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- So I won't take any more of Dr. LeBlanc's time.

She's certainly a good friend and a supporter of our autism and education partnership, and we really appreciate her coming back and joining us again today for the presentation on a structured problem-solving approach which she uses in her own professional practice.

So Dr. LeBlanc, I will turn it over to you and welcome and thanks so much for joining us.

- Thank you for having me another time.

I definitely am a friend to you and your organization, and I am happy to come back any time.

And today we're gonna be talking about one of my favorite topics, and that is problem-solving.

And the approach that I take is one that's very rooted in behavioral principles.

I am a BCBA and a licensed psychologist, and I kinda try to practice what I preach and use those behavioral principles on my own behavior whenever possible.

And so one of the things to keep in mind is that many of us spend our time maybe worrying or a little bit dreading that we might have a problem, rather than acknowledging that we're going to have problems.

It's just a matter of if it's today or tomorrow and what that problem will look like.

Whether it's going to be problem behavior of a student or perhaps some other accident at work, someone falls or maybe even gets a hit or a bite from a student who has some difficulties that it could be a tough IEP meeting or upset family member.

It could be that maybe our part of our team or whoever did not arrive for a session on time and that causes some delays and staffing issues.

It could be that one of our learners is having poor progress in a program and we gotta figure out how to fix that.

Could be a sudden resignation.

It could be all of these or some of these.

That's just the price of doing business, of being in a complicated but so worthwhile profession of working with individuals with special needs.

And so the issue is not, oh no, what if I have a problem?

If you can set yourself up to think about like, "Yes, problems are going to happen today and I just want to be in a position to do my best to solve them," you will be far better.

And so, you know, this image is a beautiful lake and I think it may actually even be in Canada.

But that notion of hoping that we won't have problems won't help Panicking when we have problems won't help.

Having a plan to handle problems helps, and staying calm helps even more.

And so that notion of bringing yourself to calmness, clear head, readiness, what David Allen and even Bruce Lee talked about as being like water, having a mind like water, clarity in the moment, that puts you in a better position to problem-solve.

And the alternative, which unfortunately is how a lot of us bounce around, is kind of what I call pinball brain.

That is we're busy and so many things are happening and, you know this and that, and that level of arousal, and pressure, and distraction that's associated with that makes us far worse as problem solvers.

When we are stressed, overly aroused, overwhelmed by anything, my work life, our professional life, we are less likely to know this, those early indicators that they are a problem, and nothing kinda gets through the background noise until it is a raging fire.

And problems found earlier, always easier to solve.

So thinking about everything you do on any given day to bring yourself to calmness and clarity is gonna enhance your ability to problem solve.

So, one of the things that gives me a lot of comfort is the fact that I don't have to know the answer, I don't have to have the solution to a problem.

I do have a lot of solutions to a lot of problems 'cause I've been doing this for a long time, (chuckles) and I've seen a lot of different problems.

But I haven't seen them all, I never will, and I don't have to feel bad that I might not know an answer.

I don't have to feel anxious about that.

I don't have to know the answer at the outset.

I just have to start problem-solving.

I think we worry, we fear, and we dread problems when we approach them as what will I do if?

My answer is always the same, I'll start problem-solving.

That's the only option there is.

I don't wanna ignore problems.

I don't wanna let them get worse.

If I discover a problem, I will pause, take a breath, bring it to clarity and start problem-solving.

So here's what we're gonna talk about today, and it's all related to problem-solving.

But I think a big part of the effectiveness of problem-solving starts with a good definition of what is a problem.

Because very often we tend to have a pretty narrow definition of what is a problem.

And if we expand that definition a little bit, you might think, "Oh no, I don't want more problems." But when we expand the definition a little bit, we actually get more readily solvable problems.

We'll walk through the steps of problem-solving and how you can kinda take a behavioral approach to each step by doing things to make yourself more successful at it.

And then I'll show you a problem-solving activity, and we won't have time to do it together today, we can always take it away with you.

So that notion, well, what is a problem?

You may think, "Why, I know what a problem is." A a problem is definitely when, I don't know what to do.

I don't have a response that's likely to work.

And that's certainly true.

You could be in lots of situations where you don't immediately know what to do.

So, for example, I can give you a problem right now.

And what happens when I give you this problem is not that there's no way you could have a solution.

It's just that you don't have it at the ready.

So here is the, and I want you to go ahead and open up your chat box, please.

Here is the problem.

I want you to put into the chat the answer to this question.

How many windows are there in your home?

No answers yet?

I'm not sure, 20.


Here it comes.

I don't know.

(chuckles) Yeah.

Some people know.

Maybe you've just had to replace all those doggone windows.

Right, Lots.

So here's the...

Yes, these are very good answers.

(laughs) So the thing is you could come to know an answer.

