We recently sat down with Nakia, who is one of our Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Managers. During our time together, she shared insights on ABA services for families and the rewarding career path for those who deliver the services.
Q: What is ABA in simple terms?
N: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is not just for the autistic community. In short, ABA uses motivation to promote behavior change. You can apply ABA principles to anything!
On a large scale, ABA is available for all ages and abilities. You don’t need an autism diagnosis, but most of ESUCP’s focus is on kids who have been diagnosed with autism. We assist in early intervention, help with language, education and teach everyday skills. Caregiver education is also a big part of ABA. The internet can be a dangerous place filled with misinformation, so we also focus on educating caregivers, creating community and providing an outlet of support.
Q: Can you share an ABA success story?
N: We supported a young boy with limited vocal communication skills and self-harming behaviors. Our ABA therapy focused on modeling language. We also coached his parents to continually talk to him using short words. Soon, he started speaking by imitating the words he repeatedly heard. One night, his mom was tucking him into bed when the child unexpectedly said “Te amo,” which means “I love you,” in Spanish. She called me filled with joy and gratitude for ABA! Since then, this kid has continued to progress and recently graduated from our ABA program. I’m so proud of him.
Q: What would you say to someone considering ABA services with ESUCP?
N: Our services are more than just teaching skills; our goal is to affirm and support individuals with disabilities. Caregivers and families of children with disabilities often experience grief and a loss of “normal”. Working with our ABA team, we help guide them from a deficit mindset, to a different mindset. We help our caregivers and families move from feelings of grief to feelings of understanding, love and acceptance.
Q: What has been your career journey in becoming a BCBA Manager?
N: I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling, with an emphasis in ABA. I joined ESUCP five years ago as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). I always knew I wanted to become a BCBA. My manager saw my potential and the skills I could bring to the program. ESUCP helped me accelerate the training, all paid for, and helped me reach my goal!
Q: What’s the difference between a BCBA and an RBT?
N: The difference between the two is the level of education and the ability to work independently. BCBAs can work with families directly and independently to help develop the skillsets needed to support their loved one. RBTs have less experience, education and require supervision.
Q: How has ESUCP allowed you to grow in your career?
N: I’ve found ESUCP’s culture to be very different than other organizations. It offers a warm, welcoming, humble safe space that recognizes each individual is unique. I strongly believe you can’t pour from an empty cup and ESUCP does a lot of pouring! The organization takes care of its people, which allows us to best support others. There are also lots of opportunities to learn and grow through online and in-person trainings. But most importantly, I feel there is intentional listening and that makes a huge difference. Because of my experience, I’ve learned to be a better manager with my team that consists of an Assistant BCBA, four BCBAs and ten RBTs.
Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining the field?
N: Do it! The field is very rewarding and there’s a career path. Even if you don’t have prior experience, you can join ESUCP as an Autism Technician, which only requires a high school diploma. From there, you can become a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) where ESUCP pays for your training, something most other organizations don’t offer. ESUCP will then help you tailor a career path to become a BCBA.
Q: ESUCP has a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Which IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Authenticity, Learning) principle do you relate to the most?
N: I identify most with “Authenticity” because I feel very safe, comfortable and motivated to show up to work as my truest self.
We sincerely appreciate Nakia’s insights on ABA as a service and a career path. To learn more about Easterseals UCP’s ABA services, please click here. If you would like to learn more about open career opportunities, please visit our careers hub.
ABOUT EASTERSEALS UCP
Easterseals UCP and PORT Health are trustworthy, compassionate partners providing exceptional disability, behavioral health and addiction treatment services to help our neighbors live their best lives. Purpose, dedication and empathy drive our in-person and telehealth service delivery. Our diverse and inclusive 2,600 member team provides more than 10.2 million hours of meaningful support to 40,200 kids, adults and families in 11,000 home, facility and community locations across North Carolina and Virginia. Learn more at eastersealsucp.com.