When Kristina Tejeda of Sycamore was working on her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in hopes of one day becoming a lawyer, she never thought that one decision would change her career path – or her life forever.
Tejeda is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with By Your Side – Autism Therapy Services.
As part of her job, Tejeda helps children with autism receive therapy at home and in everyday community settings, such as shopping, school activities and extracurricular activities.
By Your Side – Autism Therapy Services will be at an informational event about autism for parents and caregivers from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, at the DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak St.
Tejeda spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about By Your Side – Autism Therapy Services and how ABA therapy can help meet the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum.
Milton: What do you do as a BCBA?
Tejeda: I meet with both clients and their families to create, train, monitor and supervise their individualized therapy plan. The therapy plan may include both increasing skills and decreasing interfering behaviors. Anything meaningful and socially significant that the client or family wants to work on, we can work on. The clients mostly work one-on-one with an ABA therapist or a Registered Behavior Technician while I, the BCBA, spend many hours with both the therapist and family or behind the scenes working on therapy planning. We do not provide diagnostic evaluations. To begin services, clients must have a full diagnostic report and a prescription for ABA therapy.
Milton: What is autism?
Tejeda: Autism is characterized by persistent deficits with social communication and social interaction, or behavior deficits, and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests or activities, or behavior excesses. The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in deficits and strengths each individual person with autism has.
Milton: What is ABA therapy?
Tejeda: Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy is a data-driven scientific approach that focuses on the analysis and evaluation of an individual’s social and learning environment to design treatment plans for producing practical and meaningful change in socially significant behaviors. Desirable consequences increase behavior, whereas undesirable consequences decrease behavior. ... There are two different treatment models: focused, with few developmental concerns, which is 10 to 25 hours per week, and comprehensive, with multiple developmental concerns, which is 30 to 40 hours per week. The second type is especially recommended for children 2 to 6 years old. ABA therapy should be provided as soon as possible after diagnosis with supporting evidence that the earlier treatment begins, the greater the likelihood of positive long-term outcomes.
Milton: Are parents involved in the therapy?
Tejeda: The opportunities for teaching in the natural environment are endless and with support, these opportunities allow children to use the skills they’ve learned across other settings and with other people. When parents, grandparents, siblings and neighbors are involved in learning how to support their child’s learning then learning does not end when the therapist leaves, it continues throughout every day. Parent involvement in family coaching with their child’s therapy team will only make their family more equipped and prepared for the road ahead, as difficulties manifest differently but the learning is continued. Our goal is for your child to be motivated to learn, and be independent learning in the least restrictive environment. With us by your side, your family will have the tools for their children to achieve and understand how to celebrate success at every step.
Milton: Where do therapy sessions take place?
Tejeda: Providing home-based therapy allows for the BCBA to tailor your child’s therapy plan to address concerns and requests across home, school and multiple community settings where the child is in contact with several different people and peers and we are able to have sessions in these various settings. We offer home-based sessions in the DeKalb area, Indianapolis area and at our Illinois centers in Morton Grove, Burr Ridge and Schaumburg. Center locations also offer speech therapy, occupational therapy, social work and counseling.
Milton: Have you always wanted to work in therapy?
Tejeda: No, while working on my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to eventually become a lawyer. When looking into graduate programs, I learned about ABA. I was fascinated with the subject and decided to take a chance with the master’s program. I found a real joy and passion in ABA. It’s now part of everything I do. I am so thankful for this change in my career path, I know that I made the right choice.
Milton: What do you like the most about your job?
Tejeda: I enjoy every single part of my work. I never have a bad day. I love helping clients and others learn more effective ways to understand each other. I love seeing the happiness on my clients’ faces, their smiles and receiving hugs. I love when a parent tells me they never thought it was possible for their child to accomplish a particular goal and now they can. Life would be near meaningless if I hadn’t chosen this field. I also love that ABA is evidence-based and scientific. It is safe, effective and changing not only our clients’ lives, but also their moms, dads and siblings’ lives. Every step forward is huge to me. There are no small accomplishments. I love my job, and I never want to stop doing what I do.