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How Becoming a Therapist Changed My Life

This is a guest post by Emily Mandel. Emily is a student at Brandeis University who is training in ABA therapy.

This summer I am interning at a center called Greenwich Education and Prep in Cos Cob, Connecticut, learning to be a therapist for children with autism using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) under the supervision of Dr. Mindy Rothstein and her colleagues. Initially, ABA was what I expected it to be: a therapy involving reinforcement of positive solicited behaviors. “Alex, look at me… Alex… Alex, what do you have to say? Say it to my face. Very good! You earn a point toward winning your candy.” However, until I began this training, I had not realized how multi-faceted and complicated ABA is. I had assumed it was the same method of therapy for every child, and that if it did not work it was not the right therapy for the child. What I’ve been observing, however, is quite contrary to my expectations.

Each child has a unique program designed to address the specific preferences, strengths, and areas of challenge. For example, if a child has trouble with eye contact and following directions, the instructor will reinforce eye contact and direction-following with prizes the student can earn after obtaining a certain number of “points.” In addition, the instructor prepares various activities to address each of the areas of difficulty, and monitors the progress made in each activity. For example, that same child with difficulty making eye contact and following directions is given a task like a puzzle and prompted to make eye contact each time a direction is given regarding the puzzle.
Over my summer so far, I’ve seen such changes in the children. I am pleased to see how far each child has progressed using ABA intervention techniques.. Most times forms of therapy– including ABA –benefit from the accompaniment of other forms of therapy. However, I’ve come to believe that ABA is fundamental; the ABA program targets each specific area of challenge for the child. I cannot wait to see how the children I am working with progress over the course of the rest of the summer, and how they will continue to progress throughout their lives.

I’ve made the decision to go through the certification process for Applied Behavior Analysis after I earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Brandeis University. Greenwich Education and Prep has truly shown me the cognitive leaps and bounds children with autism can make.  I hope to one day be able to change the lives of these children and their families through this fundamental method of therapy. I’ve seen what ABA can achieve, and I know that this is what I want to do with my life.

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  1. Wendy Copeland
    July 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm | #1

    I work with very young children with autism…in their homes with their family. Each family & I work as a team, and although candy isn’t always an appropriate reward/reinforcement for my kids (2 & 3-yr-olds), ABA is fundamental in their progress. There’s just no way we could have had our successes without it. And yes, I could always use refresher courses/workshops.

  2. Noemi
    July 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm | #2

    I am currently a special educator. I also work as an in-home trainer for children who have autism. There is nothing more rewarding than to work and see the progress these children can make. How can I become ABA certified?

  3. Bronte Abraham
    July 2, 2010 at 12:48 am | #3

    I am a Brandeis Alum and also a psychology major! I am proud to see that our college is turning out people who can be dedicated professionals in the Autism Community. I hope that you are able to bring some of your experience to folks at Lemberg as well as the community at large! Be sure to reach out to the alumni network, there are many of us parents out there with kids on spectrum that would love to help out an Alum!

  4. July 7, 2010 at 3:17 pm | #4

    I started working with children diagnosed with Autism through the Lovaas Institute in Los Angeles after graduating from UCLA 3 years ago. While it is draining work, it is the most enjoyable and rewarding profession. I get to play with toys all day with young children and at the same time help them play, socialize and acquire skills that they unfortunately do not have the ability to gain on their own. I believe it is only through ABA that this is possible. Many people who speak ill of ABA paint it as a caricature of what it actually is, consisting of strict table work, leading to robotic children. This is ABA…if it is done horribly wrong.

    I will be pursuing my BCBA some time in the fall.

    Noemi, you can find information about ABA certification here: http://www.bacb.com/

  5. krista
    April 2, 2011 at 9:58 pm | #5

    i am a 13 year old girl that has a dream of doing wat this person did i love working and talking with kids with autism so far i have been able to get a preschool boy to say his first woeds and asked by my school to be a special aid to twin girls in my grade that both have autism when i read this comments that you all haveleft it bring me happiness that my dream has come true and it give me hope as a 13 year old that i will succed in my dream and help kids with autism. if you have ANY advice for me i would love to know.

  1. July 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm | #1

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