[Farwa Arshad] Hey everyone! Thank you for joining today's Career Spotlight Session. On behalf of Calumet & Stong Colleges and the Faculty of Health, welcome to today's Career Spotlight Session with Sarah Burch. Just to get started with introductions, my name is Farwa Arshad. I'm the Alumni, Fellows, and Career Exploration Coordinator with the Calumet & Stong College. Please note that the session will be recorded and a feedback survey will be distributed via email after the session ends, and if you have any questions for Sarah, feel free to type into the chat or if you're comfortable, please unmute yourself maybe put on your video and you can ask the question to Sarah directly. Today, we have Sarah Burch so thank you so much for joining us. How are you doing today?
[Sarah Burch] Thank you for having me. I'm doing good. I'm looking forward to this. I think this is definitely new for me.
[Farwa Arshad] So we can get started with a brief introduction of Sarah, so Sarah graduated from York University in 2004 with a BA in Psychology and after toying with the idea of becoming a teacher she ventured into the world world of early intervention, supporting children who experienced an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was a burgeoning field as the number of children receiving diagnosis was increasing and Sarah began her career by delivering intensive behavioral intervention therapy for a lead agency in autism services and over her 16-year career Sarah has experienced a myriad of changes in the delivery of funded autism services in the province and the impact of the changes led Sarah to earn her degree in Masters in Counseling Psychology and continue her career in supporting children and youth who experience ASD in a leadership capacity and when she is invading through research Sarah enjoys skating with her daughter and taking a walk with an old friend and I love that that can be really nice and healing thank you so much again for joining us today um for giving us your time and thank you everyone for joining our talk today. So just to start the conversation Sarah can you please tell us a little bit more about your career journey, where you were at undergrad and where you are right now.
[Sarah Burch] Sure, so…I guess as mentioned I went to York ages ago and I did think I wanted to be a teacher. I've always liked working with children at the time I was in York doing my undergrad. I taught preschool and I would volunteer at schools. I was really kind of trying to map out that path. In my work at the preschool I learned about some other services in the community-early intervention was one of them and it really, like, I became really interested in learning about children who experience a neurodevelopmental disorder, learn a little bit differently, what services are out there, how those children, you know, how do we support those children in a school setting and I kind of pivoted at that point from thinking that teaching was going to be my path and to get into working with special needs. I had some really good opportunities to try some things like within early intervention, I got a chance to be a mediator and work one-on-one with a child with autism. I also did a little bit of work with Blue Hills in parent training, parents who had children on the spectrum and that there's a whole slew of different challenges when you're raising a child on the spectrum. So, it kind of, I knew that at that point I didn't want to teach, I just wasn't totally sure what jobs I could do. I knew about early intervention. I ended up becoming aware of ABA and IBI therapy which is, if you're unfamiliar with that, that is kind of the gold standard in intervention for autism spectrum disorder especially if administered before the age of five. So, from a provincial standpoint that is where there's funded programs in ABA and IBI so I opted to apply to one of those and I got in as a frontline therapist. I'm delivering IBI and ABA therapy. [I moved in the] I’ve stayed with the same company. I've been very happy at my company. I moved into supervising the frontline workers then, moved into clinical management. At that point, the field was growing quite a bit and so the educational criteria changed at my work and to be in senior management, you needed a Master's Degree in Psychology. I'll get into, so now there is different expectations about what education you have, but at the time in Canada there was no programs in Applied Behavior Analysis.
[Sarah Burch] So if you wanted to be in management you had to get a degree in psychology, in some realm of psychology. So I went down that road. My master's was in Counseling Psychology and I went back to school, I think in 2013, 2014 I guess and that was hard, really hard to go back to school as being out of school for a really long time. I did a part-time program that allowed me to work so I continued to work
and I've moved, since like I moved away from management and into consulting now; and so I'm an autism spectrum sort of consultant and what that means is children who go through the therapy stream and receive ABA and IBI that supplements school for them so they don't go to school, usually if they're going to IBI because the intensity required for that therapy means that they would spend all their time, their daytime hours. They're similar to what you would do in school. But at some point, you do have to return to school, IBI's not meant, it's not a lifestyle. It's not meant to be a therapy forever. So when those children do return to school that's where I come in and I help bridge the gap between that therapeutic setting they've been in to now school, which is far less rigid, far less structured, a lot more open-ended. The learning style is different and it can be really confusing for children with ASDs. My work is, it's a, I get my clients for one year, I get them for about six months before they're ready to leave therapy, where I get to know them, kind of understand their strengths and needs, and then I have them six months after when they're in school to educate the school team about how they best learn and kind of things that we can put in place to promote success in schools.
[Sarah Burch] So I think that's pretty much my summary. I'm an easygoing presenter guys, too.I actually am poor at reviewing the chat so please call out, if you're comfortable feel free to call out a question or interrupt me if you have any questions about anything that I'm sharing. I'm pretty casual and easygoing.
