Master’s Student Aspires to Improve Programs for Autistic Children in Saudi Arabia

Reema Manshi is a first-year student in the Master of Education in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) program and the recipient of the Your Job and Scholarship award from Saudi Arabia. Born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, she aspires to use the knowledge gained at Pitt Education to improve programs for autistic children in her home country. Her quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you choose to pursue an MEd in Applied Behavioral Analysis at Pitt Education?

Manshi: The two things I like the most are the program’s curriculum and the school’s reputation. I like that the curriculum covers all seven subjects and the supervision hours that I need for certification in Applied Behavioral Analysis. After I graduate from this program I only need to prepare for the certification exam. I knew that Pitt Education had a good reputation. One of my ABA supervisors in my bachelor’s practicum was a former student from Pitt and she talked very positively about it. I thought, I want to attend this school.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your plans?

Manshi: For now, I’m taking remote classes while I stay in Saudi Arabia. Even though it can be challenging to take remote classes from so far away, I trust my passion will get me through this semester. I’m thankful to everyone who’s helped me during this pandemic. The staff at Pitt Education are very cooperative and are committed to keeping us updated. So many people helped me over the summer; there are too many to name. My instructors have helped me a lot with the time differences and gave me a push to complete my courses remotely. At first, I was afraid of the master’s degree, but now I feel more comfortable.

What are your future goals?

Manshi: My goal is to be a certified Behavioral Analyst. My scholarship comes with a guarantee for a job in my field in Saudi Arabia after I graduate. We don’t have a master’s program in Applied Behavioral Analysis in my home country, so I hope to bring back the knowledge from Pitt Education and share it to improve programs for autistic children in Saudi Arabia. It’s not about my personal goals; it’s about my community goals.

What inspired you to work with autistic children?

Manshi: I have a cousin with autism. Having him in my family made me want to learn more about it. So when I was in my last year of high school, I realized I wanted to study in a bachelor’s program to learn how to help children like him. I earned a bachelor’s degree in special education with a focus on behavioral disorders and autism at Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University. In my bachelor’s program, I did a lot of practicum hours with autistic children. There was one boy I worked with who was very special to me. I grew to think of him and his mother as family. When we started, he had multiple challenging behaviors and his mom was so sad. After a few months, he became comfortable with me and we made a lot of improvements. I like working with autistic children and trying to find ways to teach them and give them opportunities to learn. The Applied Behavioral Analysis program is perfect for this.

What would you say to someone who wants to work with autistic children?

Manshi: The most important thing is to believe in them. Give them the opportunity and the time to change their challenging behaviors. Keep practicing. For a lot of children, they just need the time to practice their skills. Working with autistic children has taught me patience and allowed me to challenge myself. I feel happy when I achieve a goal with the child’s behavior. The children give me an opportunity to be more human.

Learn more

The Applied Behavioral Analysis program is currently accepting applications. Apply here.