Team Spotlight: Jack Miller - Therapist Receives Leadership Award
October 28, 2019
October 28, 2019
Imagine you are at an event surrounded by hundreds of community leaders. Suddenly you are up on stage, in front of a microphone, speaking to all of them, reading a speech you have personally written. You are 11 years old. Now imagine you have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
This situation would be difficult for many adults, let alone a child who has overcome a number of hurdles, but this is not just a hypothetical nor a dream. Hopebridge kiddo, DeLeah, recently braved the 24th Annual Celebration of Leadership Awards to stand up and honor the therapist who helped her reach this achievement and more, Hopebridge Evansville Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Jack Miller.
DeLeah personally nominated Jack and presented him with the Sara B. Davies Servant Leadership Award at the Leadership Everyone event (formally known as Leadership Evansville). Why she did this is best described through DeLeah’s own words:
“…Remember me everywhere and the words I said: that you make me laugh, I love our talks, and the love I’ve given you, the smile on my face and my graduation. I will love you from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry for my behavior but you never gave up on me. You are truly my friend forever and ever! You are so great with children like me. You are very special and you teach me so much. I just want to say thank you! Thank you for helping me. From your friend, DeLeah.”
In addition to receiving the award from such a VIP in his life, the award was extra special because it was named after his grandmother, who was known as a visionary whose passion inspired others and connected the community. Jack was originally nominated for a health profession-specific award, so it was a happy surprise when he received the big award of the night.
“Community involvement has always been important to my family, so just being nominated was really special, and to win the award in my grandmother’s name was on another level,” said Jack. “But DeLeah is the one who had the tough job that night; she was amazing. I just had to walk up there and pick up the award. I would’ve had a difficult time doing what she did, and she did it with ease.”
BUILDING THE BOND
Jack served as DeLeah’s direct therapist for applied behavior analysis (ABA) for only a few weeks, but he built rapport and meaningful experiences with her through a social skills class he led for the Evansville center’s older children.
“DeLeah is one of those kids who drove the group sessions; interacting with everybody,” said Jack. “She is a really creative kid who shines while expressing herself through artwork and imaginative play.”
One memory that sticks out is DeLeah’s center “restaurant,” at which she would serve therapists and other patients. She ran all aspects of the restaurant as the chef, server and host, in addition to creating the menu and prices. It was a really big deal in the center. For her, because it was fun, but for her therapy team – Jack, Amy Meyer and Marissa Holler – it was exciting to watch her engage in really functional play and putting her skills into action.
“Through it, I was able to see how what we were doing at that moment was going to affect her future life. I can picture her at 18, working as a server and doing her thing!” said Jack. “Plus, it was especially fun because we all spoke in silly voices while working and dining at the restaurant.”
FOR THE LOVE OF THE JOB
DeLeah is an incredibly special girl, but Jack’s devotion to his job spans even farther to all the children he has served over the years.
Most of his professional career has been committed to health or social fields, starting with the Boys & Girls Club in Evansville. It was his first opportunity to work with children, which even led him to consider a teaching position. He then cared for patients at a treatment facility for alcohol and drug abuse, which is another cause close to his heart.
It wasn’t actually until working as a truck driver for three months that he was able to discover his true passion.
“It was the worst job for me because I wasn’t working with people, but I’m thankful for it because it also made me realize I need to work with others in order to experience happiness through my career,” said Jack.
He was in that driving role when a Hopebridge recruiter found his résumé and reached out to him for a center tour and interview. Seeing the impact the therapists made on a daily basis sparked his interest.
“I know that if I’m going to dedicate my life to something, I have to be truly invested in that population. It was clear to me after just a few visits that this was the place for me,” said Jack. “ABA therapy became a passion pretty quickly, thanks to really great leadership within the clinic. Their dedication rubbed off on me.”
Jack became an RBT at Hopebridge and is now going back to school with plans to work towards a master’s degree to ultimately become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). He’s thankful he has found purpose in his career and feels it’s an easy field to fall in love with because of the kids.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had and the most meaningful, so it’s easy to come to work every morning,” said Jack. “Every single day is new. Whether delivering therapy to a new child or continuing care with someone I have been with for a long time, there is nothing monotonous about this work nor how the kids respond to therapy.
“And of course the kids are just adorable. Every day I get like 10 different high fives within the first five minutes of work… how do you have a bad day after that? It’s a huge confidence booster.”
WANT YOUR CHANCE TO WORK IN ABA THERAPY?
Choosing to work in ABA therapy like Jack can be a big, exciting change for many. Before coming into this field, Jack says he had a limited scope of autism from a definition and experience standpoint. This is not uncommon, and we have seen first-hand that for those who possess the passion and dedication, it does not hold people back.
This is what Jack shared when we asked him what autism means to him now: “The first words that come to mind are ‘opportunity’ and ‘change.’ I’ve learned that every kid I’ve worked with is an amazing well of opportunity. These words also apply to what they’ve brought out of me and what I am capable of doing.”
GET TO KNOW JACK
Fun fact: “I enjoy rock climbing. We’re really lucky to live near Shawnee National Forest, which has some of the best rock climbing in the country.”
On his playlist right now: “I’m a head-banger. I pretty much always have a metal show coming up. My next one is a music fest in Louisville, so right now I’m listening to bands like Disturbed to get ready for it.”
Favorite superhero: “I’m more of a fan of anti-heroes… Deadpool, Venom, The Joker.”
Favorite Hopebridge theme day: “Jersey day is definitely my favorite… I wear my Colorado Avalanche jersey. The seasonal themes are also really fun; I like it when we decorate our doors around Christmas time.”