Wendy White is an Autism Clinical Specialist at Redwood Coast Regional Center in Eureka, California. Redwood Coast Regional Center collaborates and consults with social service agencies, and White’s job includes supporting clients who may need behavioral support. Redwood Coast Regional Center is part of Proof Positive’s Autism Wellbeing Alliance, a community dedicated to enhancing wellbeing outcomes for autistic people, providers, families, and caregivers.

Wendy also attended Proof Positive’s Learning Institute, a professional development workshop for a select group of leaders in autism services. At the Learning Institute, she enhanced her knowledge of the science and skills of wellbeing and how these skills can be adapted for autism intervention, but you’ll want to hear it from her. Take it away, Wendy! 

Positive psychology is the scientific study of human strengths and virtues. It was founded on the premise that we should apply the same scientific rigor used to understand human suffering and mental illness to study human happiness and mental health. It’s about understanding what makes life worth living, what enables humans to thrive, and how to cultivate greater wellbeing.   

It’s also an evidence-based research practice that can potentially improve client services. Not only is it essential to practice the science and skills of happiness for ourselves, but we should also spread them to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) researchers and practitioners. Since ABA is widely used as a method to support the learning of individuals with disabilities and is a constantly evolving practice incorporating new evidence-based research, providers always look for innovative ways to practice. Positive psychology can be integrated into the work of ABA practitioners. 

Using the science and skills of positive psychology allows providers to treat people like humans with the autonomy they deserve. By approaching individuals from a strengths-based perspective and creating a space to explore what’s right with them, providers can help guide their clients toward a flourishing future. 

The best part is that the skills of happiness can easily fit into existing services, and providers can layer them onto clients’ goals. I like to encourage providers to think of it as an enhancement instead of adding extra work. On my desk, I keep a binder full of Proof Positive’s printable worksheets and activities for easy copying, so spending extra time planning and implementation isn’t an issue.

Ensuring people are on the path to happiness can help with staff recruitment, too. I’ve collaborated with our agency’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to ensure that we incorporate the science of wellbeing into their training for prospective practitioners like RBTs (Registered Behavior Technicians). We start with trainees watching a 30-minute video on flourishing and receive an introduction to PERMA Theory of Wellbeing and the skills of happiness, like Strength Spotting. The science and skills of happiness are part of the introduction to our organization, it’s part of our culture! 

It’s inspiring to think about how the science and skills of happiness can support practitioners’ well-being. RBTs and other clinicians can focus on the positive and use all the evidence-informed skills of happiness for themselves, their autistic clients, and even their families. These practices are good for everyone.

Spreading the science and skills of happiness within autism agencies that Redwood Coast Regional Center vendors for client services has immense potential to positively affect the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. 

Thank you, Wendy and the Redwood Coast Regional Center team, for spreading the science and skills of happiness and advancing the global wellbeing movement. We’re thankful you’re part of our community. 

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