Sara John, BCBA moved back to her home province of Ontario to help reduce the waitlist for autism services. This is no small task; thousands of people with autism and their families are struggling to get support, waiting on some list, somewhere.

Sara gained valuable experience while working with a well-established company in Florida called Positive Behavior Supports Corp (PBS). She is excited to apply what she’s learned to help reduce the waitlist in Ontario.

We first met Sara at the Geneva Symposium in October and caught up with her recently to hear more about how she is serving families in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

After working with PBS in Florida for the past 5 years, you returned to your home in Toronto. Welcome back! Can you share with us what inspired you to come back to Canada and what excites you most about working with kiddos & families here?

When my husband and I decided we wanted to come back here, I began researching potential jobs in Ontario. The more I researched the state of autism services in Ontario, the more I realized how many families are struggling to get support, waiting on a list somewhere.

Although I know we can’t reach everybody, I am hopeful we can help at least a few families improve their quality of life. This was the reason I approached the corporate team at PBS to pitch the idea of setting up a branch here in the GTA. They shared my vision to make this international move a reality, and here I am!

How are you using what you learned during your time in Florida to support families in the GTA?

While I was in Florida, I gained valuable experience and knowledge in ABA from amazing and talented mentors. I worked with people of all ages and with a wide variety of strengths and needs. PBS has given me many opportunities to grow, which I hope to share with my team here in Ontario.

In my current role as a regional coordinator, I will not be working directly with many families. I am here to help my team better themselves as therapists. My goal is to help them increase their knowledge, experience, and understanding of ABA as well as their ability to become strong leaders in the field. This will help us reach many more families in our province.

You shared a story with me about a family who ended up “firing” you because you did your job so well. What kind of advice would you give to a new family so that they too can also end up “firing” you?

I want to clarify, the reason that the family didn’t need my services anymore wasn’t because the child didn’t need ABA; rather because the family was much more capable of implementing ABA on their own.

The reason they were able to do this – and any parent can also do the same – is because they understood the necessity for consistency. The family was implementing the recommended strategies in the home the same way our staff was implementing within session.

The most important factor is consistency. It is also the most difficult. It is easy for a provider to come in, recommend changes and then leave. If this is the case, families will have difficulty implementing strategies consistently.

When families have the right support from their service providers, they can learn how to implement appropriate care strategies. When parents and therapists work together as a team, then there will be success.

I can imagine that you have noticed differences between services & support to families provided in Florida compared to Ontario. What are some of the things that are done well in our province, and where do you see room for growth?

Coming back to Ontario, it’s been really encouraging to see that the space has been moving in the right direction. Especially in terms of the intent behind the new Ontario Autism Program (OAP), which looks to make support services more family-centered.  Everyone – including advocates, service providers, the community at large – is doing their best to help the countless families who need services. The effort to bring those services to families is there.

In my opinion, the most important improvement is to bring more clarity to the OAP. There are too many grey areas. What I mean is, it’s difficult for families to know exactly what they can and can’t get covered under the new program. It’s hard for families to know how to exercise their rights under the OAP, who to turn to for help, and how to get information about waitlists. It’s even hard for service providers to navigate the system. There needs to be more clarity for providers and families so that services can be provided seamlessly and ethically.

Call to action!

Sara John has a team of talented providers who are ready to provide services to families in the Greater Toronto Area. If you are a GTA family who is seeking a qualified ABA provider, send a message to Sara at sjohn@teampbs.com

Do you have an idea for a blog post that you’d like to share with Awake Labs? Send an email to paul@awakelabs.com with the subject line “New Blog Idea!”