Hello! My name is Nicole Grum, and I’m a senior behavior therapist at SARRC’s Phoenix Community School. I started my journey at SARRC almost five years ago as a part-time team member in the Community School Aftercare Program.
What drew you to SARRC? Why did you want to work here?
What drew me to SARRC was the opportunity to grow within the field and learn more about autism. My cousin has autism, and she would face challenges when it came to communicating her wants and needs with her caregivers. She inspired me to educate myself about autism and gain hands-on experience at Grand Canyon University as I worked on obtaining my bachelor’s degree in psychology.
What is a skill you’ve gained or grown since working at SARRC?
As a senior behavior therapist on the Community School Team, I am responsible for managing the daily operations of my classroom and providing support to my students using the principles of applied behavior analysis to promote the development of important social and academic fundamentals as they prepare for kindergarten.
Through these experiences, working at SARRC has allowed me to gain and grow my leadership skills. When I first started, I was not the leader type, but as a senior behavior therapist, I have learned to lead with confidence and effectively communicate with not only my co-workers but also the students I work with daily.
What are the top three skills someone in your position should have/learn to be successful?
The top three skills someone in my position should have or learn to be successful are adaptability, communication and leadership.
Adaptability is necessary for this field, especially when it comes to the different situations and environments you must face, which in turn helps you become a better leader. Communication is also very important to know how to effectively communicate with others around you and the children you’re working with to achieve their own individualized goals. Lastly, leadership. It takes a lot of work to be able to lead a team and effectively manage the daily operations of a classroom full of students.
What is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve encountered at SARRC?
One of the most rewarding experiences I have encountered at SARRC was teaching one of our toddlers to find their voice using a picture exchange communication system (PECS). PECS allows people with little or no communication abilities to communicate using 2D-picture cards. Just by learning this skill, our sweet toddler was able to communicate their wants and needs and initiate communication with their peers. I like to say that every day is equally rewarding, but this experience stands out as particularly impactful.
Best advice for someone who wants to have a job like yours?
For those who aspire to enter the field as a behavior therapists, being flexible and understanding is crucial. Although being in a leadership position is challenging, it’s essential to approach it with compassion and empathy.
Inspired by Nicole’s career and impact at SARRC?
Learn more about career opportunities at SARRC by browsing our open job positions at autismcenter.org/careers!