Two years ago, Anthony Morales started as an aftercare assistant at the Tempe Community School. Since the pandemic began, he took it upon himself to further his education, pass his Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) exam, and become a new Community School aftercare lead—all while attending Arizona State University.
We asked Anthony to give us an inside look at his day-to-day activities (pre-and post-pandemic), as well as, advice on what it takes to be successful in his position. Read more about his interview or if you’re interested in joining the team at SARRC, view our career opportunities at autismcenter.org/careers!
What drew you to SARRC? Why did you want to work here?
Throughout my life, I had limited exposure to the autism community. Inclusivity was a major part of my upbringing, so I took any opportunity to better understand and communicate with my neurodivergent peers in school. When I transferred to ASU in the fall of 2019, the aftercare assistant position at SARRC caught my attention. Though I would not yet be working with children with a diagnosis of autism, I was excited to focus on academic, behavioral, and social goals for preschool-aged children.
Describe a typical workday for you.
Before COVID-19 as an aftercare assistant, I would arrive to work at 11:30 a.m. to prepare naptime for our kiddos who stayed for the afternoon.
At noon, we would divide into two rooms and naps would run until 2:30 p.m. My time during naps was split between getting our kiddos to sleep, creating lesson plans, preparing materials for afternoon activities, and eating lunch before wake-up time.
We would then begin waking up the room and preparing for the rest of the day, which includes helping the kiddos pack up their nap belongings, running a circle activity such as puzzles or a social game, and setting up snacks.
From then until 5:00 p.m. pick-up, the classroom would run with a similar structure to the morning, but with activities like circle time, free play, and transitions that have been altered for the age groups present. To ensure that academic goals are met for a class that ranges from 18 months to 5 years of age, the aftercare lesson plan remains flexible so materials can be prepped based on the results we are looking to achieve for each kiddo.
During parent pick-up, we communicate important information such as strides in academic goals, challenging behaviors, and solutions, favorite games, or all the above. Communicating with a parent about their child’s behavioral, social, and academic growth is one of the experiences I appreciate the most as time goes on and milestones are marked.
The pandemic has changed a lot of the ways we interact with clients now. What things have changed and what does a typical workday look like for you now?
Since the pandemic began, I passed my RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) exam and moved from aftercare assistant to aftercare lead for the Tempe campus!
My time now is split up differently depending on the day. During desk time, my responsibilities include having meetings with my team members and other Community School supervisors, creating schedules and classroom resources, organizing licensing documents, and more. In meetings where I am the sole representative of the Aftercare program, I find it imperative that I take into consideration the challenges and insights of my entire team in any discussions that occur.
My time in the classroom now consists of more direct training with treatment clients, recording data about the skills of our students, and learning which areas the preschool can further improve its effectiveness.
Parent communication is still one of my favorite aspects of my position at SARRC, and my goals now include supporting the growth of my aftercare team members in everything from communicating with parents to building leadership in the classroom.
What are the top three skills someone in your position should have/learn to be successful?
1. Listening to understand
2. Willingness to seek guidance and learn from others
3. Utilizing the strengths of a team atmosphere
What is the top trait you should possess as an aftercare lead?
Being a strong representative for everyone on your team and leading by example.
What is the biggest thing you have learned in your position at SARRC?
Using your voice and actions for others is just as important as doing so for yourself.
Tell us about one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve encountered at SARRC.
During my RBT training, I had virtual overlap sessions with behavioral therapists and their clients. There was one client I had known prior to the sessions. I had the opportunity to overlap with them virtually and they returned to campus around the same time I did. Seeing their verbal and behavioral growth throughout challenging times was amazing.
A few weeks after the client and behavioral therapist came back to campus, the client was able to recognize me and start a conversation with my name. Witnessing the influence a great clinician can have on a client—during “normal” times, in times of incredible global change, or as we progress towards transitioning back—has been truly inspiring and reaffirms my belief in the individual and organizational impact we have at SARRC.