And for many of you, you may have thought like, for those of you who generated a number, either you've recently replaced all your windows or you did something, you behaved.

You started problem-solving.

So just type in a yes if this is you.

How many of you imagined your house and then kind of, either around the inside or the outside, and imagined and counted?


So that is problem-solving.

I gave you a question that you didn't know an immediate answer to, and you began to behave in a way that would lead you to any answer.

We actually teach our students this kind of thing all the time when we're teaching them a strategy for mathematics.

Yes, you may not know what 197 divided by six is, but you can begin to behave in ways that will lead you to that answer.


So that's easy to recognize as a problem.

I am standing at my front door and I can't find my keys and the door is locked.


(chuckles) I need to start problem-solving.

But I would suggest to you also that sometimes we have the kind of problem where we have multiple options and it isn't clear which is better.

We could try a few things.

The good news is we do have options.

The bad news is we may not have enough information to let us know which of those is the right option, but we have to choose and we have to develop a plan.

So I would also say this, we have a problem when we have an environment that foments unhappiness, unproductivity, negativity, problem behavior.

This could be the environment for you or the environment for your students, but we have a problem because we're about to have problems.

Those kinds of environments that maybe are not optimally designed, it's just a matter of when the problem in the crisis occurs, not whether it will occur.

So this man is B.F.

Skinner and he was kind of the founder of the more modern behavioral approach called radical behaviorism.

And a big part of what made him different than other behavior analysts at the time was that he said, "We have to think about all of the human experience similarly." And so thinking can be thought of as behavior and problem-solving isn't magic, it's behavior.

And we can think about, well, what in our environment evokes problem-solving and what reinforces it.

So he talked about problem-solving as this, "Any behavior," cause it's gotta be behavior for him, "Through that manipulate some variables, and makes the appearance of a solution more probable." So when I said, how many windows in your house, you began to behave.

And what you did was you actually presented visual images, stimulate that allowed you to behave in a way that made the appearance of a solution more probable.

So that's great.

That means we can not only have a little bit of broader definition of what problems are, but we can have a broader definition of what's problem-solving.

Talking to another person could be our first step in problem-solving.

Often what we do in problem-solving is, here's this situation and I don't have a solution.

So I do something that adds some more stimulate, like those images of your windows.

Or, for example, you're at that door and you don't have your keys, you start generating some stimulate for yourself.

"Okay, when's the last time I had my keys?

I imagine this.

I went this place.

I was in that room."


Or maybe, "Where do I keep a spare key? I wonder if there is a back door that might be unlocked." You start saying things to yourself in a way that might give you a chance to behave in a way that could solve the problem and be reinforced.

So here's the thing, fear, panic suppresses our behavior.

That's why you gotta try to manage that, so that you can just start behaving.

Now, there're some ways we might behave that actually are not problem-solving.

They could take us from bad to worse, unfortunately.

And it's the two sides of a coin.

So one side of it is responding quickly without a likely solution.

And we often call this impulsivity, where we just do something and maybe it even worsens the situation.

And you might think about maybe some of your students or clients.

Maybe some kiddo's with Asperger's who may be impulsive and they just respond maybe the social situations and worsen them 'cause they haven't really thought it through.

So impulsivity isn't problem-solving because it doesn't make the solution any more probable.

And here's the other thing, and that is waiting and doing nothing.

Dawdling, procrastinating, hoping it goes away and gets better does not help and is not problem-solving.

In fact, almost all problems get worse with inaction.

It's kind of like the garbage.

(laughs) You cannot take it out, but it's likely to be smelling more tomorrow than today.

So inaction is only gonna worse that situation.

So these are the two extremes of action without forethought and ignoring, hoping, or waiting to see if things get better without any problem-solving.

And both of those tend to be, they tend to worsen problems rather than solve them.

And the other thing is this, most people are maybe a little bit more on the impulsive end or a little bit more on the inaction, wait and see end, and some people bounce back and forth.

So let's do a chat again real quick, and hey, it's okay, nobody's a perfect problem solver.

Chat in whether you think or you are more likely to be impulsive, or a dawdler, or both, or neither.

What do you think your...

If things are gonna go as well as they could, which way gotta...

Some both.


You can see instances.

Different kinds of problems lead you to both.

Yes, so we're getting all of the iterations.

and so importantly people are recognizing that maybe they even respond differently.

Oh, we've got an over-thinker in the bunch, just like me.

(laughs) You and I can be in that group together.

And different kinds of problems might lead us to swing one way or the other.

But if we can set ourselves up to do neither of that, and to just do it the same way every day, same way every problem, it's just like stability, consistency.

That really puts us in a position to succeed.

So we are going to be talking about a problem-solving model that I do use in my clinical work.

It is also described in this book.

