When I look back on my time in the world of Applied Behavioral Analysis and Autism, I go back to Dr. Johnston’s Introduction to Behavior Analysis class at Auburn University. His influential “First Day of Class” lecture on needing to have experience on my resume before applying to graduate school. It sticks with me to this day. If it were not for him, I would not be writing about my time in the field. If it were not for his support throughout my undergraduate and graduate school, I would not be the Board Certified Behavioral Analyst I am today.
My story begins in Auburn, Alabama at a small preschool, The Little Tree Learning Center. The school was an inclusion preschool for children with Autism who received ABA services from BCBAs, graduate and undergraduate students. On my first day at the preschool, I remember sitting in a small hallway with bean bags, pillows, a little boy, and a fake glass of milk, a few staff members and a fellow undergraduate. There were tornado warnings that afternoon, and we were shelter in place at the preschool. As I sat there and watched our Director, Holly, “entertain” this little boy, I was in awe and a little scared. I had no idea what I was about to get myself into working nine hours a week at the preschool. The little boy was screaming and yelling to gain access to the fake glass of milk and was not able to receive it until Holly used her hand to mold his hand into a pointing position and said “milk.” From that moment, I knew I wanted to help this little boy and others like him. That year, I saw the little boy go from not being able to vocalize a single request, crying, having no social interaction, and flopping to the floor, to being able to point to the object he wanted, learn how to say the first letter in the word to eventually saying, “I want movie”, along with “tickle me please”, “Open the door”, “swing me” and verbalize many more complex thoughts.
I completed my year as an undergraduate at the school, and then applied to graduate school at Auburn. I had the privilege of completing another six months at the preschool along with my other practicum sites. As I said in the beginning, the Little Tree has a huge place in my heart. If it were not for those children, I would not be the person or practitioner I am today. I give them credit for opening my eyes to a field I knew nothing about in August of 2005. I have now worked in it for almost 15 years. The stories of the children who attended the Little Tree will be with me forever; they will be the first stories I look back on when someone asks me how I came into the field of Autism and ABA. Those children made me smile from the moment I walked in the door until the moment I left.
After graduating in 2007, I moved to Massachusetts and worked for the May Institute as an Educational Consultant. I worked with children between the ages of 18 months to 18 years. During that time I was lucky enough to work with great BCBAs and BCBA-Ds in our field and was exposed to other disciplines as well. The May Institute taught me the importance of collaborating with other disciplines and therapies to ensure the treatment efficacy of my clients both in the school and home situations.
I came home to Houston after being away for six years. I joined the MHMRA of Harris County’s ABA-SkIP team and had the pleasure of working with children who typically would have not been able to afford ABA services through the DARS Autism Program grant. After five years at SkIP, my husband and I started a family of our own and I decided it was time for a new adventure in the public schools. The last five years have been defining moments in my life as a mother, wife, and BCBA. Through working in the school districts to working in the homes of my clients, I realized I wanted to help more families and in different ways. I not only wanted to work with my clients, but also with the families. I wanted to work closely with other providers to establish the much-needed treatment coordination and better treatment efficacy. At that moment, Apara Autism Center found me!
My 15 years of experience in the field of Autism and ABA have taught me how to be me! I am excited and honored to be a part of this amazing company and look forward to steering the Apara Autism Center in the direction of excellence! I can’t wait to build our book of stories and success with our clients and look back on my years with Apara and smile knowing we changed the lives of families with children with Autism for the better!
Amanda Sitomer Smith, M.S, BCBA, LBA
Clinical Director of Apara Autism Center
As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis, Amanda brings more than a decade of experience consulting with providers and providing ABA therapy in clinic, school and in-home environments. She will head Apara’s clinical team, overseeing its evidence-based therapies and staff of behavior therapists.