a column highlighting the recreational and leisurely pursuits of educators and professionals while also making connections and offering illustrations and examples related to applied behavior analysis. This month’s column highlights what it means to experience generality of behavior change, in consideration of that New Year’s Resolutions time of year.

Keywords: generality, New Year’s Resolutions

2022-2023 Call for Columns:
Recreational Reinforcement is a bi-monthly (6/year) column dedicated to discussing recreational or leisurely pursuits, making connections, and offering illustrations and examples related to applied behavior analysis. The only rule is nobody wants to hear about work being your “recreational reinforcement.” Please send submissions or inquiries to Dr. Eric Common at  Directions for submissions: (a) article title, (b) names of author(s), (c) author’s affiliations, (d) email address, and (e) 700–1500-word manuscript in Times New Roman font. Bitmoji, graphics, tables, and figures are optional.


“Putting the Generality in New Year Resolutions”
A New Year’s resolution might target learning a new skill or other behavior change (e.g., shaping behavior, increasing or decreasing behavior). Ideally behavior change procedures will be successful. A behavior change program might have generality if behavioral changes:

  • lasts over time
  • appears in environments other than the one where targeted
  • spreads to other behaviors not directly tied to the resolution (Cooper et al., 2020)

When considering if your New Year’s Resolution leads to sustained behavioral change, you may consider three aspects of behavioral generality.

  1. Generality and Time. Generality occurs when behavior change lasts and is durable over time. The temporal dimension of “overtime” is context-specific in that it varies by individual behavior, environment, intervention, etc.  When considering generality over time, it is essential to consider the time between fading out gradually and concluding the intervention entirely where the individual accessing and operating with contingencies within the natural environment. You can program for this generality dimension by matching the natural reinforcement rate to the intervention reinforcement rate.
  2. Generality and Environments. Generality occurs when behavior change appears in environments other than the one where the behavior change was targeted. In essence, wherever the behavior changes or New Year’s Resolution was targeted (e.g., the setting, the antecedent event) is the intervention environment. When considering generality over environments, it is essential to consider how artificial (e.g., intervention changes environment; occurring outside the authentic environment) vs. natural (e.g., your intervention environment does not change the environment, occurring in the authentic environment). You can program for this generality dimension by designing your intervention environment as “natural” as possible.
  3. Generality and Other Behaviors. Generality occurs when behavioral change spreads to other behaviors unrelated to the resolution. Also called generative learning, this is a process where behavior change procedures result in addition to acquiring the targeted skill (e.g., New Year’s Resolution, targeted behavioral outcome) and also enable or accelerate the acquisition of other skills not targeted as part of behavior change procedure. You can program for this generality by using multiple exemplars across stimuli and working across environments.

While your New Year’s Resolutions might involve learning new skills or shaping skills previously or partially learned, ideally, you would like to have your resolution sustained over time – whether it be a month, a season, or all year. Learned skills and other behavior changes can show generality when such changes are (a) maintained over time, (b) demonstrated in different settings and under a variety of contexts, and/or (c) associated with the spread of other behaviors not directly tied to the resolution (Cooper et al., 2020). As you consider New Year Resolution and other behavior change procedures, consider what does generality mean, and how can you program for generality at the start of your behavior change procedure.


Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2020). Applied behavior analysis. Pearson.

Authors Bio

Eric Common is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan-Flint in the Department of Education and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the Doctoral Level.


Dear Miss Kitty: Advice Column

Dear Miss Kitty: 

It was a tough first semester, but we made it, and my students made some progress in many areas. I teach 12 third and fourth grade students in an instructional cross categorical class. Now we face the holiday break, and my students will be at home for over two weeks. At least 70% of my students come from homes where they may not receive many, if any gifts; some will spend part of the time with one parent and the rest with another; and some may be abused or neglected. I think some of them would have preferred to stay at school. 

Over the holiday break, I have tried to call them at least every three days to see how they are doing, and I think that has helped, but I want to try to ensure they have a smooth transition when they return. I worry that on the bus they will hear other students bragging about their presents and trips and many of mine won’t have those things to talk about.

Concerned Christine


Dear Concerned Christine:

I want to thank you for keeping in contact with your students during break.  What a great way to show them you care and to build relationships with them.  They may return feeling despondent that the break was not what they wanted it to be, and they may need to talk about that privately with either you or the social worker.  Actively listen to what they are saying and avoid being judgmental. Let them know how glad you are to see them back.  Here are some other suggestions:Focus on the present. They are back at school. Start their day back with an enjoyable activity. Consider going each of them two-three choices of activities that you know they like to do.

  1. Have them either draw or write about what they are looking forward to doing at school this week.
  2. If you are not doing dialogue journals, this might be a good time to start where you give the student a prompt to write or draw about a favorite activity they like to do at school or what they missed about school. This will be a journal between each of them and you and won’t be shared with anyone else.  Avoid starters like what was your favorite gift or where did you get to go over the holiday. 
  3. Remember they are probably coming back tired, and their stamina is not the same as it was before so it will be important to give more frequent breaks, build in movement activities, and give very clear one step directions because they may not be processing information as quickly. 
  4. They may have difficulty with cognitive flexibility—the ability to move from one activity to another so help them with transitions by making statements like: “Let’s do our last one of these together before we move on to math.” Avoid switching directions on a one-page worksheet. Keep the directions all the same. Switching gears on one sheet of paper is tough.
  5. Make a game about reviewing the rules and expectations because the students have probably forgotten them after being away from school for the extended time.
  6. Pour on the praise.  Recognize them for all their appropriate behaviors because they may have experienced a “reinforcement desert” when they were at home so they need more praise and recognition.

Thanks for your concern and caring and I wish you and your students a happy 2023.

miss kitty
Posted:  2 January, 2023

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