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In 2015 my wife Sherry and I decided to open Autism, Advocacy and Intervention (AAI), an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Early Intervention company in Northern California. Both of us were very involved employees in the public-school systems in Southern California, however we were wanting to avoid big city life. I was born and raised in Vermont and never felt at-home in the metropolitan setting, and Sherry also shared my enthusiasm for everything nature.
Some of my professional history includes being a classroom teacher in an autism focused non-public school, a Supervising Behavior Specialist for an ABA based non-public school, and a Program Supervisor for a public school system where I was tasked with supporting their autism early intervention preschool classroom program. My passion for education led me to acquire my master’s degree in Education, mild/moderate and moderate/severe teaching credentials, a specialization in autism certification, and the acquisition of my BCBA certification.
Sherry and I both saw how ABA services made huge differences for kiddos and their families. And when we saw the benefits of additional ABA services outside of the classroom, we marveled at how fortunate these kids were to live in a time when such services were appreciated. Unfortunately, not all kiddos had access to these services - the rural areas of California were underserviced and in need of consistent, trained ABA professionals. Even though I knew I was making a difference with my students, I was painfully aware of the difficulties similar children were having just a few hours away. I wanted to help.
After many conversations with Sherry about my concerns, we decided that the best thing was to sell everything we could, pack what was left, and go help as many kiddos as we could. We were both terrified and exhilarated at the same time.
Our first stop was Lake County, California, an area tucked into the golden mountains between Sacramento and the Pacific Ocean and considered one of the most rural regions in the state. Our new home was beautiful!
Lake County welcomed us with open arms. The beauty of the landscape, the support we received from local agencies (shout out to the Redwood Coast Regional Center), the grounded demeanor of the community, and an honest to goodness population of people that truly cared about their neighbors was nothing short of awe inspiring.
Today AAI, led by our director Juni, has two clinics in the county. In addition to the clinic work, we provide in-home services, contract with many of the school systems, and are an established component of the community. We support a growing list of utterly amazing families and have a group of incredible team members who continue to impress us daily.
Today AAI-CA is run primarily by people born and raised in Lake County. I can objectively say, their clinical work, professionalism, and general care is beyond any other group of people I previously had the privilege to work with. Every team member is committed to AAI’s vision to support these kiddos and their families.
Today AAI has expanded into the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, a region very similar to Lake County, CA. We have a clinic just outside of Newport, VT where we provide families with a destination to access services if they are not comfortable with the in-home service model. We are also fortunate to have created a strong working relationship with a number of Head Start programs throughout the Northeast Kingdom. Tiffany, the director of AAI-VT, moved back home from Boston to run operations in Vermont. Today she has a group of amazing people she works with daily. Everyone is contributing in making a positive impact on the community.
Outside of the traditional clinic program, AAI has implemented a clinically sound hybrid telehealth program. BCBA supervision is conducted via a HIPAA compliant secure video platform while technicians work face-to-face with the families. Led by Danielle, the AAI – Telehealth Director, we are now also supporting families in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte Counties. I’m so proud of this extension of AAI as I feel this approach really increases our capacity to provide quality support to rural communities. Clinically the outcomes are excellent; this is due to both our excellent team and to parent dedication and participation. AAI has realized over the years the value of creating a strong parent training program that encourages parent engagement. There is no question that this is a very involved requirement for families we serve, however it is our goal to not only help the children excel but also to empower the parents. Because of the success we’ve had in California and Vermont, we are exploring several other states that have reached out to us.
I’d like to thank everyone that has been a part of making AAI the company it is today. There are members behind the scene that have helped us keep things moving along who don’t always get the recognition they deserve – thank you.
If you are a family interested in our services or if you are an individual interested in joining our team, please feel free to reach out to us. I think you’ll like what we have to offer!
Providing Early Intervention and Applied Behavior Analysis in Northern California and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont