Interview with Amber White as neurodivergent BCBA

Dreams can become a reality by setting your mind and heart to it. Let me tell you that it truly has for my latest guest:

Amber White

Amber White is an neurodivergent BCBA in Texas. Growing up, she knew she was different, but was often misdiagnosed. Her expereinces working with the neurodiverse population helped her learn more about herself. Now, she opened up Success on the Spectrum as an ABA therapy company in Texas! Learn more about Amber in the link here:

Learn more about the Success on the Spectrum in this link here:

Do you have any questions for Amber? Share your questions in the comments section!


Release the mask

Did you know a lot of autistic people engage in masking?

Masking ​is ​​​hiding or suppressing your true self to try to fit in or meet someone’s standards​. This can occur for anyone, and it’s been used a lot for autistic people due to trying to fit in with society. Masking can be intentional or may be an unconscious practice​. Also, Masking can apply to different things: emotions, personality, interests, etc.​ For autistic people, this can be seen by forced eye contact, suppressing stimming, practicing facial expressions, and scripting conversations based from their observations in situations. Now how we can help autistic people release their mask?

  1. Help autistic people rekindle an old passion or find a new interest and experience complete joy around it. Find a community to experience that joy with them.
  2. Communicate as clearly as possible and avoid turns of phrase. Metaphors or indirect expressions can be hard to understand for people with autism.
  3. Help advocate for their own needs and individuality, as well as teaching them to advocate themselves! No one should have to change who they are to please another person or group.

How can you help decrease masking in which anyone engages in? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section!

Mental Health Matters

May is mental health awareness month! Did you know neurodivergent people are more likely to engage in masking due to avoiding negativity and acting neurotypical to fit in the world? This makes it more important than ever to look after your own mental health.

How can anyone focus more on their own mental health? Here are some ways:

1. Engage in special interests and hobbies! For me, I’ve always enjoyed being active, reading books, listening to music, drawing, and coloring. Do what you love!

2. Take time to listen without judgment! People will share perspectives with you based on your experiences. Listen and avoid judgment.

3. Be patient with yourself! Improvements occur overtime, but it starts by showing commitment to yourself.

4. Speak to people you trust! You are going through challenges in life, you got supportive people to talk to along the way. Get help and communicate with people you trust.

5. Seek therapy if necessary to make improvements on yourself. Sometimes we all need therapy at some point to get additional help in certain areas. It starts by taking the first action yourself.

6. Love yourself! The only one who defines you is you. No one else does.

What is one way you take care of your mental health? Share your experiences in the comments section!

Transition into adulthood

When a neurodiverse child reaches the age of 14, school case managers can begin talking with them about transitions into adulthood. This can include: attending post secondary education, vocational trade school, getting a full time job, etc.

I recall my high school case manager Mr.Schaffer talking with me about my future after high school when I was a freshman. I told him I wanted to work with children. This began my journey towards where I’m at today. Now I work with over 20+ neurodiverse students as a behavior specialist and for autistic clients within Full Spectrum ABA as an Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), blogger, autistic advocate, and co-director of the autistic advocacy program. You may ask: Was my transition easy after high school?

The answer is NO. It took me over a year after I earned my associate’s degree before I returned to college to earn my Bachelor’s degree. It was while I was working as a paraprofessional in a autism self contained classroom in NJ that pushed me back to earn my Bachelor’s degree. I will say is that my transition wasn’t easy. Although, the key with my transition after high school was having a great support system. So what routes can neurodiverse young adults take to transition smoothly after high school?

Here are some options to follow through after high school:

1. Get a job coach to help you look for part time or full time work. If you are not interested in attending college, have a job coach help you develop skills to gain a good job, such as from resume writing to interview skills.

2. Research vocational trade schools to learn a trade. Trades are so need in our world still today to stay in demand, such as plumbing, electricians, home construction, etc. Not only trades make a lot of money, but learning a trade can help you in the long run.

3. Post secondary education like college can help neurodiverse individuals gain a good career for the long run. After I gained my Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University Global back in October of last year, I applied to become a behavior specialist for the school district in FL, and got the job after attending a job fair. The timing of everything was amazing! It comes to show that earning a degree makes a big difference in peoples’ lives.

4. Finding nonprofit organizations to volunteer or be a part of to gain services after high school. In many states throughout the country, services for neurodiverse people run out after age 18. Nonprofit organizations and various programs are growing to help neurodiverse young adults contiune services needed after high school. Research nonprofit organizations and special education programs within your state.

