Category Alumni
Author Karen Blum

Before becoming a board-certified behavior analyst, Jessica Schuwer, MSc, BCBA, was living in London, pursuing a master’s degree in psychoanalytic developmental psychology and babysitting on weekends for a 2-year-old boy who had some developmental delays. After an applied behavior analysis (ABA) provider assessed the boy, the family asked Schuwer if she would like to be trained to implement his ABA program. Soon after, she was hooked.

“Within a month, I had seen a lot of progress, and that was kind of my eureka moment of, ‘Wow, this is exactly what I want to do,’” Schuwer says. “It’s lots of fun, it’s play-based, and I get to work with young kids. It’s super-reinforcing to me because I get to see progress, and it’s super-reinforcing for them because I’m teaching them how to communicate, how to play, and how to get their wants and needs met.”

She began working as a freelance ABA therapist in London while looking for additional training programs. Online, she found information about Johns Hopkins’ post-master’s certificate in ABA. Not only was she impressed by the university’s reputation, but her parents had just moved to the Washington, D.C., area, so she could live with them while continuing her studies.

“I really wanted an in-person program for my coursework, as I learn a lot better with in-person education,” Schuwer says. “I also really liked that it included a lot of group supervision, and that we would be problem-solving real-life cases. As much as I love to read research papers and read about things in textbooks, I wanted to learn how to apply ABA in real-life scenarios.”

Schuwer began her coursework while working as a behavior technician for Little Leaves Behavioral Services, implementing therapy for children and collecting data under a supervisor’s direction. The company provides home, community, and center-based intensive ABA services for children ages 2 to 6. A year later, she was promoted to behavior specialist, helping facilitate individual therapy and group activities for a caseload of ABA therapy clients and mentoring behavior technicians. After graduating from the Johns Hopkins program in 2018 and earning her Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification, Schuwer last fall was promoted again to a supervising behavior analyst position.

In this job, she manages and oversees delivery of ABA therapy services to children with autism spectrum disorders: performing assessments, developing treatment plans, supervising a team of therapists, training staff, and working with parents and families. Schuwer says the Johns Hopkins program was directly responsible for her success there. She frequently calls on lessons learned to ensure that all behavior intervention plans are individualized and that the goals are important to the clients, parents, and technicians alike. She also learned to apply ABA to future classroom settings for her clients, thinking ahead when writing behavior plans to how they will adapt to follow instructions and interact with peers.

“I really like the clinical side and working with such a young population,” Schuwer says. “Their little minds are like sponges—they learn and progress so much. It’s really reinforcing to work with such young children because you see day-to-day progress. They’re also fun. You get to play with them, sing nursery songs, teach them how to play with puzzles and Play-Doh, how to jump on the trampoline—and make friends.”

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