My Goal Is a Master’s Degree in Psychology

I hope to pursue a master’s degree at Rutgers University’s Master’s of Applied Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). I feel as if this program will allow me to understand and study behavior through a scientific lens in order to potentially improve or change it for the better.

I first became interested in the field of psychology when my friend had found out his mother had cancer. Though I did my best to be there for him, the constant feelings of helplessness encompassed me as my friend was in constant distress. I began to have these strange and intense feelings of empathy as if his mother was actually my own. The root of my helplessness came from the unknown, which only meant that I must learn; learn to understand my friend’s emotions and behavior. This sparked my interest to study human behavior. To embark on my journey in this field, I took an Introductory Psychology class. Two years later, that led me to begin course called Fieldwork in Autism. As years have gone by, I have encountered various unique situations and a very diverse group of people which only peeked my interest further to learn how our minds function, why we behave in certain ways and what drives us to be such individuals.

In fact, shortly after my fieldwork experience, I began working and still am currently working as a part-time teaching assistant at the Douglass Developmental Disability Center at Rutgers University on the Cook Campus providing services to disabled adults with autism. I have been working with the DDDC since June of 2018 and have been regularly providing instructional teaching and implementing programs to enrich the lives of these disabled adults. The services provided to these individuals is in hope that one day, they can develop independence in their everyday lives such as brushing their teeth, wiping a table, washing a plate, hanging pants or navigating on YouTube.

In applied behavioral analysis, individuals in the field usually collect a lot of data to develop programs/behavior modification plans in order to understand the behavior and the drives that allow us to make certain decisions. Each program that is taught used to achieve a certain goal, which is usually to increase a person’s independence. The data we receive from each work session allows us to determine whether the goal has been mastered, if it needs to be switched, or new targets need to be added to the program itself. The data also allows us to determine whether teaching methods need to be adjusted or what types of reinforcement will increase the work progress. For example, lets say we want to track the behavior data of autistic adult. We are well aware that this adult does have some challenging behavior such as head hitting, which is known as self-injurious behavior. However, we want to track this behavior in order to determine the cause of such behavior.

First of all, we would have a tally chart which will then be reflected onto a line graph for each day (Monday-Friday), as because we want to compare each day and all the times this adult is at the center. Based from the data that is taken everyday, this challenged adult typically has little to no head hits Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. However, on Tuesday’s during the time of her activity schedule at 1:00 pm, when a demand of completing her activities is placed on her, she has severe challenging behavior which can result in about 90-100 head hits for those 15 minutes, the time which is set aside for activity schedule. By collecting data weekly, we can see that this behavior might continue only on Tuesday’s around the same time every week, which can help us determine if this individual is attempting to escape from demands as because she may not enjoy doing these activities. This will then allow us to maybe come up with another set of activities or change up the dynamic of the activities to better suit this individual. I think that what’s intriguing is that the key to understanding behavior is simply observation. Observation is the foundation of applied behavior analysis.

I think what drives me towards this field is the wanting to help. Disabled adults with autism can be challenging to work with because they sometimes have difficulty expressing themselves, making choices, have bad days, or try to escape from demands. And this kind of breaks my heart, because everyone deserves a chance at a normal life.

Therefore, I hope to pursue this field in order to help better the lives of such individuals. The Master’s of Applied Psychology Program with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis will help me further my goals in becoming a behavior analyst. I am fortunate enough to be an independent individual in this society and I wish to do my best to help others achieve that same independence.

I believe what makes me stand out compared to other candidates is that I come from a diverse and experiential background. Working at the DDDC hands on with the clients there has allowed me to broaden my horizons. It can be difficult and overwhelming at times because many disabled adults with autism can have self-injurious, aggressive and provoking behaviors, however it is manageable and has taught me to be patient, driven, creative, compassionate, and more understanding of others. These five traits are what will help me excel in the program. Patience will help me stay on track and focused especially when things at school are getting tough. Being driven will push me through till the end of the tunnel and allow me to achieve my end goal. It is a reminder to not give up. Creativity allows me to bring a different perspective to the program and to my colleagues. My compassionate personality will bring feelings of warmth and kindness that I wish to spread to my peers, to individuals in need, as well as myself. And last but not least, my ability to be understanding allows me to effortlessly feel empathy as I walk a mile in other people’s shoes to be able to help problem solve effectively.

In a rapidly growing field like this one, the number of children and adults living with autism is also constantly on the rise. I feel that the skills I possess combined with the skills I will learn in the future will help make a huge difference in the world of applied behavior analysis. Having the opportunity to pursue an education/a degree at such a reputable program and make an impact in an immensely rewarding field would be an honor.

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