Employee Spotlight: Michael Wilfred, Behavior Specialist

Michael Wilfred joined Grafton as a Housekeeper in April 2017 and—by pursuing various degrees and certifications over the last five years—has worked his way up to become a Behavior Specialist. Today, he enjoys making a positive impact and watching patients succeed in treatment at the Berryville campus. Read our interview below to learn more about Michael and why he’s continuing his education to better serve Grafton clients.

Q: What made you want to work with children who have special needs?

I’ve known I wanted to work with this population since high school. I have two younger brothers, both of whom have autism spectrum disorder. As I grew up, and especially in my teen years, I realized I wanted to make my living caring for people who really needed it.

Q: Why did you decide to work at Grafton?

When I was a sophomore in high school, a youth pastor named Justin Bloomer—who also happens to be a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) at Grafton—asked me about my plans for the future. I told him I wanted to work with kids who have special needs, and he told me about Grafton. The more I learned about this organization, the more I admired it—especially its dedication to reducing restraint.

Q: Has the training you’ve received at Grafton been useful?

Definitely. That’s especially true for the training I’ve received in the comfort vs. control model, which has helped me learn a lot of pragmatic ways to conduct myself on the job. It’s also transcended my job into my personal life. It’s made me more patient, both with the kids I work with and with those around me outside of work. That training made me more considerate of what others are going through.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at Grafton?

My favorite part of this job is getting to build rapport with each individual kid. I love all the children we work with, and it’s so gratifying to get to bond with them and learn about their strengths. The kids here need someone who can be patient and believe they’re worth working for. It’s really satisfying to help them work toward and achieve their own success.

Q: What’s your educational background?

I have a bachelor’s in psychology, and I’m finishing my master’s degree in applied behavioral health at Drexel University. I’ve been studying online in that program since 2019. Earning my master’s degree is one step toward becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA).

Q: Why do you want to become a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst?

I enjoy making positive changes for our clients. After talking with a BCBA in the Adapt program at another campus, I realized I’d already been doing quite a bit of applied behavioral analysis naturally in my work without knowing it. I want to make the largest impact I’m capable of, so that led me to pursue board certification. That process requires earning a master’s, completing 2,000 supervised hours and passing the certification exam.

Q: How might your job change when you’re a BCBA?

I’ll be able to make sure we’re running interventions in the appropriate ways with integrity and the right reinforcers. If we’re not, I’ll be responsible for reassessing and rewriting the interventions we use with each individual.

Q: Can you share a favorite story from your time at Grafton?

A couple of months ago, I said goodbye to a client who had been on this campus for 3.5 years. In the first month I worked with him, he had 337 aberrant behaviors in my sessions. Once we got to work on his treatment, we established routines. I learned the things he liked and found that he would work hard to earn them. In the reporting period just before he left, he only had 16 aberrant behaviors. It was so fulfilling to see him succeeding in his treatment, and I was so grateful to have worked with that kid.

Q: What would you tell someone who is considering working at Grafton?

I think working at Grafton is perfect for someone who is empathetic and wants to make a difference in children’s lives. At first, working in this environment requires some getting used to, but don’t let that get in your way. Remember that these kids are just that—kids. You can tell when they know someone really cares about them; you can see it in their eyes. This job is very enjoyable for people who want to bond with kids and see them succeed.