When Jessica (Bishop) Leduc ’12 realized that many adults with undiagnosed autism could have been helped as children, she knew she had found her calling. She has spent years combining her psychology expertise, mental-health counseling training, and behavior-analysis board certification into a mighty skill set to help children and their families deal with the challenges of autism-spectrum diagnoses.
We caught up with the BS in Psychology graduate in her current role of autism services coordinator at Freedom First Psychological Services in Latham, New York.
Describe what you do in a typical day.
My schedule alternates between assessments and applied behavior analysis (ABA). In our main Freedom First office, I work as a testing assistant and provide autism evaluations, such as the ADOS-2, under the supervision of Dr. Alicia Mahler. I also provide IQ assessments, such as the WISC, WAIS, and WPPSI.
On ABA days, I am down in our autism clinic. There, I work as a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and autism services coordinator, which is a multifaceted responsibility. I speak with parents about their children’s behavioral concerns and talk about possible services. We provide both in-home and clinic-based ABA therapy. I work alongside four other BCBAs, all of whom oversee our programs and provide supervision.
At any given time, I am off to the sidelines and can be found coordinating new services, planning social skills groups, and leading our growing staff of behavior technicians.
How did you find your career path?
I actually “fell into” the field of autism and applied behavior analysis.
I had worked at a local psychiatric center and knew that I wanted to work with children. My thought at the time was that all of these adults could have been helped much earlier on, but many never got the care they needed.
After I graduated from Saint Rose, I moved to Florida. I applied for a job working with children with autism.
I fell in love with the science of behavior analysis and working with families.
I provided in-home services from 2012 until 2018, during which I completed my master’s in mental health counseling and applied behavior analysis.
Once I graduated with my master’s, I came to Freedom First Psychological Services and, along with Dr. Mahler, began crafting our Freedom First Autism Center.
I sat for and passed my exam in 2020, when I officially became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).
It’s been a long road!
I am now a student at Nova Southeastern University in their doctor of education program, specializing in special education and autism.
How has your Saint Rose experience helped you in your career?
Saint Rose was a foundation for me. I learned so much about myself while attending. I found a lifetime mentor, Dr. Ellen Cole, who took me under her wing and gave me the room to blossom.
At Saint Rose, I found my voice as both an academic and as a professional. It was where I was challenged to think beyond the school work. Saint Rose sparked my love of learning.
The thanatology courses taught by Dr. Donna Reittinger, to this day, are some of the top classes I have ever participated in. I loved Dr. Cole’s positive psychology class so much that she took me on as a mentee.
These experiences shaped who I have become, and I am so thankful for my time at The College of Saint Rose.
What are three important things you’ve learned over the past year?
1) Life doesn’t need to be hectic. Slow down! 2) Sit back and listen first. Then speak up. 3) Speak with honesty, think with sincerity, and act with integrity.