Your first job out of college can truly shape your long-term success. If you are interested in a career in special education or behavior analysis The New England Center for Children®, (NECC®) is a great place to start. Employees at NECC are given intensive training, hands-on experience in the field, and plenty of opportunities to further their education.
To learn more about how NECC prepares early-career employees for success, we spoke with NECC alumnus, Adithyan Rajaraman.
Dithu learned a lot in his five years at The New England Center for Children. He gained experience in his various roles (Case Manager, Clinical Specialist, Core Shift Manager, Senior Case Manager, and Senior Classroom Teacher), studied Special Education and Severe Disabilities at Simmons University, and experienced a new culture by traveling across the globe to NECC’s Abu Dhabi campus.
Dithu’s first job was on the residential team, Ursla Drive, at NECC. When asked what his typical day looked like on the team he said, “It’s hard to describe, there’s so much that goes on between the residence and the school.” As teams provide 24/7 care to the students, work schedules are not your traditional Monday-Friday.
“Some days I would work 8-4, others 12-9 or 12-10. There’s no one answer to what the day to day was, it was everything that we could do to help these kids gain independent skills and also have a modicum of quality of life.”
While working on the residential team Dithu learned that the students’ livelihoods are largely dependent on the care that NECC staff provides.
“Getting to see some of these kids and young adults across all 13 waking hours of the day, and sometimes also on overnight shifts was remarkable. I was inundated with experiencing what life was like for multiple children, some with pretty severe special needs and disabilities, and we were helping them in so many aspects of their lives. It’s one thing to be a traditional schoolteacher where a majority of the work may be academic based, but if you’re at the residential house working at 7 am, you’re waking some of these kids up and helping them get ready for the day ahead.”
Dithu shared with us that often he would need to support students with self-care tasks such as brushing their teeth and taking a shower. The residential role was unlike any other experience that he had previously working with students with autism.
NECC’s residential program uses the evidence-based method of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to help students develop life skills and appropriate behaviors to promote independence. A main focus of the program is communication and adaptive living skills.
From 2014 – 2015 Dithu had the opportunity to work in Abu Dhabi at The Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Special Education – Operated by The New England Center for Children (MRC-NECC).
In 2007, NECC established a long-term agreement with the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), which launched a comprehensive education program for children with autism and their families in Abu Dhabi. Employees who work at NECC’s Southborough location, have had the opportunity to work at the MRC-NECC campus for a year or more.
When Dithu had the chance to apply, he took advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. He said, “It seemed too good to be true. You get to do the same job but live abroad. I was interested in traveling and seeing what applied behavior analysis looked like on another continent”.
Dithu felt welcome right away and had plenty of opportunities to learn about the culture and surrounding areas while in the Gulf. “The experience was tremendous. I wouldn’t trade that opportunity for the world,” said Dithu.
Dithu told us about an impactful moment that stood out to him in his last year at NECC.
“In my final year, I worked with a teenage student who was highly food selective and only tolerated chicken nuggets. We put together a treatment plan to slowly work to expand his diet, and within three months this student would eat whatever was presented to him. He learned to accept new foods and his food preferences seemed to change. He was always in control; we never tried to force his hand. It was inspiring to see that we sufficiently inspired him to make healthier choices.”
In 2016 Dithu left NECC with a Master of Science in Education (Licensure: Severe Disabilities – Grades K-12) from Simmons University. He also completed a BACB® Verified Course Sequence in Applied Behavior Analysis which allowed him to become a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), and his time at NECC provided invaluable hands-on experience working with children with autism. As of today, Dithu has gone through a PhD program and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Psychology Department.
Dithu gave us some parting advice for those interested in applying to the NECC program.
- Working with children with severe special needs is challenging work, but also incredibly rewarding. Really learn about it before you start and be honest with yourself.
- Don’t just have one experience, change teams and try different settings. Give yourself the luxury of trying multiple roles.
- Don’t be afraid to be yourself in your role. Students benefit a lot from seeing all of who you are; it can inspire them to be everything they can be.
If you’re interested in learning more about NECC or joining the program, I encourage you to check out the current early-career opportunities here.