Meet the Staff: Mary McDonald, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA
Dr. Mary McDonald is the Interim Associate Executive Director for Long Island Programs and Chairperson of Eden II’s Research Review Committee. Additionally, she is an Associate Professor in the Special Education Program at Hofstra University where she directs and teaches a course sequence in applied behavior analysis (ABA). She has nearly 25 years experience directing programs for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) utilizing the principles of ABA. She received her Ph.D. in Learning Processes from the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst–Doctoral level and a licensed behavior analyst. Dr. McDonald currently serves on the Board of the New York State Council for Exceptional Children and a number of advisory boards.
HOW DID YOU COME TO WORK IN THE FIELD OF AUTISM? As
an undergraduate student in Psychology at Queens
College, I first began in the field as a research assistant in a research lab that was studying vocal and non-vocal imitation in infants and toddlers with special needs, as well as typically developing children. I became interested in autism through my coursework and the research that I was involved in at that time. I began working at Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) and then applied to a doctoral program in behavior analysis. A few years later I was hired as the Director of Eden II’s Genesis School. It was a dream of mine to run a school for students with autism and I was honored to have the opportunity to create Genesis from the ground up with the families and staff.
WHAT MAKES GENESIS & THE OUTREACH AUTISM CENTER UNIQUE? WHAT SETS IT APART? When the Genesis School first opened in 1995, it was because
there really was a need for a school that specialized in serving students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on Long Island that used research-based interventions rooted in applied behavior analysis. Troughout the past 21 years that need has continued. We unfortunately have to turn away students every year as we only currently serve 30 students in the program. It is because of this
that we created the Outreach Autism Center on Long Island. Te center provides onsite evaluations, behavior analytic assessments and services as well as home-based services. Consultation is provided to students in local school districts or adult programs, or individuals who are self-directed. Workshops, conferences and webinars are provided throughout the year to educate the community. I think what sets Genesis apart is the adherence to the science in the interventions used, and the dedication and caring of the staff. Our staff are our greatest resource. Tey make the difference everyday in the lives of the individuals we serve.
WHERE DO YOU SEE AUTISM AND EDEN II IN 10 YEARS? As the incidence of autism, unfortunately, continues to
increase, my hope is to see the field have a better understanding of the disability, in order to create more comprehensive programs and diverse services to address issues across the lifespan. I hope to see an increase in awareness and access to appropriate, quality, behavior analytic educational and adult service programs. As the population ages, there will continue to be a tremendous need for programs and services for those aging with autism. I hope to see improvement in options and outcomes for adults seeking meaningful employment, housing and residential opportunities, as well as other services to help them live their lives with dignity,
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