Have any questions about transitioning into adulthood for neurodiverse people? Share them in the comment’s section!

Importance of consent and assent

When it comes to any kind of therapy services like ABA, gaining consent and assent from clients & their families are super important. First thing people think is about the difference between consent and assent. What is the difference?

Consent is about expressing willingness or giving permission to do an activity or have services. This occurs most often from parent/guardian for the client/individual, since it’s only obtained from those who are of legal age.

Assent is about giving approval from neurodivergent clients who are not of legal age to give consent to participate in a particular activity. In the ABA field, we strive for this because we want clients to be active participants with their services as applicable.

Don’t you think they are both important in regards to services like ABA therapy? The answer is YES!

In order to gain consent and assent from clients and their families, there are many approaches:

1. Explain in concise and understandable terms about the services being provided, whether be ABA, speech, etc.

2. Establish a positive relationship from the start even before services are provided. This means getting to know clients and their families as individuals and a team.

3. Once sessions occur, continue to ask for consent and assent daily. It helps let clients and their families know of their rights throughout the time of services.

4. Even when changes of practices and procedures occur throughout services, its important to ask for consent and assent from clients and their families.

5. Most importantly, constant communication and collaboration thats individualized to the clients and their families abilities are key for gaining consent and assent.

Want to know ways to teach neurodivergent clients about consent and assent during therautpic sessions like ABA? Here’s how:

1. Teach self advocacy skills!

2. Teach communication methods that work best for clients based on individualized needs! For example, a client can learn ASL signs if they feel not comfortable in social interactions, even though they have expressive language.

3. Teach feelings and emotions! Its important they learn emotions and feelings because it can help let others know how they feel in any situation.

Any thoughts and questions about the importance of consent and assent? Share in the comments section!

Interview with Luisa Rinaudo as speech pathologist of The Therapy Garden

Who knows of a speech pathologist providing their own private practice!?

Meet Lusia Rinaudo:

Lusia Rinaudo

Luisa graduated from Seton Hall University with her Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and Special Education in 2019. In 2021, she continued her schooling at Seton Hall with a Master’s in Science in Speech Language Pathology. Luisa has found a passion in helping others communicate to their fullest through her many years of involvement in the special needs community. Luisa’s brother, Sal, has a diagnosis of Down syndrome and is living his best life! Growing up in the special needs community, Luisa saw the need for supports in this community, especially as her brother entered adulthood. In the early months of 2023, Luisa opened up her own private practice, The Therapy Garden, LLC! Her goal is to assist adults with developmental and intellectual differences and provide guidance so they can communicate with the world around them! She has clinical experience in providing speech-language therapy to toddlers, children and adults with varying communication needs which include language/learning disorders/differences, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Selective Mutism, Down syndrome, fluency, articulation/phonological disorders, pragmatic language disorders, and traumatic brain injuries.

Luisa is a certified Speech Language Pathologist by the NJ State Board of Consumer Affairs and the NJ Department of Education. Luisa’s goal is to provide functional therapy in a comforting environment in order to ensure growth and progress with her clients. She is most excited to collaborate with colleagues, create fun filled therapeutic sessions in an inclusive environment as well as support families throughout the process.

Check out the guest interview I did with Lusia:

Have any questions for Lusia? Share your questions in the comments section!

4 reasons for behaviors

Did you know behaviors communicate something to people?

Behaviors tells people what someone is communicating. It can be for any of the 4 reasons: getting out of something (escape), gaining attention from adult/peer (attention), gaining access to a preferred item or activity (tangibles), or provides personal simulation/pleasure (sensory). Here is a visual of the 4 reasons people engage in behaviors:

Do you want to know what to do if any behavior is happening due to these reasons? I’ll share some approaches with you to tackle behaviors head on.

When a behavior is happening due to getting out of a presented task or activity (escape), there are some approaches for this. You can use first then language to redirect an individual to presented task/activity. A visual schedule can be used to remind an individual of the current subject or period they are in, so they understand purpose of presented task/activity. In addition, provide choices of which tasks/activities an individual can complete first; It gives an individual more control of their learning that way. Another option is altering the task/activity; It may be to hard or boring to an individual, so differential task/activity will motivate an individual to complete their work.

