CEDARS: Kathy, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. Would you mind telling us where did you grow up? What was it like?
Kathy: I grew up in Lincoln, NE. I had two brothers and a sister. A lot of our time was spent outside. We made hot wheel cities from dirt and mud, made forts from old wood and junk we found, picked mulberries, rode our bikes, skateboarded, and roller skated. We were seldom inside.
CEDARS: That’s sounds idyllic! Do you have a favorite childhood memory?
Kathy: My favorite memory was making a mud pie and making my brother eat it. As a child it was darn funny. As a parent I would be appalled if my children did that to each other but understand it is a rite of passage.
CEDARS: How long have you worked at CEDARS?
Kathy: I have worked at CEDARS just over a year as the behavioral health consultant (BHC) for the early childhood centers. I have worked in early childhood for 20 years as an early childhood educator, researcher, presenter, trainer, consultant, and therapist.
CEDARS: What does a behavioral consultant do?
Kathy: A behavioral consultant has many roles. We work with teachers, directors, parents and children. A BHC’s job is to help prepare a child to be successful in life. We work with problem solving, feelings identification, emotional regulation, and other social skills. A child has many influences in their life so the BHC works with everyone to help create an environment where this child can be successful. This means working as part of a team and implementing procedures on the big scale for all children and then having individualized interventions if needed. A BHC helps parents with parenting questions, routines, and struggles. I coach/consult with teachers on classroom strategies and develop individual plans for students’ success. I create trainings for parents to attend. I offer experiences for parents and their children to interact. I create trainings for teachers on developing social skills in children.
CEDARS: Wow! Thanks for sharing that! What is your favorite part about your job?
Kathy: My favorite part is the people I work with, both the children and the adults. It is a very open group. The adults’ passion for the children shows. Even if they get frustrated, as we all do, they are able to share their thoughts and feelings in a positive manner. They are continuously looking for new ways to interact with the children in their classrooms and give them the best environment possible. I love working with the children. Each age brings something different to the table. My favorite is the toddlers. It is a time of rapid growth and development. To share in those “A-HA” moments never gets dull. Such a moment can be learning to peddle a bike, learning to go potty, doing a puzzle, identifying a color, learning to share a toy, putting toys away for the first time, being dropped off without crying or trying a new food. The feelings of accomplishment abound in a toddler room and that has always been my favorite.
CEDARS: I think you’re going to make us all want to help in the toddler room. What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Kathy: I like to be outside. I garden, bike, hike, run. My son and I visit different parks each year to do some hiking and choose different trails each year in Colorado to hike. I also like to lift weights but haven’t been doing much of that lately. I continuously have 4-5 books or articles that I am reading. I do not watch much television. I can go days without turning it on. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s not. Sometimes it traps me in my own bubble because I do not even get the news.
CEDARS: Do you have a ‘CEDARS moment’?
Kathy: I do not have a single CEDARS moment, I have lots of them. I work with children (5 and younger) so there are moments every single day. It is a joy to walk into a classroom and have them excited to share anything with you. They are so excited about the world around them and their discoveries, big or small. I have had children share stories, ouchies, ants, bugs, toys each and every day with me. Each scenario is unique to them and those are the moments I enjoy.
CEDARS: Is there one particular client that you feel was significantly impacted at CEDARS?
Kathy: Every day I see children being impacted by the work of CEDARS staff. For many of these children this is their first experience with stability, rules, and boundaries. It is not always easy but these teachers are remarkable each and every day.
CEDARS: Thanks, Kathy! Before you go, we were hoping you could leave us with something we should all know about your work.
Kathy: Many people believe that children are little adults and that they choose to be “naughty”. Research shows that there is a difference in brain development and recent science has shown that higher end (executive functioning) brain development takes much longer than expected. Children do not choose to be naughty. They are engaging in behaviors that are serving a purpose for them. They get the attention, they get the toy, they get picked up, etc. The behavior gets them the result that they want and thus they continue to engage in that behavior. It is the adults’ responsibility to teach children boundaries, set rules, instruct on emotional recognition and self-soothing techniques. Social skills are not skills that a child is born with. They need to be taught just as math and reading do. Social skills are imperative for school and life success.
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