Another piece of GradGirl was interviewing young professional women in the social sciences. Here is another career spotlight on Kristie Adams!
Kristie is a behavior specialist at Alternative Paths Training School, a school for children with developmental disabilities and other special needs. She found her calling in applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, and is currently working towards becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Read on to learn more about ABA therapy and Kristie’s role as a behavior specialist.
How long have you been at your current position? I have been working at APTS as a Behavior Specialist for a little over 2 years. Our goal at APTS is to provide students with the knowledge and practical skills essential for their successful integration into the community. My personal goal is to support and teach my students the necessary skills needed to successfully navigate their community as independently as possible. Also, I seek to educate the surrounding communities about the various programs that are available for our students and others who have special needs.
Under the supervision of a licensed and certified Behavior Analyst, I develop, implement, and monitor student behavior intervention plans, as well as conduct staff trainings on data collection/analysis, proactive and reactive strategies, and general principles of applied behavior analysis.
What does a typical day look like for you? I always laugh when this question is asked! The wonderful thing about my job is that there is no such thing as a “typical day” at the office! At any given time, my students require individualized support and it is my job to ensure that the level of support needed for my students and their families (as well as my staff) is available. During the course of the day, I answer emails, return phone calls, and attend meetings, but the majority of my days are spent in my classrooms, observing my students, making necessary changes to their programs, and training/supporting my staff in the implementation of various strategies that we use to provide behavioral and educational support to our students.
What are your favorite things about your job/career field? What are your biggest challenges? My favorite things about my career field (applied behavior analysis) is that it can be used anywhere! Need help promoting recycling? ABA can do that! Want to see an increase in hand-washing behavior? ABA can do that, too! I love how versatile and relevant ABA is and the impact it has on the community. Also, I love working with my students and my families and seeing the progress they make each and every day towards the goals they have set for themselves. There are no words to effectively describe the joy and pride I feel when one of my students is able to advocate for him/herself without engaging in challenging and sometimes unsafe behaviors.
Some of my biggest challenges would be the days when my students and their families are in crisis and there is no “quick fix”, so to speak. Progress takes time, and when life continues to change and emergencies arise, that progress can sometimes be hindered due to the nature of how some of my students process and cope with those changes. Also, it sometimes becomes necessary to be creative and “think outside of the box” when trying to create and implement various strategies to help with behavior change. Collaborating is key in those moments and I’m fortunate to have an amazing team to help me.
How did you find out about this position? How did you get into this field more generally? I started as a Program Facilitator at APTS. The Director of Behavioral Services approached me about the Behavior Specialist position and I interviewed for the position. Once I was hired, I began taking the ABA courses at the Florida Institute of Technology and absolutely fell in love with the science!
What are your long-term goals for your career? Right now I am studying to take the BCBA exam. If I pass, I will become a board certified behavior analyst (fingers crossed!). As far as my long-term goals are concerned, I want to eventually apply to a doctorate program and explore the possibility of becoming a sex therapist. I feel that so many times persons with disabilities are viewed as completely different from the general population, and that is just unacceptable. Many of my students and the students that attend APTS have questions concerning their sexuality (both health and safety aspects). I feel that educating them is key in protecting themselves from harm and also fostering a healthy sexual life (in whatever capacity, depending on their functioning level and personal goals).
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue a career in your field? Is there anything you wish you knew when you were starting out Hard work pays off. My mother always told me that and I have lost count of how many times I rolled my eyes as a child when she said those words. But as I pursued my educational and professional goals, I found that those words are so very true. Never allow anyone to deter you from your goals. When it seems that the journey to that goal will never end, set your shoulders and get back to work. One day you’ll look up and see you are exactly where you wanted to be because of the hard work you invested in your future. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and push you to be your absolute best and ignore anyone who tells you that you can’t. You can. And you will. It’s your decision.