Setting a Strong Foundation, the Lighthouse Way – Meet Ashley Ritchey

Meet Ashley Ritchey

In May of 2022, Lighthouse Autism Center is celebrating 10 years of business. This would not be possible without our tenured staff. These individuals helped build a strong foundation for Lighthouse Autism Center and continue to bring compassion and expertise every day! They have paved a path for an inspiring future of endless growth and possibilities. They have brought hope into our communities and homes. They have unlocked a world of unlimited potential. Thank you for being such a significant piece to our puzzle and for embracing Lighthouse Autism Center’s core values every day!

About Ashley

Ashley is a Regional Director at Lighthouse Autism Center in Champaign, IL. Her prior roles at Lighthouse include Registered Behavior Therapist, Junior Program Manager, Program Manager and Clinical Director. Ashley enjoys spending time with her family, attending concerts, watching dating shows, listening to true crime podcasts, and completing puzzles.

Life Before Lighthouse:

What was your career background/experience before Lighthouse Autism Center?

I graduated with my undergraduate degree in special education. After completing my student teaching, I knew that I still loved teaching various skills but did not care for the linguistics and requirements of teachers. Soon after, I discovered the ABA field and started working as a Registered Behavior Therapist. From there I have stayed in the field.

Lighthouse Journey:

Why did you originally apply at Lighthouse Autism Center?

I originally applied to Lighthouse because I had just moved back to the area and was previously a Registered Behavior Technician in central Indiana. When I had applied, I was offered a therapist position as one of the first therapist to open our Plymouth location.

What is your favorite memory at Lighthouse?

One of my favorite memories at Lighthouse was being a part of the Warsaw center expansion on two occasions. The Warsaw center location started as a 1-pod building and is now a 4-pod building.

How has Lighthouse impacted you personally?

Lighthouse has impacted me personally in so many ways. I can honestly say that working at Lighthouse has truly allowed me to become a better person. It isn’t very often that individuals can say that they love the career and field that they are in.

What is your favorite part about working at Lighthouse?

My favorite part about working at Lighthouse is seeing the growth that your kiddos achieve. It is always a sad but rewarding day to see one of your kiddos graduate. Additionally, Lighthouse has always offered a family environment to staff with room to grow professionally.

What does Lighthouse mean to you?

Family.

Which of the LAC Values do you most identify with?

“Care about people more than anything”. This has always been a value that I have strived to display while working my various positions. I have gone out of the way to communicate with others, make people feel welcome, while also displaying a love for my job.

What is your favorite change/improvement you have experienced in your time at Lighthouse?

I would say that the biggest improvement that we have made as a company was switching from all paper data collection and daily progress notes to electronic.

What advice would you give to prospective or new employees?

I would tell a new therapist coming into the field that the terminology can be overwhelming initially and that all the terminology and job tasks will come together by the end of the fourth week. For someone coming in a management or administrator role, I would review all the different ways that Lighthouse gives backs to its employees.

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

The Compassion Behind Our Care – Meet Janine Shapiro

Get to know the Compassionate Team of Clinical Experts at Lighthouse Autism Center

Meet Janine Shapiro

Janine Shapiro is the Lighthouse Fusion Director. She has an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders, a graduate degree in speech-language pathology, and a certificate in applied behavior analysis. She has been a speech-language pathologist for 16 years and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst for 14 years.

What made you decide on a career in therapy?

I have two younger siblings who presented with developmental speech disorders.  I grew up in clinical waiting rooms!  My parents had enormous respect and gratitude towards my brothers’ speech therapist; she was a hero in our house!

What inspires/drives you?

I’m inspired by the progress I see each day.  I am driven to create new techniques- Fusion procedures- that produce results parents and other practitioners never dreamed possible.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Working alongside and collaborating with some truly brilliant speech and behavior analytic clinicians.  I look forward to going to the office each day.  I’m passionate about my career, which I don’t view as work.  I’m extraordinarily lucky.

How has this career path impacted you?

I do not take anything for granted.  I live a very grateful life.  I’m most thankful for the families who trust me to give their children a voice.

What advice would you give to those seeking a Similar career path?

When offered an opportunity to learn, raise your hand!  Add as many techniques to your toolbox as possible; each one will one day bring a learner a step closer to better communication and a more independent life.  Seek out great mentors.

Why Lighthouse Autism Center?

Lighthouse has embraced the Fusion model, which I believe is key to enhance ABA therapy effectiveness.  I’m thrilled for this platform to share Fusion techniques with more learners and professionals.