[Farwa Arshad] hank you so much. I have two follow-up questions to your answer. First is, Is it only just for, for example, TDSB school, just like elementary schools, high schools or does it also has like post-secondary education like does it support students that are enrolled in that as well?
[Sarah Burch] So it is for, so our catchment region prior to, there's been some check-- for the ford government has changed the landscape of autism services in the province prior to my catchment region was Central East so that included York, Durham, Peterborough, Four Counties, Northumberland, and Simcoe county, Simcoe region so that would be all the places we would service, and I'm a consultant in Durham. So, I deal with the Durham public and catholic elementary and high schools. It's a service for children so I want you age out of it at 18. But you can remain in high school if you have a developmental disability until 21, but it's not for adults.We are in the process of creating some transition to adulthood type programs given that the lands, the funding kind of has changed a little bit so we're offering some different types of service but yeah it's really before high school or elementary
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you. My second question was kind of around the job market. So you mentioned that you couldn't really find like a lot of job, they were like really hidden within
the market but now the industry is growing so can you kind of explain more on that and what kind of jobs are available especially for new grads.
[Sarah Burch] Okay. So when I got into the agency that I work for, a psych degree was fine. It is not the case now. You wouldn't probably even get an interview for front line with a psych degree. They are the number of children receiving a diagnosis of autism has increased and now there are more options in terms of education that are replacing psych as the overarching field and now there is programs that center more on applied behavior analysis which is the methodology for the therapy. So unless you have a certificate program, so you can-- There's post-graduate undergraduate certificate programs that are one year long that you could do at George Brown or Seneca in Applied Behavior Analysis that would open a door for frontline position. If you happen to just have an amazing resume with a lot of experience and just a psych degree, you may get considered but really we're looking for people with some background in Applied Behavior Analysis. Either a master's degree and I can kind of get into Ontario now offers in that
realm or at least that certificate program through Seneca or George Brown.
[Farwa Arshad] Okay. Thank you.
[Sarah Burch] Jobs themselves. There a lot of job postings, there's a lot of jobs, there's a lot of places that-- so there's two sort of streams in this. There's a private stream in a publicly funded stream or at least there was. Now everything has been privatized to a degree but before this, there is companies like for instance, if i wanted to open my own company I could open up a company and deliver IBI therapy and parents would pay out of pocket for that. It is extremely expensive per hour. I mean it is. It will bankrupt most families. So, then there's the funded option but the funding obviously there is wait lists associated with waiting for funding that has changed a little bit but, so there, because there's so many private places there are a lot of opportunities for jobs but there’s also there's also a lot of people now that have that education at least some background in ABA. So the competition is pretty fierce. When we post for an IT, because I would interview, in my previous role I don't do interviews. Now, we would probably get 150 applicants for one position.
[Farwa Arshad] That’s a lot. My follow-up question to this answer would be have you had experience working in both the privately funded and the public areas.
[Sarah Burch] Now, we are private because everybody is private. So we are operating a fee for service model as well and children who are still in the funded program, they haven't, their funding hasn't been taken away so, we do still have our funded pool of kids and we now offer fee for service clients so no outside of the agency, I’m out. I haven't worked anywhere else but I work with those private places because my job, so Connections for Students is the program that I work in. It's a provincial program it's a partnership between all the school boards in Ontario and the lead mental health agencies for ASD and so Connections for Students is the program so I can transition, the kids I transition don't necessarily come from my agency. They could come from any private place anywhere. They, any child who has a diagnosis of ASD and is on the Ontario autism program list and a parent would register their child qualifies for Connections for Students and so I do work indirectly with the private places as well.
Okay, make sense. Thank you. In terms of your master's, did you feel it helped you gain more understanding of the field that you were in or what was your experience regarding that?
[Sarah Burch] Yes and no. Practically speaking my master's degree is in Counseling Psychology so what I do for a living is in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis so not really in that realm however there's been a real shift in the understanding of ASD. As under the umbrella of a mental health issue, so it's been helpful in the sense that it really a lot of what we do is difficult for parents because if we might have programming in place but oftentimes we require a parent to continue to do the work at home and so, you know, we have these programs that we want them to do and data we want them to collect and stuff we want them to do and it's really a lot for a parent. I mean being a parent any, I'm a parent and my daughter doesn't have a diagnosis of ASD and I'm exhausted. If you have a child who's also experiencing differences in relating to the world it's just an entirely different layer. So having a mental health background has
been helpful in, at these fans, so I guess… this is probably going to come out the wrong way. I think historically there has been this notion of this therapy really works but you have to
work with it. You're running out of time, your child's getting older. Come on. We've got to do it, like, oh you didn't get the data this week, like how come you know we're working with you like and not meaning to. Sometimes that type of push which I think behavior analysts would see as encouragement and trying to drive home the necessity of this could really potentially place blame that feelings of blame on a parent like for failing or not getting it done.
