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Employee Spotlight

Autism Therapist Spotlight: From RBT To BCBA – Jessica Juchnowski

 

A Major Change

The act of learning has always been something that has driven Jessica Juchnowski forward. Yet, as she was going about her studies as a computer science major, she felt that something was missing – her passion.

After giving it some serious thought, she isolated this feeling to the joy and satisfaction she experienced from working with children while volunteering. Realizing that she wouldn’t be fulfilled without that element in the work that she was pursuing, she switched her major from Computer Science to Psychology.

Finding Her Niche In ABA

Once Jessica received her degree in psychology, she moved from Connecticut back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York. Even though it was nice to be around family and friends again, time continued to pass, and she was unable to find a job she found rewarding.

“At the time, there weren’t many opportunities for working in mental health in Buffalo. All of my connections were in New England. Everyone said I should come back and that I’d find a job in no time.”

Jessica began actively searching for a job up in New England, spending a week here or there when interview opportunities would spring up. While on the road, she began researching and narrowing down exactly what type of work she wanted to build her career in. She would continually go back to the volunteer work she did, specifically, the work that she did with the Special Olympics and other organizations focused on those with special needs.

With this realization and some light research, Jessica found her niche in ABA.

ABA: The Right Field for Jessica

Almost immediately, Jessica knew that joining the ABA field was the right call.

“It’s awesome that I was able to find a job like this. I love how ABA emphasizes data and that you can put together a graph and see the visual progress right in front of you.”

She also found the difference that she was making in the lives of the children rewarding. Out of the many cases that she worked on over the years, there was one in particular that she always goes back to.

“I was working with a nonverbal foster child. His behaviors were relatively aggressive, and he wasn’t allowed outside of a room if he wasn’t gated in. I worked with him for almost two years. By the time we were done, a family had adopted him, and he was able to speak in full sentences and ask for things he needed. He even learned to ask if certain foods were safe for him to eat because he had a peanut allergy.”

Back to School

Within six months of becoming an RBT, Jessica knew she wanted to learn more and grow further into the ABA field. So she returned to school for her Master’s in Behavioral Analysis focusing on mentoring and supervision.

One of the things she quickly learned while in the Master’s program and trying to balance the required fieldwork hours and a second job is the importance of flexibility.

“Flexibility is key, not just with yourself, but with the expectations for the children and staff. What you do in the field isn’t always what you learn from a textbook since the primary goal of many of the books I was reading was to help me pass my BCBA test. Out in the field, you learn that there are so many other things that you need to know and that you’re not taught in school, even if it’s at the heart of a clinical program.”

Becoming a BCBA

Passing the BCBA exam is no easy feat. Luckily, Jessica was surrounded by an amazing group of mentors. Jessica admits to being an anxious test-taker, so she arrived very early before the exam started.

After Jessica took the exam, she had to wait 45 days to get the results back. When she did receive an email, she noticed a typo in the email and disregarded it.

On her way to work the next morning, she was met with congratulations and applause.

“I had no idea what they were talking about. I thought it was just about the promotion I was eligible for finishing my Master’s program. I didn’t know yet that I had passed my board exam. It felt amazing when you put that much work into something and figure out this is what you want to do. It just felt really, really good.”

Working at Applied ABC

While traveling up to the New Hampshire White Mountains, Jessica had heard an ad on the radio describing an ABA therapy company named Applied ABC. Once she was home, she found an opening at Applied ABC and sent in her resume.

Now two years later, she is still transforming the lives of children and leading ABA therapists in ways that she’s always dreamed of.

One of the areas of Applied ABC that she gets really excited about is the in-person therapy center in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“I didn’t do much in centers before, but center services provide children with access to many different peers and gives therapists a way to connect and learn in the company of other professionals.”

What’s Next for Jessica?

Being a lifelong student, Jessica is currently going for her Ph.D. in Behavioral Analysis with a focus on organizational behavior management.

“I really want my staff to do well, and this program is going to provide me with even more tools to assist with that. It also helps me collaborate with other professionals who might help me learn different things I might be overlooking or just general things about ABA that I may not have known about before.”

Advice to Those Starting Out in ABA

Advice to Those Starting Out in ABA
Jessica had some valuable advice for those interested in starting their own ABA journey:

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions; I still do. If you don’t ask, you won’t get the support you need. I’ve mentored two people at Applied ABC, and I’ve never told them that their questions weren’t valuable. I might give them extra resources or a question back to get them thinking, but that ability to converse with another field is what’s going to get you going.”

If you’re interested in following a similar path and starting your career in ABA at Applied ABC, check out our career opportunities here. 

Other articles

ABA Autism Therapist Spotlight: My Journey From RBT To BCBA – Evelyn Villamar

Employee Spotlight: Chrissy Eichhorn, RBT

Employee Spotlight: Binta Ba, ABA Therapist

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