What is your favorite part about Lighthouse Autism Center?

The friendly clinical and admin staff.

What Lighthouse Autism Center value to you identify most with?

Putting a premium on innovation and creativity.  Lighthouse has demonstrated their commitment to this value through the development of Lighthouse Fusion.

What is a fun/unique fact about you?

My family is South African.

 

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

The Compassion Behind Our Care – Meet Ashley Whitaker

Get to know the Compassionate Team of Clinical Experts at Lighthouse Autism Center

Meet Ashley Whitaker

 

Ashley Whitaker is a dually certified speech-language pathologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst at Lighthouse Autism Center. She has a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis. She has been in practice for nine years.

What made you decide on a career in therapy?

I always knew that I wanted to teach, but I didn’t know in what way. I loved the personalization I saw in speech therapy and ABA therapy and knew that I wanted to help make an impact in the lives of children and families.

What inspires/drives you?

The success of our learners and our families that support our learners every day.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Watching our learners have success!

How has this career path impacted you?

This career path inspires me daily to be better and do better for our learners and their families. It pushes me to think outside of the box to come up with interventions to make significant change.

What advice would you give to those seeking a Similar career path?

Ask questions and don’t be afraid to learn something new!

Why Lighthouse Autism Center?

Lighthouse’s commitment to families is inspiring.

What is your favorite part about Lighthouse Autism Center?

Commitment to the happiness of families and staff.

What Lighthouse Autism Center value to you identify most with?

Care about people more than anything.

What is a fun/unique fact about you?

I’ve walked the red carpet at the Emmy’s before!

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

The Compassion Behind Our Care – Meet Emily Sears

Get to know the Compassionate Team of Clinical Experts at Lighthouse Autism Center

Meet Emily Sears

Emily Sears is a dually certified speech-language pathologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst at Lighthouse Autism Center. She received her master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Ball State University in 2010 and completed her BCBA coursework through Florida Institute of Technology in 2011. She became a licensed SLP in 2011 and was certified as a behavior analyst in 2012. She has been in practice for 14 years.

What made you decide on a career in therapy?

I had briefly heard about ABA in one of my undergraduate classes and it sparked my interest enough to delve further. I found a clinic near me that had a dually certified practitioner on staff and reached out asking about internship opportunities. During that internship, I completely fell in love with the science of behavior analysis.  I saw how seamlessly it blended with speech pathology and how much more effective it made my therapy to utilize both sciences together.  I was committed from that moment to become dually certified and work with this population.

What inspires/drives you?

The effectiveness of the science is what drives me.  Seeing the progress of our learners and the dedication of the entire team is what continues to inspire me.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of this job is witnessing the successes of our learners. I love watching our clients learn a new skill and how the entire team celebrates each milestone. I also really love watching our learners find their voice, whether it be vocally or through an alternative method of communication. It really is life changing.

How has this career path impacted you?

This career path has impacted me in so many ways. First, I am excited and passionate about going to work every day, which has positively impacted my personal happiness. Over the past 14 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented behavior analysts and speech pathologists, which has positively impacted my effectiveness as a practitioner.  This career path has also positively impacted me as a mother.  I am more patient. I can slow down, recognize, and celebrate my children’s successes, no matter how small they may seem.

What advice would you give to those seeking a Similar career path?

You won’t regret it. You get to work with the best kids, while positively shifting the trajectory of so many lives.

Why Lighthouse Autism Center?

I’ve been passionate about bridging the gap between speech pathology and behavior analysis for over a decade now.  With the Lighthouse Fusion model, we are finally able to do that on a larger scale.  I’m proud to be a part of such an exceptional team of both speech pathologists and behavior analysts.

What is your favorite part about Lighthouse Autism Center?

My favorite part about Lighthouse is that we are truly committed to providing compassionate care and quality therapy to children with autism. I love our collaborative model and how we all work together towards achieving a common goal.

What Lighthouse Autism Center value to you identify most with?

“Care about people more than anything.” I think if we all start there, everything else falls into place.

What is a fun/unique fact about you?

I have three young boys, so I’m well-versed in the areas of bug catching, ninja wrestling, and getting stains out of pretty much anything.

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

The Compassion behind Our Care – Meet Sam Farber

Get to know the Compassionate Team of Clinical Experts at Lighthouse Autism Center

Meet Sam Farber

Sam Farber is a speech-language pathologist at Lighthouse Autism Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing sciences from Indiana University Bloomington and received her master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University. She has been in practice for six years. Sam recently enrolled at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in May 2022 to pursue her master’s in behavior analysis. She will join the team of three other dually certified SLP-BCBAs at Lighthouse Autism Center.

