About Us

Sarah Hively – Executive Director (MA, BCBA)

Hello! My name is Sarah Hively. I am the owner and Executive Director of A.B.S. Behavioral Services, LLC., and am also a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).  My love for working with individuals with and without disabilities stems from my own experiences having a learning disability and ADHD.  I know firsthand what it feels like to learn “outside of the box”, to feel frustrated at times because of these challenges, and to exercise patience, understanding, and perseverance to stick with something until I achieve success!  It is my belief that because I think and learn in a different way, I am able to have insight into our kiddo’s experiences. This perspective allows me to be creative when problem solving and developing functional programing and interventions. 

After working and gaining experience in public and private schools, homes, and clinics ranging in size from small startups to larger organizations such as The Marcus Center, I decided to take a leap of faith and start A.B.S. Behavioral Services in 2012.  My continued mission is to provide individuals with and without disabilities, families, teachers, and schools with quality services that will lead to a meaningful change. With so many potential stressors and challenges individuals and families with disabilities (especially autism) face, we strive to provide support and realistic solutions without judgment. I truly think of the kids and families we serve and work with as extended family members. Whether it is tackling those tricky challenging behaviors, teaching school readiness, joint attention, communication, play and social skills, or more everyday functional life skills such as potty training, bedtime routines, or sitting at the dinner table eating a meal together, we will approach the behavior and skill in an applied, functional, and realistic way to ensure progress that will have a positive impact on every individual’s life!

In my free time I enjoy going to the gym and working out, watching Bravo TV, and “Fun Fridays” with my husband and two daughters. I strive to always be a team player, have a sense of humor when I (inevitably!) drop the ball either as a boss, clinician, wife, or mom, exercise patience with myself and others, and most importantly be appreciative for the things I have and people in my life!

 

Colleen Coley, MS, BCBA, Staff Development Coordinator

Hi!  My name is Colleen, and I have been on the A.B.S team since 2013. I began as a practicum student when working towards my Master’s degree, have worked as a line therapist, and I am currently working as a BCBA and the Staff Development Coordinator. I grew up all over the place as my dad was in the Navy.  My family landed in Indiana, where I went to high school and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2012 (Bachelor’s in psychology).  My first introduction to ABA was through an undergraduate course on Autism, and from there I never looked back!  In 2011, I began to work at the Logan Center in South Bend Indiana as a line therapist, and I loved getting to work one on one with the kids and knowing that the work we were doing was empirically proven to make a difference.  After graduation, I enrolled at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology to pursue a Master’s degree in ABA, which I did in 2014.  Since then I have worked with children, their families, their teachers, and their other service providers in a wide range of settings and with all types of skill sets.  I especially love working with staff and parents to ensure that clients are set up for success across every aspect of their life.  I have a particular soft spot for my social skills group, which focuses on social skills, problem solving, and flexibility.  Working with children with disabilities has always felt like a natural fit for me.  I grew up in a family with children with a range of disabilities, which has taught me to be creative about finding ways to be inclusive.  In high school, I was the president of my school’s Best Buddies chapter, a club that pairs kids with and without disabilities in one-to-one friendships.  What I thought would be a high school friendship turned into one of my longest (and most fun) friendships today, and taught me that disability is a tiny part of what makes a person who they are. My priority in my job is making sure that all children have the best chance they can to become independent and build meaningful friendships.  When I’m off the clock, I enjoy cooking, crafting, being outside, and sharing those activities with my family, friends, and crazy dog.

 

Trisha Smith, MS, BCBA, Services and Outreach Coordinator

I began at A.B.S. in 2013 as a practicum student pursuing my master’s degree in ABA and I am currently a BCBA and the Services and Outreach Coordinator at A.B.S. I grew up in Libertyville, IL and graduated from Illinois State University in 2008 (B.A. in Psychology) and from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2014 (M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis). I am a big fan of corny jokes, spending time with my niece and nephews, hanging out with my dog, rearranging furniture in my tiny apartment, playing bingo (seriously), and Netflix marathons. I love living in Chicago for the endless adventures and experiences it offers, and I love to call it home! In high school, I volunteered in the special education classroom and became interested in working one-to-one with the students, including my cousin! In undergrad, I worked at a vocational center with adults with disabilities and I was also a job coach for a woman with intellectual disabilities. It is through these relationships that I found my passion for working with adults with disabilities. I have participated in the Polar Plunge every year since 2011 which raises money for the Special Olympics of Illinois. I am very proud of my friends, family members, and clients that participate in the Special Olympics and I look forward to cheering them on during their events! The absolute best part of my job is watching and helping my clients learn and grow, and the look on client’s and parent’s faces when they achieve another milestone. In addition to working with teens and adults on functional living skills and increasing their independence, I truly enjoy teaching our little ones the skills to succeed in learning for life. A.B.S. is different from other ABA companies in so many ways which is what I love about us! We commit to our clients and their families fully, our BCBA’s are extremely involved on their cases, and our communication and teamwork is unparalleled.

