(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – Going on it’s second year, the Behavior Analysis Club continues to expand its membership and create educational opportunities.
Heather Jenkins, the graduate student of psychology, said she and Duane Lundervold, coordinator of behavior analysis programs and the Behavior Science Research Laboratory, created the group in Fall of 2016 to help educate students on the field of behavior analysis, and the job opportunities for behavior analysis.
Jenkins helps organize trips to psychology conferences where students networked with others and presented posters of their own research.
“It truly has been a great experience. I hope the club continues to grow and flourish,” she said.
Kaylie Duffy, freshman psychology major, joined the Behavior Analysis Club to decide whether she wants to become a therapist or be in behavior analysis.
Duffy volunteered to help special needs kids the past two summers for a theater project. She’s in the Behavior Analysis Club to help figure out her future career, and her experience volunteering drew her into the club to learn more about behavior analysis.
“It makes me smile when they smile,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like people overlook them, when they are so smart.”
“Helping people with issues, that’s what makes me happy.”
Tucker Strader, senior psychology major and vice president of the BA Club, said Jenkins had the idea of making a BA study group, but that idea turned into a club.
“It grew into, ‘Hey, why don’t we make a full student organization out of this?’” Strader said.
The club is a social organization for students who have shared values regarding science, behavior and culture. Members meet and work together to achieve personal or group goals, such as hosting events and going to conferences.
Lundervold said the BA Club organizes events for the department of psychological sciences. He said the BA club sponsors three professional development activities, and invites and supports a presentation with two local or national behavioral analysts.
He said the club organizes travel to local conferences on behavior analysis, such as those hosted by the Kansas Association for Behavior Analysis and the Missouri ABA, as well as national conventions such as the Association for Behavior Analysis International.
“Members also begin the transition to becoming a professional through attending regional and national conventions,” Lundervold said.
Cody Meehan, a senior psychology major and president of BA club, said the group is open to all students. He said the principles of behavior analysis can be applied anywhere to make life better for people.
“We help the community by teaming up with Toys for Tots, and we are in the process of adopting a highway,” Meehan said. “This club is most helpful for students because we offer opportunities to get involved.”
Meehan said many behavioral scientists are on the front line for autism research and treatment. He said many children with autism who receive behavior therapy and continue with it experience behavior change.
“You may never know that they were even on the autism spectrum,” Meehan said. “It is a great field to get into if you love children.”
He said behavior analysis can be very effective and seeing positive results in people is rewarding. Meehan said this type of counseling involves behavioral skills training or exposure therapy, such as for people with phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and other disorders. He said he wants to specialize in clinical behavior analysis, focusing more on behavioral counseling.
The careers in this field are important for a healthy society.
“Behavior analysis can be applied anywhere where there is learning happening,” Meehan said.
“Every person in the world is shaped by their environment. Most people don’t fully understand why they do things or why they think things or why they have feelings,” Meehan said.
Bailey Herigon, senior psychology major, said she likes behavior analysis because she wants to work with kids who have autism.
“I’ve always wanted to work with special-needs children,” Herigon said. “Those kids and people, they can’t help themselves. They need someone to help them. They’re challenging of course, but there’s also some really great times, too.”
Herigon said she knew she wanted to work with special needs individuals since she volunteered in middle school. She said she likes working with special needs children because it makes her feel happy when she can make them happy, and said she had some great times with them.
“When they smile or laugh…when you get them to smile or laugh when they don’t usually,” Herigon said. “Seeing their face light up when you do something they don’t normally get to do or get to experience.”
Herigon said a common misconception about behavior analysis is it applies to just children with autism, but it also applies to many different fields in psychology.
“It’s literally changing someone’s behavior,” Herigon said. “It’s a good thing to know, and I think people should get involved with it.”
Strader said he uses behavior analysis techniques as a registered behavior technician doing in-home care around the area by helping with kids who have autism.
“It’s very rewarding to see changes happen directly because of you and the work that you’re doing, giving changes for the better. That gives a deep sense of satisfaction.”
The work addresses a variety of different issues with the kids. It can be social skills or academic skills, such as counting or writing.
“Basically we are trying to help kids with special needs have a better overall life,” he said.
Strader said throughout his life, he had seen people who needed help but didn’t get it.
“It was always about, ‘How can I help the people around me?’ That urge never really went away,” Strader said. “Here are fellow future behavior analysts who are trying to come together and work together and help make it better for everyone.”
To join the BA Club, contact the club’s president, Cody Meehan, at firstname.lastname@example.org.