[Sarah Burch] So as an agency and I think provincially there's been just a shift in understanding and trying to respect, even neurodiversity trying to understand that not everything about autism needs to be fixed or corrected, right? There's neurodiversity beauty and all ASD, and understanding the world in a different way doesn't mean that it's the wrong way. So I think in some of those ways it's helped. Part of the services offered at my agency include counseling and mental health services so when I did my practicum, I did a practicum for eight months. I did it within a stream of the autism program but not so like working with the families who have a child with autism cope with the feelings around that, working with the siblings who have a sibling with autism and how that feels for them too because that can be difficult to be in a family where you have it, you know your sibling takes up a lot of the energy. There's a lot of needs for your sibling and that, what space does that leave for you. So it's helped a little bit but it's certainly, they are certainly very different fields and again at the time, the requirement was a masters in psych and we didn't have any programs in ABA at the master's level in Canada. You could do it American program and some of my colleagues did, but the American programs are very good but they're very expensive. It's US dollars and they're very expensive so I don't think that there's a ton of overlapping . I wouldn't recommend doing my program if you want to do ABA. I would recommend a different program
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you. I'm really surprised by your point about the support for the family of ASD patients because I think that's a really niche aspect that most students in psychology or
I mean, global health but like most students in health don't really understand so
that's a really good thing to know, that's available and available for students to
[Sarah Burch] Yeah, it's really, I mean it's huge like the impact on a family system when your child receives a diagnosis of autism is vast, financially there’s a massive impact. There's a massive impact on parental stress and strain, a lot of families of children with special needs. The divorce rates higher teens who are on the higher end of the spectrum. And so cognitively working on par with their peers the suicide rate is triple that of what it would be for for typical typically developing teens because there is this awareness that I, the world's not made for me, I'm not fitting, I can't like, I’m not connecting the way other people are so easily connecting here and this is really hard so the mental health piece is I really think that that's almost going to be like the next layer of the scope of autism therapy so to speak.
[Farwa Arshad] Yes, thank you and just speaking on that note, working with people who are identifying with the ASD spectrum, are there any skills, abilities that are essential to success in your field or that are needed if you're working as a consultant or working with them, people with ASD
[Sarah Burch] You have to be a patient person, absolutely. You have to love children and I mean when I say love children because very likely you're not walking into any position at, you're not walking in and being a consultant if you've never done front line work. You pretty much, I don't know anyone who would be given a higher level position in this field without doing the front line work so and the front line work, it's people, a lot of people, a lot of ITs even that I've supervised or trained like, you know, they all say I love kids but it's very different to engage with a child with ASD especially, like, imagine a child who doesn't speak, imagine a child whose emotional expression is atypical so they don't look engaged, when they're with you or they don't look like
they're having, they're not that reciprocity isn’t there. So a lot of people who think they like children sometimes get defeated because it's a ton of work on the end of the adult to promote engagement.
[Sarah Burch] I think that really having that patience, really liking kids, really being possessing an intellectual curiosity. It's a field that there's the research is constantly growing, changing. A big part of my job involves going to keep up, like keep current with active research. We're always going to trainings or having leaders in the field come in for seminars to keep us up to speed so you have to sort of be ready to be like you're always learning in this field which is, that's a positive thing for me. You don't get stagnant here. I think on the front end of things from a practical standpoint, you got to be okay with getting a bit dirty. Kids play rough they play hard. Sometimes there's challenging behaviors. Sometimes that means that your risk for getting hit by somebody or bit by somebody could be there. We often have children who don't haven't developed toileting capacity yet so you might have to work with that and do some of that cleanup or toilet training or diaper changing even. You've got to be okay with that kind of thing. I'd say those things probably, most often, most of all.
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you. I believe so, too. Especially when working with not even just the ASD spectrum but also little kids. I think that's not really given when you're working as a psychologist or even as a teacher, with that kind of demographic.
[Sarah Burch] Yeah, it's messy where and even more so because of some of the life skill pieces, that like, teachers don't typically, you know, as part of your standard Ontario academic curriculum it doesn't involve unless you're in special education toilet training but like very likely in front line it pretty much always does. So yeah.
[Farwa Arshad] We have a message in the chat, questions from, so it says, “Can you tell a bit more about your master's degree as i'm interested in the counseling field?”