So this is a book that I published with my two co-authors, Tyra sellers and Shahla Ala'i, and it is on supervision and mentoring.

And it was certainly written for behavior analysts, but I think many of the chapters and the examples in it are about behavior analysis and what have you.

But this could be useful for anyone in any discipline who either wants to engage in some self-reflection on their kind of become your own mentor, or who serves as a supervisor and mentor to other people.

So chapter seven is the one that focuses on problem-solving.

If you are interested in this book and any of the activities and tools that I'm about to show you, the book is available at this address,, and the editor actually gave me a discount code that I can share with you.

I'm gonna put it in the chat box, and if you would like to get a 15% discount on this book you can use this code.

So hang on, just a second.

Make sure I type it in rights, slash.


So, can use that code, or get it here at any time, or just listen to the stuff I'm about to tell you.

And any of those will be just fine with me.

So, this five-step problem-solving process is the one that is outlined in this book.

And the notion that just work, make a plan...

Oh no!

Shelly, they're saying they can't see my chat.

I can see there's.

Do you know why that is?

What have I done wrong?

- [Shelley] I see.

What can I see?

Oh, it just went to the panelists.

Is it the

- Yes.

- Okay, I'll repost that.

You carry on.

- Oh, thank you.

Okay, so it's coming your way.

Thank you for letting me know.

And let me back up 'cause I kept hitting the button.

(laughs) Okay, here we are.

So the power of this approach is, you gotta plan, work the plan.

That's it.

At the end you will have a solution to implement and evaluate.

It may not be the right solution, it may not be the best solution working the plan will generally increase the chances that you do get to that right solution or best solution, but you're gonna evaluate it.

And if it turns out to not be right, you're gonna lather, rinse, repeat and do the process again.

Detect the problem, define the problem, generate solutions, do a careful pro-con analysis and pick one, and then implement and evaluate.

So this sounds very straightforward.

And if any of you work with a little bit older school-age children, this model is exactly the same problem-solving steps that we teach our children who may have ADHD, impulsivity, some little oppositional conduct problems.

We work on teaching them problem-solving.

And the same thing works for us.

But here's the important thing, do each step.

No cheating.

(laughs) The power of this is that it is structured and systematic.

So you gotta fully engage and embrace each step.

Now, if you tend to be the impulsive type, and I've got some of that too, I'll skip ahead and I have to catch myself and say, uh-uh, no cheating.

Bring it balk.

Don't skip ahead or skimp on the steps, because each time you do it increases your risk of missing something or impulsive responding.

Now, if you were on the dawdler or procrastinator end, or are for some problems, you might find yourself trucking along until you get step four and then say, "Oh, I don't think I'm gonna pick one." (laughs) So we'll talk about different strategies you can use at each step to make sure that you do fully engage that step and really kind of work the plan.

And part of it means, doing that means monitoring yourself during the problem-solving process.

Kind of self-monitoring.

Did I do all of step one?

Did I do all of step two?

So let's focus on step one.

Detect or identify the problem.

One of the themes, it's awfully easy to notice a crisis.

It's easy to notice that there is problem behavior occurring, that we're having some negative interactions, and an IEP meeting, or what have you.

Those typically are the crisis.

Keep in mind the crisis should be viewed as a result of the problem rather than the problem itself.

There're various things that contribute to the likelihood that a crisis occurred, and that's really where early detection is.

If we can get to the point where we notice the things that are contributing to the problem before the blowup occurs, then we are going to be more likely to prevent that blow up.

That's the power of early detection.

Now, one of the ways that I talk about this with people that I supervise and teach, is that I ask them, do they know why you have a smoke detector in your house rather than a fire detector?

And the reason is we wanna catch that smoke.

Don't wait for fire.

And noticing smoke, that early warning system, that early detection means we're gonna have less damage and maybe no damage at all, and that they can learn to become a smoke detector.

That they can learn to notice subtle indicators of a problem.

Notice the conditions that produce problems, rather than waiting for, "Oh my gosh! I just had a huge problem." And I refer to this as nuanced noticing.

That becoming ever better at noticing subtle things, missing things, and noticing them early, that is going to make you a problem preventer.

And so that's kind of one of the skills that you wanna build as a professional.

Now, often being a nuance noticer means noticing the subtle and the missing.

For example, noticing a lack of praise, a change in communication maybe with a person who works with you, noticing a change in a pattern of using leave or call outs, or someone suddenly seeming more or less busy, more or less stressed, well, whether you notice it or not, something is up.

And it's already causing some distress in the system, that person as a system, that workplace as a system, that environment as a system and we cannot notice or notice but not really say we notice.

If you've ever been in a situation where after the crisis, you say, "You know, I think I have noticed some things," or, "I kind of was wondering," you basically noticed some things but didn't recognize and name it as something is up and this could be a problem that I could do something to help alleviate.

