Tanzi Mitchell - Transitioning from Early Childhood Education to ABA
August 26, 2019
August 26, 2019
In many ways, life is all about the “Aha!” moments. Most people tend to seek out these transformative flashes in time; longing for the single point that will dramatically impact their jobs, relationships and overall lives. Others, like Hopebridge Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Tanzi Mitchell, spend their days helping others achieve these life-altering moments.
A kiddo begins to make eye contact. A parent reacts to their child playing appropriately with a toy. By working with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Hopebridge team members focus on getting these little ones their own “aha!” moments, and the reward is often even bigger.
It is these seemingly small – yet incredibly meaningful – achievements that drive Tanzi in her day-to-day, and they are the reason she began working in applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy). She looks forward to all of these tipping points, when the switch flips on a skill and a kid is better able to function in life, but there is one specific moment that made her cry tears of joy.
While working with one kiddo who was non-verbal, she was encouraging him to use his PECS finder to communicate. Tanzi understood he wanted popcorn, but in order to teach him to use the Picture Exchange Communication System properly, she presented a picture of a food item and another of a book as options. He repeatedly chose the book card, so she gave him the book, all the while knowing that is not what he wanted. He began to get frustrated, and eventually handed the book back to her and said, “here!”
That is when Tanzi’s tears started flowing. This child, who was not known to use words, just spoke! It was unexpected, and needless to say, she gave him the popcorn. All the while, he looked at her unfazed, but the team was so excited to see him progress by mimicking sounds.
Before coming to Hopebridge, Tanzi studied early childhood education and served as a teacher in Georgia. At the time, she taught children with special needs within inclusion classes, but was not yet familiar with autism on a more severe level.
“I love kids and working with kids, but as a teacher, I felt like there was so much more we could do for our special needs kids to make sure they were not left behind,” said Tanzi.
She began to research other ways she could better the education for her students and sought out additional certifications for special education, but still felt it was not enough. It was not until taking a break from teaching for personal reasons that she remembered learning about RBT certifications and began to look into it as a career.
Around the same time, she started seeing ads for ABA therapy jobs at Hopebridge’s Roswell center in Georgia and applied although she was not yet an RBT. She already had nine interviews that week, but immediately felt at home at Hopebridge.
“The entire atmosphere was so welcoming. The walls were colorful and fun, and the way the team interacted with the kids was amazing. Everyone was so engaged and happy to be there,” said Tanzi. “It was just a feeling…I knew right away it was the place for me.”
Hopebridge worked with Tanzi to get her RBT certification, which included on-the-job training and took a little less than a month.
“Though the role of an RBT caught my attention, I didn’t know how to break into this career path, so I’m grateful Hopebridge helped provide the training,” said Tanzi. “The online modules are informative, but the hands-on training aspect was most helpful. Having someone show me how to apply the book knowledge was what really hooked me onto this job.”
Tanzi started in the Roswell center but has since moved to the Hopebridge center in Marietta when it opened at the end of spring 2019.
“The friendships I found at both centers was something I was not expecting when I took on this job,” said Tanzi. “This field seems to attract really great personalities and people overall. I enjoy working together as a team toward the same goals.”
“I knew the meaning of autism before I started working here, but I did not have a clear understanding of it,” said Tanzi. “I think I used to see it more as a disability, whereas now I see it as a unique way of viewing the world. These children are so special and valuable to our community because of the way they see it.”
It sounds like walking into Hopebridge to become an RBT was Tanzi’s own “aha!” moment, and her Hopebridge team is thrilled she found it. Her work is not done yet, though, as she continues to advance her career and knowledge by studying for a master’s degree in nonprofit management. Her goal is to start a nonprofit geared toward children and families touched by autism.
“I especially want to help autism parents, who are everyday heroes,” said Tanzi. “I would love to give parents a place to get a break every now and then; provide them an outlet for their own needs to be met.”
Are you looking for your own “aha!” moment while helping our kiddos find theirs? Consider joining Hopebridge and we can help you get certified as an RBT. Visit our Hopebridge job board to review open positions in your area.
Fun fact: “I can solve a Rubik’s cube in three minutes.”
Favorite Super Hero: “Batman. I like him because he’s a regular person, but still a hero.”
Pets: “I have one dog named Josie. She’s a cockapoo – a cocker spaniel-poodle mix – and we like to go hiking together.”
Favorite hiking spots: “I enjoy our local spots; along the Chattahoochee River and Kennesaw Mountain.”
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