Team Spotlight: Katy DeToma
September 30, 2019
September 30, 2019
It’s important to enjoy the present moment, especially when it comes to the job you do every day, but that does not mean you cannot also have hopes and dreams for the future.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Katy DeToma knows this, and it is not only what brought her to Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers, but also across the country. This superstar is taking the leap from her center in Lexington, Kentucky onto one of the newest Hopebridge locations, Glendale, Arizona.
ABA CAREER GROWTH
Career growth has already taken on a variety of forms in Katy’s life. Through education, training, position advancement, new responsibilities and experiences in new settings, she has sought out ways to enhance both her professional life and ultimately the outcomes for those she serves.
Her journey started with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, with plans to teach high school English, plus a master’s degree in recreation and sports administration. When the job with a youth organization that followed was not as satisfying as expected, she sought more.
She learned about applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) after hearing from a friend in the field who loved her job. Katy knew she worked with children with special needs, but even without much more information, it piqued her interest and she quickly got on board. She went back to school and got certified, originally intending on obtaining another bachelor’s degree, but continued to master her skills by earning another graduate degree to become a BCBA.
Katy started practicing ABA at the beginning of her schooling and remained with the same company after graduation, her position rising along the way. As much as she loved the work and children from that job, after four years, she no longer felt supported in her role, especially after discussions about future advancement.
“At that age, I did not feel I should already be at the peak of my career, with little support or resources, no less,” said Katy. “That is when I saw the Hopebridge Lexington center was hiring and applied. I had a great initial chat with the recruiter about what to expect at Hopebridge; it was almost as if she had listened in on all my past frustrations!”
Hopebridge’s collaborative system attracted Katy. Rather than serving as a one-woman show, she was excited about working alongside multiple BCBAs in her own center and dozens across the nation, learning together and bouncing ideas off each other. Plus, the opportunities for growth with Hopebridge seemed endless, not only for her, but those around her: an RBT fellowship program, regional BCBA positions, and a chance to open centers in new markets. Combine that with ongoing training, caseload limits and salary-based compensation (versus billable hours), and Katy thought it sounded too good to be true.
Even better, she learned her former clinic manager, Kelsey, was going to lead the Lexington center. She was happy to have a familiar face, plus someone to give her words of encouragement as she made the tough decision to move on from the kids she had been with for years.
ALL ABOUT THE KIDS
While the perks of the job led her to Hopebridge, it was the children and their progress that hooked her into the field and keeps her going. Her current role allows her to focus on them, putting all her efforts on their goals and well-being, rather than worrying about billing or being stretched too thin.
“What we do is magic. Watching a child progress is the best part of the job,” said Katy. “I primarily work with early learners, and many of them come in with very few functional skills, especially around communication. We have the ability to teach them how to use a range of communication systems… signing, pointing, a picture system, and of course, vocalization. Seeing the impact these skills have on kids and their families is incredible.”
All of those achievements are special, but there are a few moments that stick out in her mind. While walking one kiddo into the lobby to meet his mother, he pulled out a picture from his PECS book to request a cup from her. His mom replied, “I didn’t think we’d get to have these moments.” This seemingly simple moment meant the world to her.
It was yet another child who cemented the path in ABA therapy for Katy. One of the first she worked with as a registered behavior technician (RBT), the girl’s communication skills were nonexistent in the beginning and she did not do much but swing for the first few days in therapy. Katy worked one-on-one with her for 15 hours a week. During this time, the girl learned American Sign Language (ASL), had emerging vocalization and started on reading. Around that time, Katy began working at Hopebridge and was not able to see the girl for six months until she ran into her parents at a coffee shop. They showed her videos of the girl reading books aloud and said she is talking and doing well in school.
“She came so far. Her parents were so appreciative toward me that when we said goodbye, I went to my car to cry tears of joy. She took all these small things we worked on and used them to build meaningful changes in her life and her family’s, and I am so happy I got to be a part of it,” said Katy.
When it comes to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Katy believes in the saying, “different, not less.” While the everyday tasks might be more challenging for children on the spectrum, the everyday victories are that much more rewarding.
“The children we work with are amazing and funny people with big personalities. Even if they can’t vocalize it, we usually know what they’re thinking,” said Katy. “Parents and caregivers may need to work twice as hard to teach them to wash their hair or tie their shoes, but the victory is also that much bigger because of the work that went into it.”
NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN A NEW PLACE
Having worked with Hopebridge in Kentucky for a while, Katy is now looking forward to launching a new center in Arizona and guide the ABA program in an area that needs more access to autism resources.
“It’s exciting to know there are a bunch of new children and families we can impact and change their lives for the better. I cannot wait to do that in a new place with new adventures,” said Katy.
What’s next for Katy beyond the center walls?
“I’m eager for what’s to come. It is going to be an entirely different world. I’ve lived 95 percent of my life within a three-hour radius within Kentucky. I’m used to greenery, rain and humidity, but now we are buying a house in the dessert!” said Katy. “I’m especially looking forward to exploring the mountains and going on hikes with my husband and my dogs. We will be really close to the Grand Canyon, so, of course that is on my list of must-dos.”
Bettering lives is what we do, and it is not only for those who receive therapy in our centers. Hopebridge can help you discover and reach your career goals, whether you are just starting in your ABA journey or a serving as a seasoned BCBA. Visit our Hopebridge job board to review open positions in your area…or an entirely new place that awaits you.
GET TO KNOW KATY
Pets: “I have two dogs, Biggie and Smalls! My sister-in-law is a veterinarian and these shepherd-mixes were surrendered by the owners after becoming ill. My sister knew I wanted a dog and took a chance I’d bring home two. The office was trying to think of some good duo names; we made the Biggie-and-Smalls suggestion and it immediately stuck. The second my husband and I saw them, we knew they were meant to be our dogs! Once healthy, we took them home, and they are the cutest dogs ever.”
If I could have any super power, it would be… “Flight. It would be so much faster to travel, and would be especially useful now that I’m in Arizona. ‘Want to me to visit back home? No problem, I’ll just fly there.’”
Hobby: “I like to knit and am really good at making scarves. I’ve attempted to knit a sweater a few times too, but I usually make it to the collar bone and then I undo it all.”
Fun fact: “I went to summer camp for 16 years and would love to open a summer camp for children with autism in the future.”