So turning yourself into a person who notices and says, "I wonder if that's something for me to pay attention to or even to do something about." and interacting with other people in your environment that increase the chances that they notice and bring small problems to you.

And this is very, very important to keep in mind.

People are often afraid to bring up problems because no one wants to be the bearer of bad news, or they may worry they're going to be perceived negatively because you're a complainer or, oh, now I've given you more work to do.

And so it's really about setting up your interactions with people to encourage them, support them, reward them for detecting small things and bringing them to you as a possible thing.

Bring smoke.

If it turns out not to be smoke, we'll just turn off the alarm and keep cranking.

And if turns out to be a problem, we'll catch up.

We'll do something before there's ever a fire.

So kind of setting up for everyone that it is okay to notice and describe these things.

And maybe nothing at all, but you'll be far better noticing than not.

Well, that next step of really define the problem is about finding the real problem, doing that analysis.

So always praise bringing a problem forward.

"Thank you for letting me know. Now, perhaps I can do something about this." But also, whatever gets brought forward to you, investigate and get all sides of the story.

So let's say we're lucky enough to have early detection, what we detect is often an indicator that something might be up.

It might be temporary, it might be nothing to be concerned about.

However it is that you become aware of the problem, you are getting some perspective on the problem, not the whole story.

And so you almost always need to do a little information gathering, a little what else is there to know?

What might be happening here?

What's that other side of the story?

And if it is, in fact, an interpersonal interaction that you're feeling might be problematic, ask someone else for their perspective.

You might be part of the problem.

That doesn't mean you intended to be, but everyone makes mistakes.

That's kind of like fearing you made a mistake is the same thing like fearing you'll have a problem.

You will.

(laughs) That's life.

And so it's just a matter of noticing those mistakes early, determining whether, oh, am I behaving in a way that might be contributing to this problem?

And then, well, let's just figure out how to behave differently.

So these are just a few strategies to help you maybe be a little more explicit about your noticing.

If you can take even just those few minutes to pause and reflect and ask yourself these questions, that's presenting some new stimulate for yourself, and that may change how you respond.

Such that if you pose the question about, is there something bugging me that seemed a bit off, you may actually be, and you find yourself able to name some things that may actually produce a little insight of, oh, there might be something here, and I can actually describe some things.

So that's a good time to start digging in and defining that problem in terms of, am I what I'm noticing?

Is that a cause or an effect?

So think of it this way.

We're prone...

It's awfully easy to notice a crisis.

It's a lot harder to notice the subtle things.

But in fact, the crisis that we noticed is not the cause.

It's the effect.

So it is a problem, but there are problems earlier along the line.

So in behavior analysis, what we might say is that someone might come forward and say, "I've got a problem. This student," or, "My child has problem behavior." Okay, well, that's true.

That is certainly a crisis.

But one problem is problem behavior, but there is some set of circumstances that is leading to that problem behavior, usually contingencies, different things about the environment.

And the solution isn't going to be in naming the problem behavior.

Oh, if it's aggression, you do this.

Oh, if it's disruptions and property destructions, you do this.


The why tells you what your solution would be.

So finding that why is so critical.

In an organization, often we may think, "Oh no, well, we have a terrible problem. It's turnover. People don't stay in this job very long." Well, that is a problem, but there is a reason why.

The real problem is that there is some mismatch between the person in the workplace and a lot of people in the workplace.

It could be that people are being hired in and expecting the job to be different than it is.

It could be that the job is awfully hard for the amount of money you get paid.

And if you've ever worked in an education system like I think all of us have, we certainly can see that that is a problem and that that is a mismatch for some people.

So it's really about looking at that deeper level of why.

And in behavioral psychology, we call this looking for the function rather than just the form or the typography.

So we certainly know what the form or typography is for aggression when someone smacks us, but that doesn't really help us to know why that might be occurring, the function that will lead us to be able to address it.

In business, this is kind of talked about as defining the problem at the right depth so that you can find related problems And in behavioral psychology, such as OBM, like Aubrey Daniels, the ABC model is used and that should seem very familiar to us if we ever deal with student behavior.

We have antecedents, behavior and consequences.

And behavior in our workplace has the same antecedents and consequences.

So anything occurs in a context, and it may be that the so-called problem seems like a good option or the only option.

And if you can figure out those antecedents and consequences, you can change those.

And that's gonna be where your solution to the problem is.

Let's walk through a couple of examples.

It may be that people in a workplace feel like no one will actively address a personnel problem so it isn't worth it to bring up problems.

And that then leads to a bunch of other problems because you have people basically being bystanders in the workplace for inactivity, or maybe even behavior inactivity that we wish weren't happening, but they don't mention it.

