MR/DD board creates behavior specialist job

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Earlier this year, the Madison County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities hired Jordan Wolverton to be its first behavior specialist. Wolverton is a graduate of Madison-Plains High School and The Ohio State University.

Doing the right thing.

In the realm of construction, developing a strong foundation is essential if you have high expectations of the durability of your building.

With that philosophy in mind, the Madison County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities looked to bolster its services by creating a job from the ground up.

In their continued quest to offer services that can best meet the needs of the individuals they serve, earlier this year the Madison County Board of MR/DD established a behavior specialist position.

“Supporting individuals who have challenging behaviors has been a primary focus of our program for many years,” said John LaCivita, organization services director for the Madison County Board of MR/DD. “As the number of individuals we serve with challenging behaviors has increased, our board recognized the need to dedicate additional resources to support these individuals and their families.”

The Madison County Board of MR/DD’s Organization Services division was a perfect fit for the new behavior specialist position as it already included such essential service areas as quality assurance, eligibility determination, public awareness, health services, policy development, rule compliance, recreation and incident investigations.

Hired to fill this groundbreaking role was Jordan Wolverton, who brings to the position three years of experience as an applied behavior analysis therapist for a young child with autism.

“This intense behavior intervention and therapy gave me an in-depth background in behavior analysis,” said Wolverton. “It enabled me to research the cause of the behavior, identify the reinforcement that is causing the behavior to continue, and find an alternative replacement behavior.”

A graduate of The Ohio State Univer-sity, Wolverton’s educational background in the areas of sociology and criminology have served her well thus far in her new position.

“This study of people and socio-economics has given me a greater understanding of the many factors involved that create individual personalities and backgrounds in general, not just with those behaviors,” Wolverton said.

The behaviors Wolverton has already encountered in her new job have ranged from self-injurious behaviors to verbal/physical aggression to a variety of non-compliance issues.

According to LaCivita, the Madison County Board of MR/DD’s policy, as well as the Ohio Department of MR/DD’s rule related to behavior support, is very complex and detailed. He added that although many county boards struggle to meet the stringent requirements, during Madison County’s 2005 State Accreditation Review, no citations were received in that area.

A primary goal of Wolverton’s position is to educate people that the term “behavior” doesn’t always have to constitute a negative thought process.

“Our goal in developing effective behavior plans is to be sure they emphasize positive interventions and techniques,” LaCivita said.

If the behavior warrants a need for more aversive interventions—such as the loss of privileges or utilization of physical restraints—the plan to address the behavior(s) must be approved before implementation by the county’s Behavior Support Human Rights Committee (BSHRC).

“The BSHRC reviews each of these plans to insure that all components of the rule are met, that the plans are behaviorally sound and are likely to lead to the replacement of the problem behavior with appropriate behaviors, and are the most positive and least intrusive way of accomplishing this,” LaCivita said.

An important step in accomplishing these goals is making sure that the people working with individuals with MR/DD have the best information available to most effectively interact when behaviors occur.

To accomplish this, immediately following her hiring, Wolverton took part in “Do The R.I.G.H.T. Thing” training in Clark County.

“This training course teaches prevention as intervention,” Wolverton said, “but it also teaches staff proper crisis intervention techniques to ensure health and safety.”

After going through the program, Wolverton took special courses to serve as a trainer herself, and she has already begun conducting the three-part inter-active class with county board staff and independent providers. She has also developed an adaptation of the training to offer a special presentation geared toward parents and families.

For more information about the Behavior Support program or Madison County Board of MR/DD in general, call 740-852-7050.

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