Alan MA ’18 and Crystal MA ’18 Goldberg

–By Christy Wolff ’10

Alan (MA ’18) and Crystal (MA ’18) Goldbergs’ career paths took an unexpected turn when their son Justin was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2006 at the age of two and a half. Coming from a 15-year career in the insurance industry, Crystal said, “When we first got the news about Justin, our hopes and dreams were shattered like many other parents who receive the diagnosis. Over time, we adjusted as a family, and sought out evidence-based interventions – such as Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy – and provided him with a variety of opportunities that would help him achieve his best life.”

Desiring to extend their help for kids with special needs, Alan and Crystal both completed their master’s degrees in special education and ultimately became Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) through Trinity’s two-year program.

Associate Professor of Special Education Sara Baillie, Ed.D., and Assistant Professor of Special Education Marilyn Spalla led the couple’s cohort of 12 and taught the principles of behavior analysis through both an academic and practical lens. “They both gave us a solid behavior-based framework we still reference today,” Crystal said. Since graduating, Alan and Crystal, along with Baillie, joined a journal article group that brings BCBAs across Illinois together to review published research about their field and discuss ways to apply it to their own careers.

Starting each class at Trinity with devotions made an impact on Crystal. “This practice got you in the mindset of being a catalyst for helping others,” she shared. She found that it allowed the cohort to bond and bring out the authentic qualities in people.

Today, Alan manages the special education department at Thomas Kelly High School in Chicago, which provides services to more than 400 students with special needs. Crystal recently started her own company, Operation Empower Inc., which focuses on educational advocacy and behavior consulting for families with children with special needs. She also serves as an advocate for families in schools by connecting home programming with the practices in use in school.

According to Crystal, “This experience has made us stronger as a couple, and we strive to continue to provide Justin with as many opportunities as possible so that he can lead a full and more independent life. If we didn’t experience this ourselves, I never would have been exposed to this field, but it happened for a reason – and that’s for us to give back and help others.”