And here's the thing, if people feel that way, it doesn't have to be true and accurate in order to suppress people, not, you know, basically people won't bring problems forward.

And then they ended up leaving because it seems like the best way to solve this problem is to leave that workplace and go elsewhere.

Well, let's say people have asked for help before but an oh, too busy supervisor didn't really provide it or it was too delayed.

You asked for help, it was 10 days ago.

I finally give an answer, and in the meantime, things have gone from bad to worse or what have you, if that happens a few times, people may stop asking for help.

And then the option seem like, "Well, let me just try whatever I can think of. It might even be a bad idea, but it's than not doing anything." So they try things and it might work or it might make things worse, or they may leave that problem behind for a different job, boss, supervisor, whatever it might be.

And so here's the thing, you have also likely felt like you were in this kind of a position at least once in your adult life or even child life, where you had that teacher who would not respond when there was some inappropriateness or bullying.

And so it's like, well, you just better take care of yourself and just wait until you get out of that classroom, whatever it might be.

We have experiences of this in our life, and even if it's been in a different environment, it affects us and we bring it forward into our new environment sometimes.

So when you're thinking about the problem and going for that deeper level of what really is the problem, one of the strategies that's offered is to ask the five whys.

That is, well, why did this person hit?

Well, why was that the situation?

Well, why this?

Now, five is not a magic number.

It could be three whys will get you there.

It could be seven whys to get you there, but I bet It's not just one.

We typically have got to look a couple of levels down, particularly with the complexities of all of the kinds of things that we need to deal with.

So looking to define the problem at the right depth, you can also find related problems when you do that.

You might see, oh, it's not just that there are some students with problem behavior in that classroom, there is also whatever it might be, relative under staffing, And it's leading to the team in that class being very fatigued and disengaged from their teaching opportunity or taking more days off.

And then that is also contributing to the problem of no problem behavior.

So you start to see how some things may be related.

Let's walk through some examples.

Let's say you're in a workplace and staff resigned.

So let's say this is an example from an ABA service provider or perhaps an educational setting.

Staff person resigns without providing ample notice, and that results in an unforeseen lapse in student or family care, or a ratio that's not what we want it to be.

Well, as a problem solver, yes, it is a problem that they resigned, but if you're gonna dig a little deeper and ask your whys, wheres, whos, (laughs) the first question might be, well, why did they resign?

And the answer might be, well, they couldn't get enough pay.

And if they're paid an hourly rate, it could be that the rate needs to be different, it could be they're not getting enough hours.

So the next question might be, is the issue the rate or the hours?

And it could always be both, but let's say it's they couldn't get enough pay, couldn't get enough hours.

And then the next question becomes, well, why couldn't they get enough hours to work?

Well, they work with multiple clients.

All of them get them the same hours so they can only work after school window of three to six, and if there's one cancellation, that is 30% of their paycheck.

Oh my goodness!

Well, I think none of us want 30% of our paycheck to be that vulnerable.

Well, then the question might be, okay, well, then in our whole organization do all of our clients get those same hours or just there's?


There are other clients who get different hours but they weren't assigned to them.

Okay, well, maybe why weren't they assigned to any of them?

You could also ask, well, why was the resignation sudden?

How do we not know?

Or did we not know these issues?

Well, they had actually mentioned needing more hours twice before.

So maybe this wasn't sudden.

Okay, well, what's the process for reviewing assignment of clients and hours, and what have you, and do we maybe need to look at that?

This person's already gone, but I guarantee there are other people who are at some point in the painfulness that could lead them to also resign.

And if we look at that process for reviewing hours and seeing how much does someone want to work, when can they work, and what opportunities do we have, we might prevent future problems.

How about this one?

Have you ever had to go to someone, whether it's a principal, a superintendent, whoever it might be, regional director or supervisor, and say, "I need more, whatever, space, resources, equipment." Whatever it is, let's ask the whys, and maybe you were asked these whys or maybe you're the one asking them.

Well, why do you need additional space?

And that might lead to an answer like, "Well, we need to have a center that has," you know, whatever it is, "Shared space for therapy and multiple children or whatever." Well, why do you need to have that?

"Well, maybe this is gonna decrease travel for families, for students, or what have you. Maybe it's gonna increase our ability to supervise. If we can have the same supervisor in close proximity to several people supporting their students, or learners or clients."

Okay, well, and this is something that's come up quite a lot in ABA services, that there are a lot of important benefits to having center-based services, but not all families want center-based services.

And if you ask that question, well, do we know if families want center-based services?

The answer might be, well, why wouldn't they?

And it could be that the person asking for, we need a center, has not engaged in that perspective taking to think about like, well, that might increase travel for families and it might do this and it might whatever.

Barriers that might lead families to not access those services.

So then the question is, well, do you know for certain that you have enough family interest to fill the space you're asking for?

