MSLBD Fun and Learning

This year on February 23rd through the 25th, ESU 5’s Special Education Director, Dr. Matt McNiff, Behavior Consultant Barbara Gross, and MTSS Coordinator Dr. Regina Oliver made their annual pilgrimage to the behavior bonanza that is the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders (MSLBD).  This year was special in that Dr. Oliver was one of four “Ted Talk-style” keynote speakers, while Ms.Gross and Dr. McNiff presented breakout sessions on functional behavior assessment and behavior intervention plans, respectively.  Additionally, several ESU 5 teachers and staff took the trip to learn all things behavior and to be better prepared for managing student challenges. All three ESU 5 staff serve on the planning committee, while Dr. McNiff was a founding member of the practitioner-friendly Master Teacher sub-committee and is a current member along with Ms. Gross.  

This national conference, per their website, has the following goals:

Number 1
Challenging the Audience.

We want an audience who wants to know about the latest developments in the field, the controversial topics, and areas where they can be challenged intellectually, as well as professionally to change and grow. Providing "basic training" for practitioners is not a primary goal.

Number 2
"Top of the line," "Emerging" Ideas and Thinkers.

We make the ideas the most crucial part of the program. Our own intellectual and professional stimulation is the best barometer of quality. We want innovative and creative views which may cut across disciplines.

Number 3
Unique, Creative Formats for the Delivery of Ideas.

We attempt a range of creative formats such as formal debates, conversations with historical figures (George Orwell in 1984; interviews with Sigmund Freud, Carl Rogers, Voltaire and Virginia Wolf), a courtroom drama on educational malpractice where the audience served as jury; joint lectures with media presentation; and more recently, short TED-Talk-like presentations.

Number 4
Interaction and Networking.

We permit people to interact and get to know each other- to build professional contacts, and collegiality across roles and disciplines. This has occurred in the diverse programs offered, informal networking, as well as the organized social activities.

ESU 5 staff contribute annually as experts, presenters, and participants at this symposium as members of the Master Teacher and planning committee.

The popularity of presentations by ESU 5 staff members is apparent by their large audience attendance and reputation for providing practical and evidence-based strategies that are easy to use on “Monday morning”. 

For the behavior “nerdist”, MSLBD is a smorgasbord of some of the greatest minds in evidenced-based behavior research as well as in practice.  This year, Dr. Vern Jones and Dr Al “Skip” Greenwood, former educators, professors, researchers, and authors of Effective Supports for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: A Continuum of Services, not only presented a half-day session, but sat with ESU 5-area teachers and staff in an impromptu roundtable discussion later in the day to help build behavior programs for our student with the most behavior challenges.  It was so inspiring to look around the table at so many laser-focused, like-minded professionals, who shared the common goal of student behavior and how to become better advocates and teachers for our students. 

While attending MSLBD is often challenging for districts struggling to find teacher substitutes, for those teachers who primarily work with students with challenging behaviors it is vital that they are able to build those connections and relationships with their peers. It is our hope that over the next few years we are able to advocate for more of our ESU 5 practitioners to attend this uplifting and educational event.

Dr. Regina Oliver presenting her keynote address, Telling Isn’t Teaching, Saying Isn’t Doing, to a crowd of over one-thousand conference attendees.

Dr. Oliver presenting

Dr. Matt McNiff presented his breakout session, Creating a Behavior Intervention Plan That You Can “Wow” Your Friends With on Monday Morning, to over two-hundred attendees, who apparently sat in the back because no one likes the front!


Dr. McNiff presenting


Written by: Barbara Gross

I am so grateful that the ESU had so many specialists to work with my son, because now I know what to do to help my child with autism. The speech pathologist and occupational therapist from the ESU have allowed him to gain more than I ever expected him to. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
The best part of working at ESU 5 is the people I work with!
ESU 5 Staff Member
ESU 5 is a wonderful place to work! My co-workers are helpful, friendly and supportive.
ESU 5 Staff Member