What made you decide on a career in therapy?

I have two brothers with autism and saw first-hand how therapies could impact not only their lives, but the lives of their loved ones as well.

What inspires/drives you?

My brothers and the clients I get to work with.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Seeing the impact for the kids and their families when they are able to communicate.

How has this career path impacted you?

This career has impacted me very positively both personally and professionally.  I get to work with wonderful clients who teach me just as much as I get to teach them and seeing them have a lot of success and go on to bigger and better things really is the highlight for me.

What advice would you give to those seeking a Similar career path?

I would advise them to get experience and volunteer for a variety of different organizations that support individuals with special needs. Not everyone has the experience of growing up with siblings with autism and getting that exposure helps you find what you are most interested such as ages of client, type of setting you want (clinic based vs. home based), etc.

Why Lighthouse Autism Center?

My sister works as a BCBA at Lighthouse and spoke highly of it.  I also had general understanding of ABA since I also worked with individuals with autism and grew up with my brothers, which is not common for an SLP.  I was interested in the opportunity to work with clients with ASD since each child is so unique and wanted to provide a service that was not available to Lighthouse Autism Center at the time.

What is your favorite part about Lighthouse Autism Center?

The collaboration with the BCBA’s and the families for the clients.

What Lighthouse Autism Center value to you identify most with?

“Care about people more than anything”

What is a fun/unique fact about you?

My favorite season is the summer and I prefer to spend my time off in the sun and on the lake.

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

The Compassion Behind Our Care – Meet Emily Lourash

Get to know the Compassionate Team of Clinical Experts at Lighthouse Autism Center

Meet Emily Lourash

Emily Lourash is a speech-language pathologist at Lighthouse Autism Center. She has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in speech-language pathology, both from Indiana State University. She has been in practice for six years. Emily recently enrolled at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in May 2022 to pursue her master’s in behavior analysis. She will join the team of three other dually certified SLP-BCBAs at Lighthouse Autism Center.

What made you decide on a career in therapy?

My youngest brother has DiGeorge Syndrome, and we always went to therapy with him during the summer. I loved helping him with his speech therapy homework!

What inspires/drives you?

Providing an effective way for children to communicate their wants and needs.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Watching the progress and seeing the therapists, BCBA’s, and family’s face light up when their client/child has learned a new sound or way to communicate effectively.

How has this career path impacted you?

It has made me more empathetic in public when I see anyone with a disability.

What advice would you give to those seeking a Similar career path?

Stick with it! The classes are difficult, but the career is SO rewarding; no matter what span of life you are working with!

Why Lighthouse Autism Center?

I love the employees and the care they provide for all of the learners and families!

What is your favorite part about Lighthouse Autism Center?

My favorite part about Lighthouse is the way they care for their staff and the clients!

What Lighthouse Autism Center value to you identify most with?

“Judge people by more than their metrics” because there is much more to people than their stats, scores, diagnoses, and behaviors we see upon initially meeting.

What is a fun/unique fact about you?

My husband drag races so we spend majority of our summers at the race track!

 

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

The Compassion Behind Our Care – Meet Helen Corey

Get to know the Compassionate Team of Clinical Experts at Lighthouse Autism Center

Meet Helen Corey

Helen Corey is a speech-language pathologist at Lighthouse Autism Center. She has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree with a concentration in speech-language pathology from Ball State University. She has been in practice for six years. Helen recently enrolled at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in May 2022 to pursue her master’s in behavior analysis. She will join the team of three other dually certified SLP-BCBAs at Lighthouse Autism Center.

What made you decide on a career in therapy?

I had delayed speech, and didn’t talk until I was 4 years old, and so I received speech therapy all throughout elementary school.  I absolutely loved my speech therapist and she inspired me to make changes in every kid’s life through providing them the means to communicate, whatever that may be!

What inspires/drives you?

I am driven by my need for continuous learning. I am always researching techniques, watching webinars, and making connections across the SLP world.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is being able to connect with all the kids, and when I walk into a building having kids come up to me and hug me, or say hi, and want to play all day with me!

How has this career path impacted you?

The career path has allowed me to take a step back in life, slow down, and appreciate the little moments. All children progress differently, and it is important to be able to celebrate the little victories!

What advice would you give to those seeking a Similar career path?

