Alan El Tagi, M. Ed., BCBA
Since age 6, Mr. El Tagi has been endeared to the realm of Special Education and has a first-hand understanding of what it means to be the recipient of special services. Entering the United States at a very early age, his command of the English language was under developed, and upon his enrollment into the public schools, was placed in special classes where he could have benefitted from English as a Second Language (ESOL) support services, had they been offered.
Reflecting back to those early years of his public school education, Mr. El Tagi recognized that his learning style was better accommodated in the self-contained instructional model as opposed to the “open classrooms”. He thrived educationally and succeeded in this type setting, overcoming the odds that were against him.
A close call with an illness as a young adolescent found him hearing his physician saying that he didn’t see how Mr. El Tagi (Al) pulled through it. He beat the odds against him, again.
When Al decided to enlist in the Army, he wanted desperately to become a United States Army Ranger, working in Special Operations. He found himself being put to the ultimate tests when he encountered Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP), Pre-Ranger and Ranger School. Even though there were repeated challenges from his military trainers, often telling him he wouldn’t make it, he refused to listen to their negatives, and that’s when he determined to “never quit”. The culmination of that dream materialized when he completed his training successfully and became an Army Ranger.
In 1986, he became reacquainted to the realm of special education when he was “ordered” to be a Special Olympics volunteer in Tacoma, Washington. As his interest in reaching out to individuals with disabilities had piqued, he eventually ventured to the Northern Virginia Training Center (NVTC) subsequent to serving in the military. For the next two years, Al committed his time gaining invaluable experience working with people enduring the severest self-injurious and aggressive behaviors (SIBs). As his passion increased, he further extended himself by providing pro bono consultation in the greater community to parents, schools and others in how to reduce and modify severe behaviors. During his time at NVTC, Al would meet his wife, Mary, and colleague, Susan Gross, with whom he would later co-found Alternative Paths Training School (APTS) in 2002.
Having beat the odds against him on multiple occasions, Al would encounter yet another experience that would forever change his life when in 2007, he came face to face with a cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM). Though incapacitated from his work for a time to rehabilitate from this life-threatening hemangioma, Al gained an insider’s view and full appreciation of what people with aphasia experience.
Today, having fully recovered, students educated at APTS and many others are the beneficiaries of this new found knowledge and enriching practical wisdom.
Mr. El Tagi is Co-Founder of APTS and sits on its Board of Directors. He holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Education from George Mason University, and is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst.