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Meet Kirstin Hall of Touchstone Educational Consultants

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kirstin Hall.

Kirstin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
A native to San Diego, I have been working with children with developmental delays for 15 years. I started providing behavior services based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) while attending San Diego State University and I was captivated by the immense progress the children made. As a result, I decided to pursue my master’s degree and post-graduate board certification in Behavior Analysis. I consulted privately for families and other agencies in San Diego and across the country before starting my own agency in a much under-served area of Northern California. After three years, I sold my agency and returned to my hometown of San Diego, helping other companies start up ABA services. After seeing the great need for quality, family-centered ABA services, I decided to once again start an agency of my own. We are five months in and already have a full caseload, with new referrals calling in every week!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I was initially intimidated by the idea of branching out on my own but my husband, a self-employed graduate of the University of Southern California’s entrepreneur program, encouraged me to do so. His support has been essential to my success.

One challenge I faced as a private consultant and as a business owner is the lack of colleagues with which to collaborate. Establishing a strong network of fellow clinicians and other business owners over the years has been immensely helpful.

Something I have learned that it is one thing to be a great clinician, but it is another to know how to run a business. I often see other Behavior Analysts trying to start out on their own, with the best intentions, but it takes quite a bit of research, a variety of skills, vast experience, determination and courage to start a business. It is definitely not for everyone!

Unfortunately, the rapid increase of Autism diagnoses over recent years and insurance mandates to cover services has attracted many fly-by-night, greedy and unscrupulous businesses. As a result, a large number of families have been subjected to inexperienced, uncaring, and, ultimately, ineffective service providers. This has damaged the reputation of ABA services and created an uphill battle for those of us who are truly committed to providing quality care.

A recent challenge I have faced is a lack of professional, dedicated and loyal employees. I take great care in how I match my team members and families. I do not simply hire anyone for the sake of increasing business, so I have always strived to create a supportive and collaborative culture, resulting in a lower than usual turnover rate for my industry. However, I have recently experienced interview no-shows, people who quit via text and (allegedly) experienced employees who conducted themselves in a terribly unprofessional manner.

We are certain there are committed and professional people in San Diego seeking to join a great team but we have struggled to find them.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Touchstone Educational Consultants story. Tell us more about the business.
Touchstone Educational Consultants provides one-on-one educational and behavior services in the home and community settings, based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), to children and adults with behavior challenges and/or developmental delays (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder). Our mission is to guide and support individuals by designing, implementing, and eventually fading quality, individualized evidence-based programs.

We feel it is our duty to support families in their pursuit to improve their quality of life and to lead their children further down the path toward independence. We strive for each family to feel they are not alone, that they are a priority, and to feel reassured they will not become lost in the shuffle. Touchstone specializes in the advocacy of the child, the education and support of the family, and the promotion of effective Applied Behavior Analysis practice.

One thing that sets us apart from other agencies is that we are a locally owned agency that offers a highly supportive and collaborative environment. We do not utilize complicated corporate policies implemented by out of touch directors thousands of miles away. Our Executive Director is an experienced, hands-on clinician, and the team helps create procedures for the agency, together. We believe that when we truly support our team members, they support our families, and the success of our families is our number one priority, not the financial gain of the shareholders.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I have had the luck of timing on multiple occasions. Before I started my first agency in Northern California, there were so few providers that I was asked for help by the local social services agency. As I was getting started, I was called upon to provide some consulting for another local company owner and when he learned what I did, he became fascinated and asked to invest in my company.

Once when I was attending a conference, hundreds of miles from home, I saw the CEO of a very large agency (and competitor of mine at the time). I had heard many great things about him but never met him so I decided to introduce myself and, seeing he was alone, invited him to join me and my family for lunch. We became friends and have been friends ever since.

Life is funny. We often have an image in our minds as to how things are supposed to go and when we see things start to travel in a different direction, we panic and struggle to get things back on (our) course. But when we let go and let things take their course, things often work out even better than we had imagined! I have found that is when I have been the luckiest.

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Image Credit:
A. Gold
E. Molina

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