So then when you start tying this into, well, what can we do to solve this problem?

I might say, well, let's look at how we might arrange client allocation to decrease travel.

Anyway, could we employ some tele-health to increase that ability to supervise?

Let's also do a survey of families and would they be interested and willing to come to center-based services?

And that starts to tell us what information we need to gather, or why is it that this feels like a problem.

So in defining the problem, if we are impulsive, we wanna move forward and just pick a solution without really knowing why the problem exists.

But you wouldn't develop a behavior intervention plan without knowing the function of that behavior, because we know that treatments for problem behavior that are based on the function are three times more likely to be effective.

So you can either guess and swing in the dark or you can do your work, identify the why, maybe the five whys, the function, and then base that solution on those whys.

And that connection gives us a better chance for success.

Well, step three is about generating the solutions.

And here's the thing, and this is actually brought up in this book by Michael Watkins, which is about the first 90 days moving into a new position.

Let's say you've just been promoted or switched organizations, what have you, one of the downfalls of many leaders is they repeat the same strategies that they've used in the last job, in the last position even when those strategies are not particularly well suited to the current situation.

Used to work in private ABA, now you're working in a school.

Well guess what?

Those in many ways are very different circumstances and things that worked in one may not work in another.

It's a new environment.

There are new opportunities, and resources, and demands.

And if we just quickly go to our go to solution that's not really well suited to this situation, we might end up not having a solution at all.

Things might go not so well.

So in this third step of generating possible solutions you're kinda brainstorming.

And part of what you wanna do is take yourself off of autopilot.

Don't just do what you've always done and think the way you've always thought.

Shake yourself up and get yourself thinking differently.

And seek out other people so that maybe they have fresh eyes, maybe they have fresh perspective and that's gonna increase your number of potential ideas to beyond just your small experiences, probably never to the universe of possibilities but it'll sure get you closer.

And so when you're trying to generate those solutions, keep in mind you are behaving.

And so you can prompt yourself to behave variably and thoughtfully.

So you can give yourself prompts.

You can self-reflect and self-monitor.

Am I doing this.

So far example, let's say you have this situation and you find yourself immediately going to that thing you've done before.

You likely are responding to similarities between that prior situation and the current one, but there are also differences.

So if you specifically ask yourself, what are the differences in this situation compared to that one?

And describe those things, those differences are more likely to influence your decisions and your thoughts.

So again, you're kinda behaving in a way that leads you to reflect and think deeper and behave differently.

Another thing that I like to ask myself is how does the cause or the why from step two link to this idea?

And if I could have come up with this idea without ever having done step two, I'm probably missing an important connection there.

And being able to describe that there is a linker is not a link, could then lead you to maybe generate some more ideas or recognize why this idea won't be well-positioned to solve the problem.

The other thing that is often helpful when you're brainstorming and you just need lots of ideas so that you'll have things to pick from is that, seek a new environment.

So if you're in your office, classroom, home office, whatever it is, the same place where you always are, you are more likely to behave the same way you've always behaved.

That is our sameness in our routine and it is more than just children with autism, we're like saying this is us too.

And so sometimes we increase our number and the variability of our ideas by get out of that environment, whether it's go for a walk, think about that problem while you're outdoors, having lunch in the nice weather, whatever it might be.

Going into that different environment can get you behaving differently.

Plus it's nice outside.

Let's get outside if we can, because it might snow tomorrow where you live and where I live.

So these are...

What I like about this approach is that it puts you in the driver's seat.

These are your behaviors that you can do something about, rather than thinking of the problem is not solvable.

The problem may or may not be solvable, but what you can be in charge of and responsible for is your own behavior with respect to that problem.

So generate those options, and you can do several things to get yourself to generate more options.

Sometimes I'm a little more on the impulsive side.

So there's gonna be an idea that pops into head within 10 seconds, and that's great.

It might be the best idea, but it can't be the only idea.

So I'll give myself kind of a little self-rule.

I'm gonna write down everything I can think of except the one that popped into my head, and then once I've got six or eight, I get to write that one down.

So it's not that that idea gets discarded, It's just I need to generate more before I can fully embrace it.

The other thing is you can actually name for yourself something that you would try if you had the resources.

And it may feel like you're shooting for the moon, but don't let that stop you.

You're just naming things.

You're just writing them down, that's all.

You're not yet making that decision.

And so by really giving step three it's space, if you think it might be a solution, write it down.

That's your job right now.

Step four is where you're going to evaluate and pick.

Step three, your job is ideas, ideas, ideas.

And you might name something that is a little bit resource-heavy, but you never know how just naming that and writing it down, might make you think about like, well, you know, what I like about that idea is this.

And if we did this, it might not be as many resources, but we might get close to the same good effect.

So just naming that idea could lead you to have others.

