The Public School BCBA’s Summer Bucket List

By Jennifer Fisahn, M.Ed, BCBA

bSci21 Contributing Writer

‘Twas the morning after the last day of school,

One creature was stirring, it was a public school BCBA relaxing in his or her pool;

The colorful towels were folded with care,

While Caribbean tunes floated through the air;

When out in the periphery a vision was caught,

Of a bright yellow sand bucket which prompted a thought:

“Aha! Perhaps I can make a summer bucket list!” the BCBA exclaimed.

“Ideas and activities that support my public school program will be named!”

For a fleeting second the BCBA pondered,

“The sand bucket thing – was that joint control or Relational Frame Theory? Hmmm…I wonder!”

Just then an inner-voice whispered, “Stay on track!  You must persist!

You can certainly add THAT to your summer bucket list!”

As the BCBA swiftly doggie-paddled out of sight;

He or she chortled and sang, “Happy productive summer to all!  Now it’s time for me to write!”

When the school year ends, most of us are already thinking about what we can improve upon for next year.  Whether you are a BCBA also wearing the classroom teacher hat, or a BCBA providing support to numerous teachers throughout the district, there are probably a million and one things that you would like to accomplish over summer break!  Below are eight bucket list suggestions that can help to sharpen your summer focus.  While some of these suggestions may not relate to your specific public school role, perhaps they will spark some creativity as you generate your own summer bucket list. 

1.  Visit the Practical Functional Assessment website. You’ve been hearing about the functional assessment process that relies on open-ended interviewing followed by a functional analysis for some time now. The summer months provide the perfect opportunity to pore over the Practical Functional Assessment website which includes video tutorials, publications, interview forms, and parent resources. The content is written, edited, and managed by Gregory Hanley, Ph.D., BCBA-D. 

2.  Construct an assessment kit that goes along with a criterion-referenced language assessment of your choice.  Commercially-produced assessment kits can be expensive!  Many of the items contained in these kits can be found on the shelves and in the closets of public school classrooms.  It’s like finding buried treasure! Take inventory and gather the treasure (materials) that satisfy each skill assessed.  Bag the materials and label them accordingly to allow for more efficient and accurate administration of language assessments.  Organize the bags on a small ‘rolly’ cart so that the assessment kit can make its way around, leaving smiling faces in its wake!

3.  Gather 180 ABA memes to add some flair (and levity) to each of the 180 school days. After surfing the waves for a bit, return to your beach chair and surf the web for hilarious memes that were obviously written for you and the people that you work with.  Save your favorites and use them during the school year to ensure that each day starts with a few giggles!  Suggestions include posting them on your daily staff communication board or including them in your daily email.  However you use them, be sure to have fun with them!

4.  Create materials that support the use of video modeling to teach play/leisure skills. You have wanted to do this for years (literally).  Now is your chance!  Video modeling can be used to teach a multitude of play skills including setting up, engaging in play scenes, and reciprocal play.  Before you get started, read this informative blog post regarding video modeling (Blanco, 2016) and check out this sample toy car garage video model (Kelly, 2012).

5.  Download and listen to ABA podcasts while you engage in your ‘exercise’ bucket list items this summer.  You know that ‘other’ summer bucket list that you have?  The one that starts something like this: I will run/walk at the park/reservoir/high school track/boardwalk every single day of my summer break. Make this task more palatable by exercising your brain at the same time!  Go to The Behavioral Observations Podcast with Matt Cicoria for an entertaining source of behavior analytic information in an interview-based format.  Be prepared for every run/walk this summer by downloading the podcasts prior to lacing up!  You can find them on iTunes and Stitcher.    

6.  List possible artifacts that you (or the teachers you work with) can use to satisfy teacher evaluation portfolio requirements.  No, this requirement did not go away!  As BCBAs, we must learn about the requirements that affect public school teachers so that we are better prepared to help in meaningful ways.  One of these requirements is a portfolio that showcases a commitment to the teaching profession and the ability to carry out professional responsibilities.  Consider obtaining district-specific documents that provide guidelines for creating and managing teacher evaluation portfolios.  Brainstorm and list possible artifacts that can be used to best highlight the behavior analytic skill sets and professional responsibilities of the teachers that you work with. 

7.  Search the web for time-efficient videos, podcasts, and documents that can serve as reinforcement for staff training.  For those of you working in public schools with an infinite number of training hours at your disposal, feel free to skip this bucket list item.  For the rest of you, read on! With a large staff of teachers and paraprofessionals, there is likely to be a wide range of experience regarding the implementation of behavior analytic programs.  Some staff members may need further instruction in carrying out multi-step discrete trial programs, while other staff members are still trying to pin down what the acronym ABA stands for.  Starting with the latter group, gather links of short videos, podcasts, and documents that can support training needs. Copy the links into a document that can be housed on the desktop of a classroom computer for quick access.  The classroom teacher can schedule short blocks of time in which staff can view the material.  Here are some fabulous finds to get you started!

History of ABA – Dr. Johnathan Tarbox (Autism Live, 2012).

History of ABA – Dr. Johnathan Tarbox – Part 2 (Autism Live, 2012).

Seven Dimensions of ABA: Defined by Behaviorbabe (Kelly, 2012).

8.  Create concise posters that can be hung on classroom walls to provide practice opportunities, prompts, and important information to staff.  Let’s help our staff to help themselves!  Posters that provide relevant (and helpful) information can provide prompts to staff throughout the day. Posters created can be classroom-specific to meet individual staff needs.  Suggestions include posters of the verbal operants, prompting procedures, error correction procedures, and student reinforcers.  Get started this summer and create templates that can be modified in September.  Check out this past article for more information on how to best utilize the classroom walls.

What are you waiting for?  Create your very own BCBA summer bucket list and let us know what you check off in the comments below! Also, consider subscribing to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!


Autism Live (2012, January 20). Dr. Tarbox’s history of ABA, pt. one – Skills Live, Ep.

     71. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Autism Live (2012, January 20). Dr. Tarbox’s history of ABA, pt. two – Skills Live, Ep.

     71. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Blanco, S. (2016, June 2). Tip of the week: How to make the most of smartphones and

     tablets in video modeling. [Web log]. Retrieved from


Kelly, A.N. (2012, July 19). Seven dimensions of ABA: Defined by Behaviorbabe

     [Video file]. Retrieved from

Kelly, A.N. [Behaviorbabe]. (2012, July 12). Video model: Toy car garage [Video file].

     Retrieved from

Jennifer FishanJennifer Fisahn, M.Ed., BCBA has worked with individuals with autism and their families for seventeen years.  She is a certified Teacher of the Handicapped, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®), and parent of a child with autism.  Jennifer has public school experience teaching preschool through high-school aged students as well as extensive experience as a school district consultant, direct service provider and supervisor for home-based ABA programs.  She currently serves as the training coordinator for the Foundation for Autism Training and Education (FATE) and conducts workshops on the topics of ABA and autism.  Jennifer regularly contributes to a resource-rich blog for teachers, therapists, and caregivers and also created the S.T.A.R.S. Network, a group aimed at supporting teachers and paraprofessionals working with individuals with autism.  You can contact her at [email protected].

1 Comment on "The Public School BCBA’s Summer Bucket List"

  1. Jennifer, thanks for the shout out! I guess it also goes without saying to catch up on bSci21 articles as well….

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