This guest interview story with is Joyce Li, an ABA Teacher Assistant for an Early Intervention Center and does home cases for children living with Autism. Personally, I have known Joyce since I was in high school and have been good friends with her since then. Today, she is like another sister to me. My interview with her will provide more information about ABA and Early Intervention, as well as her experiences working with children living with Autism.
Question 1: What got you into working with children living with Autism?
Joyce Li: I think my answer to this question is that I don’t think it started off with specifically working with children with autism. I have an aunt who I am very close to and she worked as a speech language pathologist going to people’s homes and seemingly getting paid to play with kids. 🙂 So growing up, sometimes she would have to babysit me and take me along to play with some kids she was teaching. I was probably used as a peer model without knowing at the time. During my middle school years I became obsessed with psychology and mental health issues and also during that time, my little sisters were born. When my sisters were babies and toddlers, I would stay with them during church in the nursery room and I would volunteer for the summer camp with the preschoolers. They all loved me and I was like their big sister. That was when I knew I had to go into a field working with children. During my high school years, I took psychology and AP psychology courses and was a peer mentor in the afterschool program with special needs peers. I also took some time to volunteer at a daycare and work as a special needs preschool teacher’s aide during the summer. I realized how little people understood children with special needs and they had reputation of just being the “bad” or “hard to handle” kids when they moved up to different classes. Also in high school, I met Michelle :), the wonderful author of this blog. She has told me her story and experiences with ABA and how it had helped her so much. She inspired me to look into careers related to working with special needs population. In college, I worked in a daycare and I met a little girl who I love to this day as if she was my sister. While the staff did not treat her badly, they didn’t understand her. She had autism and her special instruction/ABA teacher would pull her out of her daycare class and to work with her in the hallway. It was in those days that I realized I wanted to be one of those “teachers.” I wanted to show that little girl that she was loved and that she had talents too, despite everyone just thinking she was “the autistic girl.” I spent a lot of time shadowing her even though I was the whole class’ TA, not just her 1:1. My next step into the world of autism and ABA was actually in search of a better paying job. My aunt had suggested that I try ABA. Ever since, I’ve been taking on various home based cases until my full college schedule could not match the times that the students were available. I decided to go on Indeed and look for a job. I came across a job posting for an EI center. I was only taking 2 classes in my last semester of college, so I decided to try a new setting for ABA.
Question 2: What made you decide to work for in Early Intervention as a ABA teacher assistant?
Joyce Li: I decided to work in EI as an ABA TA because I love love love toddlers, in case you can’t tell by my many experiences that I tried to work with kids. I think that two year olds are the cutest and most curious creatures. At that age they absorb so much information and they will show you how much they can actually do when they’re ready. I had experience working in a classroom for kids who are slightly older. Kids go from EI to CPSE, committee for preschool special education. And I had experience working 1:1 in ABA, so why not center based with consistent hours and consistent pay for me and also kids and staff can have more interactions with each other.
Question 3: How is it like for you to work in an Early Intervention Center? Do you enjoy it?
Joyce Li: I absolutely love working in EI. I only started back in September, but I love love love it. It is also great because my fellow TAs, lead teacher, director and all the staff are great people. I get hands on training from the teacher and we meet weekly to check in on how we are doing with the kids and if we need to make changes. And because it is 1:1, you get to really focus on the child you are with for the day. I have seen so much improvement in just a few short months in the children. A lot of people are anti-ABA but they have not seen what we do and how we are changing lives for the better. As an ABA professional, I really hope that I can show each and every child that I work with that they can do anything and achieve a lot more than what old fashioned, judgmental people say. As an ABA TA, I see smiling faces everyday and I see children happy about what they achieved. One of the main things I aim to teach in ABA is communication. When you have a child who can ask for a cookie instead of throwing a tantrum because they can’t communicate what they want, it is a slice of heaven for everyone. I will never forget this one child who has echolalia, when one day he was barely off the bus when he looked straight at me and said, “It’s a Joyce!” Working in EI made me realize that ABA is a real science that really makes a positive impact for the special needs populations.