The other thing is noticing things and people in our environment.

That will often give us very good ideas.

And we're so prone to evaluate, we think it.

And before we even write it down, we've already scratched it off the list because of one thing that feels like this isn't going to work, and we don't wanna do that yet.

That's step four, which is next.

So once you've got that good list, you're gonna look at it and some of those are going to clearly be more promising.

So let's say you came up with a list of 10.

My guess is there's a top three or four that stand out to you that it's worth putting more effort into now.

So then you start a thorough pro/con or advantages, disadvantages analysis for each of those options.

And this is another point where it's like, do it fully.

Come up with all the pros and all of the cons that you can think of.

And this can be a good thing to do with another person because they might think of ones that you didn't.

And you really wanna explore how to time what could be great, what could be a difficulty, and let's figure out which of these difficulties we can best tolerate, because every option is going to have some pros and cons.

And if you haven't identified any cons it's likely because you haven't looked downstream.

Well, it seems like it's great for me but it's going to be harder on this person.

or on that resource, or what have you.

So really fully exploring for each idea, the pros and cons, and writing them down.

And sometimes you won't be sure if it's a pro or a con.

I don't know how much it would cost to do this solution.

So that's when you need more data.

And as long as you can say, "This is the data I need. Here's how I'll go get it. Let me go get it," then it's okay to delay your decision.

That's not **dawdling if you really need that data.

That would be like saying, "Well, I need to do a functional analysis or a functional assessment before I develop my intervention plan." Yes, that's absolutely what you need to do.

You need that data.

So when you're doing the pro/con analysis, again, write it down.

Visuals help us.

And they kind of help us, instead of seeing it as this one drawback is gonna really affect my decision in spite of all the rest of it, it's all in front of us.

And so I like to not only make a pro/con list, but I like to split each of those in half or else make a grid where I also think about it in terms of the immediate pros and cons and the longterm pros and cons.

So those immediate pros and cons, typically that's what occurs to us real quick.

Oh, well this would happen or, oh, that might be a problem.

And those just pop right to mind, but there are often these long-term consequences of our choice, and we're not as likely to think about those unless we've specifically prompted ourselves.

So making that grid, writing down long term, makes us more likely to generate those options which then puts us closer and closer to a meaningful, balanced, realistic solution.

And so those long-term, particularly cons, but can also be pros, are often what we call downstream impact.

And this is also a term, it's really from environmental science and manufacturing.

So in environmental science, let's say some polluting event occurs near a stream, anything downstream of that point is gong to be affected by it.

That is the water travels.

It flows.

It takes those pollutants and contaminants.

It may affect what lives in the river, what relies on the water.

It could affect crops, various things.

Now that's literally downstream, but in so much of what we do in schools, in business, industry, we make some change.

And it not only has an immediate effect, other people get indirectly affected.

So that is this change, whatever it is, might not only impact, let's say, the student, but staff.

Could be customers if you have that kind of business, could be managers, other departments, families.

On the top what you see are the processes that could be influenced of, well, we make this change.

Variety of different changes have more impact than we think about it, and we may not realize the impact until six months later.

If there's ever been a change to an academic schedule for the school, then, oh my gosh, we see now suddenly my May looks different, my June looks different because of what happened in December or January.

So that longterm, what effect could there be, helps us minimize negative impact.

Well, doing that pro/con analysis is part of step four, but the next part is you gotta pick one.

And for those of us who are a little bit dawdley or procrastinator, this one's the hard one.

So now, oh my gosh, we've got multiple options on which one's going be best.

It could be, you've got multiple good options.

This analogy is you're at the restaurant and you love the food here, but you could only eat one meal.

And how are we, you know...

So hopefully you have someone at the table with you who's gonna do sharesies.

You get this one, I get that one.

We'll get a share plate.

But a lot of our solutions don't have that option.

We're gonna have to pick one and we're going to have to be careful that we don't go down the, "Let's just get more data. Let me just think about it." Pick an option when you get here and hold yourself accountable and self-monitor.

And if none of the options are good, choose to come up with better ones.

Bounce it back to step three, get some more people brainstorming with you, come up with better options.

But if there actually are viable options on the table, don't let yourself go down the hole of, let me just get more data, let me just get more information.

If you really were able to write out those pros and cons, then what you're really doing is delaying the point at which you might be wrong because nobody wants to be wrong.

Well, this is another one where like, don't worry about whether you're going to be wrong, sometimes you're going to be wrong.

(laughs) That's okay.

Step five is gonna take care of that.

That's where you evaluate and find out whether you were right or wrong.

So if you find yourself kind of thinking, "Well, let me just think about this a little longer," and you can't really describe what you're thinking about, you may have what's called analysis paralysis.

"Well, I have a lot of data.
Let me just think about it.
I'm gonna think about it some more."

