Kelle Wood Rich is the founder, owner and executive director of the Central Texas Autism Center (CTAC), the first Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy center in Central Texas. Through her lifelong passion for working with children and adults with Autism, Rich has developed an impressive track record. She has her Master’s degree in education, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and was mentored for over a decade by Dr. Vince Carbone, BCBA-D who is a well-known behavior analyst. In her capacity as the owner of CTAC, Rich has provided consulting services to hundreds of school districts throughout Texas. She also holds positions on several related boards and committees.
Rich first developed an interest in working with children with Autism as a senior in high school. She carried that interest forward into her Undergraduate studies and graduated from Texas Christian University in 1992 with a Bachelor’s of Science in the Study of Exceptional Students.
After graduation, Rich taught elementary school students within the Carrollton-Farmer’s Branch Independent School District. The Down’s Syndrome and Autism Society of Texas recognized Rich’s abilities in the classroom and nominated her for the “teacher of the year” award. In 1995, Rich decided to continue her studies. She began graduate school at Syracuse University based in Rome, Italy, and then transferred to the University of North Texas. She was awarded her M.Ed in Behavioral Interventions in 1996.
Kelle Wood Rich continued to pursue her specialty through advanced certification programs. She became a Texas Certified Behavior Analyst (CBA) in 1999, and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) one year later, the first year of the exam. Rich settled in Austin in 2003, the same year in which she entered into a Ph.D. program with the University of Texas and founded CTAC. She left her Ph.D. program in 2005 so that she could focus on CTAC and her own family, both of which were overgrowing.
Today, she develops and contributes to many programs offered by CTAC, and provides consulting to academic institutions throughout Texas. She serves on boards and committees including the Professional Board of the Autism Society of Texas and the Public Policy Group of the Texas Association of Behavior Analysis. She is an invited speaker at many professional conferences around the country.
What motivated you to start the Central Texas Autism Center?
I had been traveling around the country serving families and school districts for many years. I saw a lack of resources in my own state of Texas for people with Autism, both adults, and children. I wanted to focus on developing quality programming and quality professionals in my own hometown. I knew how well ABA and especially the Verbal Behavior Approach worked. I saw it transform people’s lives, and I wanted to give more people access to quality therapy.
What has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
My time when working with Dr. Carbone; he is an amazing behavior analyst and one of the best teachers in the world. His mentorship in verbal behavior programming has been invaluable.
What is one thing you want people to know about your business?
I think it is important for people to know that ABA is for everyone, any age, any ability and it is never too late to learn. That is why we offer services from the time of diagnosis through the lifespan. We work with learners and their families in the center, in their homes, schools and throughout the community.
Is there anything that you do on a daily basis which helps you succeed as a business owner?
I set my intentions for each day through prayer and organize my thoughts in my calendar or email myself a list. This keeps me centered, focused and motivated. It’s not a formal exercise, sometimes it takes place in the car driving to work, sometimes it’s as short as a minute, but it’s an important start to my day.
Can you share some tips for educators?
Yes. There is a science and technology to our teaching. Learning the principles of ABA can help make teachers and their students more successful, which is the reason they probably got into teaching in the first place, to make a difference. ABA can be effectively implemented in the classroom setting. We offer workshops that teach the foundations of behavior reduction, what curriculums to use, effective teaching procedures, data collection, classroom organization, choosing a communication system and more.
What knowledge or strategies are you most passionate about teaching?
All of them! I do love teaching children that do not have a functional communication system in place. It is so exciting to see them learn that first sign or vocalization and make that connection that communication has to mean and gets them results.
What are you currently interested in and why?
Outside of the research, we are conducting at CTAC, I am very excited about our Bridges Program. We designed this building and program specifically for the needs of our older learners on the spectrum. Autism is a lifelong disability and the challenges that people with Autism face evolve as they grow. I’ve been very interested in teaching texting and email etiquette to our young adults. This grew out of some experiences we had with a former student that we hired as a part-time employee. She had some inappropriate text exchanges with some other employees and myself that were unrelated to us, it was a behavior she engaged in when she was anxious about something at home. When you start to teach all the social nuances of texting, you realize this is a very complex skill. You have to teach discrimination skills of what is appropriate to say to your boss vs. your friend. And the timing of texts, when to respond and when does it end? What is the protocol if someone does not respond to your text? Just to name a few.