When a behavior is happening due to gaining attention of an adult/peer, its important to provide attention for the replacement/new behavior. For example, Jessica raised her hand after a teacher asked the class a math question. Her teacher gives her an opportunity to answer the question. Attention is provided when the replacement/new behavior is used. Replacement/new behaviors for gaining attention could be raising hand, calling someone’s name once after they are done talking to someone, taking turns & waiting, and tapping on someone’s shoulder.

When a behavior is happening due to gaining access to a preferred item or activity (tangibles), there are approaches to teach an individual to gain items or activities. Teach an individual to request through their own communication style. It could be through expressive language, picture exchange communication system (PECS), AAC device, etc. Differential reinforcement can be incoprated in order to push for a communication style that matches an individual’s communication goals. For example, an individual is reinforced with tablet when they verbally tell their ABA provider “tablet” instead of hitting the ABA provider. In the beginning, more access to the item or activity is important. Eventually, it should be faded out overtime as an individual’s communication occurs more often.

When a behavior is happening due to personal simulation/pleasure (sensory), there are a couple of approaches I suggest for people to use. An individual needs to be taught a new/replacement behavior. For example, an individual can be taught to go for a walk when needing pleasure. I want people to know that as long as an individual’s stimming is not hurting the individual themselves or others, its fine to let them use their stim.

What new behavior would you teach to an autistic individual or client? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Michelle Zeman- Advocate for change

I got a returning guest who shares an important message with our community. Meet our returning guest, Michelle Zeman:

Michelle Zeman is an autistic BCBA from Orlando, Florida. Besides being a BCBA providing ABA therapy for nuerodiverse clients, she’s been advocating for legislation to approve bills about increasing safety in schools for neurodiverse students by having safety teams when students elope/run out of school property and for creating an alternative approach in which neurodiverse adults still have rights to making their own decisions with support from coaches. Check out this video to learn about Michelle’s message for the community:

Here are some follow up articles to learn more about the bills that Michelle has been advocating for to help the neurodiverse population:

Alternative option instead of guardianship-

SB 1568 and HB 1429 — that’s the House and Senate Bill for the Elopement Bill. If you go to bill tracker that’s where you’ll find out where the bill is going. (SB) (HB)

Do you have any questions for Michelle? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section!

The 3 powerful A’s

Its autism month! I think about how much I’ve grown throughout my life as an autistic. Also, we all know autism is lifelong. It’s important to keep in mind the 3 powerful A’s that are impactful within the autism and neurodiverse community:

Awareness: My parents knew I was not meeting developmental milestones compared to my older sister Samantha during the first year of my life. Before and after I received my autism diagnosis in the year of 2000, my parents reached out to people and conducted in-depth research about autism to better understand my individual needs for the long run.

Acceptance: My family always love me for who I am, including my stubbornness. Ever since I watched Dr. Temple Grandin’s documentary with my family and family friend at their house one day during 6th grade, I learned autism is only a part of who I am and helped me learn more about myself, such as being so dedicated and passionate in my special interests with helping the neurodiverse population.

Advocacy: My parents always advocated for me as early as when I  received my autism diagnosis. They were able to get me early intervention services following my autism diagnosis and fought for extended school year (ESY) services throughout my school years in the Marlboro public school district in NJ. Everything my parents did are all I do now as I’ve been working with the neurodiverse community in homes and schools.

I encourage schools, homes, workplaces, etc, to use these 3 A’s on a daily basis. It takes these components to impact lives of autistic and neurodiverse people.

What is one new way you will help autistic and neurodiverse people this month and beyond? Share your experiences in the comments section!

Interview with Desiree Campos as CEO of Abel’s Dream Foundation

Did you know there are organizations out there in the world to help families with neurodiverse children and adults?

Meet Desiree Campos:

Desiree Campos (mom) and Abel Campos (neurodiverse child)

Desiree Campos is a CEO of Abel’s Dream Foundation. Her non-profit organization became a resource and service for families with neurodiverse children and adults based on her own experiences as a parent for a neurodiverse child. She has two children: Anthony and Abel. Abel is her neurodiverse child with Autism, ADHD, and intellectual disability. She wants families to know that they are not alone in their journey raising a neurodiverse child/adult, so the foundation provides resources and services to help neurodiverse children and adults thrive in life. To learn more about Desiree and the Abel’s Dream Foundation, check out the guest interview here:

Check out Abel Dream Foundation’s website here:

Do you have questions for Desiree Campos? Share your questions in the comments section!

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