Hannah Alejandria is a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) with Patterson Behavior Services. In this role, she works directly with children to teach new skills and reduce challenging behaviors.
Hannah completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in data analysis at George Mason University. She received her initial RBT training as an employee for Patterson Behavior Services and now works with a wide range of ages and abilities. Our families are always complimenting Hannah’s bubbly, caring personality! We asked her a few questions about her background and what it is like to work in the field.
How did you find applied behavior analysis (ABA)? Was there anything in particular that drew you to the field?
I graduated from George Mason with a major in Psychology. I found out about ABA while inquiring about how to gain experience in the field of psychology, and knowing that this position provides good opportunity for growth, I decided to venture out in this field. I realized I enjoy being an active player in improving a person’s quality of life through ABA. I like being able to work one on one with children and being able to closely follow their learning progress.
Your job is to teach children new skills, but often the children teach us things as well. What is something you’ve learned from a client?
I love how working with children pushes us to broaden our perspective and teaches us to be more conscious of the world around us. Adults tend to have set ways – there are many routines or patterns that we do automatically every day which makes it easy for us to take little things for granted. Children are at the stage where they are still learning about the world, where everyday situations are learning opportunities for them. Teaching them new skills often requires us to break down these skills into little steps and this helps me become more conscious of how different people function day to day.
Tell us about a challenging situation you have encountered on the job. How did you handle it?
It’s important to be calm during situations where challenging behaviors are escalated. Having encountered behaviors such as aggression, I knew to keep calm and ensure safety of the child and other people present. Meeting aggression with aggression is never the answer. I think it’s also key to be flexible with the children I work with. I recognize when to adjust the level of demands given to the child so we can prevent challenging behaviors from escalating.
What do you think is your main strength in ABA?
I consider myself an optimist. I believe one successful trial out of ten should still be celebrated. Sometimes the presence of challenging behaviors can overwhelm the small wins that we gain, but it’s important to remind ourselves that every progress counts, no matter how big or small it is, and that each win helps pave the path to building new skills and creating lasting changes.
How do you describe your job to someone new? What’s your “elevator pitch?”
I explain that my job is to build new skills and help children with autism to live independently. We aim to decrease challenging behaviors and promote social skills such as being able to stay calm and being able to effectively communicate their wants and needs.
If we did a preference assessment for you, which reinforcers would we find?
I enjoy going hiking, playing games, and cooking. And I love to eat! I mostly gravitate towards cheesy or salty treats and Asian cuisine.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love being able to work on-on-one with children. It really is a fulfilling feeling to see gradual improvement in skill that I am teaching. I also like how I get to work with different personalities and how each session is never exactly the same. There’s no one, right way to do a session. You can teach at a table or a more natural environment, and you can use books, cards, and games. It’s fun to work flexibly according to the children’s needs.
There are some misunderstandings about what ABA is and how ABA therapy works. What is something you wish everyone understood about what you do?
We are here to help bring out a person’s potential. We embrace the individuality of every person and we work around their strength and weaknesses. We teach communication and social skills so we can better equip these children to live their lives independently and so that they can better express themselves to the world and to those who are important to them.
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