Learn to appreciate yourself for your special skills! No one is ever a perfect therapist, and we all need to continue to learn and grow as people and as therapists, because improving the quality of life for the children is always the top priority.

Why Lighthouse Autism Center?

I worked with a BCBA at a previous job site and found my niche of alternative and augmentative communication! The majority of kids that I have worked with along my career path, have had primary diagnoses of autism, and so it was a no-brainer for me at the time to come to Lighthouse so that I could work with one of my favorite populations full-time!

What is your favorite part about Lighthouse Autism Center?

My favorite part about Lighthouse is that they encourage expanding your mindset to become more adept in your profession, by providing access to continuing education.

What Lighthouse Autism Center value to you identify most with?

Put a premium on innovation & creativity. In the field of Speech Pathology, there is no need to only utilize a few techniques, there are so many different ways to achieve a goal, and it’s fun to come up with completely individualized ways of targeting communication!

What is a fun/unique fact about you?

I have over 50 houseplants that I care for and love!

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

The Compassion behind Our Care – Meet Susan Stahly

Get to know the Compassionate Team of Clinical Experts at Lighthouse Autism Center

Meet Susan Stahly

Susan Stahly is a speech-language pathologist at Lighthouse Autism Center. She has a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and received her master’s degree from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). She has been in practice for 20 years. Susan recently enrolled at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in May 2022 to pursue her master’s in behavior analysis. She will join the team of three other dually certified SLP-BCBAs at Lighthouse Autism Center.

What made you decide on a career in therapy?

I was working as a catering manager with Marriott Hotels and Resorts; in the evening I would volunteer in the NICU at a local hospital. It became apparent that I wanted to be part of the healthcare industry; I loved working with patients and their families, have always been fascinated with healthcare, neurology, physiology, etc. as well as wanting to make a difference by directly helping others.

What inspires/drives you?

I am very passionate about doing all I can, within my area of expertise, to help our clients and their families. I always strive to learn more evidence-based strategies, techniques and follow research for the greatest benefit of our clients and families. I’m inspired by all of my current and past patients/clients/families – they have taught me so much and I’m grateful and feel privileged to work with them.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love to see the smiles on learners’ faces and love celebrating progress. It is rewarding to help build communication skills as well as feeding and swallowing skills. I’m grateful for our co-treat sessions, learning from each other and the collaboration as an interdisciplinary team.

How has this career path impacted you?

Working as an SLP has been an incredible part of my life; the families and clients that I’ve worked with have taught me so much and allowed me to sharpen my skills. I’ve been in awe of the strength, drive, and commitment I’ve witnessed; it has opened my eyes to the vast challenges people go through, and their perseverance. I’m grateful to be part of their journey.

What advice would you give to those seeking a Similar career path?

I would advise anyone interested in a career as a speech-language pathologist to spend time talking with or shadowing SLPs in a variety of settings, to help find your niche and which population and setting you are most passionate about. I would also advise them to continue to learn and strive to expand your skills and expertise.

Why Lighthouse Autism Center?

With the new Lighthouse Fusion model, I am able to pull from my past SLP experiences to consult and collaborate, to share my knowledge; partnering with Program Managers to blend our areas of expertise for the greatest benefit of our clients. I share Lighthouse Autism Center’s desire to help clients and their families and can appreciate their desire to expand.

What is your favorite part about Lighthouse Autism Center?

My favorite part about Lighthouse is the people – such a fantastic team of co-workers, dedicated parents, and amazing learners.

What Lighthouse Autism Center value to you identify most with?

Care about people more than anything: Isn’t that why we’re here?

What is a fun/unique fact about you?

I dream of being a Formula 1 race car driver.

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Andy

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight of the Month: Andy.

Andy is a Registered Behavior Technician at our Anderson autism center, where he has worked since September of 2021. Andy attended University of Arkansas and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Securities. Andy loves family time, making music, cooking and collecting old records and comics.

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

I had been wanting to move into a career that was more rewarding and fulfilling in nature. I decided to make a complete career change and move into this field. I wish that I would have made that decision many years ago.
 

What is your favorite part about working at Lighthouse?

Hands down the kiddos. I’ve been pleasantly overwhelmed by the team structure and family atmosphere at Lighthouse Autism Center. But, seeing those faces and watching our clients just light up with every small victory will never get old.

How would you describe your Lighthouse experience?

It’s been pretty awesome. Seeing the kiddos grow and achieve their greatness, that always makes a day better.

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Jordan

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight of the Month: Jordan.

