ABA Alumni Spotlight - Charise Lewis
March 28, 2023 | Heather Fletcher
Charise Lewis has been working in ABA for 11 years and recently completed the UWF online BCaBA course sequence in May 2022. With a bachelor’s degree in childhood development and a passion for working with teens and adults with autism, Charise is now a BCaBA at 1-Step Ahead ABA in San Diego, CA working with clients ranging in all ages.
How did you first become interested in Behavior Analysis?
I got into ABA by accident. My brother was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, but I had no idea what that was. I was working in retail and going through school but could not figure out what I wanted to major in. One day, I saw two deaf teenagers outside the mall where I worked signing “I love you” to each other. I was reminded of how I lost my own hearing as a child until receiving surgery to restore it, and it just sparked something in me. Ever since that moment, I wanted to learn about people with different abilities. On my quest to find introductory jobs working in special education, I found a position at an ABA non-public school, and I fell in love. I went back to school online for my bachelor’s in child development. From there, I worked alongside the school’s specialists who were BCBAs and I eventually switched to working in the school district in special education. I had my son two months before I graduated. My son was diagnosed with autism when he was almost three years old. I decided to pursue this career and searched online for programs that were cost-efficient, and online because I have no flexibility with having my son’s services and needs.
In what ways has your ABA experience had an impact on your career and who you are today?
ABA has impacted my literal 24/7 life because, without the foundational understanding and its principles, my son would not be where he is. I wouldn't be where I am. Before I had kids, my clients were like my kids. I would think about their programs, how to best reinforce them, how to shape their behaviors and different techniques even when I wasn't at work. When I had my son, I was his therapist while we were home for two years. The only reason that he's had so much success is because of my involvement in this field. Everything falls under it. It's a pattern of reinforcement. It's a pattern of human behavior. What a way to have your career kind of choose you, right?
How would you describe your work to someone unfamiliar with your field?
I would describe ABA as a way of understanding what motivates people and what can help them be successful.
What do you enjoy most about your current career position?
In recent years, I was running a teen and adult center for autism and fell in love with providing ABA services for autistic adults. I felt like I was able to impact lives in a way that I had not before. I’ve been working with the Executive Director of One-Step Ahead ABA. We've built an adult caseload where I'm working with ages four to individuals in their 60s. It's really cool to use the concepts of ABA to help shape behaviors.
Describe your experience in the ABA program at the University of West Florida.
My experience online is kind of unique — I never was able to attend one live class. The benefit of being able to watch live lessons later helped me move through the program. I was always emailing the teachers and they were very open to discussion. They genuinely want you to grow in this field and be confident in what you do.
What advice do you have for others pursuing a career similar to yours?
You're never going to stop thinking about it ever again! It really takes dedication, and it's a passion. Maintaining a good work/life balance is critical to being successful at what you do.
Do you have any long-term career plans in mind for the future?
At my current job, we lead out of love and kindness, which is very ABA, because you're leading out of reinforcement. We create that positive environment for not only the people that we serve but the people who work for us. My mentor would like to open up an adult center. She knows that adults are my niche so getting to hopefully have that happen and be a part of leading that would be a great goal for me.