Martin Myers – The Unique and Impactful Role of a Center-Based Hopebridge BCBA
March 15, 2018
March 15, 2018
Martin Myers claims he didn’t find his dream job…it found him. Currently a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) at Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers, he originally majored in psychology with intentions of pursuing his PhD. Before heading back to school, he landed an internship working with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which gave him his first taste of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). There he saw entire families’ lives change for the better, right in front of him. Because of those experiences, he altered his path; realizing he could use the science of ABA to make a significant impact.
Originally from Indiana, Martin made his way back to the state after a friend recommended Hopebridge while he was working in Virginia. In his previous job, he only had face-time with his learners around eight to ten hours a week, so Hopebridge’s intensive therapy environment in Fort Wayne is a huge bonus for Martin (not to mention the kids!).
“From the moment I walk into the time I get to my desk, I’ve already given five high fives, several head rubs, noogies and side hugs,” said Martin. “There are not a lot of jobs where you get to do that. Because of that level of interaction, I feel pretty good about myself.”
The center’s atmosphere also puts Martin and the Hopebridge team in the front row for some of the most pivotal moments in these kids’ lives. The first time tying a shoe, echoing a word, using the restroom or brushing their teeth, these are the moments that families don’t forget. One of his most memorable experiences was when a 3-year-old he worked with said “mama” for the first time on Mother’s Day, no less!
“It’s not a spectator sport, but it’s great when I can be a spectator in those special moments,” said Martin. “You can have a really bad day, and then all it takes is one little success like that to turn it around.”
To Martin, autism is just a different way of looking at the world. People with ASD have a different background, learning history and tendencies than many of their peers. In an essence, they have their own culture.
If you look at fMRI scans, brains of children with autism often light up in areas that others’ do not. These individuals have a variety of strengths that don’t always easily translate to the real world…whether it’s the ability to do complex math or remember a day from three weeks ago, minute by minute.
As a BCBA, Martin feels his role is to serve as a translator for the kids he works with in order to make their worlds more accessible to each other. It’s a matter of figuring out which part of their brains are lighting up, then spreading a little more love to the other areas. It’s his job to provide them the tools to make them as comfortable and successful as possible in the world in which we live.
So often the therapists are thought to make the children’s lives better. That’s true in many ways, but Martin feels it is the other way around…these kids make him a better person. On a daily basis, they must get into these young hearts and minds; experiencing all of their adventures and trials on an intimate level.
“We have to get over ourselves if we’re going to see any success,” said Martin. “I could work in any other job and not deal with the triumphs, successes and even tragedies, which we have to struggle through together. I don’t know what I’d do without them, nor the phenomenal therapists who work with them one-to-one.”
It’s difficult for Martin to pinpoint one highlight of his career since all of the children he works with leave a stamp on his heart. But he does have one crowning achievement of a tragic story turned triumphant that sticks out in his mind.
This young man grew up in a highly abusive environment, without access to running water or heat in his home. When Martin met him, he was in foster care with violent behaviors that put him on the cusp of facing juvenile detention for the next half-decade. His new and caring foster family was on their last leg and needed help.
Through Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA, Martin and team were able to condition the parents as reinforcers for him; getting him to the point where he looked at them as “Mom and Dad.” In less than four months, his life turned around. He’s become a good student who never spends time in the principal’s office anymore. He’s going to play high school football this year. Best of all, he just got adopted permanently by these parents.
What’s interesting is this child did not have autism, but this is still a testament to ABA when used in the correct fashion with the right team. It’s a myth to think that ABA is only an effective therapy for those touched by autism; it is a powerful and useful set of techniques and principles that can be used by anyone.
It’s no secret that the kiddos Martin works with adore him. But what does his team have to say?
“Martin is not only a supervising therapist, he’s an all-around team player. He is always willing to provide hands-on treatment in an effort to understand his kids’ needs, while also offering support and teaching opportunities for his RBTs,” said Elizabeth Kindinger. “He actively listens to those around him and contributes meaningful feedback and insight. He embodies positive leadership for his team.”
Favorite superhero: “I’ve always liked Batman because he is more realistic and believable. He doesn’t possess a superpower. Instead, he has all these gadgets and uses money to fight crime; I always liked that.”
If you could be any animal, what would you be? “A lion. I would love to be able to intimidate people because it’s so different from who I am now. If you know me, I’m a pretty nice guy and I’m scared to death of just about everything out there!”
Dream vacation: “Anywhere in eastern Europe, like Greece or Macedonia. I’ve been to western Europe, so next I want to make my way to the other countries.
Fun fact: “I’m a massive basketball fan. From high school to college to pro ball, you name it, I follow it…especially the Hoosiers and Pacers! At any given Friday night, I’ll be at a game. I’m consistent with the Indiana stereotype in that way, I guess! I also still play about once a week. The goal is to continue to play until the doctor says it’s not a smart idea anymore.”
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