[Sarah Burch] Sure! So my master’s degree was through Yorkville University. I picked a program that allowed me to complete my degree online aside from the practicum component, so then the practicum was live and I had to arrange that but for me I wasn't, I didn't want to quit my job and like go to school full-time. I couldn't reasonably do that at my age. I had a mortgage to pay so I had to look at part-time or online options. Yorkville's a really good program. There's like there's pros and cons to it. I think, I think they're really making a name for themselves and I took it early on and I think even the changes they've made in the last five years to the program are like, they're improving all the time. They, the courses are five weeks in length so that for me was a little bit of a drawback because I found the pace very quick and if you're not getting the concepts in one class in five weeks, you're on to the next, right? Like, so that was a little bit, I didn't love that element of it but the flexibility was fantastic because essentially the way this program worked is each week you had your course requirements for that week. You have to be on, you have to be part of like posting in chats and in conversation and you have to do that at least three times a week. There's readings, there might be assignments, whatever it is but when you do that stuff is up to you so you. Basically, you know, on Sunday night and you have until the next Sunday night to do it and so it really accommodates people's varying schedules. It's not like at two o'clock today I have a seminar and I've got to make that work. You have, you can make it work whenever it works for you. You can also pause the program whenever you want as long as you complete the degree from top to bottom in five years which is nice as well, because it takes two about nearly just a shy of three years to complete the program. You do have some wiggle room to pause it. I didn't go in the summer. I just knew myself. I knew that I don't want to be doing school work in the summer. It's too nice out, my motivation dips. I want to take that time off and resume in September so I kind of ran mine like York would, right? Where you end in April and you pick up in September which I really liked about that. The professors are amazing! They're very like, they really respect, again kind of what we were talking about Annalissa like it's a school for adults like it is. It feels very much like that. They very much respect that people in the program are parents. They're, you know, they have jobs, they have things that they've got on the go and you don't feel-- Your professors are your peers, they're not that professor kind of telling you what it's gonna be like, and not that happens that much at the university level but this feels it certainly felt different that way.
[Sarah Burch] The practicum is fantastic. It was the part I was most afraid of because, well, like all the work and kind of trying to find it and then, that did require me to reduce my hours at work because you can't do the practicum hour requirement and work full-time so that was a little bit, like, uncomfortable for me. But I'm so glad I did it. You’re not gonna learn counseling in an online program unless you do a lengthy practicum because you're not really counseling you're just reading about theory, so, the other drawback is it is wildly expensive, wildly expensive with I guess with flexibility there's a cost it was thirty thousand dollars when I did it and I've heard it's more expensive now but the American programs and behavior analysis are about eighty thousand dollars so just to put that in perspective.
[Farwa Arshad] That's a lot again!
[Sarah Burch] 80 U.S. But there are, if you aren't interested in counseling psych, I mean, well, first of all, York has a great master's program in psych that you could do as well. That one, won't be online. You would have to be in person and doing that there. There's also some differences in where you can get licensed with Yorkville versus if you do it at York or U of T. York or U of T lets you get licensed with the CPA the Canadian Psychological Association. Yorkville doesn't give you enough practicum hours for that so you still can get licensed indifferent, like, you can be a licensed psychotherapist like there's different bodies, governing bodies that will license you but you can't, unless you continue volunteering or making up those hours, somehow you don't qualify for CPA.
[Farwa Arshad] Okay, thank you. That’s a very lengthy process especially because you do have to do undergrad, you do have to, like, graduate studies that's just the reality that we live in right now.
[Sarah Burch] Oh, yeah! Masters is the new undergrad 100 percent absolutely.
[Farwa Arshad] Every student has to plan for after, like, the undergraduate graduation. They can't just stop and be like, okay, I'll just do my job now or like, for the rest of my life.
[Sarah Burch] The other thing about jobs, even too, is like even if you're, you, so at the place, I, at my agency we don't, when I got hired I was hired full-time permanent. We don't hire full-time permanent anymore and, I don't, there's very few places that do. It's usually contracts. You might get full-time but there's a lot of places that don't even do that, it's part-time so that's another tricky part, so, if you get a contract you definitely want to work it, like, work really hard because, like, my agency the people in contracts are in a fierce competition amongst every other contract worker next to them because at some point there may be a fraction of those jobs and, you know, the best person will get the job.
[Farwa Arshad] Yeah, definitely. The competition is just increasing and increasing. For my next question, I actually have two parts, so, one is what skills can psychology students in their undergraduate can develop right now. If they want to get into the counseling field or working with ASD, like that kind of field, and my second question is, do you have any resources, so for example any organizations that they can connect with, ask for maybe, like an internship and other opportunities yeah so um
[Sarah Burch] Yeah, so, skills and undergrad. If you're going in mental health, I mean I think the entire psych undergrad program is going to be a good prep for that like. I mean it's been a long time since I was at York, but it seems like, you know, you would want to pick, like, when I was at York I picked more of the child development, abnormal behavior, cognition kind of stream in my coursework. If you wanted to do therapy, you probably would be looking in more of the humanistic element of your coursework. I think if you're doing a plot, if you want to get into ABA, there wasn't a lot in my undergrad psych program that really overlapped with ABA. There was obviously choruses and behaviorism but there wasn't a ton that sort of carried over but I definitely think that, like, getting experience, having a, being somebody who's hired people
in this field, like, if there's gaps in your resume, if you have never worked anywhere and you want this to be your first job, like, just think about the other 149 applicants that we're going to interview, right? Like you definitely want to be working, if you're at York, I mean working while you're at York. I worked three jobs when I was at York, working, volunteering whenever you can in related fields, like, there is an understanding, if you are just coming out of school that you're not gonna have had like job opportunities everywhere but what have you done to show that, like, this is, you're serious about this.
