Autism Resource blog:

Our Care Team: Meet Hylary A.

Apr 9, 2024
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Meet the Care Team is our blog series highlighting the incredible people that serve our families at AnswersNow. Today, we’re sitting down with Hylary Ahrendt, a BCBA based out of Texas.

1. What led you to AnswersNow? 

The motivation for some real, positive change and a Google search! I grew weary of working at clinics that were always missing a component (or a few) - either there wasn’t enough actual science happening, or practices didn’t feel quite up-to-date, or the leadership’s motivation always boiled down to money.

2. Why did you decide to become a BCBA? 

I grew up in the world of special education and had early exposure to neurodivergent populaces through both of my parents’ occupations. As I entered into the professional world, I gained some fantastic and fulfilling experiences teaching children and youth in the US, Germany, and India. It was an amazing mentor at a school in Colorado who introduced me to the field of ABA. 

I admittedly wasn’t ecstatic about going back to school to earn my masters degree (“All the info is online, right?”), but I found myself at a crossroads of the required response effort to change things and the motivation to do something that I perceived to be even “bigger” with my life than what I was already doing, all while saving for a future family. The ultimate catalyst for my decision to “take the leap”, apply to grad school, and embark upon the BCBA certification journey was my father’s death after a 2-year battle with cancer. We only have so much time, so why not put our all in?

3. How would you describe your working style or approach?

I describe my style as “present” and “pragmatic”. Truly listening to and empathizing with others is, in my experience, one of the best ways to help them feel heard and supported and is the first step in developing positive rapport. When I’m present with caregivers and clients through the assessment process, I’m able to truly create a treatment plan that addresses their needs and concerns while also embracing their family’s unique social structure, belief systems, and cultural background. Presence throughout the treatment process allows me to adequately assess and address trends and variability in the data while considering shifts in the environmental variables my client experiences throughout their day. Having a pragmatic approach to the assessment and treatment process ensures that I’m staying focused on the most functional and necessary skills for the client while keeping in mind the current and future resources and reinforcement available in the client’s natural environment. 

4. Why did you decide to work with AnswersNow? Are there any benefits that you feel the role will bring you personally? 

When I first read about AnswersNow, I was eager to learn more because it sounded like a company that was doing service delivery and telehealth differently while upholding the values and ethical standards of our field. I ultimately decided to work with AnswersNow because of the unique opportunity to hone my service delivery skills, to serve clients who are in many cases otherwise unable to access services, and to work from the comfort of my own home. 

5. Have you ever worked in an in-person setting? How would you say the AnswersNow model differs? 

My primary experience is in an in-person setting, both in-clinic and in schools. The AnswersNow model differs from a typical in-person setting in part because clinicians are able to bypass the RBT-training component by directly working with clients, so you can just imagine the time and resources that are saved from cutting out the “middle-man”. 

The telehealth versus in-person aspect is certainly different as you aren’t physically next to clients to engage in physical play or block or redirect maladaptive behaviors, but AnswersNow integrates a telehealth screening tool into the initial assessment process to ensure clients are suited for direct teletherapy with a BCBA or caregiver-led therapy remotely guided by the BCBA. 

6. What would you say to someone who’s considering working as a BCBA for AnswersNow? 

If you love being able to focus directly on your client’s behavior and treatment (remember, no RBT training & retraining), you want to be a part of an organization that embraces the SCIENCE and values fluid communication and accountability, and you want to work at home, this place is for you!

7. What is the most rewarding aspect of being a BCBA? Do you have a specific anecdote or story that stands out?

To me the most rewarding aspect of being a BCBA is seeing my clients’ progress (through both observation and the data) and hearing a caregiver’s excitement and relief over their child’s growth. 

One of my greatest experiences so far as a BCBA was running a dog exposure and safety program for a client who was absolutely terrified of dogs. This friend went from not being able to tolerate a dog within 30 feet of them to wanting to brush and take a dog on a walk. This experience was particularly meaningful to me because the client’s family expressed that they desperately wanted a dog, but felt like they would never be able to get one because of their child’s fear. The family is now completing meet-and-greets with shelter dogs to potentially bring them into their home.

8. What's a fun fact about you? 

While completing my undergraduate degree in International Relations, I pursued an internship opportunity with a non-governmental organization (NGO) in southern India. As a 21-year-old I spent 3 months deep in the jungle living in a hut with a group of absolutely incredible kids, many of whom were orphans, former child laborers, or children of migrant workers. These children were also members of the traditional Hindu dalit caste (formerly known as the “untouchables”) and were in some eyes seen as doomed to a life of poverty. These children were some of the most intelligent, kind, and creative individuals I’ve ever interacted with, and being around them truly grounded my belief in the potential of all people to create a lotus flower from what society deems to be “mud”. 

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