Team Spotlight: How a ‘Gap Year’ Job in ABA Therapy Led to a Change in Career Path for Elise Discher
January 22, 2021
January 22, 2021
Since she was 4 years old, Elise Discher wanted to be a doctor. Her grandfather was a medical doctor and her father was a molecular biologist, so she dreamed about following in their footsteps to help others. All through primary school and college her aspirations never faltered. Once she graduated from Ohio State University, she took a gap year to focus on applying to medical school. It was that year her goals changed—which was just as surprising to her as it was to those who knew her.
As a way to keep busy and make some extra money while applying for school, she took a job as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) at the Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center in Westerville, Ohio. The role combined health care and working with children, so she assumed working in applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) would be a good alley for medical school, though she did not intend to continue it long term.
“A year and a half ago, I didn’t know this field existed. I didn’t even know what ABA was when I first came across the opportunity,” said Elise. “But I knew within my first month working at the center that this was it. This is where I belonged. I felt so confident and comfortable at the same time.”
Elise continued to work as an RBT at the Westerville clinic for nine months before transferring to Hopebridge’s center in Fishers, Indiana. She was already enjoying her time providing direct therapy to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but the move to a new location opened her eyes to new opportunities and growth within the company.
The in-house ABA trainers in the Fishers clinic immediately made Elise a mentor for new therapists. Support from these trainers and managers coupled with the motivation from interacting with the center’s Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), Elise solidified her new goal.
“With the first two weeks of moving here, I decided I would get my master’s degree and further my education to become a BCBA,” said Elise. “It was a difficult decision – I didn’t want to disappoint my family by turning off my dreams in medicine – but it was a calling and the trainers and BCBAs told me to go for it. Their encouragement was the push I needed.”
It turns out Elise did not need to be nervous about how others felt about her change in career path—her family was extremely supportive! They continue to ask her about school and textbooks and bought her an autism keychain to further encourage her choice to care for these kids through ABA therapy.
This week marks a new layer in Elise’s career journey, as she began classes for her graduate program at Ball State. As part of her schooling and BACB certification, she needs to obtain 2,000 hours of supervision.
Working at Hopebridge gives her an advantage when it comes to tackling her supervision hours. Elise joined the therapy network’s Behavior Analyst Fellowship (BAF) program, which has already given her more perspective around the supervision requirements and how to accrue hours.
The BAF program offers Elise and her fellow student team members exclusive ABA experiences and a clear path for career advancement within the company. The program provides best-in-class supervision, including restricted and unrestricted opportunities, which are often on the job and come at no cost to the employee. Perks also include free BACB exam study materials, collaboration with peers and mentorship from a range of leaders from multi-dimensional backgrounds, ensuring support every step of the way.
“The BCBAs here at the center already want to give me tasks, so I’m enthusiastic about getting started,” said Elise. “Two of my other coworkers decided to work towards becoming a BCBA at the same time, so it will be nice to go through the process with them.”
Every day at the center brings new experiences for Elise. She finds joy in her time with the kids, who have opened her up to their worlds.
“Many people believe ‘autism’ has a negative connotation. To me, the word simply means that the people diagnosed with it see the world in a different way and are not able to express themselves in the expected, neurotypical manner,” said Elise. “Society needs to be better about working with autism, not against it. We should take the time to learn about them and how they access the world rather than getting frustrated.”
One particular moment with a kiddo sticks out to her. This child’s behaviors include a lot of physical aggression and property destruction. He often found it difficult to verbalize when he was upset. After several months of working with him, she saw him starting to get angry one day. But rather than showing it physically, all of a sudden, he said, “I feel angry and I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Elise was overwhelmed and excited as this child successfully communicated his feelings. “He probably wondered why I was so happy! I told him we could stop and move on at that point.”
It is instances with incredible children like these that inspire her each day, but the connection with her teammates makes the job even better for her. She appreciates the daily conversations and collaboration the center offers.
“It takes a certain type of person to work here. Hopebridge attracts and hires the nicest people, and because it’s such a big network, it draws a wide range of people from all walks of life,” said Elise. “I love that I can rely on my coworkers. That’s important in any job.”
“Stumbling on this job was pure chance. I decided to continue down this road on a hunch, and I’m so thankful I did. Originally, I had no intention of continuing in the ABA field, but my love for it grew immediately. I feel so lucky that the timing worked out for me,” said Elise. “If you’re in the same boat I was in and are considering a change that you think will fulfill you, go for it!”
Get to Know Elise
Fun fact: “I played soccer since I was 2 years old and still play. Once the pandemic is over, I want to get a team going here with Hopebridge.
What’s on her playlist: “I’m a classic rock fan. I’m really into the Beatles and Queen, all thanks to my dad.”
If she could have any super power: “I would want to fly so I could travel all over the world for free.”
Dream vacation spot: “I would love to go to Sweden, so I could learn more about my Swedish heritage.”