BCBA and Special Education Pro: A Winning Combination


BCBA and Special Education Pro: A Winning Combination

Employee Spotlight: Meet Julie, BCBA

When a child is diagnosed with autism, or any other disability, parents are thrust into learning about the impact of the diagnosis. And if that disability also impedes the child’s learning, parents must also learn how to navigate the special education system, IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and what their child is entitled to in their education. Thankfully Healing Haven clients have access to an expert in this area in addition to the skills she brings as a BCBA.

When Julie was in high school she worked with kids with Down syndrome and fell in love with them. Her junior year she knew she wanted to work in Special Education. She received her undergrad in Cognitive Impairments from Western Michigan University and received her Master’s in Autism from Oakland University.

After 15 years working in Special Education Julie was ready for a change.  With 10 years of teaching high school students and transition programs, and five years as a Special Education Consultant, ensuring school districts were in compliance with IDEA, she decided to move into the world of Applied Behavior Analysis and become a BCBA.

Transitioning to a Career in ABA Therapy

In order to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Julie went back to school to earn her post-graduate certificate in ABA. This required her to take five courses and accumulate 1500 hours in supervision. She took courses while working full-time and she also became pregnant with her first child. When she was finally able to sit for the BCBA exam, Julie was juggling her full-time job and having a two-year-old at home.

Julie had our founder Jamie McGillivary as a professor in her ABA classes at Oakland University.  She had been to the original Healing Haven clinic in Berkley; however, she worked for another ABA therapy provider to earn her supervision hours. The day Julie passed the BCBA exam she received a call from Jamie. She wanted to see the new Healing Haven clinic in Madison Heights, so agreed to Jamie’s invitation to come meet with her.

Drawn to This Special Clinic

As Julie toured Healing Haven and reconnected with her former professor, she was overwhelmed by the special feel of this place. She had not intended to leave her other ABA therapy employer when she walked in that day. But Julie called her husband as she pulled away, telling him Jamie offered her a BCBA position and she could not turn it down.

“This is one of the most supportive places I’ve ever worked. I never dread coming to work,” described Julie. She said there is no fear in asking questions. “I still had to learn how to be a BCBA in the style of Healing Haven. My previous employer was kind of ‘sink or swim’ training, whereas here there is so much support.”

Julie experienced the support of her new team right out of the gate. Within weeks of starting at Healing Haven, Julie discovered she was pregnant with her second child. After 8 weeks maternity leave she returned to work, creating behavior plans for previous and new clients.

One of Julie’s favorite aspects of working here is that she loves being able to witness the gains the kids make in skills, communication and behavior. And because she’s always worked with teenagers, she is excited to be a part of the pre-vocational skills the older Healing Haven clients are learning.

Another favorite experience is witnessing a child who didn’t start ABA therapy until he was 11 years old. “He’s like our poster child that ABA can work for kids who don’t start when they are really young,” explains Julie. “He has made so much progress in functional communication and mastering programs. It’s so rewarding to witness!”

Our Go-To Special Ed Expert

It’s obvious Julie values both her co-workers and the clients she works with. And the feeling is mutual. Both our team of BCBAs and the parents we serve benefit from Julie’s expertise in special education. She consults with parents at all stages of the IEP process (Individualized Education Plan). From first assessments and IEP’s to transitioning to high school, Julie is an expert in navigating the often stressful world of IEPs. Julie also helps parents think through the future of post-secondary programs and what will be a good fit for their teenager. In addition, she is the go-to special education / IEP expert for our staff as well, helping them answer client questions and advocate for families in need of support during their child’s IEP process.

BCBA Career Advice

With Julie’s knowledge of working at another ABA provider, she recommends you find a very strong practicum experience. She explains, “Every organization is different, so be sure to find a supportive environment where you can learn from high quality professionals.” She also provides encouragement about the reality of working in ABA, “It’s a hard job, but so rewarding. The kids will surprise you and you will be so grateful to play a part in their growth.”

