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.