Voices for All: Ash Franks Talks about Supporting Autistic People While Being Autistic and Her Role on LEARN’s New Neurodiversity Advisory Committee

In September 2020, LEARN convened a group of neurodivergent staff to form our Neurodivergent Advisory Committee. The committee reviews and gives feedback on matters relating to neurodiversity and other person-centered ABA topics and was instrumental in the content, messaging, and visual design of LEARN’s Neurodiversity Values Statement. We asked Ash Franks, a member of the Neurodivergent Advisory Committee, to share her thoughts with us.   

 

HI, ASH! FIRST, I’D LIKE TO ASK YOU WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU TO BE AN AUTISTIC PERSON SUPPORTING OTHER AUTISTIC PEOPLE? 

Supporting other autistic people while being autistic means listening to what they have to say, however they communicate it, whether it be through an AAC device, sign language, PECS, or verbal language. It also means giving them breaks if they need it, and allowing them to use tools to cope (e.g. stuffed animals, headphones, weighted blankets, etc.). Looking back on my experiences as an autistic child has been very helpful in trying to help children who are at AST.

HOW DOES BEING AUTISTIC INSPIRE YOUR WORK IN ABA? 

Being autistic allows me to see different perspectives and ideas compared to neurotypical people, as they tend to think differently than I do.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE NEURODIVERGENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE AND HOW IT WORKS. 

Basically, we are trying to re-vamp ABA materials through a more neurodivergent-friendly lens, so we can make our treatment as effective as possible. Having autistic people and other neurodivergent people look at ABA therapy through their eyes allows them to explain what works and what doesn’t work. This way, we can work to have treatment be as effective, safe, and as fun as possible for everyone involved. Having BCBAs see the autistic perspective is important because we have direct experience with what worked for us growing up versus what didn’t and might be able to help streamline the treatment to be as effective as possible.

CAN YOU GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF SOME FEEDBACK YOU HAVE GIVEN IN YOUR ROLE ON THE COMMITTEE? 

I tend to give feedback on the more artistic and creative side of things, as I am very geared towards having an eye for creative things in the world.

FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE AUTISTIC PERSPECTIVES IN OUR FIELD? 

Including autistic people in ABA is super important because we need to account for neurodivergent perspectives to make treatment as effective as possible. Since I am autistic, I can give a firsthand account of what has personally worked for me throughout my life, and what hasn’t. I myself was never in ABA therapy growing up, but I did other types of therapies that I also have found helpful from time to time.

WHAT ARE SOME OTHER PLACES IN OUR SOCIETY THAT YOU THINK IT WOULD BE HELPFUL TO LISTEN TO THE AUTISTIC PERSPECTIVE?

I think listening to autistic perspectives in the workplace would be very helpful. I think having a quiet room for staff that has sensory toys specific for staff would be very helpful, also maybe including a comfy place to sit with a weighted blanket would be good too. Another place it would be helpful to listen to autistic people is when it comes to shopping at malls, since malls can be overwhelming for most autistic people. I know some stores have “quiet” shopping hours where they reduce the lighting and turn off the music, and I really wish more places would do this.

ASH, THANK YOU FOR YOUR THOUGHTS AND FOR THE EXCELLENT WORK YOU’RE DOING ON THE NEURODIVERGENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE!

Ash Franks is a Behavior Technician for Learn Behavioral. Ash works in AST’s Hillsboro, Oregon location. Outside of work, she enjoys photography, cooking, video games, and spending time with family and friends. 

Voices for All: Ash Franks Talks about Supporting Autistic People While Being Autistic and Her Role on LEARN’s New Neurodiversity Advisory Committee

In September 2020, LEARN convened a group of neurodivergent staff to form our Neurodivergent Advisory Committee. The committee reviews and gives feedback on matters relating to neurodiversity and other person-centered ABA topics and was instrumental in the content, messaging, and visual design of LEARN’s Neurodiversity Values Statement. We asked Ash Franks, a member of the Neurodivergent Advisory Committee, to share her thoughts with us.   

 

HI, ASH! FIRST, I’D LIKE TO ASK YOU WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU TO BE AN AUTISTIC PERSON SUPPORTING OTHER AUTISTIC PEOPLE? 

Supporting other autistic people while being autistic means listening to what they have to say, however they communicate it, whether it be through an AAC device, sign language, PECS, or verbal language. It also means giving them breaks if they need it, and allowing them to use tools to cope (e.g. stuffed animals, headphones, weighted blankets, etc.). Looking back on my experiences as an autistic child has been very helpful in trying to help children who are at AST.

HOW DOES BEING AUTISTIC INSPIRE YOUR WORK IN ABA? 

Being autistic allows me to see different perspectives and ideas compared to neurotypical people, as they tend to think differently than I do.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE NEURODIVERGENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE AND HOW IT WORKS. 

Basically, we are trying to re-vamp ABA materials through a more neurodivergent-friendly lens, so we can make our treatment as effective as possible. Having autistic people and other neurodivergent people look at ABA therapy through their eyes allows them to explain what works and what doesn’t work. This way, we can work to have treatment be as effective, safe, and as fun as possible for everyone involved. Having BCBAs see the autistic perspective is important because we have direct experience with what worked for us growing up versus what didn’t and might be able to help streamline the treatment to be as effective as possible.

