Asim is a second-year fellow at the Academy. Asim’s interest in the field of autism began as an undergraduate student at the University of Rochester. As a sophomore in college, he assisted with several autism studies under the mentorship of Dr. Tristram Smith and Dr. Loisa Benneto. After graduating from college in 2012, Asim worked as a service coordinator for individuals with disabilities, while also completing his master’s in Human Development at the University of Rochester. Following three years in service coordination, he realized he wanted more hands-on experience in the field of autism, and he decided to complete additional graduate coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis. At the same time, Asim rejoined Dr. Tristram Smith’s research lab and assisted with two different community-based autism studies. While working in the lab, Dr. Smith told Asim about a great fellowship opportunity at APF. “Considering I was seeking direct experience with leaders in the field,” Asim says, “I decided to make the move to California for the two-year fellowship.”
“Working at APF has been an absolute joy,” says Asim. “One of my favorite parts of the job is celebrating small steps every day and then seeing those small steps progress into bigger steps over time. I also love how I’m surrounded by some of the best mentors in the field. Their guidance and support constantly push me to be better.” Asim is currently pursing his doctoral degree in applied behavior analysis at Endicott College. Overall, he is confident APF is helping him gain the skills necessary to be successful in the future.
Maddi is a second-year fellow at the Academy. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2018 with a major in Applied Behavior Science. Prior to her fellowship, Maddi worked in classrooms for three years performing ABA-based therapy. Maddi loves working with the children at APF. She embraces the challenging learning environment. “Before, I was given a list and had to follow it precisely. There was no room to adjust the therapy to the particular needs of the child. At the Academy, I am challenged to make the process mine. I often pause and think, what can I do to make this more fun and more effective for the children? How can I make it work?” Comparing her experiences with different approaches to applied behavior analysis (ABA), Maddi also raised the issue of burnout among providers. She said, “it is easier to get burnout at centers with rigid protocols, because you’re not thinking creatively. At APF, you own it, you become proud of your work, and you don’t have to be a supervisor to feel fulfilled.” Maddi’s goals include pursuing masters and doctoral degrees to continue working in the field of progressive ABA.
Rika is a second-year fellow at the Academy. Rika received her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis from Sage College in 2017. Prior to her fellowship, Rika received her BCBA and worked at a center in Pennsylvania as a direct therapist. She attended APF’s 2018 Conference, and says she was “blown away” by the research, methodology, and results. Rika is on the supervisory track, and as part of her fellowship, she gets significant experience working directly with children, meetings with supervisors, and learning the role of being a supervisor and how to effectively supervise therapists. Rika’s goal is to help spread the word about progressive ABA. She also plans to continue being the best clinician and supervisor possible. “APF is different than other centers in which I worked,” says Rika. “Most centers are protocol-based and rigid, but it is easier work. Here, it is more challenging, but also far more rewarding, because you see more progress in a shorter amount of time. Children with ASD need a specific way of teaching that is effective, because they don’t learn from their environment like other kids do.”
Shannon is a second-year fellow. She attended the University of Kansas where she discovered her passion for working with children on the autism spectrum and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis. In her free-time Shannon enjoys sports and fitness, watching the latest Marvel shows on Netflix, and helping coach a free fitness class for children on the spectrum in the evenings. She loves the opportunity to learn more about the field of ABA with the help of fellows and supervisors at APF and is excited to see what the next year brings.
Wafa is a second-year fellow at the Academy. She was one of the first female students to study Special Education in Saudi Arabia, with a concentration in Autism. She came to the U.S. in 2012 and earned her master’s degree in Behavior Analysis from Simmons College in 2016. Prior to her fellowship, Wafa worked at several clinics in Boston, hoping to receive the best training possible. She heard about APF and progressive applied behavior analysis (ABA), and the approach, training, and results made sense to her. Wafa is in her second-year of Ph.D. study at Endicott College, and APF’s Director of Research and Training, Dr. Justin Leaf, is her academic advisor. Wafa did not have research opportunities in Saudi Arabia. Now, she says, “my favorite part is I learn new things every day, and each day is challenging and fulfilling.” Wafa is on the research and clinical tracks in her fellowship, and she feels strongly about access to progressive ABA. As a scientist and social activist, Wafa believes in disseminating high-quality services that have a significant and life-altering impact. She volunteers for non-profits and prioritizes staying current with science and research. Her goal is to finish her Ph.D.
Yiyi is a second-year fellow at the Academy. She came to the U.S. in 2014 from China and attended U.C. Irvine, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Behavior. She currently is pursuing her Master’s degree and conducting her thesis on instructive feedback, such as teaching children new labels to embed in feedback and help them remember. Prior to her fellowship, Yiyi worked for a year in Atlanta. She wants to receive her BCBA certification and pursue a doctoral degree. Passionate about progressive ABA and her fellowship at APF, Yiyi says “everyone is supportive, and I like being able to adjust the therapy to fit the child. The focus at APF is on therapy vs. data collection, because someone else is assigned to collect the data, enabling fellows to focus on the therapy and training. My favorite thing about the Academy is it’s like a family. Even though the fellowship is challenging, it also is friendly.”