Well-Trained Hands Change the World of Autism

As a student, working in your field of study offers depth and value to classroom instruction. Internships are a great way to gain hands-on experience that can provide a competitive advantage in the job market. Canopy Children’s Solutions was proud to offer six students from an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) master’s program a well-rounded and intensive experience to prepare them for careers in ABA therapy.

The road to becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is long no matter which way it is travelled. A master’s degree from an accredited university is required and minimum 40 hours of course work in behavior analysis is just the beginning. Hundreds of hours of supervised clinical experience practicing and utilizing ABA therapy and gaining a full understanding of ABA methods to develop a gamut of skills is also required, which can be completed through independent fieldwork or an intensive practicum.

Interns at Canopy’s Early Intervention Autism Clinic fully experienced the career of a BCBA under the guidance of licensed professionals. They gained applied practice (much like clinical rounds for a medical or nursing student) with actual clients on a daily basis.

“We experienced the feeling of a full case load,” said Laura Katherine Barker, ABA intern from Grenada, Mississippi. “We were able to interact with not only the kids but also the parents and gain a deeper understanding of operating a clinic and being a full-time clinician. We participated in behavior assessments, developing data-driven treatment plans and data analysis to ensure what we were doing was the right course of action.”

Interns work with kids in clinic

While much of the first half of their year-long internship focused on practical applications and their own supervision, the second half focused on learning to become a supervising BCBA. This direct experience of supervising others who implement ABA programs is often missing in the training of many aspiring behavior analysts.

“We worked with our BCBAs and the Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT) to offer feedback on therapy they provided to clients, and then our supervisors worked with us to improve the quality of the feedback we provided” said Barker. “It gave us another perspective of the field and the understanding of not only managing your clients but also managing supervision and insurance requirements that keep the clinic operational and in good standing.”

During her first year in the graduate program, Barker had experience working outside of a clinic setting. At the Canopy CARES School Hattiesburg, she worked with older students with autism by helping them to meet their academic goals.

“When you work in a school setting, it is still a great opportunity to gain practical experience but it is very different from working in a clinical setting,” said Barker. “In a school, you are working specifically toward academic goals and helping them progress in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and therefore, therapy with kids in a classroom looks different from a clinic setting.”

Barker, along with three other interns were offered full-time positions with Canopy at the end of their internships. The two other interns are re-locating out of state.

“We have fewer than 60 licensed BCBAs in Mississippi,” said Jim Moore, BCBA-D, Director of Autism Solutions for Canopy. “With more than 11,000 children in the state on the autism spectrum and limited access to quality treatment, we must do our part to ensure those who are coming up in the field are well-prepared when they leave college. Creating a meaningful experience preparing these future professionals is not only ethical, it is imperative to the future of the kids they will serve.”

In August, the interns will sit for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board exam, including the four new Canopy staff members. The exam will focus heavily on treatment plans, assessments, applied practice and supervision. Following certification, the former interns will then be eligible to become Licensed Behavior Analysts in the State of Mississippi.

“I’m thankful to have had this kind of hands-on experience to go along with the study materials,” said Barker. “I would not have succeeded without the two-year training experience I have received through the CARES School in Hattiesburg or the Early Intervention Clinic. I look forward to the exciting opportunities that are ahead with Autism Solutions at Canopy.”

We wish the best of luck to each of the future BCBAs as they sit for their licensure exam next month.

Things I’ve Learned from a Child with Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism Spectrum Disorder, typically referred to as simply autism, is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are more than 10,000 Mississippi youth on the autism spectrum, affecting 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys. While the challenges of a child with autism are often great, it is important to remember, so are their strengths.

Canopy Children’s Solutions offers a variety of therapeutic autism solutions including intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, specialized education autism classes, and targeted emotional and social skills therapy. While our staff are dedicated to nurturing and teaching children, they also find children teach them along the way. Staff from Canopy’s Early Intervention Autism Clinic, which specializes in intensive ABA therapy, share with us some things they have learned from working with children on the autism spectrum.

Things I’ve Learned from a Child with Autism

“Children are incredible teachers. A child with Autism has taught me to speak Spanish, to become culturally aware, how to praise myself for the hard work, and to self-correct when I know I can do better. Most importantly, a child with autism has taught me to laugh and smile unapologetically.”—BreAnna Newborne, BCBA (Senior Behavior Interventionist II)

“I’ve learned to celebrate EVERYTHING! It’s easy to get bogged down and miss what are truly special moments. Children with autism have taught me to cherish and celebrate small victories because small victories will lead to milestone moments.  It’s up to us to find joy in everyday success!”—Racheal Caldwell (Behavior interventionist)

“A child with autism has taught me to take nothing for granted. I have learned that golden moments like a smile, saying ‘hi,’ or telling mom or dad ‘I love you’ for the first time may seem small to some, but to our clinic families, it is an earth-shattering big deal.”—Jasmine Allen (Behavior Support Specialist II)

“I have learned children with autism are just that, children. Just like any child, they need us to believe in their potential to learn, perform, and to thrive alongside their peers and within their communities. They can do it with our support.”—Madeline Potter, BCBA (Behavior Support Specialist II)

“Children with autism have taught me more than I could ever imagine. I have learned just how unique each child is. By working with these kids each day, they have helped me grow personally and professionally.”—Robyn Brewer (Behavior Support Specialist I)

 “A child with autism taught me there is, in fact, a difference between Kylo Ren and Darth Vadar. Who knew!? There is so much about the world they take in, and in turn, can offer us a new perspective. Each session I grow as a therapist because they challenge me to be better and see the world through their eyes.”—Laura Barker (Behavior Support Specialist I)

“A child with autism taught me when someone says, ‘you can’t,’ I have the choice to say, ‘watch me.’ Each of us has the last say so in whether we give up or continue pushing through. I smile every day because I get to see these children transform.”—Alana Cole (Behavior Support Specialist I)

“Children with autism have taught me to take the time to learn how they communicate; how we deliver our ABA services to best benefit not only the child, but also their families. These children help me grow every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”—Hayden Rizer (Behavioral Support Specialist I)

I have learned that a child with autism is not defined by their disability or limitations because limitations can be overcome. Any progress made in learning or development is an accomplishment. The smiles, the laughs and even contact are huge conquering feats.”—Rebecca Taylor (Behavior Support Specialist I)

A child with autism taught me to leave expectations at the door, because with determination, anything is possible.”—Garrett Yaeger (Intern)

“A child with autism taught me to smile in the ‘bad moments’ because those moments are what teach us to truly appreciate the good.”—Karla Banks (Autism Clinic Coordinator)

I have learned many things from kids with autism. They’ve taught me greetings in different languages, facts about traveling the world, current weather reports, new and fun outside games to play, and many different ways to truly connect with others. There are many details they pay attention to that I would never have thought. Being with these kids is the best part of my day!”—Lindsay Rigby (Volunteer)

Individuals with autism have much to offer if we take the time to look past their diagnosis. Many companies, like Microsoft for example, have embraced their unique strengths and are actively pursuing individuals on the spectrum for employment. This offers hope to thousands of individuals on the spectrum and to their families who know the impact their loved ones can have on the world, given the opportunity. We should actively help to cultivate their strengths and individual uniqueness. Given half a chance, any child with autism would have a thing or two to teach us all.

If you know a child in need of autism solutions, please contact Karla with Care Coordination at 800.388.6247. You can also learn more about Canopy Autism Solutions here.