[Sarah Burch] So, volunteering is great, can, you know, my agency takes volunteers. I think most of the large-scale agencies take volunteers. The smaller private places, I don't know, you'd probably have to call one by one. You would need criminal reference check and all of that sort of thing and there is limits on what you would be able to volunteer for because it's therapy. It's therapy, right? It's very prescribed. It requires training. When you're hired, you have to do a three week provincial training that ends in an evaluation that you have to pass the exam just to start the job, like, so they don't, you won't be able to get volunteer work working with a child with autism in a therapy setting but you could get volunteer experience playing with that child on break or creating materials for the team that they might need and I mean if you shop around you might find a private place that would let you have more experience but there's like some ethics kind of involved with that. I guess it's sort of like, if you think about, like, you can't volunteer to be like a nurse, right? Not until you are a nurse but you could volunteer to be a companion and, you know, like, back in my day, I think it was called candy striper. I'm sure that's not the term used now but, you know, the person who, like, collects the medication and does the errands for the medical team. If I missed something from that question I feel like there's another part and I didn't capture it.
[Farwa Arshad] My second part, was any resources that students can use or like any organizations but I think you covered that.
[Sarah Burch] Well, so that I would go to the, I can put it in the chat BACB website is definite, if you're, if ABA is your, what you're looking for, you get your master's degree but then you have to pass an exam so you have to, so, ideally your master's provides you with the coursework. There's six core courses required to write the exam to get your BCBA certification so you would want to be very familiar with the BACB guidelines. You'd want to be very familiar with CPA guidelines. If you were looking at mental health, familiar with the psychotherapy guidelines. If you wanted to get into that, I can, you know what I'll do after, I'll send you a link within a separate email with those things. If you want to rather than, oh yeah, there it is! BACB, perfect! Yes, so that would be a good one to familiarize yourself with
[Farwa Arshad] Okay, thank you so much. I think we have a question in the chat so it says, “Hello, Miss Burch. Thank you for your time. This is by Christiane. How did you manage all your coursework while doing all your extracurricular and paid work and it sounds like such a heavy load, you managed to persevere through and thank you in advance.
[Sarah Burch] My undergrad work or my master's work or both, I really worked through both. I really worked through both. With undergrad, I was very strategic with how I made a schedule and I don't know if that's an option but I worked because I taught preschool, so in preschools Monday to Friday. So when I went to York, I think I went to York, Tuesdays and Thursdays, like, for like 10 hour days or something. I crammed every course I could into two days and then I worked. Then, I had some days of work that I did and then I had a day off for, like, school work and stuff, plus the weekend. That's what I did, then. I don't know if that's still an option but I prefer, even when, in my job now, if I make appointments, I make, tend to make a really crazy busy day and then a day off, that's just me. Other people like to space things. In my masters, I mean you just make it work like it's one class at a time, so that's like in my undergrad. I mean you have to do your whole course load with York whatever, having it for many courses that is at a time I can't remember but it's quite a few. In my master's it's one at a time, so you only have one to focus on and because you have the whole week, you can create like, if your schedule, I
work would create those pockets of time that I would work and I just would block them off and
hold them. You'll get really good at holding time for nothing in your calendar. Like, anyone that
I've worked with, who's kind of new to the agency, like, they always make the same mistake where they will just offer, like you know, a parent wants this time they fill it in they feel it and they
have this calendar that's crazy and sporadic and then they're like, I just, I don't know how you
get everything done and I'm like, well, this is a problem. First of all, I'm like, you're not organized. You have to set limits. If a parent wants this time and that's your day off or your admin day, I say sorry, like, we'll have to, these are the times I can do or we'll have to look at next week, unless it's an emergency. I don't give away my administrative time because I factor that into what I need so planning, I think is helpful.
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you. I think that's actually really important because especially, as students, as students leaders, as basically adults, you have to plan your vacation, you have to plan your time off. You can't expect it to come because it's just going to be straight work for weeks at a time.