CAN YOU GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF SOME FEEDBACK YOU HAVE GIVEN IN YOUR ROLE ON THE COMMITTEE? 

I tend to give feedback on the more artistic and creative side of things, as I am very geared towards having an eye for creative things in the world.

FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE AUTISTIC PERSPECTIVES IN OUR FIELD? 

Including autistic people in ABA is super important because we need to account for neurodivergent perspectives to make treatment as effective as possible. Since I am autistic, I can give a firsthand account of what has personally worked for me throughout my life, and what hasn’t. I myself was never in ABA therapy growing up, but I did other types of therapies that I also have found helpful from time to time.

WHAT ARE SOME OTHER PLACES IN OUR SOCIETY THAT YOU THINK IT WOULD BE HELPFUL TO LISTEN TO THE AUTISTIC PERSPECTIVE?

I think listening to autistic perspectives in the workplace would be very helpful. I think having a quiet room for staff that has sensory toys specific for staff would be very helpful, also maybe including a comfy place to sit with a weighted blanket would be good too. Another place it would be helpful to listen to autistic people is when it comes to shopping at malls, since malls can be overwhelming for most autistic people. I know some stores have “quiet” shopping hours where they reduce the lighting and turn off the music, and I really wish more places would do this.

ASH, THANK YOU FOR YOUR THOUGHTS AND FOR THE EXCELLENT WORK YOU’RE DOING ON THE NEURODIVERGENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE!

Ash Franks is a Behavior Technician for Learn Behavioral. Ash works in AST’s Hillsboro, Oregon location. Outside of work, she enjoys photography, cooking, video games, and spending time with family and friends. 

9 Types of People Who Should Apply for an Entry-Level ABA Job

Looking for an entry-level yet meaningful and growth-oriented job? Like many, you may not know about the growing field of applied behavior analysis (ABA), a therapy based on science—and used to help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) learn and grow. The entry-level position for ABA is called a behavior technician, and most jobs require no prior experience.

What does a behavior tech do? As a behavior tech, you would work one-on-one with children and young adults with autism to help them build skills and become more independent. You would also be part of a team of clinicians and caregivers working to help individuals achieve unique goals and reach their potential.

Are you a good fit for a job in ABA? Read on to see if you recognize yourself in any of these nine descriptions:

  1. You want to make a difference.

    New behavior technicians are often blown away by the progress their clients make. Nothing is more gratifying than knowing that your work leads to positive change in the lives of kids and families.

  2. You love children.

    Many ABA jobs involve working with children. If you love children and enjoy making them smile and seeing their progress, this might be the job for you. In most ABA jobs, your training is provided at no cost, so loving children is the only requirement.

  3. You like variety at work.

    Work as a behavior technician is never ABA positions may be located in any of number of environments, whether in an individual’s home, workplace, school, or community—or in one of our Learning Centers. For instance, you might work with a child at home to build turn-taking skills by playing a game or practice making requests through imaginary or pretend play. Likewise, you might venture to the grocery store with an older child or young adult to practice selecting food and going through the check-out line. Whatever the case, there is no end to the types of skills you may teach, from imitating words to ordering a meal and making change in a restaurant!

  4. You’re interested in special education, psychology, speech and language pathology, occupational therapy, or physical therapy.

    You don’t want to start a degree program until you’re positive it’s the field for you.  Working as a behavior tech gives you excellent experience working directly with a population of children you might encounter in any of the above fields. As a bonus, hiring managers in education and other specialty services love to see an ABA background on an applicant’s resume.

  5. You want to change your field or career.

    ABA training is provided on-the-job. In most cases, you don’t need to come in with any special knowledge or training—only a great attitude and a willingness to learn.

  6. You’re a current or former paraprofessional or instructional aide in a school.

    Some people gravitate to education but realize that working in a classroom is not for them. ABA allows you to work with fewer children more closely in a variety of settings, not just a single classroom or school. For this reason, you have more flexibility over your schedule and can often work part-time or full-time.

  7. You’re independent and enjoy a supportive work environment.

    As a behavior technician in an ABA setting, you typically receive written instructions on what to do, plus regular support from your supervisor, a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). Most days, however, you also lead teaching sessions on your own, giving you an ideal mix of support and independence.

  8. You want to find meaning in your work.

    There is nothing more fulfilling than supporting a person in gaining independence or helping children find their voice. Behavior technicians do important, meaningful work each and every day, and often experience a strong sense of fulfillment.

  9. You’re curious and enjoy learning—and want a career with growth potential.

    Ongoing learning and problem-solving are essential parts of any ABA career, including a position as a behavior technician. As a behavior tech, you can continue in that capacity or take your career to any number of next levels, starting with a position as a managing behavior technician. From there, with a bachelor’s degree, you could become an assistant behavior analyst—and then work toward your master’s degree, while serving as a clinical fellow. Once you earned a master’s degree, you could become a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA), and work your way to a managing BCBA or even a clinical director. The sky is the limit.

As more people enter the fast-growing field of ABA, either as a behavior technician for the long-run or as a stepping stone to another professional career, ask yourself whether you fit the bill—and, if so, visit our careers page and search “behavior technician” to apply for a job today.