Sarah Brylle, MS, BCBA, LABA, discovered she had a passion for working with children at a young age, with her first babysitting jobs. It wasn’t until college, when Brylle was introduced to applied behavior analysis (ABA), that she knew what group of kids with whom she wanted to work.
“During college, I discovered ABA and gained hands-on experience in a preschool that utilized ABA teaching strategies with students with autism,” said Brylle, who graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in psychology and a minor in English. “Following my undergraduate studies, I was drawn to pursue a master’s degree in behavior analysis, leading me to The New England Center for Children.”
That was 15 years ago. Brylle started as a teacher in the Residential Program, before becoming a core shift manager and residential coordinator, then moving to the Partner Program 10 years ago, where she is currently a senior lead teacher for a school in Groton.
This fall, Brylle was named the winner of the 2023 Maria Felix Lonergan Memorial Award in recognition of her commitment to NECC and her students. The award honors Maria Felix Lonergan, who dedicated her career to improving the lives of children with autism at NECC for nearly 20 years before losing her battle with cancer in November 2015. In memory of Lonergan and her significant contributions, the MFL Award is issued annually to an NECC teacher who exemplifies three main themes inspired by Maria: mentorship of new professionals, advocacy for students’ effective education, and professionalism.
“Winning the Maria Felix Lonergan Memorial Award is deeply meaningful, as it represents my dedicated work with children with autism,” shared Brylle. “It acknowledges my commitment to professionalism, mentorship, and delivering a high-quality education. This recognition inspires continued advocacy for the well-being and development of these exceptional individuals, celebrating collective strides toward a more inclusive and supportive community.”
These are things Brylle strives for each day in her work in the Partner Program. In addition to crafting schedules, writing trimester progress reports, developing annual IEPs, and fostering collaborative partnerships with parents, she provides oversight and training to ensure proper execution of their educational objectives, which includes regular meetings with the classroom staff to review student progress and address any impediments promptly.
“Collaboration with general education teachers is an integral part of my routine, ensuring a cohesive and inclusive educational experience for all students,” she said. “Central to my role is the direct interaction with students, leveraging my expertise in applied behavior analysis. This specialized knowledge guides the implementation of a diverse array of curricula and teaching procedures. Through this approach, I aim to create a tailored and effective educational experience that aligns with the unique needs of each student.”
As an NECC employee, Brylle took advantage of the graduate programs offered to employees, completing her master’s degree in ABA at Northeastern University, obtaining her Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification, and earning her teaching degree through a post-master’s licensure program with Simmons University.
“This educational journey has equipped me with a comprehensive understanding and a dual expertise that enriches my ability to make a meaningful impact in the field of applied behavior analysis,” she said. “I take great pride in being part of NECC as I deeply admire the unwavering commitment to providing a platform for higher education and on-the-job experience to its staff. This dedication aligns with NECC’s overarching mission of establishing a global network of educators, researchers, and programs so that those living with autism may live fuller lives.”
Brylle lives NECC’s mission, using her position in the partner program as an opportunity to offer essential support to students, enabling them to flourish within their home community.
“The most gratifying aspect of my role is the daily interaction with students, forging meaningful connections and witnessing their achievement of milestones,” she said. “Observing their progress over time is a source of profound joy and fulfillment.”