Tuesday: A Week into a Behavior Analyst's Hustle and Grind

This is part of a 7-piece series that highlights the dedication and experiences that go into just one week of my life as a behavior analyst at the present time. Read the other posts here.


Author: Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

Author: Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

So it was a little unclear where Monday ended… Was it the 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM nap? Perhaps it was when the to-do list was finished around 6 AM the next morning. Either way, here we go!

It's the big day to launch this website and our first announcement of the event on various social media platforms. 

7:00 AM - Arrive to work to get ready to go to the neighboring town to deliver Pre-Employment Transition Service (Pre-ETS).  

Pre-ETS came about through some changes set forth in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Essentially there was a scope of work provided by the State of Nevada's Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR) and providers could either find an "off-the-shelf" curriculum that met the training areas below, or that someone could create their own. Many providers nationally were being referred to two different curricula that were created and freely available. Sounds great right?  Well a side-by-side comparison of them along with an independent tool that indicates what is needed for transitioning into life after high school showed that they were a little, well... weak. The comparison was completed at High Sierra Industries - so I'll leave that for them to get out someday. But what's cool out of all of this is that we were able to create our own curriculum that used some components of precision measurement (pinpointing, learning channels) and non-linear instructional design components.  Here's what we're covering: 

  • Self-Advocacy Training
  • Workplace Readiness Training
  • Career Counseling and Exploration
  • Post-Secondary Education Opportunities

The scope of work has been shifting a bit, but where we've started with is implementing at a 10:1 ratio in two different schools across two different school districts. In total there are about 200 students that our team sees (I currently see all of them each week) for an hour a week to provide direct training. One cool component of the material is that it's somewhat self-paced and allows the students to explore the topics as it relates to their own interests. Imagine getting to spend a total of 25 hours across 25 weeks to explore a topic that you're interested in through different activities and mediums (e.g., paper-pen, speaking with instructors, small group activities, computer applications and websites) - pretty fun eh? The data are still rolling in, and it's not easy to collect in a 10:1 format either, but we're seeing some really cool anecdotal changes.  

2:00 PM - Pre-ETS services are wrapped up - and we're on the road back to Reno, NV where the office is located. Perfect time to catch up on emails in the car, and as well as a phone call with a colleague back east. 

2:30 PM - Quik lunch break (really just a social media break) 

3:00 PM - Sit down at the computer and knock out some preparatory work for the next day's tasks. One hour spent preparing for two of the team members to take over the Pre-ETS training module for the next day, and the other spent focusing on preparing for a follow-up class with special education teachers and paraprofessionals that I'll explain in depth in the next post. 

5:00 PM - Out the door from job 1, and pretty sure the 1.5 hour nap over the last ~40 hours is catching up with me. 

5:15 PM - Exhausted from the day before, I catch up on emails and YouTube in bed and fall asleep phone in hand.

7:00 PM - Early night's rest.


  1. Total students served that day ~45 students for 1-hour each in a 10:1 ratio
  2. Completed a solid ~18 hour day (if you start counting at midnight)
  3. A solid 6 hours and 10 minutes on my phone.
  4. Completed ~16-ish hours of work related to behavior analysis in all the tasks above
  5. Met all my day job expectations, as well as my additional project goals for the day
  6. High School students are still awesome - and I'm stoked to have the opportunity to work with them in the capacity that I am.
  7. Asleep by 7:00 PM..... ahhh.  
  8. Initial feedback on this website starts rolling in, allows me to squash more bugs, making things a little more clear, and adjust based on what we're being told. Overwhelmingly all feedback is positive. 


  1. Probably shaved some time off of my life for only sleeping 90 minutes (it feels better to put it into minutes when it gets lower than 3 hours I find).
  2. Totally neglected exercising.

Final Thoughts:

Having the chance to hang out in a few different high school classrooms for an extended period of time there are a few things that I'd like to just lay out there:

  1. Everyone that works in the education system is in a position where they have to handle so much... From the regulations to the disciplinary and incentive approaches that vary across each school, to the curricula changes and cycles - it's just A LOT. That said, there's obviously a lot of value that behavior analysis can offer educational systems. However, I think we too often think that it's "easy" or at least "easier" than it really is. For example, the organization that I work for started developing the current working relationship with local school districts over 5 years ago. It was approximately 2 years before there was a project identified, and 4 years before the first project broke even for the organization. If you're wanting to get into this area patience is key at the macro level, but at the micro level, you need to be quick. Your opportunities sometimes arise for a brief moment and you have to act immediately or you lose the opportunity to continue working in the system. That's just what happens when you don't have the leverage of a situation. I've spent a number of days multiple times dropping other tasks to seize an opportunity to better our relationship with the various stakeholders at school districts. It opens a lot of possibilities and is worth it often times. 
  2. There's a lot of students that we can reach if we approach them with respect. The old-school model of "you need to listen/do this" usually doesn't work, and are we surprised? I've had numerous teachers pull me aside and say things such as, "He respects you so much, it took me years to get that!" Respect. Additionally, do a little homework on the current culture and find areas that you share interests with a student and you'll be amazed at what happens (it's not just pairing your self with it, but using it as a motivator and putting it contingent on the behavior you're looking for). 
  3. There's a lot of students that we aren't reaching early enough as a society to get them motivated in learning about their self, the world around them, and how they can work on their own and with their support network around them to achieve things and experience things that they never knew were out there. This is an area for long-term investment in a behavioral technology. 
To be continued.