BBehavior analyst Katy Mattern considers her and her team to be pioneers in bringing applied behavior analysis to the Yakima Valley.
Applied behavior analysis aims to make gradual, yet socially meaningful changes that help people feel safe and happy in a given environment, such as school. It has many applications, but Mattern specializes in working with K-12 students.
It rejects previously used punishment-based systems that attempt to change a person’s behavior. Instead, it’s one-on-one time between the child and the analyst, Mattern said. Behavior analysts teach the person coping skills.
Mattern and his team work with students with the most critical needs that exceed what their home schools are able to meet. Often these students are about to be placed in residential treatment centers. The goal is to get them safely back into a general education environment, Mattern said.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of this work, she said. With many adults in survival mode, children didn’t always get what they needed from the people in their lives. Mattern and his team continued their service work during the pandemic.
In his leadership role, Mattern spends much of his time consulting with districts in Yakima and Kittitas counties. She also hired and trained new behavioral technicians to work with children.
Mattern comes from a family of educators but never expected to enter the field herself. She said she first took the path of clinical psychology. But after earning a degree in psychology from Washington State University, she worked odd jobs and returned to school to earn her bachelor’s degree in education from City University of Seattle.
She worked as an elementary school teacher in Wapato, where she met a woman working as a behavior analyst. Mattern saw an opportunity to combine her love of psychology with her career in education and became a board-certified behavior analyst.
Mattern is passionate about her field and spends time educating others about it and always learning more about it. She said she spends her free time in online group discussions about applied behavior analysis and listens to psychology podcasts. She also advocated for expanded access to these services.
“It’s been five years and I’m just starting to really see that ball rolling,” she said.
His hard work expanded the field locally. She said one of her proudest moments was seeing two women she helped train step onto the court.
Yet the Yakima Valley exists in a processing desert, Mattern said. She said much more needs to be done to expand access to applied behavior analysis.
She said that in the future, she would like to see more people learn about Applied Behavior Analysis and enter the field. She would like to see a full clinic at ESD 105 for students who need these services.
Mattern said working with students and seeing their growth is the most rewarding part of her career, especially when students share their good habits with others. For her, no one is beyond help. Through Applied Behavior Analysis, everyone can learn new skills to help them cope with the stresses of life.
“Applied behavior analysis can, in my opinion, really save the world,” she said.
Profession: Behavioral Support Program Manager at Educational Services District 105