BCBA Andre Anderson Creates “Hopebrary” to Inspire Education and Growth Among the Autism Therapy Center Staff
July 10, 2020
July 10, 2020
Andre L. Anderson is a jack of all trades. From ABA and psychology to poetry and a stint in cosmetology, this man seemingly does it all and never stops learning, as witnessed through his current path toward a Ph.D. His passion for knowledge is contagious, so it’s no surprise his new “Hopebrary” is picking up steam both in and out of the Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center in Snellville, Georgia.
Andre’s goal in designing this library was to continue education from within by providing more information and support around the evidence-based practices of applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy). There’s one caveat: he wanted to make reading “cool” rather than having it feel like a task. He thinks of it as a company version of Oprah’s Book Club.
The Hopebrary is a way to bring more academia inside the center for therapists, while also giving them an outlet to offset potential stressors. It is a place where Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) like Andre and the rest of the team can turn when they have questions and want to pull strategies that have been proven effective. From industry research and textbooks like Ethics for Behavior Analysts, to leadership books by authors like Brene Brown, Malcom Gladwell and Dale Carnegie, to light-hearted biographies like that of Tina Fey, there are a range of topics for staff to browse.
The cherry on top is the original artwork Andre commissioned to put a spotlight on the Hopebrary.
“I wanted a piece that would inspire our staff to read, so I asked my cousin, Michael Williams, Jr., for his help,” said Andre. “I did not give him a description for the subject of his creation, but it’s interesting that he drew someone who looks similar to one of my mentors, Dr. Dé Bryant from Indiana University South Bend.”
Andre was initially inspired to create the Hopebrary during his orientation at Hopebridge. He felt like the leadership gave his fellow therapists and him the tools and flexibility to create their own path and programs at the center, rather than forcing them to do things the “Hopebridge way.”
“That really stuck with me. They gave me the creative license to connect with other team members in this way so we can continue to learn together,” said Andre.
It’s still a work in progress, but the team is already enjoying its own internal book swap as it continues to grow.
Path to Becoming a BCBA
Somewhat new to Hopebridge, Andre comes to the center with a wealth of experience that benefits both the team and the center’s children.
He feels his introduction to the ABA field was somewhat serendipitous. He was involved in organizing the International Special Olympics during his teenage years, which piqued his interest, but it was not until he graduated from college that it really began. He told us he was still finding himself when he went on to work in a group home of adults with differing learning abilities and diagnoses, including one who has autism. Both the residents and the director had a profound impact on Andre.
“They treated me just like they wanted to be treated,” said Andre. “It’s where I learned to advocate for this community that needed a voice and it’s where I learned more about the authenticity I wanted in my professional career.”
A job writing for a record label then brought him to Tennessee, where he continued his schooling to obtain his master’s degree in applied behavior analysis.
Andre told us he became the first African-American BCBA in Tennessee and that his experience had been like this in most of his environments. He is happy to see how things are changing in ABA – including new textbooks on diversity – since the field is still in its infancy compared to other areas related to psychology.
“One of my preeminent callings is to create more BCBAs in our field, and especially BCBAs of color. It’s important that therapists reflect what the world looks like,” said Andre. “I never saw an African-American male BCBA while I was going to school, but I love helping kids and people with autism, and I had great mentors to encourage me, so I stuck to the science. It feels good to know that kids at Hopebridge are getting some balance early in their lives with a male BCBA, as well as with an African-American male.”
Continuing a Career in ABA at Hopebridge
Andre’s career path has taken him to some incredible places. Since coming back to Indiana, Andre was most recently drawn to Hopebridge in part due to its leadership. He appreciates the company Hopebridge Founder Kim Strunk set out to create, noting that 15 years ago, she saw a void and fulfilled a much-needed service for the autism community. He believes she embodies many of the qualities discussed in the books found in the Hopebrary, and he is happy they are felt throughout the centers even as the network continues to grow.
“Coming to Hopebridge was awesome. The Snellville center is so diverse: African-American, Jamaican, Caucasian, Puerto Rican, people of color from London…I didn’t come to Hopebridge for this reason, but in a way, it found me,” said Andre. “I know the staff in centers around the country varies, but as far as race and socioeconomic background, this Hopebridge center is the most diverse place I’ve worked in within this capacity.”
What else does Andre enjoy about working at Hopebridge? The kids – of course! – but he also gets excited about the number of children the centers are able to help, thanks to support from the company’s other departments, like those focused on marketing and billing. He likes that his job description as a Hopebridge BCBA does not include finding more clients, so he can instead focus all his efforts on programming. He also enjoys having RBT Fellows on staff, which helps serve one of his professional objectives to home-grow BCBAs.
“I’m just trying to leave the world better than I found it. Part of that includes my belief in helping kids act like their best selves. How do you help them do that? Catch them doing something great and then throw them a party!” said Andre.
Andre’s latest accomplishments include work on his Ph.D., which is all but awaiting dissertation. As he continues to use his skills to help both children and his colleagues, he knows the job has also impacted him in a big way.
“We all get to come alive because of autism,” said Andre. “For example, because there are deficits around theory of mind, we have to be much more socially aware for some of our kids on the spectrum. We have to be extra empathetic and understanding that parents of those with autism face extra stressors than those without. And when we think of self-injurious behavior, we have to be mindful of our own hearts and how it affects us as humans.”
Did Andre’s Hopebrary and his words of wisdom inspire you? Let Hopebridge help you build your own career within our centers, while helping others at the same time. Learn more about the BCBA jobs and other therapy positions available at Hopebridge on our careers page.
GET TO KNOW ANDRE
Fun Fact: “I am also a licensed cosmetologist and colorist; I used to work at an Aveda concept salon. It’s something I’d like to think about again in the future, as we need more sensory-friendly cosmetologists and barbers.”
Hobbies and Passions: “I love the arts, and especially the spoken word, which is incredibly crazy to me.” Andre is a poet and spent part of his career writing for a record label.
Favorite book: “The Bible; mainly some of the psalms that have transcended for the here and now. I also really enjoy Clicking: 17 Trends That Drive Your Business—And Your Life, by marketing guru, Faith Popcorn.”Favorite Children’s Book: “I Love You This Much and all of the Peter Rabbit books.”