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Inspiring Conversations with Cheryl Reiser

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cheryl Reiser.

Hi Cheryl, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born and raised in outside the city of Detroit. I did not begin working with Developmental Disabilities until I participated in an internship through my undergraduate program in Ann Arbor. I was so scared yet excited at the same time. At the time, there were no programs for Applied Behavior Analysis only something called Behavior Modification or Behavior “Mod”. This sounded cool for a 20-year-old growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

By the time the internship was over, I knew then that I wanted to work not only with people with disabilities but people with challenging behavior problems as well. I moved to Florida and worked about one year through the closing of Sunland Orlando. Sunland Orlando was filled with scary hallways, tunnels, and basements. Sunland was one of Florida’s Institutions for adults and even children with developmental disabilities. Patient’s beds lined up alongside of each wall. There were 20-30 beds one right after another. The clients had no privacy, no choices and certainly no rights. I honestly believe that I cried everyday over something I saw, smelled, or heard. My family said, “come home”. I thought about it for about a minute and said, no I want to make sure that every patient here is placed somewhere better than Sunland.

Even though the building had a scheduled closing date, I continued (along with about five other Behavior Program Specialists, as we were called) running 15-minute trials throughout the day with my caseload of 8-10. We worked on “eye gouging”, “projectile vomiting”, “feces eating and smearing” and “headbanging” that was so intense the tile floors would crack. We worked on the most intense behaviors imaginable, but I found, with these problem behaviors, I was in my element. It was so heartbreaking, but I felt I could make a difference. The hospital successfully closed, moving all the patients to group homes called “clusters”. Years later, the facility was condemned for their unethical practices of housing individuals with disabilities with reports of rape, abuse, and ongoing neglect. I returned to school to obtain my master’s degree in human services administration from Nova Southeastern University in the 1980s. Nova was not offering degrees in ABA at that time. I worked on my master’s degree while I worked with a Behavioral Agency located in Stuart Florida. This was a return to an environment of challenging behaviors in a Day Program setting. It was here where I was asked if I wanted to go through the CBA Coursework and sit for a State Exam for the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis. I agreed and was the only one who passed in my group of six who took the coursework and exam together.

ABA had already become my passion. I began working for Dr. Sherrie Titus, BCBA-D, one of my favorite people and mentor. She taught me so much more about Behavior Analysis and even encouraged me to open my own practice. I wanted to become more skilled in Behavior Analysis, at this time Dr. Martinez at FIT was offering coursework for what was now called the BCBA Exam. I was interested in all the above. I took the coursework through FIT on site with Dr. Martinez, who was an incredible instructor. I opened Strategies, Inc. in January of 2000. I opened the office in a building less than 500 square feet and started with one client. Once I hit ten clients, I knew I needed more help. I began hiring one person at a time. Today we are located in a beautiful building located in Port Orange Florida, employing/contracting with approximately 90 staff consisting of BCBAs, BCaBAs, RBTS, Clinical Leads, and our terrific Office Staff. We continued to grow and in January of 2019, we expanded our services to the kids of Baltimore, Maryland. Today we see families and kids all over the state of Maryland and Central to North Florida. I believe we are out there making a difference.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The field of ABA is very rewarding but not always lucrative. Funding mostly comes from the State or Local governments. Along the way, the laws have changed toward the funding for children with Autism. In prior years, there was limited if any funding for early intervention but with research and the growth of ABA, these laws have vastly changed. However, there are still many families continue to fight for medically necessary services every single day across this country. The most significant change that came about was to get our infants and toddlers the early intervention services that is needed. The sooner a child can receive needed services such as ABA, the more likely these children will learn a great many skills they would have never grasped at age 21.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Strategies, Inc. is an Applied Behavior Analysis company based in Port Orange, FL and Baltimore, MD. Owned and operated by Cheryl Reiser, MS, BCBA since January of year 2000 when she decided to open her own agency so she could make a larger impact in the special needs community. Since opening in the year 2000, Strategies, Inc. has provided services to over 3000 clients and their families.

Strategies, Inc. believes that each client is capable of making positive changes in their behavior to live a more productive lifestyle. Currently, Strategies, Inc. serves approximately 300 clients and employs over 60 staff members.

What we CAN do:
Assist caregivers with strategies for behavior change.
Train Parents/Guardians to handle difficult situations.
Provide resources for additional therapies.
Create individualized motivational techniques.
Encourage positive social interaction out in the community.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis you ask. Behavior analysis is the science of behavior, with a history extending back to the early 20th century. Its underlying philosophy is behaviorism, which is based upon the premise that attempting to improve the human condition through behavior change (e.g., education, behavioral health treatment) will be most effective if behavior itself is the primary focus rather than less tangible concepts such as the mind and willpower. To date, basic behavior-analytic scientists have conducted thousands of studies to identify the laws of behavior; that is, the predictable ways in which behavior is learned and how it changes over time. The underlying theme of much of this work has been that behavior is a product of its circumstances, particularly the events that immediately follow the behavior. Applied behavior analysts have been using this information to develop numerous techniques and treatment approaches for analyzing and changing behavior, and ultimately, to improve lives. Because this approach is largely based on behavior and its consequences, the techniques generally involve teaching individuals more effective ways of behaving and making changes to social consequences of existing behavior. ABA has been shown to be effective in a wide variety of areas, including parent training, substance abuse treatment, dementia management, brain injury rehabilitation, occupational safety intervention, among others. However, because ABA was first applied to the treatment of individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism, this practice area has the largest evidence base and has received the most recognition.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
The city is welcoming to new business. We opened our doors to Maryland and we were immediately flooded with referrals and kids who need help. Families are thirsty for knowledge and information on how to help their children with the Autism Diagnosis.

The city is poor, so this makes it difficult for some children and their families to participate. They may not have the technology or knowledge to know where to go, who to call or website to visit. We try to focus our efforts (pre-pandemic) on local events where we can get word out on what ABA is and how to access it.

Contact Info:

  • Email: cherylreiser@StrategiesincABA.com
  • Website: www.StrategiesincABA.com
  • Instagram: strategies_inc
  • Facebook: Strategies Inc

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