Featured Certified Autism Specialist: Marybeth Blanchette

Marybeth Blanchette, MA, CAGS, BCBA, LBA, CAS

School Psychologist, In-Home Behavior Therapist

City/State: Providence, RI

School/Organizations:  Providence Public School Department District Autism Team (School Psychologist), Northeast Behavioral Associates, South Eastern MA Region (In-Home Behavior Therapist)

1) How has earning the Certified Autism Specialist been meaningful and satisfying?

Earning the credential of a Certified Autism Specialist brings acknowledgement of my skills, training, and knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Since becoming credentialed, I feel a greater sense of confidence consulting with teachers, support staff, and administrators; and in advocating for specific interventions, accommodations, modifications, and services for my students within my school district. I also find that collaboration with other service providers and schools for my clients has been positively impacted as the credential indicates I have a deeper understanding of autism spectrum disorders, the impact it has on individuals and families, as well as effective interventions to provide meaningful change in the lives of those who are diagnosed with ASD and their families.

2) How has the CAS credential affected your professional growth?

The CAS certification has facilitated motivation to continue to seek opportunities to further develop my expertise in the area of Autism utilizing the Ten Areas of Autism Competency for the CAS program identified by the IBCCES as a guide to increase the breadth of my knowledge, training, and skills.

3) How has your CAS credential been a benefit to your district/ organization/ or employer?

The Providence Public School Department District Autism Team has benefited from my certification by helping parents and school staff members have enhanced confidence in our team’s ability to meet the needs of students with autism. The CAS credential signifies that I am a highly qualified service provider for students identified with Autism.

The majority of my clients as an In-Home Behavior Therapist for Northeast Behavioral Associates in Massachusetts are on the Autism Spectrum. The CAS credential provides families, collaborating agencies, and insurance companies recognition of my specialization and competence in providing appropriate services to individuals with Autism.

4) How do you like to be recognized, acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done?

My greatest reward for a job well done is witnessing the positive outcomes my students and clients achieve, as well as the feedback from caregivers celebrating these successes. The trust and confidence parents express in my abilities as they see their children progress provides motivation to continue to improve my skills, knowledge and understanding of Autism.

5) What is your greatest challenge or roadblock?

My greatest challenge is providing comprehensive and meaningful supports to students with Autism within a public school setting. My role as School Psychologist/BCBA requires provision of many services and supports including: ABA services, administration of standardized school based psychological assessments, counseling, social skills/social thinking training, and consultation to teachers for students from preschool through high school/transition throughout the school district.

6) What makes you feel like a valuable contributor?

I feel valued when others including clients, students, parents, teachers, administrators, and professionals from other agencies provide feedback that my input has been helpful and recommended interventions were effective. Sometimes this acknowledgement is demonstrated in actions rather than words. I think the biggest statement of my being a valuable contributor occurred this past summer during our Extended School Year Social Group Program when one of my students who had just completed 8th grade, rode his bike to our program site one morning because he missed the bus!

7) What do you enjoy most about your job?

The most enjoyable part of my job is working with clients and students as they improve their skills and overcome personal obstacles.  Seeing a smile on the face of someone who has struggled to grasp a concept or skill, or to independently regulate their emotions/behavior when they achieve that personal goal is priceless.

8) What support, tools/resources, skills or empowerment do you need to be more effective?

I would embrace the inclusion of grade level social cognition standards and subsequent implementation of related curriculum in schools that are valued and supported by legislators and (Federal and State) Departments of Education. Social cognition is a key “readiness” component to learning (affecting reading comprehension, higher order thinking skills required for understanding of abstract concepts in academic content areas, and social emotional success at home, in school, the community, and eventually in the work setting) that often seems to be overlooked, perhaps because it is “an intuitive process” learned without direct instruction for most typically developing individuals.

9) What strengths or talents do you possess that aren’t being used?

My position as District Autism Team school psychologist allows me to utilize my knowledge and understanding of ASD and evidenced based practices to advocate for my school district to require and provide appropriate training of teachers and support staff who work with students on the Autism Spectrum, provide consultation to teachers across the continuum of educational settings, as well as provide direct ABA, counseling, and social skills services to students. I have the support of my colleagues and administrators to use my problem solving skills and creativity to integrate evidenced based interventions into the academic programming of students with Autism.

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