When I began my undergraduate career, I primarily wanted to pursue a career in psychology to improve my understanding of the human mind since I always had a passion for problem-solving, and connecting with others by finding a solution to various situations. However, as I took an introduction to communication and public speaking class, my passion expanded into other areas. I enjoyed the idea of interacting with others through different forms of communication and helping others develop their communication skills. I discovered Communicative Disorders as a major, which led me to the speech-language pathology field during undergrad. It was not until a few years ago when I chose to pursue relevant experience as a behavioral therapist and speech-language pathologist assistant, that I was driven to reevaluate my career goals in the human service field. I found myself refueling my interest in the study of psychology, specifically the functions of behavioral analysis in children and youth in various settings.
I began a career in the special education field working with children with various developmental disabilities, particularly those with autism. I was introduced to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy not knowing at first how much of an impact it would have on my clients and their families. While providing in-home interventions as a behavioral therapist, I gained strong observational skills allowing me to classify the functions of behavior and a better understanding of how the environment influences one’s behavior. Looking at the antecedents to hypothesize why a certain behavior is occurring helped enrich my ability in collecting, interpreting, and analyzing data. I became familiar on how to proactively address and reduce a variety of behaviors, which helped me cultivate a greater sense of adaptability. The impact of behavioral therapy ultimately improved my clients’ behavior in home settings, which eventually generalized into the school and community settings. My clinical experience as a behavior therapist contributed to my desire to become a school psychologist and has helped me become the clinician that I am today. I carried over what I learned from the ABA field into the speech-language pathology field once I received my license as a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant (SLPA).
I am currently an SLPA working in the clinical and school setting, ranging from adolescents in elementary school to children in middle school. I provide direct one-on-one intervention and group therapy sessions to meet their speech and language goals implemented by the speech-language pathologists. Many of my clients have developmental disabilities, specifically autism with various and sometimes challenging behaviors. As an SLPA with ABA background, I am aware of the obstacles children and families face every day. However, I also see the amount of potential they have in order to succeed and become a more independent individual. In order for a client to improve in their speech and language skills, the client needs a structured environment that promotes positivity, and motivation, which will improve their overall behavior and attention skills in any given task. When I implemented ABA strategies into my speech sessions, I saw growth in my clients’ confidence, behavior, and attention when working to achieve their goals. My interest in pursuing a career in school psychology began when I realized I was able to make a greater impact beyond the children’s speech and language skills. I could support children and youth in other aspects such as cognitively, academically, and behaviorally. The positive impact of utilizing behavioral therapy has helped them form functional habits that transferred over to different settings. The link between behavioral therapy and every other field to which I was exposed to gave me a desire to integrate myself to play a much bigger role to improve client performance in other settings; particularly in the school setting where demands are in place every day.
I work and interact with many professionals, such as the school psychologist, on a day-to-day basis to meet each clients’ unique needs. The school psychologist’s role and integration in improving the student’s academic enrichment truly align with my values to help students reach their best potential. I am interested in continuing to work with children with developmental disabilities, and high-risk kids influenced by their home or community environment. I want to find solutions to improve their lives, to overcome hardship as they become older. I see myself fulfilling the role of continued direct support to students by providing motivation, engagement, and positivity so that they may thrive in their academic achievements. As a school psychologist, I will continue to create a safe space in the school and learning environment, which will influence them to make strong connections and gain experience with those around them.
CSULB’s school psychology program is unique due to its student diversity, on-site clinic, and engagement in faculty research. Dr. Kristin Power’s research interest in school psychology services and training in Vietnam was one that particularly stood out to me. As a first-generation Vietnamese American, I understand the social pressure to excel and perform above average in academia. Through my background as a behavioral therapist, I worked with many Vietnamese families with a child with autism or other developmental disabilities. They had little to no understanding of the obstacles their children may face in the future, especially in the academic setting. In order to help these families overcome these barriers, CSULB’s faculty research in school psychology in Vietnam will help me gain knowledge of how to provide services to those that come from diverse backgrounds. Under direct supervision of a faculty member, the skills I will learn from faculty research will help me facilitate treatment protocols for children and youth that visit the on-site clinic. As a school psychologist, I am also able to break any language barriers to the Vietnamese community. I will help find solutions and teach families and others to be adaptable to differences in others. I understand the feeling of overcoming barriers, which forced me to better apply myself during my undergrad career and commit to reaching my potential. Part of this was the pursuance of relevant work experience as a behavioral therapist and SLPA, and I am now better prepared to enter graduate study. I have a strong sense of motivation to excel in my academic studies and to provide academic enrichment to children and youth in the community.
With that said, the role and function of school psychologists are particularly critical in helping children gain the abilities to succeed in education the way I have helped my past clients to succeed. The school psychologists are the ones providing behavioral interventions to enhance growth and learning by collaborating with other colleagues and families. They are respectful, sensitive, and extremely accepting. They are transparent when they see differences and seek ways to provide the most appropriate services so that every child could reach their best potential.
The School Psychology program at CSULB has what I am looking for in order to be a highly qualified school psychologist. I also feel I have what CSULB should be looking for in a prospective student based on my related experience and knowledge. Joining CSULB’s incoming class will be a gratifying experience that will challenge me to become a better clinician in the human service field. By furthering my studies, I will focus to advocate for and support the well being of children and youth. I will utilize my abilities and refine fundamental skills necessary for my clients and community as a school psychologist.