A bit more about Julie:

  • Favorite food: sushi
  • What music is usually playing on your iPod? anything from 90’s rap to classical to country – it depends on my mood or what I’m doing.
  • Favorite movie: Princess Bride and Pulp Fiction
  • How do you relax / de-stress outside of work? Honestly, I’m terrible at it with having 2 kids under the age of 3.
  • Coffee, tea or soda? Coffee every day all day!
  • Favorite book (either fiction or non-fiction): Bridge to Terabithia and The Outsiders

Does Julie’s story inspire you in your own career ambitions? Take a look at the Join Our Team page for more details on what it’s like to work here and get in touch with us about current opportunities.

From Roofing Salesman to Board Certified Behavior Analyst


From Roofing Salesman to Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Employee Spotlight: Meet BCBA Stephen

That’s not a typical path for a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). But that’s what makes up many people’s career progressions. Often there are chance opportunities and uncovering of gifts and passions to find your calling. No matter how your career starts, the end goal is to land in a place where you are fulfilled and making an impact.

Stephen’s non-typical path to BCBA is a great example. He took a break from school and was selling roofing for a contractor in Oklahoma. One day he realized, “I didn’t want to always be chasing the next storm. I needed to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life.”

Stephen had always had an interest in working with kids with special needs. The seed was planted when he was in middle school and he signed up to be a LINK – a peer mentor to a student with a disability. Stephen worked with a student with autism for an hour a day and realized he loved it! That spark lead to other encounters with children with special needs.

Pursuing A Career In ABA Therapy

That aha moment in Oklahoma led him to reach out to a friend who was a Board Certified Behavior Analyst to talk about her career. He moved back to Michigan and enrolled at Oakland University to pursue a degree in Psychology. Through his one ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) class he met Dr. Lori Warner who co-managed the Ted Lindsay Foundation HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s with our founder Jamie McGillivary. He applied for the practicum position at the HOPE Center and started his career in ABA in 2013.

Healing Haven started to provide additional services outside of the HOPE Center’s program offerings. As Healing Haven’s programs grew, Jamie needed to focus her attention full-time on providing services to meet the demand. It was a natural transition for Stephen to move with Healing Haven at that time as an ABA therapist.

From Student to Therapist

Shortly after Healing Haven launched Stephen moved from ABA Therapist to Room Monitor. This position provides support and oversight to the ABA Therapists working one-on-one with the kids. Then he quickly moved into the Parent Training program, educating parents on ABA therapy techniques to use at home and out in the community.

While working here the past four years Stephen earned a Masters in Psychology and passed the exam becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in August 2017. (He did this while also becoming a Dad to two wonderful kids!) He describes Healing Haven as “a community of supportive staff who are invested and passionate about what they do.” Stephen added, “I have a Director who is both a mentor and who has a vision that she wants me to be a part of.”

A memorable moment from the past four years was when Stephen ran the Parent Training program. During the last session of training with a Mom and her child, Stephen was doing the final assessment to document any changes. The child pointed to a ball and said “ball” – it was his first word ever spoken! “To have a front row seat to moments like that is such a gift,” exclaimed Stephen.

When asked what his dream career is, Stephen responded, “I’m living it right now, and it continues to grow as the dream of this place grows.” He doesn’t feel like he just comes to work and punches a clock. “I love that I get to be part of a community that is so dedicated in what they do. They see the kids they serve as spectacular, even on tough days.”

ABA Career Advice

Stephen’s advice for someone considering a career in ABA therapy or as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst is to do your research. “Research where you want to learn and work. Make sure it’s at a company that has values in alignment with your own so your passion isn’t diminished. If you find the right environment this work is so incredibly rewarding!”

A bit more about Stephen:

  • Favorite food: BBQ
  • What radio station is on in your car? NPR never leaves my dial!
  • Favorite movie: Any kind of horror movie
  • How do you relax / de-stress outside of work? Spend time with my children
  • Coffee, tea or soda? Coffee
  • Favorite book (either fiction or non-fiction): The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

Does Stephen’s story inspire you in your own career ambitions? Take a look at the Join Our Team page for more details on what it’s like to work here and get in touch with us about current opportunities.