A Day in the Life: Kyla Bernal-Christenson, Comprehensive Behavioral Program Senior Behavior Therapist

Meet Kyla Bernal-Christenson, a senior behavior therapist within SARRC’s Comprehensive Behavioral Program! Kyla started her journey at SARRC as an intern in the Research Department in 2017.

Hi everyone! My name is Kyla Bernal-Christenson. I am a Senior Behavior Therapist within the Comprehensive Behavior Program (CBP) at SARRC. I joined the SARRC team as a research intern in 2017, then transitioned into CBP with a desire to put what I learned from research into action in 2018. 

What drew you to SARRC? Why did you want to work here?

SARRC’s commitment to providing evidence-based intervention in the natural environment is what drew me in. As an undergraduate at the time, I had previously interned and briefly worked at clinic-based organizations. I learned a lot and met so many wonderful people; however, I sought to help my clients take those clinic skills and apply them in the real-world—grocery stores, birthday parties, family dinners, classroom lessons, recess, and more. SARRC does exactly that! 

Can you tell us a little about what your job as a senior behavior therapist entails?

One of my primary responsibilities is providing direct service hours to our young clients (definitely my favorite part of the job!). Additionally, I assist our supervisory BCBA with writing evidence-based interventions and training the other RBTs on our team. This typically looks like: spending approximately half of my week providing intervention, and the other half writing interventions, reviewing data, and meeting with members of the team outside of session to practice clinical skills to ensure the most effective delivery of interventions. 

What is the #1 trait you should possess as a senior behavior therapist?

Initiative and communication. The senior position truly is one of leadership. It is so important to note observations from sessions and bring them to the table to develop intervention and understand data, and to note areas of growth and strength with team members to assist with training. Change starts with you! 

How does SARRC’s Comprehensive Behavior Program differ from similar programs at other organizations? What is something that makes SARRC’s program stand above the rest?

RBTs and supervisors in the Comprehensive Behavior Program are EVERYWHERE! If our kiddos and families have a desire to practice skills somewhere—school, summer camp, grocery stores, family gatherings, playdates—we are right there with them. This also puts us in a unique position to help create an inclusive world. Our kiddos are learning, and so is everyone around us. 

To be successful in your position, what top three skills does someone have or learn?

  • Everyone in CBP has to have a ‘fun factor!' It can be easy to get caught up in the 'hustle and bustle' and/or 'seriousness' of providing intervention. Though it is important to take the job seriously, I like to remind everyone that we’re working with kids on some tough stuff, so we might as well make it fun. Be silly, dance like nobody is watching, and add some funny faces to your repertoire! 
  • Be open to growth. SARRC has a phenomenal culture and value surrounding learning, which manifests the opportunity to frequently receive and ask for feedback. Not only does this help with personal and professional development, but the ability to develop and strengthen clinical skills has a direct benefit to our kiddos!
  • Relationship building. With clients, parents of our clients, teachers, and/or members of our team; it’s a person-centered job, and we all need each other! 

Tell us about one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve encountered at SARRC.

So hard to choose from! I have rewarding experiences several times a day. A recent development at recess comes to mind. One of our young clients had previously preferred to have alone time at recess (which we all need!), but after receiving some support from therapists, he eagerly joined in on games and conversation for the entirety of recess. The smiles and excitement over the interactions were the best! 

Inspired By Kyla's Career and Impact?

Learn more about career opportunities at SARRC by browsing our open job positions at autismcenter.org/careers