[Sarah Burch] Absolutely not and it gets, you know, it's not like, I have a daughter now and she's three and so obviously, there's like all of her things, you know, daycare drop, off pick up, like, you know the household stuff. Like, so it is very important to, even between my husband and I looking at our calendars and planning like when our busy days are going to be and making sure we're kind of off cycle for that. So, like if I'm having a busy day, he's having a later day so like he would be able to pick up the slack and that sort of thing is really important
[Farwa Arshad] Definitely, yeah, thank you. I think we have another question the chat. So, what tips would you suggest for students now to get involved during the time of the pandemic. I find a bit of difficulty securing a position. If you weren't already an existing member prior to the pandemic or wait lists are placed.
[Sarah Burch] I don't have a lot of advice there. we're on a hiring freeze because of the pandemic.. I don't think that's very agency specific. There's not a lot of ways to get volunteer experience. They're certainly not going to allow you in on-site for anything. I mean, we can't even be on-site. I haven't been to work in, I haven't been anywhere. I haven't been out of my house since last march even to our office, to a school, to a family's house. I don't think there's a lot you can do to get around this right now. I mean, maybe volunteering. If you were interested in mental health, I would say volunteering for kids help phone, or volunteering for a distress center because those are I think, those services are actually probably really necessary right now and that's stuff that you can be complete the training and do up from your own home but practical stuff right now-- You could maybe look at trying to put your name on a respite worker list. There's not a lot of requirements to be a respite worker outside of reference checks vulnerable person screening stuff like that, but there's no, you don't have to have any education. You just have to be a ideally have some understanding of ASD, because it would be very probably difficult if you didn't have any understanding of ASD and then you volunteered to be a respite worker and respite workers are left alone with children. You would have to have some confidence that you felt okay but it's not clinical. It's sort of just hanging out, and during this pandemic, I know there are respite programs are allowed on a case-by-case basis because parents are going crazy, righ? They're, this is so hard on them, too, but I don't know, I don’t have a lot of pandemic advice, this is wild.
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you and yeah, especially for local community organizations or especially private ones. I feel for the team, too and I feel for the students who are waiting to get positions, too. It’s just like a hard time for everyone.
[Sarah Burch] Yeah! Oh! Totally. I don't even know what I would do. I don’t even know what I would do, part of me just thought, would I take a semester off and try to ride this out so I'm not, like you know because I don't know, I really don't know what I would do. I don't know.
[Farwa Arshad] Just depends on everyone's situation at the time.
[Sarah Burch] Yeah, it totally does.
[Farwa Arshad] My next question is how you encounter or how you would kind of talk with the parents of patients who have ASD, who are on the ASD spectrum. My question would be, how do you, how you or your agency focuses on health literacy or any stigma that you encounter within the patient? How do you deal with that? Any strategic plan you have with that or any kind of advice you can offer to students right now to learn about that aspect?
[Sarah Burch] Are you talking about understanding diversity in a family system? Yeah. We, our agency has all of, we are all part, we were part of regular trainings and developing and understand-- Literacy is never an issue for our families. It's an issue but it's never going to be a barrier. We have, everything can be accommodated so that you can have, we will find a way to get information to you and it's not going to be dependent on even things like internet access. If you're really rural, we will find a way, we will give you a, I don't know what they call it, but it's like something that, like a booster, I think a wi-fi booster for your area that allows you to access. In my personal experience, I don't think there's been a barrier with a family that we haven't been able to address or overcome and that's just built into my agency. I mean all of that. We have translators for any language going. We can provide all our written correspondence written in the native language in the home. We bring interpreters to meetings. I can have a three-way phone call with an interpreter, where the interpreter speaks to the parent, if the parent can't speak English. We also offer French services because we're provincially funded. There's a mandate that the schools in the province, as well as any type of mental health or medical service offers a French stream so we offer. We have French consultants and we offer French programming if upon request. I mean we are, we're always involved in trainings. We, around like understanding experience, understanding for instance the native experience and ASD trying to understand-- There’s certain cultural groups that have a different understanding about ASD, in general,l a different level of potentially acceptance about it, a different even different degrees of shame about it and understanding and becoming aware of that is very helpful. Sometimes, we consult with a third party. We have, there is the Sri Lankan Autism Society and they were created in response to resistance that was coming forth in that community around acknowledgement and addressing autism. There was this experience of shame amongst people in that community so they created their own stream of autism services so that they could get the messaging out within their own community. I did have a family once who was more and indicated that she wanted to deal with somebody from her own cultural background and felt more comfortable that way. That's okay. I mean if we can make those sorts of things work or we can consult with another agency that can help you to develop an understanding in a way that is, respects your cultural values and belief system then, absolutely!
