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Meet our new Applied Behavior Analysis team!

The Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program is evidence-based behavioral therapy for kids diagnosed with autism. Each member of our team has an extensive background working with children with disabilities and autism, and we are excited to serve our wonderful community in Juneau! The team provides ABA therapy to children ages 2 to 18 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

Jenna Wiersma, ABA director, answers some questions about the new program.

1.) What is the goal of the ABA program?

ABA therapy focuses on functional skill development and the reduction of maladaptive behaviors. ABA teaches a variety of skills that are important to the child, including: social skills, play skills, emotional regulation and coping skills, and adaptive life skills.

2.) How did the new ABA program at Bartlett come about?

Bartlett’s senior leadership team, including previous CEO Rose Lawhorne and Chief Behavioral Health Officer Bradley Grigg, recognized a need within our community to provide resources and support to individuals with autism and their families and saw this as a way to expand services to meet that need.

3.) How does the ABA program operate?

My staff and I provide 1:1 direct therapy with certified ABA technicians in home, school and community settings. These settings help children function and allow greater access to the world around them. The settings are dependent on the child’s individual needs. The program also includes social groups for individuals who need social skills and family/parent training for caregivers.

4.) What are the main benefits to the children it serves and their families?

The kids receiving ABA therapy learn important skills to help them further access the world around them and decrease the barriers they deal with every day. Our goal is to help kids be independent in their daily lives so that they no longer need supports and can succeed on their own. For families, they will receive training from a board‑certified behavior analyst (BCBA) as part of their child’s therapy on how to better support and advocate for their child, including direct training on strategies to use.

5.) How did you come to this field of study and work?

I grew up in a large family and have multiple siblings with disabilities. I have always had a passion for helping others, especially children with disabilities. I entered this career field during my graduate school studies in autism spectrum disorders in 2010. I began my career as a special education teacher for students with autism and was really driven to ABA because I wanted to be able to reach more children and help families on a greater scale.

I have been working in the field of autism for 11 years now.

6.) Tell us about your background in this field.

I have two master’s degrees in autism spectrum disorders and ABA. I became a BCBA in 2016. Recently, I came to Bartlett Regional Hospital to help start the ABA program, and I am thrilled to be part of it! I believe that Bartlett Regional Hospital has the ability to help support our population of children with autism and expand services to those individuals and their families.

7.) How much have autism spectrum disorders increased in recent years? Or are more being diagnosed than, say, 10 or 20 years ago?

According to research in the field, there has been an increase in diagnosis in recent years. Many experts in the field believe this is due to the fact that more children are being diagnosed than in the past, and this allows them to receive important services to help meet their needs. In addition, our general society is more aware of autism.

As a professional working in this field, I believe we have a long way to go in our understanding and support of individuals with autism. I appreciate the effort that many communities are making, and I believe that increased diagnoses of individuals with autism will help us continue to learn more.

8.) What are you most excited about for this new program?

I am so excited about this entire program, which enables us to provide such an important service to individuals with autism and their families and really support them in a way that will help them in their daily lives.

ABA focuses so much on the day-to-day skills, and I enjoy working directly with the children we serve and their families and watching the growth they make! It is one of the reasons I entered this field and something that keeps me motivated and driven to continue each day.

These children and their families deserve to be supported, and I am so excited I get to be part of the team that provides that support!

Categories: Kids' health

Helping kids succeed

Think the ABA program might be right for your child? Contact us at 907.796.8300.

907.796.8300