Mary Tweit is a Clinical Interventionalist II at Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC). She provides one-on-one applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy in the home, school, and community to children, working on skills that help them in everyday life, in various situations.
“I’ll go to school, I’ll work on homework, I’ll work with after school routines, I’ll be there over summer or over break,” Mary explains. “I’ve gone to museums, Dave & Buster’s… anywhere in the community. I’ve gone over kids’ friend’s houses and helped facilitate playdates, I’ve gone to dentist appointments. We’re providing ABA therapy pretty much everywhere. That’s what’s great about SARRC; we’re willing to go anywhere a child goes because, in every environment, there’s something we can work on.”
With school-age children, she’s worked in a variety of settings, from at their school, to after school, to their homes, or even at after school programs.
As a Clinical Interventionalist II (levels range from I-III based on experience), Mary is not only out in the field working directly with children but is also in the office looking at data and helping to create and write the programs that the children work on.
WE CAUGHT UP WITH HER FOR A PEEK INTO ONE OF HER TYPICAL DAYS:
7 a.m. I wake up and get ready to go to work. I meet my client at his school around 8 a.m. After I meet him with the rest of his class, we wave to the parents and then head to the classroom. I’ll be with him until the end of the school day at 3 p.m. Every school day is different, we can be in music class, art class, have a test in math, go outside on the playground. A lot of things can happen during the day.
8:15 a.m. We’ve made it to the classroom and I am assisting with unpacking and getting ready for the classes’ morning routine.
9 a.m. I’m packing everything up and helping transition to math class. During math, I’ll support him with following instructions, completing math assignments, and overall participation in class, such as raising his hand to answer questions. I’m also able to help his nearby peers if they need it, which is also a great way to help facilitate those peer relationships between them and my client—maybe they can work together to help each other with the problem!
10 a.m. Mid-morning, we’re getting ready to go to the playground for a snack. I like to sit and help facilitate conversations with him and his peers. Again, we are really big on working on and improving all the social skills we can throughout the school day and building friendships! It’s also a great time to work on how my client can initiate play with his peers and join in on other games, maybe helping him try new games with new peers.
11 a.m. We’re back from the playground and the next subject on our agenda is reading. I sit with him and help him follow along in the book as they read. I also help him answer comprehension questions, help him answer the teacher as facilitates a class discussion, and help him raise his hand. These skills we are helping him with are to improve his overall independence and participation in the classroom. Just think of all the important skills that are necessary to be successful in a classroom by yourself!
11:30 a.m. It’s lunchtime! We head down in the lunchroom and make sure he has his lunch and a place to sit. I like to help him start a conversation between him and the kids at his table. I have to keep up on my knowledge of all things “cool” to elementary school kids! Then, I have 30 minutes to an hour to go to my car, get some coffee, grab some lunch, finish my office work before I need to be back at the school.
12:30-1 p.m. Between these times I meet the kids back in the classroom. Sometimes we’ll have a music class or meet in a computer room. I’ll help out during their computer time, or sometimes they have PE so I’ll join them in PE. During these special activities, I work with the kiddo and can also initiate conversations between him and his peers.
2 p.m. It’s now on to science or social studies. Again, I sit with him, help him following along with worksheets, help with reading, and help him raise his hand. I also sometimes walk around the classroom and maybe help another student if the teacher is busy. It really helps our overall relationship in the classroom and makes us blend in as more of an aide or classroom helper. It helps to facilitate meaningful relationships and friendships with his peers and teachers.
2:45 p.m. I’m helping my kiddo pack up and making sure his planner has all the right homework assignments. I’ll also send texts to our team members relaying what homework or tests he has so that the next SARRC clinician who sees him at home that evening knows what to work on.
3 p.m. I get in my car and head to another of my client’s homes.
3:30-5:45 p.m. I’ll hang out for a little bit with my client, working on things such as flashcards for a science test, doing reading or homework, or working on goals that we can focus on more specifically in the home setting. Sometimes we’ll play a card game or work on a vocabulary program. We’ll work on social skills and a conversation program, and we’ll work on goals that we can target better in the home environment. Also, we just try to have fun. It’s a long day for our clients and a long day for us. These kids really work so hard throughout their school days and it’s good to remember that when it comes down to it, they’re just kids and having fun and taking a “break” from all the programs and homework that they have can be just as important too sometimes!
5:45 p.m. I’m writing the notes for the session, and taking the time to talk to mom, dad, the sitter, grandma, grandpa—whoever is home. I’m letting them know about the day and what we worked on. We get to build relationships with not only our clients but their families, as well. We want to have the same strong, trusting relationships that we have with our clients with their families.
Mary currently works with four clients, who are all between the ages of 7-9, regularly throughout the week, though through SARRC she’s had the opportunity to work with children as young as 3, as well as teens and adults.
“It’s been a really great experience getting to work with clients across the lifespan—that’s something that is really emphasized here at SARRC,” she says.
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