[Sarah Burch] There’s a lot of rules for instance with, we are not to, pre-pandemic rules, but if you are going into a parent's home you're not to take a snack from them, you're not to take a gift from them, you're not, because it blurs the lines between this being a professional relationship and drifting into a too friendly type of a relationship, so we're very careful about that. But, on the flip side, there is also certain cultures who are taking a cup of tea is a gesture that should be respected and it's deemed as almost offensive if we don't and so-- Our agency is always learning about those things and then of course, working with families to, we want families to feel as comfortable as possible with whatever it is and that's part of the initial so when I get a new client, I ask diversity questions related to these sorts of things like, “What holidays do you celebrate?”, “Do you have anything you want to tell me about your culture?”, or things that I should know, “Is there any type of activities in a school setting that you would want your child not included in or you aren't comfortable in?”, and so we do a lot of that. I think it's always a work in progress, right? But, we have task forces right now. We have the, we have a task force created for anti-asian hate because that's sort of new on the horizon. We have task forces for understanding the native experience, understanding-- I really like what my company has done. I think that we're very inclusive and we try our best to be and if we aren't, we make, well, like teach me, tell me what it is that you want me to understand so I can best meet your needs.
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you. I have a follow-up question so would you say that your company has both health education programming and the counseling program?
[Sarah Burch] Oh yeah, my company is a children's mental health provider, so my company is more in-- If you looked at my company as a piece of pie, the autism program is a very small slice, the largest part of our program is mental health, community mental health and it's children's mental health. The children who are in the men's community mental health stream don't have a diagnosis of autism, unless they have a diagnosis of autism that doesn't impact their cognitive capacity because it's a fair-- it's a talk therapy program so those children by virtue of that, have to meet certain prerequisites to participate. They have to be able to talk or at least be able to communicate with an augmentative system that allows for mutual understanding. They have to have a cognitive capacity of at least 70 so that they can understand concepts and therapeutic strategies but autism is a very small wedge of our agency.
[Farwa Arshad] Okay, makes sense. The purpose of my question was maybe there are two pathways for students to get into this field. One is maybe through counseling and one is maybe through health education.
[Sarah Burch] Yeah, absolutely but there isn't, we're-- this is one of the areas that we're working to I guess, I'll say, fix but I'm only gonna say fix because we now, I don't think it was problematic before but I think we're expanding our understanding of what's necessary but we tend to operate in islands. If you were, for instance, looking to get exposure, experience in the mental health side of things there would be very little in the ASD world. If you were looking for ASD, there'd be very little in the mental health. We don't do therapy in-- we don't do psychotherapy with our clients, we do ABA therapy and mental health does not do ABA therapy, you do psychotherapy
[Farwa Arshad] Okay, makes sense because one of my follow-up questions was also are there any gaps that you feel like, in the field, should be filled by maybe new graduates coming in, this is something like a field of work that students can take up.
[Sarah Burch] I think there is a move a move towards under and our agency's embracing this but there is a move and I think, this is a move within the larger autism community as a whole nationally, internationally to see autism through the lens of mental health so I think that no matter which avenue you wanted to go if you're more partial to the ABA therapy piece, you're more partial to the psychotherapy piece, having an understanding of each side of things would be very helpful because we are really seeing them as more interconnected than we maybe practiced in the past. There's still the IBI therapy that is going to be its own thing because those children need that and it's very prescribed but there is also this need for more holistic mental health support for the whole family unit, which is going to improve outcomes for the child, if the parents are in a better space to support the child so that's inter-- it's all intertwined and I think that would be helpful.
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you and my next question would be around, if there are any challenges working in your field or if they're any in the first place, and what are some of your self-care techniques that you practice to kind of de-stress from work?
[Sarah Burch] Challenges, oh yeah. The biggest challenge in my-- I work for a fun-- well I work for a program that was funded and every year, even before Ford has made these the most major changes in my 16-year career to autism services happened with Ford’s changes but every single four-year period where there's ever a new premier, we're always subject to funding so in that way it's, can be a bit of a rollercoaster because we aren't for profit, or we weren't for profit, so to get paid we need the government to continue to believe in support and invest in our program and they do that at the front end of our fiscal year and then we know we're good for the whole year. In our fiscal year, is April, it begins April 1st so that is always a tricky part of this field. Right now, Ford has changed the model completely and privatized it and then is giving-- instead of parents waiting on a waitlist for the therapy, he's giving them a stipend of money so that they can buy the therapy at whatever provider or place they want. The previous model you could still buy the therapy anywhere you wanted if you had the financial means but if you didn't, and you needed the funded money you had to wait in line and then you could use your pool of funded money for a selection of approved private providers or the public providers that's-- but that wait list has spanned from as small as six months to as long as four and a half years and when we're talking four and a half years, and we're talking about early intervention that is-- I mean,it's a life-changing length of time to wait because that pivotal point, you really want your little one to get this this sort of support is literally almost as soon as they get diagnosed, so ages two to five-- it's not that ABA or IBI can't be effective beyond those though, that the age of five, but the point of the therapy is to try and almost get that the catch-up of skills so that child in the ideal world could start kindergarten with their peers and be able to continue along with some support but be ready to go. Be kind of caught up with their peers at the kindergarten age. The funding isn’t a huge-- it's always a bit of a roller coaster and right now it is like a serious rollercoaster. Other things to note, I wrote something else down, I just-- I'm trying to see what I. The competition obviously knowing that. It's fierce, yeah. I think that, that’s it. That's just really knowing that whether or not we keep our jobs is always dependent on funding and that's why
there's contracts now, everywhere, because in the event that there is a drastic cut, the first people to go will be contract workers because they're easy-- where it's not so easy to get rid of permanent full-time staff. But, there's a lot of great things about it, too.
