It is hard to believe that I have been in the field of ABA for over 20 years. I have always known that my start was quite serendipitous, but to think that I have taken that initial passion and turned it into a life long career, is truly something remarkable!
When I was a freshman in high school, I was asked to babysit a child in an adjacent neighborhood. I certainly don't remember the details of how this was arranged, but I do remember arriving at his house and meeting a person who would initially train me in ABA. Not exactly "babysitting", but I was open to learning.
At the time, ABA was brand new; i.e. "pilot programs" and very little was known about the concept, or how it could help children with autism. I was trained to carefully take "trial by trial" data, which involved pages upon pages of data, and is what is known as Discrete Trial Teaching. I loved this method; being able to systematically increase skills based on the success of the student, knowing exactly what level of prompt I should be using, and the possibilities of this method seemed endless. I enjoyed watching this young 3 year old child thrive and learn.
However, the real pivotal point for me, was when he learned how to communicate. We used the same systematic concepts to teach him how to verbalize sentences in a very short amount of time. How could I not be completely hooked to this truly life altering form of therapy? My eyes were opened to a life's purpose that was far beyond anything that most kids my age were experiencing.
I continued working with this child all throughout high school, often more than 10 hours per week. I went to college (James Madison University) and had the single goal to graduate and get back to ABA therapy. When I came home to visit, I always carved out time to work with my inspiration. By the time that I graduated from college with a masters degree, I had been working with him for almost 10 years. What a journey through life we had been on together!
After that, the rest is history. I signed on with a local ABA agency (while still working with this child) and learned the joys of working with a variety of children of all ages and abilities. I was hooked by the deep and meaningful changes that I was making for children and their families then, and I get the same thrill from seeing tangible and real world changes/benefits to this day.