On paper, Shayna Gaunt – she’s the founder and director of Kid Mechanix – is an all-star. Her resume is extensive and impressive; she’s an incredible BCBA. And in person, she’s even better. She gives 110 percent to every client she works with and every therapist she trains. Her energy and smile are contagious! If you haven’t already, we hope you get the chance to meet Shayna soon. In the meantime, here’s a little more about the woman behind Kid Mechanix.
Q: What was your first job in the field of applied behaviour analysis (ABA)?
A: My very first job after university was in sales and marketing. I couldn’t stand it. I met someone who knew someone and then, suddenly, I was in a grocery store teaching a 4-year-old with autism how to tolerate fluorescent lights. I have never looked back.
Once I made the full-time leap out of sales and marketing and into ABA – that took less than 1 month – I worked as a home-based ABA therapist for 3 separate students with autism. There were no centre-based ABA programs in Toronto in 1997.
Three years later, I packed everything I owned into my car and moved to New Jersey to study under one of the best ABA gurus in the field.
Q: Why did you decide to make ABA your career?
A: Because I finally found something that I was passionate about. I love seeing the tremendous gains that my students make as a direct result of ABA intervention.
Q: Why did you develop Kid Mechanix?
A: Kid Mechanix’s school readiness program is one of the first of its kind. Integrated within a preschool, Kid Mechanix is able to teach social skills using children from a mainstream classroom environment.
Q: Who are your mentors?
A: Bridget Taylor and Peter Gerhardt. I admire them so much for who they are and what they mean to me. Bridget mentored me for a year in New Jersey early in my career. Peter does tremendous work with adults. They are both prominent people in the field and I love their research.
Q: What do you love the most about your job?
A: Seeing the kids progress – applied behaviour analysis works – and training really great therapists. And I love that I never know where this field is going to take me. As I write this, I am at the airport in Doha, Qatar, after a tremendous week of training incredible people from all over the world.
Q: What keeps you going?
A: Simple: I love what I do.
Q: Outside of work, what are your passions?
A: I have a 5-year-old daughter who means the world to me and a very supportive husband. I’m also passionate about mountain bike racing in the summer and ski racing in the winter. Two years ago, I made the Canadian Adult Masters Ski Team. Work hard, play hard!