Ashley Greer took her parents, who live in North Carolina, sailing for the first time as a surprise birthday present for her dad. He wondered if they might be going roller skating. Instead, they enjoyed a brisk cruise on the York River near Yorktown. Ashley is studying for her doctorate in applied behavior analysis at Columbia University in New York.

She specializes in autism. “Early intervention is the key to improve their verbal and social skills. We can help toddlers and preschoolers to focus better and adapt their behavior. I help teach at a school in New Jersey founded by my professors, and we can get these kids mainstreamed by the time the get to kindergarten—without an IEP. Early intervention is really, really important.”

She also got her master’s at Columbia. “At commencement we had students from 150 countries. You can walk around campus and hear students talk in their native language. They’re from France, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and many others, mostly Asian countries.”

Her foreign language is a beautiful Southern drawl. “Some people have a hard time understanding me. I had a student in New Jersey who picked up the term y’all and other sayings. Her mother couldn’t figure out where she got that until she met me at a parent-student conference. ‘You’re the one!’ she pointed at me accusingly. ‘Yes, and I’m the one who taught your autistic child to read.’”

I asked Ashley about Donald Trump’s behavior. “There are only four behaviors in psychology. Seeking, Escape, Natural Reinforcement, and Attention. Seeking has to do with acquiring items. Escape is the natural result of fear. Natural Reinforcement has to do with eating and drinking to stay alive in the natural course of things. Attention is the focus on oneself. I would say he has too much of that behavior.”

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