Welcome, welcome, welcome! I am Chelsea, a first year student in a two-year Applied Behavior Analysis Master’s program. I am hoping to become a board certified BCAB one day, and I would like to share my ABA journey with you.
As I finish up my summer vacation, I would like to share a little bit about myself, and why I am in this program.
I graduated in May of 2011 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with a degree in Psychology, Education and Developmental Disabilities. As a child and teenager I had Always been interested in working with young children, and as an undergrad I was an assistant teacher at a childcare center. I also knew that I was interested in Psychology and working with those with disabilities. After graduating I thought I knew what I wanted to do: teach at the preschool I adored, the place I had worked as a student. I ended up landing a one-year teaching position at the school I worked at in college, and had my own class of nine 2-year-olds. Yes, it was crazy at times (maybe more often than not), but I LOVED working with children in this age group. Although I had landed what I thought was the job of my dreams, after working as a toddler teacher for a year, I realized that, for a few reasons, I wanted to further my education, to become more specialized, in a field that included all of my interests: young children, psychology and disabilities.
As an undergraduate I applied for, and was accepted into a competitive specialization in the Psychology department: Developmental Disabilities and Human Services. Because of my interest in working with people with disabilities, and my past experiences as a Special Olympics coach, I ventured into a specialization that was both old and new for me. I had experience in the field, but I still had a lot to learn about it. Here I took a few classes that really opened my eyes to the field, one of which was an introductory course in Applied Behavior Analysis. Before I took this course in 2010 I had not heard of this type of therapy before. But I became a true believer in ABA, from the first day I stepped into the classroom. Learning about children with all different types of Autism gaining the ability to socialize and function better in a typical world literally sang to me; it filled me with emotions I had never felt before, and pure excitement. Because the class was so difficult, and I had a dream of working at the childcare center, after I took this class I focused on my early childhood education goals. Yet, I often thought about ABA, and shared stories of children who were touched deeply by ABA, with those close to me. When I thought about ABA I felt inspired, happy and excited. My eyes lit up and goose bumps sprug up on my skin. Yet, because I was such a part of the early childhood education world, that was what I focused on, and I did well in the field. I became Infant/ Toddler lead certified, and Preschool teacher certified, as well as gained a deep understanding of early childhood.
After a year of watching my children grow, singing children’s songs, and teaching self help skills, I was preparing to interview for a permanent job at the center. I was talking to my mom: a super-woman who is one of my best friends, my confidant and my biggest advocate. She told me she was used to me saying, “I love my job, but I’m just not sure how I can make it on such a small salary each year,” and “I feel like I should have a career where I have to use my brain a bit more.” She mentioned something that seemed out of left field: “You love ABA Chelsea. Have you thought about graduate school in ABA?”
“Me?” I thought to myself. Yes, I had told numerous parents, friends and family members about ABA and all of it’s glories. Yes I did become happy when I read about it, and it did energise something inside of me. But I just never thought of becoming an ABA therapist myself. “It’s something to think about,” I said.
Within a few days of thinking, I was preparing for the GRES with my step-dad, and looking online for ABA schools with my mom. After taking the GRES, applying to three graduate schools, and being accepted into two, I decided to take a HUGE step. I decided to persue my Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis at a school about an hour away from home. I was as ready as I ever would be, and was excited for the journey. I let my boss know that I was backing out of the teacher application process, found a house close to my new school and began preparing for my new journey in life.