 


Our Team

Katie Giovanetto, MS, BCBA

I began working in the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) in August 2010 after volunteering at a verbal behavior (VB) clinic for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during my last semester of college. Watching how effective ABA principles were to help those clients learn and grow immediately sparked my interest in the field. I began my journey with A.B.S. in 2014 as a behavior therapist while enrolled in the ABA masters program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. It has been an incredible experience to be able to grow with A.B.S.- not only have I broadened my experience from only using the VB approach to teaching language, but I have also had the pleasure of working with some of the best behavior therapists, RBT’s, and BCBA’s the field has to offer! It is so rewarding to know that each of my colleagues loves our clients as much as I do and is doing everything that they can to improve the lives of every client. In my spare time, I love cheering on the Cubs and continuing to explore the city with my fiancé!

 


Sam Favorite, MA, BCBA

I started my journey with A.B.S. in August 2015, received my M.A. from Ball State University in ABA with a concentration in autism in 2017, and became a BCBA in March of 2018. I grew up in South Bend, IN and entered the field of ABA shortly after graduating with my BA in Psychology and Sociology from Saint Mary’s College. I quickly fell in love with ABA and working with children with autism. In my spare time, I love reading, traveling, spending hours at bookstores and farmer’s markets, trying new recipes, and spending time with my husband and cat, Violet! The most rewarding part of being a BCBA is helping my clients reach milestones that indicate they are making progress. My area of specialty is working with younger children with limited verbal skills. I particularly love working with this age group because we are able to teach them how to communicate what they want and need through whatever means makes most sense to them, whether that be picture exchanging, devices, or spoken language. I am always honored to be a part of the life-changing moment when the child realizes they can access what they need through language! At A.B.S., every victory, big or small, is party-worthy, which helps our clients recognize their value! I love that A.B.S. is a small, passion-driven company that makes our clients and their families the top priority!


Marissa Cowsill Kohlhagen, MSEd

I have been with ABS since 2014, but started working with children with disabilities in 2013. I started my journey teaching preschool, which led me to a career in behavior therapy. In May 2018, I received my Master’s degree in special education. I believe one of the greatest things to see happen while working with our kids is when they have success with a skill that they have been working towards for a long time. My favorite part of working at A.B.S. is collaborating with the BCBAs and the therapists on a daily basis. The staff is constantly checking in with each other, ensuring consistency across therapists, offering support, and working together so our kids can be successful. I am originally from Los Angeles, California and miss the ocean waves, In N Out, and the sun, (especially during Chicago winters)! I love reading, travel, theatre, and spending time with my husband and dog Minnie!

 


Ashley Atkins, BA Psychology, RBT

I grew up outside of Washington D.C. and began with A.B.S. in August of 2017. I earned my BA in Psychology at UNCC and have since traveled to Kenya and Nepal, volunteering at local orphanages, helping to start an English-speaking program for Nepalese women, and building community projects. I have worked with children for over 10 years and found that working with kids with disabilities is extremely rewarding and powerful. I was fortunate to work with children with Downs Syndrome, Autism, and other developmental challenges while working in daycares, as a nanny, and abroad. Each child’s progress was unique and equally fulfilling to watch. I enjoy spending time outside, hiking, biking, watching movies, and being with friends and family. I love watching my clients’ progress and knowing that ABA is truly helping them achieve their short and long-term goals. Each kiddo is special and brings something unique to my experience as a registered behavior technician (RBT). We have the best team at A.B.S., hands down. We are a family and support one another. The kiddos also make it a wonderful place to work and I am so excited to see where my career goes with A.B.S.!

