Meghan Lynch, BCBA, MS ’15, was employed as a program specialist in special education for Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland when she realized she wanted to do more.
“I was in a central office position working with some outside board-certified behavior analysts, but I wanted to learn more about how I could better help our county,” Lynch says. As Lynch started to look into graduate programs for applied behavior analysis (ABA), her director received a flyer advertising a new post-master’s certificate program in ABA at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. Lynch became part of the first class that graduated in 2015.
“A lot of programs are online, but I decided I’m not an online kind of learner,” Lynch says, noting that the in-person experience appealed to her. “I also liked that Dr. Marder, the program coordinator, made sure that we not only learned the subject matter but how it would benefit our students. A lot of people in my program were public school teachers, and she geared content toward those participants.”
Now a manager of extended school year and emotional support for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Lynch says the program built her confidence in ABA, and she was able to bring back to the teachers different strategies they could use to support their students. One example is in implementing behavior intervention plans. Lynch says she can pull from a toolkit learned through the ABA program what supports would best help particular students.
Lynch has since worked with the ABA program as a supervisor, helping current learners with their research projects. They meet once a week for 30 weeks, solving cases or looking at ABA research, depending on students’ needs.
“The projects Dr. Marder has designed are meaningful for the ABA students and will help them down the road as graduates,” Lynch says. “She also makes sure that the supervisors help students get to where they need to be. From what I’ve seen from other programs, hers is one of the best around for supervision.”
Leslie Coleman, an alumna who studied under Lynch during the 2019-2020 school year, says, “Not only is Meghan well versed in applied behavior analysis, supervision, and leadership, …but she was able to build my confidence and expertise in the field…I felt comfortable asking difficult questions as many situations throughout my projects were not always black and white. She would say, ‘Go to the research!’ and continue to cheer me on while following up with more probing questions.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lynch’s day job became extra challenging, holding virtual meetings with specialists that support classrooms, and trying to problem solve how to get students to successfully use computers for distance learning. “When we went out March 13, I don’t think anyone thought we’d still be here,” she says.
Much of her time is spent with her staff determining how to implement behavior intervention plans virtually and how to collect data when they’re seeing students over the computer, and behaviors are looking different.
“With the pandemic, we’re doing a lot of brainstorming around how to collect data and how to do functional behavior assessments virtually,” she says. “I think we’ve come up with some ideas to do the best we can with what we have right now. We’ll have to do new ones when schools reopen, but at least we have a temporary plan to give us some information on our students.”