Denver Team Spotlight: Hopebridge Kicks off Colorado Opening with Superstar ABA Therapy Team
October 06, 2020
October 06, 2020
Sometimes a job is more than a job. It’s a connection to others. It’s an education. It’s a passion. It’s a calling. It’s a life-changing experience.
That is what it is like to work for Hopebridge. With more than 2,400 team members around the country, the autism therapy network is soon adding more than 325 additional Hopebridge Heroes to centers in and around Denver, Colorado. Starting with University Hills, the initial team is comprised of experts with a diverse range of skills and backgrounds. From Colorado natives and transplants to internal promotions relocating to bring the Hopebridge culture to a new place, this team is ready to offer innovative new autism services to the families of Colorado.
To help you get to know the team, we chatted with four people in four different roles who have joined in the University Hills center. Here’s the scoop:
Ask any behavior analyst and they’ll tell you they are in their role because of the individuals they get to work with each day. The seemingly small, but actually huge wins they encounter keep them moving each day, such as a child’s first word or first time using the toilet. Each BCBA will likely also tell you about one key moment that will forever stick with them.
For Hopebridge BCBA Abby Trotz, this occurred with a 7-year-old kiddo whose rigid and restrictive behaviors led him to wear the same clothes every day. Although his caregiver kept several sets of the same outfit, his long-sleeved striped shirt, shorts and shoes without socks were not only stigmatizing, they became a concern in the winter when he refused to wear pants, boots or socks.
To help him battle this challenge, Abby began a clothing desensitization program with him, starting with a variety of shirts, then pants, then socks and shoes. It was a long process that was met with a lot of resistance. First he started touching the shirt, then put his fingers inside, then his while hand and eventually up to his elbow. Next, they put on the shirt and took it right off. Slowly, they started to increase the amount of time he would wear the clothes.
One day, he came into the center wearing a completely different outfit. Seeing him in a pink shirt and long pants, Abby yelled out, “you look so cute!” His caregiver said they simply tried it while getting dressed and he went along with it. That is the power of applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) and dedicated professionals like Abby.
Abby comes to Hopebridge with the desire to help even more children and families experience these victories.
“I’m an advocate for the autism population; especially my clients,” said Abby. “I do this not only to help children on the spectrum, but also to teach their families how to better interact with their children. It’s such a special part of the job.”
She was drawn to the new University Hills center due to the collaborative teamwork and shared goals that are the heart of the Hopebridge360 model. Looking forward to working alongside other BCBAs as well as a future beside occupational therapists and speech therapists, she also appreciates the support from other departments like the Care and Benefits Coordinators, who specialize in intake and insurance so the therapy team can focus on what it does best.
“I met with a lot of families throughout my time working in ABA therapy in Colorado and so many of their children have had to wait up to a year or more for therapy after they receive an autism diagnosis,” said Abby. “Hopebridge aims to change this from the start. I am eager to work with Hopebridge to get these kids the services they need to live a more independent life.”
Abby loves living in Denver with its mix of the outdoors and city life. With an average of 300 days of sunshine, she enjoys skiing, swimming and playing pickleball. She can’t wait to help more of Colorado’s children learn to enjoy all the elements and activities around them, too.
A trainer like Abby, Hopebridge RBT Taylor Chambers thrives on Hopebridge’s collaboration. Taylor brings a different background to University Hills, however, as she worked with the autism therapy provider for two years in Hopebridge’s Miamisburg, Ohio clinic before she decided to transfer to the new center.
Taylor began her training as an RBT at Hopebridge. Interestingly, her brother received an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis after she joined the center, but it was not her motivation for working in ABA therapy.
“Hopebridge gave me excellent training, which is what drove me to want to become a trainer,” said Taylor. “I enjoyed having other therapists shadow me and sharing my knowledge. I know it can be tough to start a new job that is especially strenuous for those new to the field, so I wanted to help.”
She is sad to leave her friends and kiddos in Ohio, but is looking forward to helping the patients, parents and other therapists of Denver. She believes her work in the field can aid children in becoming more comfortable with themselves and their therapists during the pairing process in the new center.
While she will miss everyone at the center, there is one child who has a special place in her heart. He needed a speech device to communicate and Taylor had the chance to learn how to use it alongside of him. She said he has grown so much and is using it like a pro. She feels grateful she now has the knowledge to pass along to other children.
Taylor is relocating to Denver with her boyfriend, two Australian shepherds and a cat. She is excited about the opportunity to move to the western side of the country but is most enthusiastic about the process of opening a new Hopebridge center and being about to meet its first families.
“My absolute favorite thing about Hopebridge is the community it creates. I’ve been to a handful of centers and felt the same vibe from all of them,” said Taylor. “Everyone is so welcoming and supportive. I intend to bring the same sense of community to this new clinic.”
In addition to ABA therapy, the University Hills center will also offer diagnostic services at opening, which will be headed by Dr. Alexandra Ament. A licensed psychologist, she has experience in conducting diagnostic assessments for autism, as well as the development and implementation of behavioral treatment plans based on ABA therapy.
The close community of providers initially intrigued Alexandra regarding Hopebridge, but it is the collaboration, support and passion of the team that kept her engaged.
“Everyone has the same vision for the children. It’s really helpful for families to have access to a center-based program where they can receive all their support and services in one place,” said Alexandra. “There are a limited number of centers for kids with ASD in this area, in addition to long waitlists for evaluations, so I am happy we can provide Colorado’s families more options for autism services.”
Although Alexandra already has her doctorate in psychology, she isn’t stopping there. She will soon take the BCBA exam so she can expand her impact on Hopebridge’s children and families through early intervention.
“I’m thankful to have the opportunity to serve on both sides because of the interdisciplinary program offered through Hopebridge360,” said Alexandra. “Beyond providing an answer for parents, I can also set families up with services. It’s a nice relief for them to understand why their children may be struggling and let them know there are evidence-based therapies available to them in the same place.”
Alexandra will also bring her interest and background in caregiver training to Hopebridge’s family education services. She believes being able to provide hands-on training and watching parents successfully apply ABA strategies in natural, daily settings is one of the best parts of the job.
University Hill’s new center manager, Brittany Donatelli, moved to the Denver area from Michigan to open Hopebridge’s first Colorado location.
Having studied ABA at Western Michigan University, she originally intended to become a BCBA. Early in her career, she worked at an autism service clinic where she took on administration duties, in addition to therapy hours. Eventually, she moved into a billing manager role at another clinic and her path toward management grew from there.
She has always loved children so she is looking forward to working with kids again. Brittany can’t wait to see the look of pride on the kiddos’ faces when they improve on something or meet a goal. As center manager, she plans to fuel the drive of her team to lead to more rewarding moments like this.
“Families in Colorado are in dire need for more autism services,” said Brittany. “I am inspired by the history and scale of Hopebridge and how many children we are going to be able to help because of it.”
Both professionally and personally, Brittany is all in on her move to Denver, where she adores the mountains and the city. She and her husband recently purchased a home they are currently renovating for themselves and their two dogs.
Do any of these roles in ABA therapy or diagnostics sound like a fit for you? How about a Hopebridge position in occupational therapy or speech therapy? Hopebridge is on a mission to help all children lead their best lives and needs more individuals ready to support that vision. View the open positions in Colorado and around the United States on the Hopebridge job site to get started.