This month, we got to know Jason and Julia Gilbert, the husband and wife team behind Wellspring Behavior Consulting, LLC. Together they have a combined total of 26 years of experience as board-certified behavior analysts, and nearly five years as the team behind Wellspring Behavior. We learned about their work with young children on the autism spectrum, the thrilling “firsts” they experience, and talk about some of the truths and misunderstandings of an autism diagnosis.
Tell us about your company and what you do?
Jason: We do in-home behavior therapy for children on the autism spectrum. We also work with school districts to do behavior interventions for students who have struggles, but most of what we do is based in the home and with families.
Julia: It’s mostly early intervention with kids under three that are identified as being at risk—not having an autism diagnosis yet but having some type of delay.
And what is the specific field that you specialize in?
Jason: We are board-certified behavior analysts. It’s a field that works with the diagnosis of autism the most.
What is the process when you work with someone?
Julia: We will go in and meet with the family, and then run an assessment to see what skills the child already has. Then, we develop goals to address the deficit areas. We usually prioritize communication.
Jason: And self-help skills.
Julia: The things that we look at are communication, socialization, and self-help skills.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Jason: I get to act like a three-year-old a lot of the time, laying on the floor and playing with them, so that’s always fun, to be goofy with the kids.
Julia: We see a lot of firsts—first words—it’s part of the coolest thing, that we’re part of the process of helping them learn those things.
And you have your own children also?
Julia: Yes, we have two—ages six and two.
Do you use some of the same techniques with your own kids?
Julia: (laughing) We try.
Jason: There are times when it goes out of the window when we get home. Most BTs would say something of the kind—we have friends who are in the field and we’ve talked about it. We all have a similar perspective, that we try, but life happens, so it’s all something of a balancing act.
How do people find your services?
Julia: We get referrals through the Regional Center, and then insurance companies and then the school districts. The Regional Center is a nonprofit organization through the state of California, grouped by county. They coordinate services for individuals with developmental delays across the board. They provide support services to kids with cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism—the list is exhaustive—and they are an agency that can be with a person from birth through adulthood, to coordinate services, get families in touch with things that are out there in the community that is available to them. It’s unique to California.
Jason: Most of the time when people get insurance referrals, they get a list of providers and then they have to cold call, unfortunately. We do get some that are somewhat directed toward us, and the Regional Center sends us referrals directly. The Regional Center has the At-Risk program that we’re a part of, and that’s relatively new, for the under-threes, if they are identified as being at risk and they are in the program, we can provide services.
You’re married. Can you tell us a bit about how you met and how Wellspring Behavioral came into existence?
Jason: We met at work, and then branched out to different companies. We ended up working back together again after several years, but we wanted to start the company for years so then we took the leap. We started in 2015, and we both have our teams and work together, but in different areas.
Do you find that you talk about work a lot at home?
Julia: We do– obviously we have other things to talk about as well—we have two kids and a lot of other stuff going on, but it’s definitely easier to relate. It’s better for the bad days because one of us can reassure the other one about something, help them remember it’s not that big of a deal because they understand inherently what’s going on.
What is something about your company that someone on the outside wouldn’t know, that you wish they would?
Jason: We do operate a little differently than some of the other vendors in the area in that we’re very family-oriented and parent-oriented. The methodology that we use is child-led, so it’s more play-based and meant to be more engaging for the child. We really emphasize parent involvement, which can be slightly different. I think everybody does it, but we emphasize it a lot. We’ve always joked in the field that our goal is to work ourselves out of a job, but that’s literally what we’re trying to do. We try to teach the parents to do what we do so that they don’t need us anymore.
Where do you see your business in five years?
Julia: Growing, sustainably. We’re not trying to bring on a lot of clients and then staff it after the fact. We want to make sure we have people, good people, in place before we have the clients for them, but yes, we see a lot of growth, expanding to different areas, either in California or branching out to other states.
How many people are on your team right now?
Jason: There are six of us in total.
How did you choose Business Workspaces?
Julia: We needed a place where we could have an address, and we needed more privacy because of the information we deal with. We were attracted to a space like Business Workspaces because we don’t need a large office—we’re hardly here– but we needed a landing spot. And it’s nice when we do have clients come to the office—it’s a nice presentation for them to come into.
Do you have a favorite book that you recommend or gift to people?
Jason and Julia (almost in unison): The PRT Pocket Guide (by Robert L. Koegel Ph.D. and Lynn Kern Koegel Ph.D., CCC-SLP).
Jason: PRT is Pivotal Response Therapy, which is the specific treatment that we build around. It’s written for parents so it’s helpful for them to understand what we do.
Julia: Or there are All Cats have Aspergers Syndrome (by Kathy Hoopman). That’s more of a joke really—but it’s this really cute book for kids to explain how everyone’s just a little bit different and to explain how autism traits are shown in cats.
Jason: There’s a lot of social things that cats do that kind of pairs up with some traits.
What do you think of some of the autism spectrum stereotypes presented in television shows or movies (i.e. Rain Man, or The Big Bang Theory)?
Julia: That’s actually a common question. Autism is a spectrum, so it presents differently in everybody. Those highlight the more traditional traits that people think of when they think of autism—they highlight intelligence, the number affinities. It’s a narrow perspective on what the spectrum can look like.
Jason: It goes from kids who can’t talk, who have to be facilitated through everything, to people like Sheldon Cooper (a character on The Big Bang Theory), who is super smart and just have some social hang-ups. It’s such a broad spectrum.
Any favorite hobbies or activities?
Julia: We like to travel. Locally, we love Tahoe. It’s a special place for both of us.
Favorite trips or places to visit?
Jason: We just came back from Cabo, actually. Barcelona.
Julia: They’re all so different, great in different ways.
Best moment in your job?
Jason: There’s one thing—this is one of the things that has always held me in the field– I was working with a kid who came into the program without talking at all. There was a day, right around the time he graduated out of the program, he asked me a question about nuclear physics. He was about five at the time. I always remember that and thinking wow, I remember when he didn’t even talk.