 

About Jordan

Jordan started working at Lighthouse Autism Center in July of 2021 and has just recently hit six months as an (RBT) Registered Behavior Technician! She graduated from Warsaw Community High School as well as Ivy Tech and spent two years at Grace college. Jordan was a CNA for almost five years before becoming an RBT.
 
 

What is your favorite part of working for Lighthouse?

My favorite part of working at Lighthouse is the bonds we all build with these kiddos. A lot of these kids look forward to seeing us everyday and it warms my heart. I love seeing the impact we can make on these kids and watching them grow.

 

How would you describe your experience working for Lighthouse?

My experience at Lighthouse has been like no other job I have ever had. The teamwork is unmatched. When I started, my first day was full of encouraging words and tons of help. Even to this day I am still encouraged and never have to look far for help.
 
 

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

My favorite memory is a small one, but it has stuck with me still. Once I had passed my test to become an RBT and began working by myself, the bonds I built with the kiddos were amazing. Nothing felt better than bringing a child in to the center at the start of the day and having them say your name and being so excited that I was their teacher that day!

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Melissa

Meet Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight of the Month: Melissa.

Melissa is a Family Outreach Coordinator and has worked at Lighthouse Autism Center for 7.5 years. She began her Lighthouse journey in 2014 as a ABA Therapist/RBT before being promoted to a Senior Therapist in 2018 and now Family Outreach Coordinator for the Elkhart, Goshen and Granger centers. She graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Law and Sociology/Psychology.
 
 

Why did you apply for a position with Lighthouse?

While being a Program Aid for PHM, I had the privilege to work with a few kiddos on spectrum. I spent much of my extra time educating myself about ASD and how I could better serve my students and their education. I was very privileged to work with a group of educators who noticed my efforts and suggest I apply to work for, “This new Autism center created by a Gregg and Sandy.” I think I applied 5 or 6 times! During this time, the center was JUST starting, and job positions were hit or miss. I repeatedly dropped off my application and resume.. I think Leila got tired of me dropping off HOT PINK folders to catch her attention. I ended up leaving being a PA and started working as a Social Worker with having ASD clients as my specialty. I remember sitting in one of my school offices (AKA the storage room) and receiving an email asking me to come in for an interview… I cried. I was so happy feeling like I was finally going to work somewhere I felt like I would belong.
 

How would you describe your experience working for Lighthouse?

Working for Lighthouse Autism Center has been and continues to be a wonderful experience. I have a great deal of pride for who we are and what we do. The company has supported my family and I through amazing times of growth and difficult challenges. The past 2 years has spoken VOLUMES to the value LAC places on their families and employees. I feel honored to have experienced so many victories, met so many influential people I now consider my friends, and to be part of a company who encourages me to keep growing.
 

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

The memory that stands out from all my AMAZING memories comes from when I was an RBT at Edison… On her child’s FIRST day at LAC, I told her that her son would have a wonderful day and not to stress because he is with people who will absolutely love him. She nervously smiled and said, “I know you guys will… I feel like we finally found our light at the end of the tunnel.” What an honor, to be someone’s light.
 

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Staff Spotlight: Meet Alexis

Meet Alexis! Alexis is a Registered Behavioral Technician at our Mishawaka center, where she has worked for a year. She is a graduate of Indiana University and holds a degree in Psychology. As an RBT with Lighthouse Autism Center, Alexis is responsible for working one-on-one with children with autism and implementing therapy programs designed by Board Certified Behavior Analysts. She helps children work on refining previously learned skills and helps them develop new communication, social, living skills and more!

ABA Therapist

What made you want to apply to work at Lighthouse?

I wanted to work somewhere where I could help kiddos live their best life.  I knew I could do that at Lighthouse Autism Center.

Tell us about your favorite part of working with your team at Lighthouse.

Honestly, my favorite part of working with my team is being able to be myself around them, inside or outside of work. Whether it’s making jokes or needing support, they are always there.

Can you share a favorite part or memory about working with the Lighthouse kiddos?

My favorite memory is hearing one of our non-verbal kiddos finding their voice. The list words he knows went from zero to almost 30 seemingly overnight. I may have shed a tear or two hearing him talk.

How would you describe your Lighthouse experience?

It’s been the most supportive environment I’ve ever worked in. The staff, the seniors, and our PM’s are just all so friendly and easy to get to know.

In her free time, Alexis enjoys painting to help her relax.  She paints on canvas and on miniatures, which are only one inch tall!

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?