My MO for choosing a career in ABA
I’ve always had a passion for working with children, with people. When I see someone in need of a helping hand, I extend my entire arm to them. I wanted to find a field I could combine my passion for people with my need to help others. I began working at a school with kindergarten students while I was in college for my bachelor’s degree in psychology. Keeping it simple, I was in love with my work. My students were bright, vibrant, funny, and so extra cute. They created a dream out of my job. Why would I need to look elsewhere? Why would I look for more? When I felt that everything I wanted was in this tiny school. I was comfortable.
Then something changed. I had an opportunity to work with a wonderful student and her ABA therapist. I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect before meeting her and in all honesty, I had never worked with a child who was diagnosed with Autism before. I feared the unknown. I had questions and I had no one to answer them. I felt a mixture of expectations and doubts. How could I give this student the best of me without a clue of her needs? But I felt hope when I laid eyes on this sweet girl. She was inoffensive. Tiny. Trusting me enough to hold my hand within 3 minutes of meeting her. It wasn’t until then that I understood how wrong I had been. Yes, I was inexperienced, but I had hope that I could help her.
Then, something happened; I changed my outlook – from insecurity to acceptance, from unawareness to receptiveness. It made me better. It made me better at my job and it made me a better person. I once again encountered this student’s ABA therapist and this time I asked her every question I could think of. She was receptive and informative. She was patient with me and tactful. This was her youngest client and she introduced me to the world of naturalistic teaching. I saw the progress in my student through the efforts of her therapist. I was enlightened. We spoke about my own career ambitions at some point and she suggested I take a course titled “Introduction to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)”.
The introductory course on ABA at my college covered all of the basics – reinforcement and punishment, schedules of reinforcement, differential reinforcement, motivation – all of the good stuff. This class was delivered by a very short and charismatic BCBA that loved to go into detail about every topic. His passion for the field was palpable. I was intrigued, I wanted to know more, I needed to know more. I completed the undergraduate coursework for the BCaBA certification with straight A’s. This was a testament for me. I loved what I was learning, and it came organically. This experience molded my self-image – from aspiring to become a teacher to now become an educator. It helped me understand the greater need outside of academics, outside of a classroom. It gave me range. It gave me options. It created an EO (establishing operation) for me that was as strong then as it is now. I always knew I wanted to help others and now I know HOW.
By: Jessica Luna, RBT at Crystal Minds New Beginning