The Chicago School of Professional Psychology alum Sasha Long, BCBA fulfills needs when she finds them, and has been doing so her entire career.
The founder and owner of autismhelper.com, a resource for teachers and parents of children with special needs, Sasha once worked as a special education teacher in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and found herself in need of resources and more ideas to better support her students.
“The special ed. job title is really is so broad,” Sasha explains. “You could be working in a preschool with students with severe autism, or you could be in high school in a resource room teaching, and the students have a broad range of special needs. So, I think teachers, for the most part, are not prepared. School boards nationwide are struggling to support their teachers.”
Though she implemented different strategies in her classroom that worked – ideas that brought other professionals to her classroom to observe – she knew there was more she could do for her students.
“I was just hungry for ideas, for any direction or support. This was before Pinterest, before Instagram, before social media, just…before. When I started teaching they weren’t around. Information wasn’t at your fingertips,” she says with a laugh. “That’s really what pushed me to become a BCBA and get my master’s, because I wanted to know how to do my job better. I wanted to effect change at a better rate, and be more effective and efficient at helping the students.”
Her search for more led her to the Chicago Campus and the Applied Behavioral Analysis Program. Throughout her program, she applied what she learned at TCSPP in her classroom, and found that she was becoming a celebrity of sorts in the world of special education. “CPS had a lot of administrators coming into my class and they were bringing teachers into my class to see what I was doing. They were taking pictures and sharing those pictures in their presentations.”
Wanting to help her fellow teachers, she set up a website and began sharing what she’d learned and what she’d developed. Things exploded from there. Requests to do classroom and school-based consultations soon followed.
“I was trying to fulfill a need that was there, and it just kept evolving. I started traveling all around the U.S. and Canada, doing trainings for teachers, parents and administrators. I never would have anticipated being here where I am 10 years ago, but it’s really great.”
“Here” also means curriculum development, creating resources specifically for teachers who teach children with autism, and using technology to meet people’s needs. “People all over the world are looking for resources. They google help for their child with autism, and they come across my website. There’s a parent in Sri Lanka I Skype with who’s been a client for three years. I Skype with clients from around the world. There are cultural differences, but there are also the same struggles that American parents of children with special needs have.”
Sasha has now added podcasts to autismhelper.com’s menu of services, having launched the offering in December of 2018. A new podcast comes out every Monday and the platform has proven to be very popular.
“We have almost 40,000 downloads. My goal is to let people consume the content in the way they want to – if they want to watch a video, they can; if they want to read a blog, they can; if they want to listen to a podcast, they can.”
The growth of the business meant that Sasha eventually had to step away from the classroom to devote herself to it full-time. The site now has a multidiscipline team of seven bloggers, including special ed. teachers, occupational therapists and a parent, each blogging at least twice a month, resulting in four new blogs a week. Additionally, the site offers a marketplace for teachers to sell educational materials.
“I really love what I do, so I never have Monday blues. I try to be as efficient as possible in getting people what they need, because the need is so great.”