 


Brian Blazek, BS, Psychology, RBT

I started with A.B.S. in March of 2018 but have been working as an ABA therapist since I graduated from college in May of 2015. I received my RBT certificate and am currently in a Master’s program for ABA. I truly enjoyed growing up in Bartlett, Illinois and what I remember most was all of the neighborhood block parties and cookouts! Some of my hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, and anything including a boat on a lake! I also love anything sports related, such as baseball, basketball, and handball! My favorite part about ABA therapy is all the amazing kids that I have been fortunate enough to work with. Each person has such a unique personality and it is incredibly fun getting to know and work with them! Additionally, I have met some amazing parents and families while working in this field and it has been a great pleasure to be a part of helping their child learn and grow as much as possible. The A.B.S. team is an amazing team to work with- everyone is so supportive and knowledgeable in the field of ABA. Each person is so helpful and willing to spend the extra time to answer any questions you may have to ensure that you feel comfortable and confident while working.

 


Aliyah Johnson, BHSc, RBT

I graduated with my Bachelor of Health Sciences in 2017 and started with A.B.S. that February! I had two years of ABA experience prior to starting with A.B.S. and have thoroughly enjoyed growing from an intern to fully engaging myself in the discipline as a therapist. I grew up on the south side of Chicago, which I loved because of all the seasonal festivities it offered every year. I still especially enjoy all the music and art that comes from my community. My favorite thing about working with children is the consistent opportunity for two-way learning experiences. My clients teach me new things as much as I teach them- every day is a new experience! At A.B.S., the way in which we work as a team is so exceptional. We truly go above and beyond for our clients to see that their needs are met. In my spare time I enjoy yoga, reading, and traveling to enjoy new food and cultures. I once traveled to the Dominican Republic to teach disadvantaged children baseball and softball. It was an incredible experience that reminded me of the passion and drive that children across the globe embrace.


Breana Berdis, BA Psychology

I graduated in 2017 with a psychology major and a double minor in early childhood education and child advocacy studies. I grew up in Rockdale, Illinois, which is a small town outside of Joliet. I loved growing up knowing everyone; it was like a huge extended family! I went to school with the same people from preschool to 8th grade and I am still close friends with a lot of them today. I love being outside! I am a huge beach bum and enjoy bike riding, playing basketball, kayaking and roller skating. I have worked with kids since 2010, starting as a camp counselor for the YMCA, then as a nanny for two awesome girls for three years before starting with A.B.S. in August 2017. I love being a part of the kiddos learning experience and watching them grow. I specifically love ABA because it addresses each child’s individual needs, which is important because each kiddo is unique and learns differently. I love that our team feels like one big family! Coming from a small-town background that is something very important to me.


Rayhana Ahmed, MA ABA

I grew up in Elmhurst, Illinois. I loved that it had the most adorable public library and a beautiful greenhouse right next to it. In my spare time I love going for jogs along the Lakefront Trail, eating sushi, and playing the violin. I have been working with individuals with special needs since 2012, started at A.B.S. in December of 2016 as a practicum student, and expect to graduate with my MA in ABA in 2018. My favorite thing about working with learners in ABA is seeing them make progress towards goals. For example, I’ve seen a kiddo barely be able to tolerate a toothbrush near their face. Then, with consistent practice, this client picked up the toothbrush and brushed their own teeth! I love being a part of the ABS team because we are a family that cares for and is invested in our clients and their success!


Suchismita Kadam, MA Clinical Psychology

I have been working in the field of ABA since August 2017 and began my practicum experience at A.B.S. in January of 2018. I received my master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Mumbai in 2014. While in India, I worked with a pediatrician for three years as a psychologist and I had great experiences working directly with children and in counseling parents. Prior to that, I interned in three civic hospitals working with adult patients with severe disorders and mental illnesses. I find ABA very rewarding in terms of teaching young children basic skills and then seeing them apply in various other situations. I truly enjoy working with clients who range in age and abilities and seeing those clients grow and develop is very rewarding! A.B.S. is my first job in the USA and it holds a special place in my life. The entire A.B.S. team is friendly and approachable which makes it easier for me to communicate as I experience a different work culture. What I really appreciate about A.B.S. is that the staff all are very encouraging and provide immediate feedback with praise, which itself becomes reinforcing. When I am not working or studying I love cooking, reading, and watching movies!


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