SBU Alumna Helps Autistic Kids, Parents Cope During the Pandemic

  • April 1, 2021
SBU Alumna Helps Autistic Kids, Parents Cope During the Pandemic

By Jasmine Watson

Aminah Mosely
Aminah Mosely at the Autism Speaks Walk in 2019 (Photo Credit: Aminah Mosely)

Prior to the pandemic, Aminah Mosley, a social worker, was constantly on the go. She would get up in the morning, get dressed, make her breakfast, maybe pack a lunch, fill her water bottle and venture out into New York City to visit her clients.

Mosley is a behavioral therapist for children ages 0-3½ who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Her job is to work with the children and their parents to “get them up to speed” with their neurotypical counterparts.

“Things that may come super naturally to some toddlers don’t come naturally sometimes to children with autism spectrum disorder– or adults, for that matter,” Mosley said. “I help them, and I help their parents help them, to get up to speed.”

The work that Mosley does is important because autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 54 people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While there are plenty of resources and services to help parents and teachers support children with autism, the pandemic paused or halted the in-person services that many depend on.

A survey from the Simons Powering Autism Research projects (SPARK) said that parents of autistic children who participated reported that the pandemic halted 52 percent of services that take place in clinical settings. Additionally, 26 percent of in-home services that are performed by a third party were halted as well. 

This means that for people like Mosley, their daily routines would have to change.

“My office is actually mobile,” Moseley said. “And it’s been mobile from the beginning of my career since these services before the pandemic, in general, were home-based.” 

Pre-pandemic, Mosley worked between six and eight hours a day, not including travel time, depending on her caseload for the day. Between clients, she might stop for a quick bite to eat or a beverage. Then she would run whatever errands that she needed to run and return home. This had been Mosley’s daily routine for the past 12 years.

Now she works from her home in Brooklyn where her daily routine is the same, except she telecommutes with her clients for the same period of six to eight hours. Mosely said her current teletherapy routine is neither better nor worse now than it was pre-pandemic.

“I think like with most things, there are benefits and its challenges,” Mosely said.  “I think that it is an absolutely awesome alternative to going outside, where some people think that outside is unsafe right now.

Mosley’s journey to becoming a behavioral therapist started in 1994 when she was an undergraduate student at Stony Brook University.

Aminah Mosely
Aminah Mosely reading White Rabbit’s Color Book for Read and Sign with Me. (Photo credit: Aminah Mosely)

When Mosley got to campus, she went to the Career Center one day and talked to a Career Counselor about her future career and her goals. 

“When they asked me ‘What do I like to do?’ I was like, oh!” Moseley said. “No one’s really ever asked me that. It was always like ‘I’m supposed to do this’ or ‘I’m supposed to do that.’”

After telling the counselor that she liked to talk and listen, and after taking several personality tests, Mosley discovered that she would be best suited for a career in social service or social work.

Although there was an option for Mosley to receive her bachelor’s degree in social work, she declined it at the time and opted to get her degree in social sciences.

In 1998, Mosley graduated from Stony Brook University. Then in 2004, Mosley went to Columbia University to get her master’s degree in social work. She graduated with the degree in 2008 and went to work with an agency called  Caring Hands Therapeutic Services where she got the initial training to be a behavioral therapist using applied behavioral analysis.

A couple of years later, Mosley went to work with City Pro Group where she’s been an independent contractor for the past 12 years.

“It’s a cool process because they’re the ones that connect you to the clients and do the case coordinating,” Moseley said. “I’m simply handling my piece of the therapeutic process.”

 When asked about a particular case that solidified her love for social work, Moseley’s face lit up as she described working with a Chinese family. The family consisted of a little boy with autism and his mother, who spoke Cantonese and a little English. The little boy also spoke Cantonese and was learning English in school. Yet he was having trouble communicating and understanding English.

“Whenever I would give him a command and request that he follow it, or whenever I would teach him a new word, he would look at me like I had three heads,” Mosley said.

Mosley asked the boy’s mother to teach her some basic Cantonese. Mosley recalled that she had learned at least 50 phrases in Cantonese while working with that family.

One day, Mosley noticed the little boy saying the word “more” in American Sign Language. Both Mosley and the little boy’s mother were confused. The mother didn’t know ASL, and this was Mosley’s first case where she saw someone speak ASL.

Eventually, Mosley and the mother discovered that the little boy was learning ASL in school. Mosley got in contact with the school’s speech pathologist and asked them to send the ASL resources that they were using home so that everyone could “be on the same page.”

Mosley smiled.

“It was magic,” she said. “He picked it up so quickly. Within two months he understood everything. He was an amazing scholar.”

Mosley said that this experience showed her how well children with autism spectrum disorder can access different types of communication and learn. Mosley also said that the experience solidified her passion for ASL, which partially inspired her to create her program “Read and Sign with Me,” and her YouTube channel, “The Other A-Word With Aminah Mosley.” 

 The purpose of “The Other A-Word With Aminah Mosley” is to teach parents of autistic children, with tips on how to communicate and, most important, how to establish a routine in this “new normal.”  There are also videos on art therapy, play therapy, and autism awareness.

 “I am a one-woman team,” Moseley said, chuckling. “I’m doing the content, the editing, the resource gathering and the research.”

Mosley created “The Other A-Word With Aminah Mosley” in the summer of 2019. The channel currently has 343 subscribers, and each of Mosley’s videos gets about 200 views on average.

 The channel also features guest speakers like Moseley’s partner for “Read and Sign with Me,” and Nicole Matesich, a senior director at Autism Speaks, who could not be reached for comment.

In Mosely’s other program, “Read and Sign with Me,” she and her partner, Kendra Jordan, read books and teach ASL to “differently abled” children ages 0-8. Jordan, 38, is a second-grade teacher who teaches neurotypical and neurodivergent children in the same classroom.

“Our relationship and what we do is awesome,” Jordan said. “Our partnership and our program blossomed from a conversation. I’m honored to be in her life. She’s such a good spirit.”