And what that does, is it just delays trying something, and we already talked about doing nothing doesn't help.

So if you do have reasonable confidence that you generated good options and you linked it to the course, I did step one, I did step two, I did step three, I did step four and came up with the pro/cons, then please try the one that you think is best and you can always fix it as needed.

That kind of reluctance that we all feel that we might not do the right thing, it's predicated on that'll be the end of our option to do anything, and it almost never is.

Step five is evaluate how well it worked.

Try it and evaluate it.

And just be honest and forward looking.

How did it work?

What worked, what didn't?

And the thing is you can learn from something that doesn't work as much as you can learn from something that does work.

And as long as you view it as, well, that's just data, right?

I'm going try something, I'm gonna get data, see how well it worked, then I don't have to have all the answers.

I don't have to be perfect.

It can be okay to identify that it didn't work as well as I thought.

And what that means is like, oh, well, I hadn't predicted that downstream impact.

That was another con.

I now know a little more than I knew before.

And I'm gonna go back to my step three options or perhaps I realize there's a whole nother cause here that I didn't know about, and I'm gonna go back to step two.

The rest of the process doesn't go away if you need it.

And so we generally kind of have this tendency to avoid data that suggests that our strategy didn't work well, especially if we think of it as my strategy, or our strategy, or our solution.

And our language affects how we think and what we do so much.

How many decades have we talked about refining how we talk about the wonderful individuals that we're lucky enough to serve?

And that different ways that we talk, whether it's person first and you're a fan of that or it's a different way and you're a fan of that, it influences how we think about things.

So if you think about it as the strategy, that gives you a little perspective.

This is the strategy, we thought it through, we're trying it, and we're gonna see if it works.

It is not you or yours that you have to identify as broken or failed.

It just may be that that strategy was an ill-suited strategy, and the quicker we know it, boom!

We've just early detected a problem, so we're back at step one, work the plan.

So as long as you know you're always going to do step five, I'm gonna implement something and I'm gonna see how it worked, you don't have to be caught in that paralysis of what if I do the wrong thing?

You know the answer to that.

I'll figure it out as quickly as I can and change course.

So for me, that really helps me to have confidence to go ahead and give it that try whatever it might be.

And that's not the same as impulsivity, right?

It's really about these five steps are going to put me in the best position to succeed now and later.

And if step five told me it didn't work as well as it could, that just means finding that out early is step one.

(laughs) I just detected it didn't go as well as it could, let me work step two, let me work step three.

So by working this process, you can kinda put yourself in a position where you don't have to think of problems negatively.

Problems become opportunity to figure things out.

And each time you solve a problem particularly using a systematic approach like this, the better you get at solving problems.

So new problems, even though they will have similarities and differences, this same approach will become ever more fluent.

And that can help you be more confident to be the smoke detector, the early finder of problems.

Now, the book does include an appendix that's a problem-solving worksheet.

So it actually walks you through solving a problem.

So you can do it with multiple people who are your problem solvers.

Maybe it's you, your supervisee, supervisor.

Could it be an entire IEP team, but it walks you through step one.

And you're gonna write your answer here.

I hope you guys can see my little cursor, but here are the reminders of all of the different questions that might help you recognize that they're something to focus on.

Here's step two defining it.

What does it look like?

For whom is it a problem?

What are those environmental conditions and the result of the problem?

Then generating the solutions, doing that brainstorm, focus on the similarities and the difference.

And then here is that pro/con analysis with the long-term and short-term distinction.

And you've got space to evaluate four to five different solutions.

So these questions are different versions of everything we've said here, but basically they serve as that reminder to these are the things I need to consider, now do this part of it.

And then here's step five.

This is planning to evaluate it.

Who's gonna implement it?

For how long?

How are we gonna evaluate?

How long will it take us to really know whether this is working?

Let's say you develop a behavior intervention plan.

Well, the first day it tells you something, but it surely doesn't tell you everything, does it?

You really are going to need to be evaluating that for a while before you can be very confident that you've got a great plan or that your plan needs tweaking.

How will I know if it worked or not?

What is it that I would think would change?

Now, let's say it's a behavior intervention plan.

Well, you know that perhaps the thing you're already measuring of the occurrence or what have you of problem behavior, that's what you expect to change.

But what if you're trying to solve a problem associated with the distribution of the team, or workload, or what have you, then what is it that might change?

Would it be that people are feeling less stressed?

Would it be that the people we serve somehow are having better outcomes?

Whatever it might be working through, how will I know if it's working?

And what are some things that I might even pay attention to to make sure that I didn't have any unintended effects or outcomes?

That's that early detection.

And then how might I modify the solution or do I need another one and I go back through the process?

Serving Children & Youth Who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing/Blind or Visually Impaired