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A Therapist and a Friend

Kylee Schaefer and student

Kylee Schaefer (Psychology, ’13) works one-on-one with kids having behavioral problems at home or in school.



The kids who come to Kylee Schaefer have Down’s syndrome or autism or attention-deficit disorder.

They need her patience and guidance as they work through life’s daily challenges.

But they also need her willingness to have fun.

“You need to be able to have a playful side, too,” Schaefer said. “At the end of the day, you are not only their therapist but their friend.”

Schaefer ’13 is a behavioral therapist with Behavioral Intervention Specialists of Los Angeles. She works one-on-one with special needs children, age 18 months to 18 years, to address problematic behavior, such as outbursts at home or in school.

Her caseload typically includes a half-dozen children at any given time. She visits some at home, for a couple hours per week, and others in the classroom, for as much as six hours a day.

“I’m solely there to make sure that the student stays on task and doesn’t have any tantrums or behaviors throughout the school day,” she said.

In her coursework at UO, Schaefer credited a class on childhood development for helping her understand how the brain works in people with disabilities. In her job, she teaches kids how to live with those challenges.

She also works with teachers and parents to develop approaches that keep kids on track.

“Our job, as behavioral therapists, is to not only educate the child on what to do and how to communicate,” Schaefer said, “but to educate the parent on how to go about solving these problem behaviors.”

While Schaefer knew in high school that she wanted to major in psychology in college, she did not imagine that she would become a behavior therapist. After graduation, she worked at a staffing company before entering the mental health field.

Now Schaefer is going to graduate school online while working with children throughout the Los Angeles area.

Psychology majors often land in careers as disparate as counselors or researchers. Schaefer, for example, is continuing to study behavior and hopes eventually to become a behavioral analyst.

In other words, she wants to be the person directing behavioral therapists how to approach the kids with whom they work.


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