[Farwa Arshad] And of course, especially working in a field you love and you’ve worked so much in, because you're getting your undergrad, your master's degree in the field that you really want to work in, especially it's really rewarding thing but it is has frustrating things such as the bureaucracy issues but that's in mostly every job like the management aspect, the administrative aspect
[Sarah Burch] Changing educational requirements was the other thing I wrote down here. I don't think that's going to matter as much if you're starting fresh because you're going to know from the gate but it was a big-- it was a lot of hiccups, finding out, when I'm 28 that they want us all to have master's degrees. That's a big thing to have to undertake at that age and now with these new ABA-based programs starting to pop up in Ontario, which is really great. I don't know. There could be some shift in educational requirements that way, too. I don't know.
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you. We're kind of nearing the end of our session so I'll just ask a really fun question for you. Which is-- what advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
[Sarah Burch] Less pub nights. I mean, it wasn't a pandemic when I was at York and it was a lot of pub nights. Is berries and bloom, still there? The restaurant. No? Well that wasn't where you did pub night but it was this really lovely restaurant in the plaza there. I was in Stong College so every College had a pub night and stuff like that, so less of those. They're also, I will mention too. Western and Brock are, they offered now two programs where you can get the coursework for the BCBA and they're in Canada. Both of them, you can do while working but both of them require you periodically to go to London in Niagara Fall so-- but if you're interested in that I could share with you guys the links for those programs. The Masters of Special Education at Western, and the Masters of Disability studies at Brock, I think.
[Farwa Arshad] Okay. I will look for the link and send it over in the chat. Did comment that Berries and Bloom still exists, yes. So, while I look for the link I'm just going to pause for 5-10 seconds and see if any participants have any questions or comments for Sarah.
[Sarah Burch] Perfect and I'm gonna-- you can speak, if you want to call it out but I'll take a look I just had this note over the chat so I will open up the chat so I can see what’s up here too.
[Sarah Burch] Oh, you're welcome.
[Farwa Arshad] Sorry. I just have a question, with which programs did you mention the Western and Brock?
[Sarah Burch] The Western's program is in-- it's a Masters of Special Education, I believe and then Brock's program is a Master's of Disability Studies. Both of those programs will give you the coursework required to sit for the BCBA exam and if you don't have the coursework you can do the coursework separate. Florida Institute of Technology offers it online but it's super expensive and that you have to find a proctor to supervise your exams and to get through it. People do that too. If you wanted to do that as well but there-- these programs actually allow for you to get the coursework while doing the program
[Farwa Arshad] Okay, perfect. I think I did find a link. I'm just gonna send it over in the chat and you don't have somebody--
[Sarah Burch] The George Brown certificate, I would look for George Brown and Seneca certificate programs in ABA because that's a good place to start to get your foot in the door maybe because the masters you could do that later, right? You could see if you like the field, get your foot in the door and try it and then you know before throwing in getting into a masters-- that's maybe the smallest pivot I might recommend is to try that, it's one year.
[Sarah Burch] Look at it. Yeah.
[Farwa Arshad] Is that the accessible learning studies, services?
[Sarah Burch] ABA-- it's not called ABA? Seneca-- Apply Behavior Analysis
[Farwa Arshad] Let’s see...I do have some comments in the chat
[Sarah Burch] Oh yes. Well, thanks guys! Good luck! What a wild time to be in school.
[Sarah Burch] If you think of any other questions, you can also let Annalisa or Farwa know and I'm sure they could email me and I'd be happy to talk to you guys on the phone or something. If they're-- if you wanted more information beyond this
[Farwa Arshad] Thank you so much. We can close the session now, I guess. Thank you so much again everyone for joining us today. Good luck with all of your exams. I know it starts tomorrow or today, I think thank you so much Sarah for--
[Sarah Burch] ...last time you're like at the end. Yeah, I remember that.
[Farwa Arshad] Sarah thank you so much for giving us your time, experiences. It's a really detailed practical advice it was really helpful. Thank you so much everyone good luck for your exams. Have a happy Tuesday! I believe it’s Tuesday. We don’t really know what time is it dynamic but yeah
[Farwa Arshad] I know-- every other day.
[Farwa Arshad] Take care everyone. Bye.