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Meet Stuart Ablon of Think:Kids in The West End

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stuart Ablon.

Stuart, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Think:Kids was started in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital to help spread an innovative new approach to helping kids with behavioral challenges. The approach, which runs counter to conventional wisdom, was showing remarkable results in homes and schools across North America, but few people knew about it. In the past ten years, we have been able to grow the organization such that we now reach hundreds of thousands of kids and families. Our approach, called Collaborative Problem Solving, is now taught in homes, schools, treatment programs, and correctional facilities right in our backyard and across the continent.

Has it been a smooth road?
Of course not! Finding the growth capital to scale a non-profit like ours is challenging, We were fortunate to receive early support from grateful families and local foundations. Most recently, we benefited from the strategic guidance of a social venture fund that partners with outstanding leaders with game-changing ideas to improve the lives of children and families in Massachusetts.

The other struggle has been simply changing people’s mindsets about why kids exhibit behavioral challenges in the first place and thus what to do about it. Most people think kids misbehave on purpose in order to get and avoid things. But lots of research has shown these kids lack the skill, not the will, to behave well. That game-changing idea is the foundation of all our work, but shifting people’s thinking is never easy. Even though conventional wisdom is almost always wrong, it doesn’t change easily!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Think:Kids story. Tell us more about it.
What sets us apart at Think:Kids, is the underlying philosophy of our work. We believe that “kids do well if they can” as opposed to “kids do well if they want to.” In other words, we believe all kids want to do well, and those that aren’t, it is not for lack of trying. If they could do well, they would do well! We are proud that we not only preach this philosophy, but we live it ourselves in our work with our partner programs. We work hard to collaborate with our colleagues to solve the problems they have learning and implementing our approach.

What’s your favorite memory from childhood?
Probably pretending I was Carlton Fiske, the catcher for the Red Sox, in my backyard or Larry Bird in my driveway.

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