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Stories on the Spectrum – Channeling Passion into a Career Path

“We are all much more alike than we are different,” Nicole Schroeder said matter-of-factly. “I’ve always rooted for the underdog. I have a passion for taking care of those who are a little different from me.”

Nicole Schroeder joined PHI’s team as a Training Specialist in June of 2018.  She has dual Bachelor of Science Degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education, a Master of Autism Education, is a Registered Behavior Technician, and is currently studying to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Nicole also sits on the Board of the Missouri Association of Behavior Analysis as the Student Representative. At 25, she has been working with children and teens with autism for six years and has been volunteering with students with special needs for about a decade.

Nicole’s interest in working with special needs children started in grade school. She never really felt like she fit in at school and was  drawn to individuals in a similar situation. One day in her after school program, she noticed a girl with special needs getting bullied. Instead of ignoring the situation, Nicole took it upon herself to stand up for the girl and befriend her.

In middle school, Nicole volunteered with the Special Olympics. While in college, she was the Special Olympics head coach for high school track and basketball. She took her teams to regional and state events, stating, “It was my favorite weekend of the year and also the most stressful.” She has now been asked to volunteer as a Special Olympics event manager for the Kansas City area.

Her interest in autism began when she was in college. When student teaching in different classroom settings, she saw the impact behavior analysis and therapy could make on the lives of the children.

During this time, Nicole also began working as a private behavior therapist for a family. She was supervised by a licensed BCBA, and carried out functional, behavioral and academic tasks. She assisted with monitoring progress by keeping a log of data with the client’s activities, progress and daily behaviors.

For Nicole, this was a rewarding experience as she watched her client transform before her eyes.

“In the beginning, some days it could feel rough, wondering if the student was ever going to pick up on this and if my efforts were really doing any good at all. Fast forward a few months, and the student got a job stocking shelves. To the outside world that may seem minimal, but to me, the analyst, and the family, it was a monumental achievement.”

For her master’s program, Nicole attended The University of Missouri. During her time there, she had the opportunity to work with and learn from the BCBA’s at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. One of her biggest takeaways from conducting countless hours of research, is the ability to pick up on actions most people wouldn’t notice. She says, “I now view individuals and their actions in a much more peculiar and keen way. The details become everything, no matter how small.”

This resonated with Nicole’s spirit. “It is the little things that make a difference and keep me going. It is the little accomplishments that allow me to know I achieved what I set out to do and that I made a difference. It is the smile on an individual’s face and the smile of his or her parents’ when they finally achieve that goal that seemed so far off just a short time earlier.”

“I truly believe with the intervention of behavior analysis and therapy that the possibilities for helping individuals are endless.”

Nicole is going to help make big strides in behavior analysis and we are so pleased to have her on the PHI team!


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